How to Safely & Effectively Navigate the Carnivorous Plant Hobby

Reposted with consent of Anthony Cangemi. Originally posted in the Carnivorous Plant Discussion Board on Facebook. Introduction and contextual adjustments by David Fefferman.

All image credit to Victoria Jaggers Graphics
(she sells awesome artwork in our marketplace!)


Getting started with the hobby of growing carnivorous plants can be intimidating. There’s so much to learn about the plants themselves, let alone safe ways to find and acquire them! In this guide, Anthony does a wonderful job of covering the basics. A key principle is to engage with the community – be it a seller or a fellow grower. The vast majority of hobbyists have your best interests in mind and will do what they can to answer your questions and lend you advice on how to care for a certain plant, purchase a new plant, or do your own trading. Happy growing!

1) Check out grow guides, here, and on the Carnivorous Plant Discussion Board on Facebook.

  • They are packed with information, and are kept up-to-date.
  • Check the Discussion Board “Files” section, even if you have read all of them, because new guides may have been added.

2) Buy from vendors with good reputations (all Carnivorous Plant Resource Marketplace vendors are vetted! 👍).

  • Search for customer reviews on social media, especially Facebook groups.
  • Look at the vendors’ eBay ratings, and be sure to note the several most recent sales.

3) Buy from other hobbyists on social media sites, if they have good reputations.

  • Be sure to conduct a social media search on them, to observe their interaction with others, and to check for consistency between their posts and the plants which they claim to have for sale.
  • If there’s concern, ask for pictures of specific plants before committing to a purchase.
    • Often times, pictures in plant sale posts are just representative of the species/variety being sold. Do not be fooled into thinking you are getting a massive, mature specimen, when you are ordering a seedling.
    • Ask for a plant picture with an object for size reference (quarter/dollar/ruler/etc.). Some pictures are misleading, even unintentionally, so be sure you know what to expect.
    • Ask for a picture with the seller’s name written on a piece of paper, next to the plant that is for sale, to verify that they actually own the plant. Scammers using other grower’s photos is not unheard of.
  • Be sure to ask about pests. It’s not insulting. If someone has pests, it is a good idea to avoid buying a plant from them, until all of their pests have been completely eradicated for several months.

4) Follow the law.

  • For the most part, live plants cannot be shipped across the borders of many countries, without certificates. (David note: some endangered species, like Sarracenia oreophila can’t even be shipped across state lines without proper permits!)

5) Read about every plant that you buy, before you buy it.

  • If you buy a plant before knowing how to care for it, there is a decent chance that you will make a critical error in its care, and end up killing it. Save yourself the time, trouble, and money, and do a little bit of research about each species you plan on collecting, before you make any trades or purchases.

6) Engage in carnivorous plant social media.

  • It can be very useful to start up a carnivorous plant Instagram account. They are effective photo journals, and also facilitate trading/buying/selling.
  • Facebook groups can be great places to learn, and to share growing techniques. Facebook can be at least as useful as Instagram, for trading/buying/selling carnivorous plants.

7) If you are growing indoors, get a good quality lighting equipment. If you skimp on this, you will very likely be unhappy with your results.

1) Don’t buy seeds for “blue” carnivorous plants (they don’t exist), or “octopus plants”.

2) Don’t buy seeds on the Wish app, or any other similar marketplace.

3) Don’t buy environmentally threatened Nepenthes, without being sure your source is legitimate.

  • They are likely poached (ripped out of their natural environment), which as a practice, is severely hurting their chances of survival.

4) Don’t buy anything without doing a bit of research on the item and the seller.

  • Don’t buy seeds from random/unknown, international sellers.

5) Don’t feed unhealthy carnivorous plants, in an attempt to help them do better. Feeding should be reserved for fully healthy plants.

  • If you are growing Drosera, don’t even consider feeding them, unless they are covered in dew. It can burn leaves, and cause rot.

6) Don’t use regular potting soil, or any Miracle Grow products. The high nutrient content will kill your carnivorous plants.

How to Pay for Carnivorous Plants Online

Image: Darlingtonia californica Half Cluster by Victoria Jaggers

1) PayPal

  • When you’re not purchasing plants through a reputable marketplace, individual sellers may ask you to use the Friends & Family PayPal option, to avoid paying seller fees. If you do this, you don’t have protection in the case that you get scammed. Offer to pay the small fee to pay them using the “Good or Services” option.

2) Venmo

  • Useful, but only use this with people you have reason to trust.

3) Cash

  • Don’t use cash. Mailing cash is risky. It can often be seen through the envelope, and is easy to steal. You will have no protection if you send someone cash.