Carnivorous Plants

Learn to identify, propagate, grow and use carnivorous plants - work with them, or follow your passion.

Course CodeVHT107
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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Become a Carnivorous Plant Expert

For some, they are a passion, and for others they can become a part time or full time occupation. They might not appeal to everyone; but carnivorous plants often capture the imagination of people who are not necessarily interested in other types of plants. 

Anyone who chooses to undertake this course is obviously interested in carnivorous plants; perhaps as an amateur collector, a commercial grower or a naturalist.

Carnivorous plants are plants that derive some or all of their nutrients by capturing and digesting small animals, such as insects.

Other terms used for carnivorous plants are a “carnivory” or a “carnivore”.

The mechanisms used to capture and digest animals are generally subtle; but not always.

Characteristics that are unique to carnivorous plants include:

  • Attraction Mechanisms  eg. Lures, odours, directional guides
  • Trapping Mechanisms  eg. Sticky secretions that hold animals like fly paper, trap door like openings to digestive chambers.
  • Digestive Mechanisms  eg. Secreted enzymes and absorption of digested material.

Lesson Structure

There are 9 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Introduction to carnivorous plants
    • Recognising differences around the worls
    • Plant names
    • Monocotyledons and dicotyledons
    • Plant families
    • Classification of carnivorous plants
    • Review of plant families that carnivorous plants belong to
    • Types of trapping mechanisms
    • Resources and networking
    • Using a botanical key
    • Glossary
  2. Culture
    • Introduction
    • Planting
    • Soils
    • Plant nutrition
    • Watering
    • Plant health
    • Compost making
  3. Propagation and Container Growing.
    • Propagating carnivorous plants
    • Collecting from the wild
    • Methods of propagation
    • Tissue culture
  4. Pitcher Plants (Nepenthes) and Sundews (Drosera)
  5. Other important Groups.
  6. The Lesser Grown Varieties
  7. Australian Droseras
  8. Making the Best Use of these Plants. In containers, in the ground, as indoor plants, etc.
  9. Special Assignment. On one selected plant or group.

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Identify different carnivorous plants.
  • Describe the cultural requirements for a range of different carnivorous plants
  • Propagate a range of different carnivorous plants
  • Discuss the identifying characteristics and cultural requirements of several species of both Sundews and Pitcher plants.
  • Discuss the identifying characteristics and cultural requirements of several species of both Bladderworts and at least one other genus of Carnivorous plant.
  • Describe the identifying characteristics and cultural requirements of several species of less commonly cultivated carnivorous plants.
  • Describe the identification and culture of Australian Droseras in depth.
  • Determine and describe appropriate ways of cultivating and displaying cultured carnivorous plants.
  • Describe one group of carnivorous plants in depth.

They are Not all the same!  

You may be surprised how much diversity there is among carnivorous plants. Many may well grow as epiphytes or bog plants in hotter and wetter places; but others can be found in colder and drier climates through many temperate parts of the world.

The shapes, colours, and ways in which they catch and digest small animals (eg. insects) can vary a lot too.

You can grow them as pot plants, in hanging baskets; or in the ground. People from the tropics to temperate climates grow them both inside and out. 

When you get to understand the many different genera and species; and the places they come from; your capacity to grow them becomes greatly improved.

How to Grow Cobra Lilies
Suggested Cultivation for the carnivorous plant, Darlingtonia californica (ie. Cobra Lily)
  • Grow in a 15 to 20cm diameter, deep container
  • Place a layer of freely draining material (crocks, stones or charcoal) at the bottom of the pot.
  • Fill the pot with live sphagnum moss; then water until the moss is thoroughly moist. If the moss is dry, this can be best achieved by submersing it in water.
  • Plant the cobra lily with the crown sitting right at the surface of the moss; then scatter a thin layer of living moss over the surface.
  • Keep humid by covering the pot with a bell jar or plastic bag (with some ventilation (eg. A gap at the bottom or hole in the top.
  • Provide good light but not direct sunlight
  • Stand in a tray or saucer of water to provide capillary watering (ie. Water soaks up through the moss to the surface).
  • After a week or two, once the plant is growing, remove the bell jar or plastic
  • Do not repot very often. This plant does not like to have roots disturbed
  • It can tolerate cold temperatures over winter, to minus 10 degrees celsius.
  • Propagate by either taking offshoots from the rhizome; or by seed (sown and raised the same as Sarracenia)



You need to be quite passionate about carnivorous plants to undertake 100 hours of formal study into the subject; but if that describes you, this is a rare opportunity to do just that, being guided by a team of professional horticulturists and botanists who have a significant level of knowledge and expertise with these plants.

The principal John Mason assisted by other staff, are the authors of an e book on Carnivorous plants (you will receive a copy of this book as part of this course).  Mr Mason has grown carnivorous plants as well as observing and photographing them across the world from Australia to England and Asia to North America.

If carnivores are your passion; perhaps it is time to take your interest to the next level through a systematic study of the subject, filling in all of the important gaps in your understanding of these plants, and setting down a foundation to grow your knowledge further in the future.


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Rosemary Davies

Leading horticultural expert in Australia. Rosemary trained in Horticultural Applied Science at Melbourne University. Initially she worked with Agriculture Victoria as an extension officer, taught horticulture students, worked on radio with ABC radio (c
Yvonne Sharpe

RHS Cert.Hort, Dip.Hort, M.Hort, Cert.Ed., Dip.Mgt. Over 30 years experience in business, education, management and horticulture. Former department head at a UK government vocational college. Yvonne has traveled widely within and beyond Europe, and has
John Mason

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant. Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world.
Robert James

B.App. Sc. (Horticulture), Dip.Ag., M.Sc., Grad Dip.Mgt. Over 50 years experience that includes, Nursery Manager Brisbane City Councoil, Grounds Manager (University of Qld), Lecturer Qld Agricultural College, Propagator/Nurseryman at Aspley Nursery, Hort
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