Episode 93: carnivorous plants with Peter D'Amato (part one)

Venus flytraps at California Carnivores: these are still the number one seller at the nursery. Photograph:  Orin Zebest  on  Flickr  .

Venus flytraps at California Carnivores: these are still the number one seller at the nursery. Photograph: Orin Zebest on Flickr.

Subscribe to On The Ledge via Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Player FM, Stitcher, Overcast, RadioPublic and YouTube.

Peter D’Amato, founder of the nursery California Carnivores, is one of world’s leading experts in venus flytraps, pitcher plants, sundews and more. His book The Savage Garden, first published in 1998, is considered an authority on the subject: a revised edition came out in 2013. It certainly inspired me to get into growing carnivorous plants in the late 1990s, so I was delighted that he agreed to an interview for On The Ledge.

I chatted to Peter by phone from California and we had such a long chat that I have decided to split our chat between two episodes. Check out the notes below as you listen to this week’s episode: we talk about how his obsession began, find out what happens when a rate gets stuck in a giant pitcher, and discover what a ‘crapivore’ is. And once you’ve listened, you will find part two of my interview with Peter D’Amato here.

While I am here, do remember to check out my editor Joff Elphick’s podcast Pot and Cloche. It’s a great listen and I am sure you’ll love it!

The myth of the man-eating venus flytrap is given a humorous airing at California Carnivores. Photograph:  Sarah Stierch    on  Flickr .

The myth of the man-eating venus flytrap is given a humorous airing at California Carnivores. Photograph: Sarah Stierch on Flickr.

  • Here’s the story behind how The Savage Garden book came about.

  • Intrigued by Peter’s mention of Charles Darwin’s interest in the sundew? Here’s an article about Darwin and the Drosera.

  • When it comes to growing CPs in terrariums, Peter prefers the potted greenhouse-style terrarium - there’s no soil at the bottom of the tank, but this stye of terrarium keeps plants in individual pots which sit in saucers of water. That way you can control conditions for different plants from flytraps to butterworts. Here’s an example from website The Carnivorous Plant FAQ.

  • Intrigued by Palawan and its Nepenthes? More information here.

  • Listener Tania asked if she could ‘feed’ her Nepenthes with the poo of her chinchilla. Amazingly the answer from Peter is yes! If you don’t have a willing chinchilla, you could try putting Osmocote fertiliser pellets into the pitcher direct, but don’t overdo it. Or a teaspoon of insect material every other week. Whatever you do, don’t add fertiliser into the soil. If you have cape sundews, they like to be fed goldfish flakes. Venus flytraps however require live prey as the trigger hairs need to be stimulated even once closed.

  • If you missed my episode on venus flytraps, you can hear it here.

  • Never heard of CP expert Adrian Slack from the UK? Check out this archive article about him on the Tom’s Carnivores website.

  • Pinguicula grandiflora is a UK native that is better off outdoors especially in winter. It’s easy to grow and will be ok on a sunny windowsill in summer but it does need a cold snap in winter to thrive.

  • Make sure you use collected rainwater, reverse osmosis water or purified water for all CPs - they hate hard tap water.

  • Heliamphora or sun pitchers come from the Tepui Mountains in Venezuela.

  • We’ll be hearing more from Peter in episode 94 - I’ll link it here once it’s out!

Question of the week

Anthuriums: the Lady Gaga of the houseplant world. Photograph:  Tatters ✾  on  Flickr .

Anthuriums: the Lady Gaga of the houseplant world. Photograph: Tatters ✾ on Flickr.

Jacob wanted to know whether to repot his rootbound Anthurium, which has also just started to flower. I suggested waiting until plant had finished flowering, unless it starts to look as if it’s going downhill.

When it comes to potting medium, it’s useful to try to emulate the plant’s epiphytic lifestyle by adding some orchid bark and perlite to regular houseplant potting mix: I suggest a ratio of roughly 2:2:1.

If you’re intersted in learning more about Anthuriums and growing them in orchid baskets, there’s good article on The Exotic Rainforest website.

Want to ask me a question about your plant? Either way, tweet @janeperrone, leave a message on my Facebook page or email ontheledgepodcast@gmail.com.

This week’s sponsors

Growth Technology

The podcast is also supported this week by Growth Technology, the nutrient company that helps your houseplants thrive.

Screenshot 2019-05-10 at 17.10.50.png

As well as their extensive ‘Focus’ range of plant specific fertilisers, their Houseplant Myst allows you to give your plants a foliar feed while you spray. Houseplant Myst is specifically formulated for optimum growth and flowering of the widest range of houseplants such as Anthuriums, ferns, dracaenas, ficus, palms, Poinsettias, as well as cacti, succulents and bromeliads. It is a nutrient solution, growth enhancer, pest repellent, plant tonic and leaf conditioner.

Visit Growth Technology’s website focus-on-plants.com for loads of great houseplant advice on everything from looking after palms to keeping bonsai happy indoors.

You’ll find growth technology’s products available online and in many good garden centres and nurseries across the UK: find stockists here.

Shiitake log, available from  trueleafmarket.com .

Shiitake log, available from trueleafmarket.com.

True Leaf Market

This week’s On The Ledge is also supported by True Leaf Market, the indoor and outdoor growing experts. 

Whether you want to grow shiitake mushrooms or start sprouting your own tasty salads, True Leaf Market has all the kit to make it happen: check out the detailed starter guides to guide you every step of the way in your growing journey. True Leaf Market’s products come with a 30-day satisfaction guarantee so I know you won’t  be disappointed.

Use coupon code ONTHELEDGE to get 10% off your purchase at trueleafmarket.com now.


As I already hit my goal of getting 100 patrons before I hit my 100th episode sometime in June, I have decided that I need to up my game a bit and try for 200 patrons in the same time frame. GULP. Everyone who signs up as a patron before the 100th episode comes out will get the exclusive digital artwork promised to the first 100 patrons, plus something else yet to be decided - stay tuned! Any tier counts, so by pledging just $1 a month you could help me reach my target! If you want to know why it’s important for me to increase my number of patrons, here’s why.

I’ve now added a new $10 tier, which gives you membership of the On The Ledge listener advisory board, a new group helping to decide the future direction of the show: you’ll also receive a personal greeting from me in the mail including a limited edition postcard. You can see all the tiers and sign up for Patreon here.

If you like the idea of supporting On The Ledge on a regular basis but don't know what Patreon's all about, check out the FAQ here: if you still have questions, leave a comment or email me at ontheledgepodcast@gmail.com. If you're already supporting others via Patreon, just click here to set up your rewards!

For those who prefer to make a one-off donation, you can still buy me a coffee! A donation of just £3 helps keep On The Ledge going: helping to pay for me to travel to interviews, and for expenses like website hosting and audio equipment. Don't forget to join the Facebook page for news of what's coming up on the show and bonus blogposts!

If you prefer to support the show in other ways, please do go and rate and review On The Ledge on Apple PodcastsStitcher or wherever you listen. It's lovely to read your kind comments, and it really helps new listeners to find the show.


This week's show featured Roll Jordan Roll by the Joy Drops and Overthrown by Josh Woodward. Ad music tracks are Dill Pickles and Whistling Rufus by the Heftone Banjo Orchestra: All tracks licensed under Creative Commons. Logo design by Jacqueline Colley. Podcast editing by Joff Elphick