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Darlingtonia Californica

“California Pitcher Plant”

“Cobra Lily”

This exotic looking carniverous plant is native to the bogs of oregon and northern California.  The leaves are in the shape of tubes that grow to 12-20 in.  The tubes are folded over and “closed” at the end to prevent rainwater from entering them and diluting their digestive juices.

Like all carnivorous plants, the Darlingtonia gets its nutrients from digesting insects.  A colorful, usually red or purple hued flap protrudes from the tip of the tube to form an enticing shape, which to a human looks likes a snake head, and to an insect probably looks like a flower.  When an insect approaches that flower and enters to take a sip, they are confronted with the inside of the pitcher plant’s tubular leaf which is lined with downward facing hair that prevents the insect from escaping.

To grow the Darlingtonia pitcher plant in your home is a challenge, but can be done if you replicate its natural environment.

Keep the Darlingtonia humid

Remember, the Darlingtonia is native to bogs and marshlands, so it will only survive in humid air and moist roots.  Keep the Darlingtonia away from heaters, stoves and air conditioners as these dry out the air.  In normal room conditions, the pitcher plant must be misted several times a day.  This constant need for humidity makes the pitcher plant a good candidate for a terrarium, or other enclosed glass container.

Keep your Darlingtonia cool

The darlingtoniadoes not like to get too hot.  Unlike most common house plants, the pitcher plant is not native to a hot tropical climate, but rather to the cool temperate climate of the Northeast USA.  The darlingtonia pitcher plant will also die if frozen dry.  For this reason, the darlingtonia make good house plants only in certain climates, or for the most attentive grower.

Put your darlingtonia in bright, indirect light

The darlingtonia plant does not want full sun, but does need a good amount of light in order to thrive.  A cool greenhouse,  a north faceing window in a bathroom, or a spot in the dappled sunlight in a backyard in the fall might be good places for the pitcher plant in your home.

Plant your Darlingtonia in the right medium:

Darlingtonia Pitcher Plants are best grown in an equal parts mixture of peat moss, sphagnum moss, sharp sand and charcoal.  This medium shoul be kept moist at ALL TIMES.  The Darlingtonia will also appreciate being planted next to or among other plants.  This is similar to its native bog environment and the other plants help keep the pitcher plant surrounded in humidity.


Propogation of darlingtonia can be very difficult.  It is done either by seed, or by division and the starter plants should be placed in a bed of moss under glass.

Don’t Fertilize or Feed a Darlingtonia.

They get all the nutrients they need from insects and chlorophyl – if you expose them to fertilizer you will overload them.

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