As an Amazon Associate, this site earns commissions from qualifying purchases. For more details, click here.
If you are thinking of buying butterworts or already have one, feeding is probably one of the first questions that pop up. Knowing how to feed pinguicula (or ping) is essential, but the good news is even a beginner will have no trouble. In fact it is easier than you may think.
Pinguicula can catch insects and other prey without any help. If your plant is having difficulty capturing bugs, just drop a few bits of mealworms or fish food on a couple of leaves. Feed the plant every 2-3 weeks.
What Foods to Feed Pinguicula
Butterworts eat ants, gnats, midges, flies, springtails and other small insects. Large bugs can escape its traps, so the plant feeds on smaller prey. Butterworts also eat fish food, bloodworms and mealworms.
In nature, pinguicula usually feed on insects because they share the same habitat. Butterworts grow in bogs, the edges of ponds, swamp lands, fens, wet, marshy environments where insects also thrive. These bugs also contain nitrogen and other nutrients plants need.
Aside from insects, pings will benefit from other food sources that contain nitrogen and other nutrients. So while giving fish food to pings may sound strange, it makes sense. In fact fish food is also suitable for Venus flytraps and other carnivorous plants. Our personal choice is Blue Ridge Fish Food Pellets for its high nutrition levels.
How to Feed Butterworts
Now that you know what nutrient sources to choose from, how do you give food to a pinguicula? In the following you will learn how to feed pings depending on the food. While the basic process is the same, there are some things you have to consider.
Freeze dried mealworms or bloodworms are very popular among carnivorous plant owners. They are easy to prepare, cheap to buy and nutritious. They are perfect not just for pings but also pitcher plants, Venus flytraps and sundews.
To feed freeze dried mealworms to butterworts, add a few drops of water to the worm to re-hydrate it. Drop a worm onto a leaf and observe. If the pinguicula digests the food, give it another one after two weeks.
One worm every two weeks should be enough for most pings. You can give it two worms -one per leaf- if you have a large and hungry pinguicula. But do not cover the plant with them. Butterworts will not eat all of them and those worms will rot.
Sometimes butterworts catch live worms in the wild, and yours might have gotten some in your garden. This is good for the plant but it is easier to give it freeze dried than live worms. Live ones can escape the trap and get into the soil, or the animal could eat the leaves. You can avoid this problem by using freeze dried worms. If you want to try this, we suggest Hatortempt Mealworms since butterworts seen to like them.
Next to worms, fish food is probably the most popular. Yes they are made for fish, but they are safe for carnivorous plants. In fact fish food like pellets and flakes are good alternatives to insects and worms.
To feed fish beta pellets or flakes to butterworts, grind them until powdery. Mist with a bit of water and sprinkle a small amount on the leaves. Feed only 1-2 leaves every 2-3 weeks.
Two things to remember when feeding fish food to a pinguicula: one, do not overfeed, and second, use only purified water.
Water helps butterworts digest food. The mucus their glands produce may not have enough liquids to dissolve the food. Any leftovers could turn into fungal growth, so mist fish food before giving it to your plant.
Also, do not use tap water on the fish food. Do not use tap water on butterworts at all as they can be potentially harmful.
One of the first things you learn about carnivorous plants is to never use fertilized soil. However, you can use certain fertilizers as food.
To fertilize butterworts, add 1/4 teaspoon of fertilizer into 1 gallon of water. Mix and pour in a spray bottle. Carefully spray the leaves, taking care not to get any on the soil. Here is a detailed guide on how to fertilize butterworts.
If you do opt for fertilizer as food, use it sparingly. Even a small amount when given correctly, is going to make a huge difference in terms of growth and development. Pings nourished with fertilizers for instance, grow much faster and larger than those that do not.
If your pinguicula catches lots of insects, do not give it anything else. Healthy pings only need a small number of bugs to meet their nutritional requirements. You can also sprinkle dead bugs onto its leaves if the plant cannot catch any.
If your pinguicula is not catching any bugs, take it outdoors. If that still does not work, then you can give it food using any of the options above.
Pinguicula primuliflora and other pings will eat living and dead insects, it makes no difference. But if your ping is unable to catch bugs, it is easier to go with fish food or worms than insects. These foods are more widely available and easier to prepare.
How to Feed Baby Pinguicula
For baby pings, the growth environment is more important than food. Make sure the light, water, temperature, humidity etc. is suitable. As for nutrients, a small amount of freeze dried mealworms is ideal.
Crush the food until it turns powdery. Mist with a bit of water before feeding to the plant. Feed only just one leaf and see what happens. If the leaf burns, you gave it too much. Reduce the amount and try again after two weeks.
You can also try foliar feeding but be very careful. The fertilizer should be heavily diluted in water. Once the pings have grown a bit, take them outside so they can catch insects.
Do All Pinguicula Need Feeding?
If your butterworts are outdoors, feeding is not required. These plants will draw insects by themselves. Focus on humidity, light, temperature and water. If you get these right your pinguicula will be fine.
Butterworts produce their own food through photosynthesis so it will survive with very little nutrients. If your pinguicula grows in a healthy environment, it can do without bugs.
While these plants will survive minus nutrients, they will not flourish. If you want vibrant, healthy pings that catch plenty of insects, they must eat.
As pointed out earlier most butterworts do not have to be fed. Place the plant in a suitable location and bugs will be drawn to it. If you see insects stuck on its leaves, no food is needed. If your pinguicula is not catching anything, move it to another location or sprinkle some food on it. Do not feed all the leaves, just a 1 or 2 is enough.
Tips for a Healthy Pinguicula
- Never overfeed. Too much food will drain its resources and could severely harm the plant. If your pinguicula can catch prey by itself, let it. Do not feed any extra food.
- The environment comes first before the food. A pinguicula growing in a healthy setting will live, albeit grow slowly.
- Butterworts which are regularly fed but in a poor environment will not last. Because the location is not suitable for growth, the plant will eventually lose its appetite.
- Always add some water drops to fish food or worms before giving it to your butterworts. This will make it easier for the plant digestive enzymes to dissolve it.
- You can give your plant different types of food. For instance, bugs this week, fish beta pellets after two weeks, then worms and so on.
If you just bought butterworts, it might take a few days for the plant to adjust. This is normal because any plant will need time to get used to its new environment. Once that happens, your pinguicula will start to produce mucus and eat. That is when you can give it any of the food options above.
My fascination with carnivorous plants began many, many years ago with Venus Fly Traps. Now I am more than happy to impart what I know with other enthusiasts and those who are curious about meat eating plants.