Utricularia Care, Tropical

Utricularia, Tropical

No terrariums. No myths. No nonsense.
Get the straight facts from guys who grow and propagate thousands of carnivorous plants every year, since 1995.

Although there are more than 200 species of bladderworts, the most species of any group of carnivorous plants, bladderworts are mostly ignored by first-time growers. The reason? They hardly look carnivorous at all because their carnivorous activity occurs below the soil surface. Along their roots are bladder-like traps that capture small organisms lurking in the mushy soil. When a trap is triggered, the vacuum in the bladder quickly fills up with water, which also sucks in its prey at the same time. But, if there is only one thing you should know about these plants, it is this:

Grow bladderworts for their flowers.

All species of tropical bladderowrts, Utricularia, produce gorgeous miniature orchid-like flowers. When a bunch of plants are flowering simultaneously, they can create a very stunning and impressive display. For the most part, tropical bladderworts are very easy to grow.

Utricularia bisquamata
Utricularia bisquamata
Utricularia livida
Utricularia livida
Utricularia longifolia
Utricularia longifolia
Utricularia sandersonii
Utricularia sandersonii


You can find Utricularia throughout temperate and tropical regions of the world. Most of the tropical species occur in South America and Africa.

Where to Grow

Grow tropical bladderworts indoors as a tropical houseplant. No terrarium required.


Bladderworts> requires a lot of sun. Grow it in a location where it can receive full to partial sun. A window that gets four or more hours of direct sunlight and bright filtered sun during the rest of day is ideal.

Artificial Lights

If a sunny window is not possible, use a couple of 40-watt fluorescent tubes or compact fluorescent bulbs of equivalent output. Keep the light source approximately 8 inches above the plant. If leaves are light green and not dewy, move the lights closer to increase the intensity. The light should be on for 14 hours during spring and summer, and 12 hours during fall and winter. Avoid using incandescent bulbs. They produce too much heat and the wrong type of light spectrum. Even incandescent “grow-lights” are inappropriate for carnivorous plants.


Let the pot in standing water to keep the soil wet at all times. Never allow the soil to dry out completely. This plant is very sensitive to water with dissolved mineral levels of 50 ppm or more, so use mineral-free water whenever possible.


This plant requires nutrient-free soil that provides good drainage and aeration. Use a standard soil mixture of 1 part peat moss and 1 part perlite. Never use potting soil, compost or fertilizer. They will kill your plant.


Feeding Utricularia is not necessary. There are numerous organisms that lie dormant in peat moss.

If you prefer, you may spray your plant with a weak solution of fertilizer. Use a high quality orchid or bromeliad fertilizer, and use only 1/4 teaspoon of fertilizer per gallon of water. Mist your plant with this mixture. A couple squirts are all you need. Never exceed this amount and never use it on the roots! Apply the fertilizer weekly during spring and summer, and only once a month or not at all during the winter when growth naturally slows down.

When it comes to feeding or fertilizing your plants, it is very tempting to over do it. Keep in mind that none is better than too much.


Bladderworts will rapidly fill any pot when they are placed in proper growing conditions. Clip off dead leaves to stimulate more growth. Change the soil, and if necessary, put your plant in a larger pot. Changing the soil restores soil acidity, improves root aeration and strengthens the health of your plants. You can repot your plant at any time of the year.