About the Butterwort / Pinguicula

The butterwort plant is one of the most non-descript looking carnivorous plants.  But don’t let the appearance fool you.  These plants are covered with dew ( the Latin translation of Pinguicula is ‘Little greasy one’ ).  Currently there are around 80 species that range all over the world.  From the Northern Hemisphere to Siberia! And into Europe, South America and the Caribbean. 

These plants have been broken down into 3 types: Cool Temperate, Warm Temperate and Tropical.   The latter 2 not requiring dormancy as the first one.

Watering requirements:

Cool Temperate – watering these plants with cool water, keeping them constantly moist in their growing season is ideal.  This would be spring to fall.  In the winter, back off the watering to just keeping them moist, but not standing in water.

Warm Temperate – These plants will enjoy lots of water.  The tray method will also apply and can be used year round.

Tropical –  keep wet from spring to summer, then in the fall and winter, reduce the water and humidity.


All of these plants enjoy the humidity.  It is necessary so the ‘dew’ or grease can stay on the plant.

But in the winter:

Cool Temperate – these plants will die back to hibernacula.  This is a compact bunch of leaves that will keep the plant safe during the winter.  

Warm Temperate – these plants can take less humidity in the winter and will lose the sticky nature of their leaves.  These will become non-carnivorous (homophyllous).  

Tropical – During the winter, the conditions that most of these plants are in are dry and therefore they will produce a whole new set of pseudo-succulent leaves that will be non-carnivorous ( heterophyllous )

Once spring comes back and the temperatures and humidity return, the plants will start to produce their carnivorous leaves again for another season.

Never forget to use rain water or reverse osmosis filtered water!

Light Requirements:

Though the butterwort plants are exposed a great deal to the elements, they are not required to take bright/ direct lighting.  As a matter of fact, direct sun can burn the leaves.  These plants grow beside Sarracenia, Dionaea and Drosera, but Pinguicula are lower to the ground and are covered ( shaded ) by the taller plants.  If you  notice a transparent look.  That means the plant is receiving too much sun.  Partial shade is great for all of these plants.  

Cool – cool shade conditions

Warm – partial shade – no direct light

Tropical – partial shade – no direct light


As with all plants, Butterworts do not like to be poked at, rubbed, and played with.  If there is excessive touching of the leaves, there is the possibility of damage to the glands that produce the dew.  It is not recommended to disturb the plant.


All plants can thrive during the growing season ( spring to fall ) with temperatures ranging from mid 60’s to mid 80’s.  It is not recommended to take the temperatures higher than about 90 degrees (32 C)

For the winter time:

Cool- these plants live in the northern part of the US, so temps will get to be freezing.  This will allow for the plant to go dormant.

Warm – Temps aren’t as severe as the Cool Temp. Pings, so they shouldn’t get to a freezing  point.  These plants however can take a light frosting.  Freezing may kill the plants.

Tropical – The temps stay relatively warm.  The only real thing to change is the humidity.  Frosting or freezing is not recommended for these plants.  


Depending on the species that you grow, there is a general soil mix for the plant.  It is as follows:

Cool Temperate:  50% peat: 25% sand: 25% perlite.  These plants aren’t into very acidic soils.  So something that is more on the alkaline side is just as good if not better.

Warm Temperate : 50% peat: 50% sand.  These plants for the most part will enjoy a soil that is open and acidic.

Tropical : 25% sand : 25% perlite: 25% vermiculite: 25% peat.  These plants will tend to take more alkaline environments since many grow on cliffs of gypsum and on trees.  Acidity is something rarely seen with tropical pings.


All plants will catch gnats, small flies and really anything that can stick to the leaf long enough.  During the winter the Cool Temperate varieties will go dormant, the Warm Temperate may or may not have carnivorous leaves and the Tropical will not have carnivorous leaves.  So the best feeding times for your plants are during spring to fall.


Surprisingly, these plants will benefit from some fertilization.  You can apply a weak Orchid fertilizer or Epiphytic fertilizer to the leaves.  Monthly for Tropical.  Not as often for the Cool and Warm Temperate.  Just make sure that you are fertilizing the plant when it is producing its carnivorous leaves.  DO NOT APPLY to the flower stalk!!  Apply to the leaf, but in diluted amounts.

Some types of Pinguicula include:

P. ionantha – Warm Temperate; From Florida ( USA ).

P. primuliflora – Warm Temperate; along the gulf coast of the US.  

P. moranensis – Tropical; can exceed 6 inches in diameter. From Mexico.

P. esseriana – Tropical; From Mexico.  Tolerant of light frostings.

P. agnata – Tropical; Mexico.  

P. heterophylla – Tropical; Not a beginner plant.  Needs to have a dormancy period where no water is required for the plant.

N.  gypsicola; Tropical; similar to the heterphylla.  Summer leaves are carnivorous, while the rest of the year it receives no rain.  This means a dormant period of no water!

 Fun Facts:

  1. The flowers are actually quite beautiful and long lasting!
  2. In the wild, the butterwort / pinguicula flowers are often pollenated by hummingbirds!


  1. These are not the best plants to have in a terrarium.
  2. Heterophyllous- producing two sets of leaves.  This is when some pings ( the tropical ones for example ) will produce a set of leaves in the winter that are smaller, succulent and not carnivorous.
  3. Homophyllous –  Producing one set of leaves.  As in the Warm temperate pings.  They will produce one set of leaves throughout the year.
  4. Hibernacula –  This is a bud of compact leaves that is produced by the Cool Temperate Pings during the winter.  This will protect the plant from the winter. 
  5. The butterwort / Ping grows great next to the sundew plant because of similar humidity requirements.

Upon delivery if purchasing online or mail order:

  1. It is not uncommon for your plant to arrive with a dead or dying leaf ( or two ).
  2. Some dew may be missing from the leaf.  With proper humidity and water/light, the plant will recover its dew in a short period of time
  3. Remove all plastic and covers and water the plant immediately.

Links Of Interest:

Sarracenia Northwest – Butterwort Care

CP Resource : Butterworts

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