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I live in Georgia, where gnats around the fruit bowl are generally accepted with a shoulder shrug. But Trader Joe’s wants to fix that problem. It’s now selling a houseplant that doubles as a heartless gnat killer — hurray! — that you can plop right down on your kitchen counter.
This gun-for-hire is called a mini pitcher plant, a native to North America that sells for just $6.99. There are many varieties of this carnivorous plant, but the one at TJ’s is a miniature version of the Sarracenia variety, which has slim tubes that look like vases or pitchers that stretch up toward the sun. (Some people call them trumpet pitchers since they also look like the body of that instrument.) Pesky insects like gnats and fruit flies are attracted to the nectar just inside the opening of these tubes, but when they fly inside, some fine, downward-pointing hairs prevent them from climbing back out. Eventually, they drown in the nectar. Then the plants slowly digest them, growing stronger from their nutrients (cue the evil laughter)!
Need help to spot them in the store? Trader JOES Obsessed has posted a Facebook photo of what they look like:
However, this verdant hitman does require some attention. Mini pitcher plants aren’t difficult to care for, but you can’t neglect them entirely. Here are the basics:
Light: Despite its vampire-like penchant for feasting on living things, the pitcher plant isn’t one to lurk around in the dark. Pitcher plants love the sun and require at least six hours of direct sunlight a day. “They can be grown indoors on a sunny windowsill or with a grow light,” Lindsay Pangborn, a horticultural marketer for Bloomscape, told Martha Stewart. South-facing windows are the best option to get direct sunlight for at least a couple of hours a day.
Water: Pitcher plants are finicky about watering, too. Hydrate them on a regular schedule so that the soil is always moist but not too soggy (and if possible, use distilled or filtered water). “Water your plant when the soil volume is 25 percent dry and avoid missing a watering, as pitcher plants are not tolerant of drought conditions,” Pangborn said.
Temperature and feeding: A pitcher plant will do fine in your home since it prefers warm temperatures (between 65 and 80 degrees). As for feeding, here’s where they are truly a low-maintenance plant. Since they chow down on insects, they don’t need any supplemental nutrients. A full-grown pitcher plant can thrive on just a few insects every month. If you don’t have pests flying around, you might want to feed it a dead bug once in a while. Are you someone who wouldn’t hurt a fly? You can shake a few flakes of fish food into the soil instead.
By the way, this is not the first time Trader Joe’s has sold insect-devouring plants. Back in April, you could pick up a Venus flytrap (which differs from a pitcher plant in that it uses traps that snap shut to catch its prey). Trader JOES Obsessed was all over that sale as well:
@traderjoes_obsessed Venus fly traps are back at Trader Joe’s for $4.99! @rocketfarms #traderjoes #traderjoesobsessed â¬ Trap Music(836382) – Pavel
Maybe we should start calling Trader Joe’s the Little Shop of Horrors?
Buy the mini pitcher plant at participating locations of Trader Joe’s for $6.99.