Carnivorus Planter


Entry Published:
February 8, 2020
Carnivorous plants potted in a plain blue pot with a clear plastic jar over them
Boring Pot

My carnivorous plants–a pitcher plant, dubbed The Kool-aid Plant, and a venus fly trap, named Gerald–could do with a home remodel. To keep the humidity up around them, I put an old candy container over the top of the pot I bought for them. It works well at keeping moisture in, but it’s got a few drawbacks.

  • My carnivorous friends can’t do what they do best since bugs can’t get in without human intervention.
  • Humans can’t get in either without disturbing the pitcher plants that grow tall and lean against the inside of the container. This makes watering and pruning cumbersome.
  • It looks terrible.

To solve this, I’m going to design a new home for my bug-munching friends. I have no idea what I want it to look like, but it needs to look good; whatever that means.

But why not just buy one? There are plenty of cool, move-in-ready solutions for rehousing those plants.

Yes, that is certainly true. I could find something I like and just buy it… But I don’t want to. I want to design my own, so I will. I’m taking advantage of an opportunity to do a small and fairly simple design project while I’m also in the midst of a larger, more complicated design project.

Project Planning

Entry Published:
February 16, 2020



  • Research optimal housing for pitcher plants and venus fly traps.
  • Revisit the general care of these plants.
  • Is it best if I put the flytrap and pitcher plant into separate pots?
  • Do they need a bigger pot(s)?
  • List the primary end-user requirements of this project. (End-Use Requirements)
  • List engineering decisions and specifications needed to meet the end-use requirements. (Engineering Requirements).


  • Concept sketches
  • Model part(s)
  • 3D Print test parts and/or sculpt maquettes (a mini preliminary physical model)
  • Finalize CAD model and possibly drawings


  • Purchase necessary parts/materials
  • 3D Print full-scale
  • Post-process printed parts as needed
  • Sculpt
  • Mold
  • Cast
  • Post-process final parts as needed
  • Assemble


  • Re-pot Venus flytrap and pitcher plant in the new digs. 


End-Use Requirements

A prioritized list of key, high-level features the completed project needs to include. This list drives the design and development of the project and keeps focus on what is important. Referring back to this list at major milestones is important to avoid ending up with a finished project that misses the mark.

User Requirement #1: Functionally suitable for potting Venus fly traps 

  1. Feature: Appropriately sized for fly traps
  2. Feature: Partially closed pot to encourage elevated humidity, while still allowing airflow and welcoming bugs to enter.

User Requirement #2: Easy to tend to the potted plants

  1. Feature: Lid or door included on a mostly closed pot for easy plant access.
  2. Feature: Double-walled pot for increased humidity and easy watering
  3. Feature: Drainage hole(s) in the inner pot to reduce problems with over-watering

User Requirement #3: Polished aesthetics

  1. Feature: Thoughtful form

Engineering Requirements

The following is a list of engineering specifications and requirements necessary to meet the user requirements outlined. These specifications may be updated and expanded as design and development continue.

To Meet Function Requirements
  • Inner pot ~10cm deep for optimal root space.
  • The top portion of the pot is clear to allow light to pass through.
To Meet Accessibility Requirements
  • The top portion of the pot to be hinged for full potting/plant access.
  • Allow ~2cm of space between the inner and outer pots to fill with sphagnum moss and the recommended tray-style watering.
  • The outer pot must be water-tight.
To Meet Aesthetic Requirement
  • The clear top around the plants must be made of UV resistant material so it doesn’t yellow under UV light. The pot around the soil does not need to be clear.

Hungry Plant Care

Entry Published:
March 10, 2020

Venus Flytrap
Source: Wikipedia; LearjetMinako
Sarracenia Pitcher Plant
Source: Wikipedia; NoahElhardt

After some research into venus flytraps and the pitcher plants I have, I’ve concluded the following from the sources listed at the bottom of this post:

  • Flytraps need a 4 - 5in (10 - 12.5cm) deep pot for ample root space. 
  • The pitcher plants I have were a bit less than 6in tall during the growing season.
  • A terrarium isn't mandatory, but it helps to increase humidity in otherwise dry environments.
  • If planting flytraps in a terrarium, vent the terrarium so the plants can still get air and dinner. Airflow prevents mold/mildew; dinner prevents hangry plants. Hangry plants will survive but not flourish or live their best lives.
  • Speaking of dinner, these plants enjoy BUGS, not cheeseburgers, chicken dinners, or broccoli. Just. Bugs. Preferably live bugs that will trigger the flytraps while they explore the source of that sweet scent that calls to them.

  • Watering - Use rainwater or distilled water only. Tap water and spring water contain nutrients and minerals. Minerals are the enemy of flytraps and pitcher plants.
  • Substrate - Sphagnum peat moss and perlite (helps potted plants retain moisture). Silica sand to help with substrate aeration is optional. No fertilizer, regular potting soil, organic potting soil, or play sand, all of which contain the enemy…
  • Keep the substrate damp but not a swamp-land.
  • Double Pot Method - It’s best to pot the flytraps in one pot with drainage holes, then keep that pot inside a second, larger pot lined with sphagnum moss. When watering, put distilled water into the larger pot. This reasonably prevents over-watering, protects the plant’s roots from temperature changes, and increases humidity around the plant. 
  • Dormancy - Between November and March, these plants go dormant. Growth slows or stops altogether. The flytraps, in particular, will suddenly appear as if they were lit on fire just before their last watering 3 years ago from the looks of them. Don’t panic; this is not a sign of bad plant parenting. They’re only sleeping… deeply. Just cut back on the watering while they slumber. 
Dormant Fly Traps
Active Fly Traps
  • When watering during dormancy, do so directly in the substrate the plant is potted in instead of watering the moss between the pots, and don’t overdo it. 
  • Don’t let the bug munchers freeze; that would be bad plant parenting. 35 °F - 50 °F is good for a solid nap. Come springtime they’ll awaken from their slumber with increased temperature and light exposure.
  • Don’t let carnivorous plants get too crowded in one pot. Split and re-pot them as needed.


Venus Flytrap

Sarracenia Pitcher Plants

How to Care for Venus Fly Traps (with Pictures)

How to Grow Venus Flytrap

How to Grow Pitcher Plants: 9 Steps (with Pictures)

Chic and Simple Carnivorous Plant Terrariums : 10 Steps (with Pictures)

Design Development

Entry Published:
June 17, 2020

Concept Sketching

Back in early January when I opted to do this project, I had very simple concepts in mind. While doodling in my notebook trying to figure out something completely unrelated to this project, a cooler, yet more complicated concept came to me.

Basic concept sketching of cylindrical covers to place over a plant pot.
1st Plant Home Concept Sketches
Concept Sketch of alien pod-like pot with vine legs.
More Organic Concept
Egg shaped pot with an open mouth full of menacing teeth and vine legs.
More Menacing and Complicated...
Ball-shaped planter with a hungry mouth full of teeth. Annotated with features.
An Alternative Shape...
Cube-shaped hungry plant creature with hinge design annotations.
Plant Access
A Cube-shaped hungry looking plant pot creature.
A Very Alternative Shape

Fiddling In Fusion 360 CAD

The parts of this planter will be 3d printed, molded, and then cast, likely using a matrix mold since the parts will be fairly large, and I don’t want to use up a lot of expensive silicone. I started modeling and printing back in January 2020, before I had the engineering requirements worked out. I made some decent progress modeling up the planter in Fusion 360. It wasn't smooth progress, but it was something. I got the head modeled with an undercut-free hinge between the two halves, but I struggled when it came to modeling the mouth. I tried using the form tool first, but I lost patience with it honestly. I also tried making the lips with the loft tool, but I wasn't happy with it. Its mouth ended up looking too friendly. Menacing and eager-to-devour-you is more what I was after. For eons, I've meant to learn Blender for organic modeling. Blender Guru's Donut Tutorial YouTube series is definitely in my "watch later" list.

A pinned hinge design free of undercuts.
Undercut-Free Hinge
Missing the Mark on Menacing...


Immediately after I finished modeling the head, I output .stl files for 3D printing and started printing the bottom half, a 17-hour print. In all my excitement to move forward and get parts printing, I jumped the gun. *Facepalm* Looking at the part in my hands, it was apparent it wasn't deep enough. I could and should have seen that in Fusion BEFORE I printed the part. There are a few obvious things I should have done differently to avoid this:

Shallow Pot
Well! This Was Foolish!

The most obvious; check the internal pot depth before printing.

Complete the design and engineering requirements before beginning any building process. That list not only serves to clearly define what is needed from the completed project, but it also serves as a checklist to refer back to at every subsequent stage of the project to ensure all the requirements are met, and nothing is forgotten. Had I done this step and referred back to that outline, I would have been reminded to check essential aspects of the design like the internal depth of the pot.

Don't be so hasty to start printing/building. As I was setting up the print files, it occurred to me that I should hold off on printing for at least the night, and sleep on it. While I felt good about the design and what I was going to print, I often think of another thing I should do or change in the model the next day or so. But I ignored my own better judgment in all my eagerness.

I've heard it said when it comes to design and development, iterate quickly and fail fast. I understand that the methodology can be extremely beneficial in product development, but I imagine there are some caveats to that. Fail fast, but fail smart. Avoid silly and costly mistakes. Fast iteration and failing fast is not an excuse for recklessness and half-baked planning and design. I'm still working out the balance between failing quickly and failing intelligently.

Roughly 3D Printed Filets
Yucky Filets

The filets on the print didn't turn out very well without support material. I didn't expect them to be perfect, but I thought they'd be better than this. Perhaps I'll try printing with support next time and see if it turns out better. In either case, I can fix the filets in post-processing anyway, so it's not a huge problem.


I'm not sure if I want the wall thickness of the planter to be 5mm or 3mm. 5mm seems really thick and wasteful, but is 3mm thick enough for a sturdy pot? I won't know until I get some resin and make a couple of test samples at 3mm thick and 5mm thick. Right now, it's modeled at 5mm thick.

I've since completed the engineering requirements of the project and made some changes to the design. It's taller/deeper, and it has built-in ribs to support a smaller pot inside for double-walled potting. I've printed a mini version of the entire head to serve as a maquette so I can play around with sculpting expressions on it. I thought the softened cube shape might grow on me, but I'm still not thrilled with it, so I'll model an oval or egg shape and make another maquette to play with as well. The cube shape could be more of a pain in the molding/demolding process anyway. An egg shape will be easier. My next move on this project is to sculpt maquettes until I come up with something I’m happy with. Afterward, I can return to Fusion 360 for modeling.

Taller Planter w/ Proper Depth


Blender Guru's YouTube Channel

Blender Guru's Blender Donut Tutorial

Maquette Attempt 1

Entry Published:
January 26, 2022

I Used To Be Ok At This

I don’t have any digital sculpting skills, so I’ll physically sculpt this plant home. I probably could’ve learned digital sculpting in the 1 ½ years since my last post. Instead, I was chasing a bunch of other squirrels; more on that later.

Before I do the full-sized sculpt, I’ll test out a style concept or two by creating tiny plant homes. Tiny homes are trending now, right? These preliminary mini sculptures are usually called “maquettes,” the French word for “model.” They differ from prototypes in that prototypes are for testing the function of a design, whereas maquettes usually focus on style and aesthetics. I took a stab at sculpting a mini version of the planter to test a styling concept with clay and 3d printed parts. The results were an abomination. My sculpting skills were never on par with Michelangelo’s, but I had hoped to recall a modicum of the sculpting skills I had back in college. Below are images of Paul Winston, an animatronic cigarette I sculpted/built in college. I need to find these skills again.

Mini sculpture of a disgruntled cigarette creature
Disgruntled Cigarette Maquette
Another mini sculpture of a disgruntled cigarette creature
Disgruntled Cigarette Maquette
Large Cigarette Face Sculpt In-Progress
Full Sized Face Sculpt Progress
Large Cigarette Face Sculpt In-Progress Still
Full Sized Face Sculpt Progress
Jacked-up Teeth on a large animatronic cigarette
Cigarrette's Teeth Sculpted, Cast & Installed
2 Foot Tall Complete Animatronic Cigarette
Complete Paul Winston; 2ft Tall

Baby Steps

In a single sculpting session where I attempted to model a tiny plant home, the results went from bad to worse. I tried a sculpting clay I had never used before called Fixit Sculpt. Crafsman, one of my favorite YouTubers, uses Fixit Sculpt and its sister product, Apoxie Sculpt, to create his own figures, so I was inspired to try it. Fixit Sculpt is a 2-part epoxy clay that you mix equally to activate. Once mixed, you have about 4 hours to form it into the shape you want before it hardens. After the clay hardens, it can be sanded, painted, or you can sculpt more on top of it.

Four hours may sound like plenty of time, but that finite working time presented a challenge for me. Mostly, I just fudged around stressing about the “small” window of time I had to produce my masterpiece. I thought it might work nicely for sculpting onto 3D printed parts because it would bond to the print, then I could paint the completed maquette afterward. Unfortunately, I’ve never been a fast sculptor; add to that, I didn’t know how I would take the half-baked image of a hungry pot that I had in my head and form it with clay.

Sad attempts at sculpting a mini plant pot
Hot Mess

I needed to slow down and take my sweet time reintroducing myself to sculpting. So I later spent an ENTIRE DAY sculpting this completely unrelated frog in a more familiar sculpting medium, Sculpey III, that allows unlimited time for dawdling. Sculpey brand Polymer clays become soft with a bubble-gum-like consistency after kneading and harden only after baking. It is the same type of clay I used to make the maquettes of Paul Winston pictured above. I chose not to use this when I was sculpting the carnivorous planter maquette because I was sculpting on 3D printed plastic, which would not hold its shape in the oven at the 275°F temperature required to set Sculpey III.

Green and Black Poison Dart Frog Sculpture
Extremely Relevant Poison Dart Frog

While creating this poison dart frog, it occurred to me that I forgot a critical aspect of sculpting; references. Better results come from looking up reference images of what you are trying to create, printing them out, and looking at them while bringing your masterpiece into existence. So, for instance, if you wanted to draw a character laughing, instead of trying to work solely from your memory of what laughing looks like, you’d find a variety of images (photos and illustrations) that show what it looks like when folks laugh. Body posture, eyes, nose, mouth, ears; notice the physical changes that signal someone is laughing. While working, keep looking at the images that show the type of laughter you want to depict in your drawing.

These are some of the reference images I've collected for the planter after some google image searching on phrases like “Hungry” and “Menacing.” Note; I did not create any pictures in the collage below, and I do not own any of them.

Collage of Reference Images Found in a Google Image Search
Collage of Reference Images Found in a Google Image Search


Eventually, I’ll take another stab at sculpting a plant home maquette, starting with clay that affords unlimited dawdle time, even if I can’t ever harden it. Then I may create another mini with Apoxie Sculpt if I want a painted maquette. Sculpting the same thing several times doesn’t sound very appealing, though, so we’ll see what I actually end up doing.

I may need to sculpt the teeth separately from the rest of the planter. I’m not sure what clay I’ll use for that. Hard, oil-based clays are not my favorite but, that may be the way to go. Eventually, when I sculpt the full-sized planter, I’ll need to choose a clay that doesn’t contain sulfur. Sulfur inhibits the cure of platinum-cure silicone, which I’ll use to make the mold for the planter.

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