Venus fly traps are fascinating, aren’t they? These carnivorous plants use their color and scent to lure prey closer, then snap shut at a moment’s notice. Then, they consume the insect over the course of several hours. That may sound gruesome, but as a house plant, it’s great for keeping fruit fly populations down! Best of all, Venus fly trap care is simple and easy enough for beginners. Read on to learn how to cultivate these beauties!
Venus Flytrap Varieties
A fly trap is one of the three basic types of carnivorous plants, and the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is the most popular of them all. In simplest terms, this type of plant feeds on insects. They have hinged leaves that close over their prey to trap it, and they thrive near open doors or windows, where they can grab delicious bugs at will.
Various Venus fly trap cultivars exist, and they’re selected depending on their size, color, or maturity level. The all-red or green cultivars known as “Red Dragon,” “Akai Ryu,” and “Justina Davis” are especially popular. Large varieties known as South West Giant and Slack’s Giant are also fan favorites.
Venus fly traps also include mutant varieties, which happen when the plant grows in deformed. For example, sometimes they can’t catch prey. Gardeners either love or hate them, depending on their novelty. “Alien” is a common and bizarre mutant variety.
How to Plant a Venus Fly Trap
Planting your Venus fly trap in a plastic pot is ideal for a wide range of conditions and seasons. You can get the plants from online retailers, or your local specialty garden center. If you live in the Carolinas, you may find the plants in a wider range of stores. However, you can also grow flytraps from seed with extra care and protection.
When to Plant
Depending on your climate, plant your favorite flytrap variety in the spring or fall. If growing from seeds, ensure they’re not more than a couple of months old. They’re only viable for a short period, which is why many people purchase existing plants over seeds.
They grow best outdoors in zones 8-10. However, you can also grow a Venus flytrap in a terrarium, greenhouse, or a sunny windowsill indoors.
Place your Venus fly trap in a sunny location, as they require 12 hours of direct sunlight per day. However, flytraps can survive with a minimum of four hours of light, which means a partial shade location can work if you feed them properly. Ideally, flytraps thrive in a bright window with morning and afternoon sun that’s not too intense. Avoid direct sunlight in the summer to avoid burning, though. East, south, or west-facing windows all work well.
If your home doesn’t have enough sunlight indoors or out, you can use artificial grow lights 12 hours per day to maintain the plant. The lights—whether LED or fluorescent—need to remain 2-8 inches away from the plant.
Don’t use traditional potting soil or compost for ideal Venus fly trap care. Instead, fill your container with an even mixture of peat moss and gravel or horticultural sand for the best results. The mixture offers drainage while holding onto the right amount of moisture, which mimics the fly trap’s natural growing conditions. You can also use poor soil, but it’s not ideal for all locations.
Ensure you don’t use beach sand or sphagnum moss either. Horticultural sand is ideal because it doesn’t harm the plant or add too many minerals to the soil, while peat moss is more acidic and allows more water to move through. If you need more drainage, try altering the mixture to 1 part peat moss and 2 parts sand. You can also use gravel to offer more drainage than sand.
Ways to Plant
The best way to grow a Venus flytrap is to buy an adult plant and transplant it into a plastic container. Make sure the pot offers proper drainage and repot the plant as it grows.
If you choose to grow a flytrap from seed, it’s better to harvest seeds from an existing plant from August to September (depending on your climate) and plant them immediately in a 4-inch pot.
They also thrive in an unheated greenhouse or terrariums, as long as you respect the dormancy requirements closely. You could even grow the plant in an aquarium if you like. Sprinkle around 25 seeds in a small pinch over the pot of soil and spray the seeds with Neem oil to protect them from fungal or mold spores. Later, you can divide sprouted plants into individual pots.
If you maintain consist temperatures around 75 degrees F and bright sunlight, the seeds you plant will begin to germinate in 4-8 weeks.
Proper Venus Fly Trap Care
The Venus fly trap grows naturally in a limited range of environments. As a result, you’ll commonly see them only in North and South Carolina’s coastal bogs. However, Venus flytrap care is easy to imitate in other areas.
Most fly traps don’t require much water. Expect to only water the plant thoroughly every 10-14 days or so. If you live in a dry, hot area or have a large flytrap, you may need to water the plant daily. Allow the soil to remain on the dry side but never completely dry, with damp soil around the base of the roots. You mustn’t overwater. Even if the peat moss feels dry on the surface, the underneath layers may still be moist.
Rather than water the plant with tap water, however, use distilled water. Rainwater works as well, but tap water typically has too many minerals that are harmful to your flytrap.
The cool part about Venus fly trap care is that you can meet the plant’s water needs even is you’re forgetful, busy, or travel often. All you have to do is place a plastic tray or saucer under the pot, and fill the trap with water. This allows the peat moss to draw up the water it needs like a sponge. This trick also works well in the summer, when the weather reaches hotter than normal conditions.
You’ll also need to cut back the amount of water during dormant periods, or when the plant doesn’t receive as much sunlight as normal, like during the winter (3-5 months). They may appear to die in the winter, although they’re typically just dormant and conserving energy.
The plant can survive temperatures from 32-86 degrees F easily. Nighttime temperatures shouldn’t drop below 55 degrees, on average.
Venus fly traps enjoy temperatures above freezing, so make sure to move outdoor pots inside for the winter. If you live in a warm location with no frost, a dormant flytrap will thrive outside. Dormant plants require temperatures from 32 to 55 degrees F, which is why some people choose to grow theirs in the fridge over the winter.
Prune away dead foliage as soon as you notice it to avoid fungal infections. Remove wilted or dry leaves that appear black or brown immediately. Snip off any moldy parts right away as well.
Venus fly traps will flower from the plant’s rod-shaped stalk in the middle. To ensure your flytrap doesn’t begin to flower, make sure to prune it consistently and nip odd-looking leaves as soon as you see them.
Feeding fly traps is fun, but the plant won’t survive without enough food. In their native regions, the soil is sandy, moist, and highly acidic. As a result, the plants evolved to become carnivorous. Their natural insect-eating ability allows Venus fly traps to get all the nutrients they can’t get from the soil. This ability makes them extremely easy to care for.
Growing the plant indoors tends to work well, as long as you have prey for the plant. Without enough food, Venus fly traps will grow more slowly and eventually die off. Place your plant outdoors on warm, sunny days to help it catch more prey. When outside, Venus fly traps can find their food without any help. Otherwise, you can try feeding your plant if it appears unhealthy.
A fly trap’s native habitat allows it to capture more crawling insects than flies, even though most people know this carnivorous plant for its ability to feed on annoying flies. In addition to flying insects, you can feed your Venus flytrap a range of small insects such as:
- Sowbugs (aka roly-polies)
Ensure the insect, no matter what type, fits the plant’s size. Baby grasshoppers, ants, or small spiders work well for little plants. Larger ones can handle adult insects, arthropods, suitably-sized slugs, and small beetles.
You can also feed the plant dead bugs using long tweezers. Just note that Venus fly traps won’t close over a dead insect. If you want to go this route, you’ll have to physically move the insect’s legs along the plant’s trigger hairs to imitate a live one’s actions to trick the plant. The bug also needs to be at least 1/3 of the size of the trap for it to fully close and break down the food properly.
Common Growing Problems
With too much water, your fly trap may suffer from root rot, mildew, or mold. The plant requires tons of moisture, but you must keep a balance to avoid these issues. Drainage holes should help, and use plastic containers rather than cement or clay pots. Otherwise, minerals can seep into the water supply and cause a chemical burn.
If the fly trap continuously tries to digest insects that are too big, they may also get a bacterial infection. The trap needs to fully close over the bug, or the bacteria from the dead insect can build up over time and cause harm rather than providing nourishment.
A Final Word on Venus Fly Trap Care
Keep in mind if you put your finger in the plant too much, it will die prematurely. Although it may be tempting to poke your finger in there to trigger the response, it’s both taxing and harmful to the plant.
While a Venus fly trap won’t harm you, remember that it takes about a day for the plant to reopen. Your plant needs its energy to use the response for food only. (This is also how you can tell the plant has recently eaten). Never feed the plant human food either. It doesn’t digest meat the same way, and feeding the flytrap a hamburger, for example, can cause leaf rot.
Follow this Venus fly trap care guide diligently and you’ll keep your plant healthy and happy for years.