Want to learn more about Venus Fly Trap Trivia
Get individual care schedule and reminders for your plant with our app Planta. Never kill a plant again!
The Venus flytrap, Dionaea muscipula, is one of the most popularly grown carnivorous plants around the world. Native to some localities in North and South Carolina, this plant is unfortunately threatened by habitat loss. The natural distribution is today rather small, not exceeding a 90 mile (144 km) radius.
Although threatened in its native habitat, this unique plant is still rather easy to cultivate commercially and it’s a popular plant often seen for sale in plant shops. It’s one of a few carnivorous plants that closes its trap when catching a bug. It’s also the fastest one to do that.
Apart from the wild form of the plant there’s also a great number of different cultivars created by hybridizers and hobbyists around the world. Many of which have very interesting shapes and colors of the leaves and traps. Although the natural, standard form of the plant is green with red or reddish insides of the traps there are cultivars with fully dark red, green or yellow green leaves, or leaves with different patterns.
This plant can be challenging if you’re not used to growing carnivorous plants. Many would say it’s a plant that can be difficult to keep happy and thriving, and that’s true if you grow it indoors. This is due to it having some special care requirements compared to most other plants. The Venus flytrap is a plant that is best grown outside in the summer months and kept in a cool spot for its dormancy. Given that it’s not very demanding at all.
Here is a summarized list of the most important things to keep in mind when growing this plant, and further below you’ll find more in-depth information about this wonderful plant’s care requirements:
Never use tap water or fertilizer - instead use filtered water, RO-water or rainwater.
Never let the soil dry up close to fully.
Acclimate it to direct sunlight exposure most of the day.
Let it get used to being grown outdoors in the summer months.
Give it a cool winter dormancy sheltered from freezing temperatures.
The reason why Venus flytraps catch insects in order to get nutrients is due to it growing on very nutrient poor soils. This adaptation is a good thing to keep in mind when growing this plant. Not only is it used to not having a lot of nutrients and minerals in the soil, but normal levels (an amount other plants would benefit from) will also easily kill it. It’s therefore important to avoid both fertilizing the plant like other plants, but also to avoid using too mineral rich water.
In most cases tap water is too high in minerals. It might not always affect the plant from the first watering but after a couple of waterings the mineral content will start to build up and it might slowly start to cause some decline in the plant. Best is to use either filtered water, rain water or other water types with a lower mineral content like RO-water instead.
This is a plant that’s also used to growing in areas with constantly moist soil. So in order to make sure it grows as good as possible it’s of highest importance to make sure the soil is always moist. It’s a good idea to grow it on a saucer or tray always filled with some water, especially if growing it in a porous substrate.
Just like the importance of using mineral and fertilizer free water, it’s also important to make sure you don’t use a soil mix that contains a lot of minerals and nutrients. There are a couple of different options that work well for this plant. Pure sphagnum moss is a great alternative, unfertilized coarse peat is good too. A mix of unfertilized peat, coarse sand and perlite in equal parts is also a great mix. We call this mix “Carnivorous Plant Mix” in Planta if you want to use it and set it correctly for the plant in the settings.
These plants often come planted in rather dense peat soil from the growers. It’s an acceptable soil in the beginning but it’s good to repot it in an airier alternative like the ones listed above once the plant has settled in your growing conditions.
Venus flytraps have rather weak root systems compared to most other plants. They rarely need to be repotted due to crowded roots. It’s usually the soil decomposing and losing its porosity that causes a need for repotting the plant. When repotting it you can gently rinse the roots in water to remove the old soil. The roots are thick, mostly dark in color, or even black with paler tips. They are brittle, so be careful when handling them and planting them in the new soil. Also make sure to keep them wet for as long as they’re exposed to the air or they will dry and get harmed rather easily by that too. After the repotting make sure to rinse the soil or at least hydrate it with some water.
It’s a good idea to repot the plant while it’s still dormant in late winter or spring, to cause as little stress to the plant as possible. A repotting is usually not needed every year unless the soil has decomposed a lot in that time.
The Venus flytrap requires plenty of bright, direct sunlight in order to grow properly, produce healthy, properly functioning traps and not get etiolated. Just like any other plant it’s however important to slowly acclimate it to the sunlight. Without a slow process of letting it get used to the sunlight first, it will easily get scorched.
If you suspect that your plant isn’t used to plenty of sunlight yet (which is the most common case when buying a plant) the acclimation process can take a couple of weeks or even over a month until properly used to full sunlight exposure. Best is to let it eventually get used to at least 6 hours of direct sunlight, but more than that is also good. The light requirements are rather low to none during the dormant period.
As previously mentioned, this plant will not tolerate the addition of fertilizer in the soil. They can handle rather long periods of time without the addition of nutrients to the traps but regular feeding is recommended in order for it to get the best possible growth. There are some options. Apart from feeding insects to the traps you can also use some fish flakes or freeze dried blood worms. It’s worth noting that some fish flakes might be high in salts and they can cause some dry edges of the traps.
Place the food of your choice in the trap and try to touch the trigger hairs inside of it so that it closes around the food. Since they’re adapted to catching living and moving insects it’s likely that a trap might open up after a couple or hours or a day when using dry and dead food. In that case you can trigger the hairs again by gently massaging the trap from the outside.
Plants grown outdoors will in most cases be able to catch bugs by themselves and there’s usually not as big of a need to manually feed them. They’re however not that good at catching fruit flies or fungus gnats indoors. If you want a plant that’s good at that we suggest instead trying a butterwort, Pinguicula sp.
Since this plant is native to subtropical wetlands it will need a period of cool temperatures in order to grow well in the long run. In fall and early winter the plant might stay green, but in most cases it will start to die back so that all visible leaves turn black and dead. This can look bad but it’s normal. In the soil underneath the soil line the main stem will still be living and waiting for spring when it can regrow again. The plant will need about three to four months or dormancy. It’s a combination of cooler temperatures below 50 F (10C) and shorter days that induces dormancy in the plant. Even if the temperatures would get higher in late winter, any short days might still cause it to stay dormant.
Most cooler temperatures are good, but somewhere between 41 - 55 F ( 5 - 12 C) is preferred for most of the time during the dormant period. Even if a fully dormant plant can handle some freezing, it’s something we recommend avoiding altogether.
After the dormant period the plant will often produce another type of growth with more upright and taller leaves, and it can also start flowering. As long as the plant is healthy and has good growing conditions flowering doesn’t affect the growth of the plant. After the initial spring type of growth the following growth often results in a more compact leaf rosette we’re more used to seeing when thinking about this plant.
Can you grow them indoors?
Yes, It’s not impossible to grow a Venus flytrap indoors, but it’s more demanding to do it successfully in the long run compared to outdoors. The two trickier aspects are the temperature and making sure it receives enough light. The temperature is hard to do much about, but placing it by a drafty and cooler window or room is one option. Growing it at room temperature in the summer months is however often okay, but finding a cool enough site for the dormant period is usually the hardest part.
It’s possible to skip the dormancy for a year but it’s not recommended as it might affect the growth badly in the long run. A grow light is almost always necessary when keeping them indoors, especially in the darker parts of the year (if you try avoiding the dormancy altogether). Make sure it has a grow light that’s bright enough, and that it's on for about 14 h / day.
Did you know that the flowers of this plant in most cases are able to self pollinate? They result in shiny black seeds you can sow to try to grow more Venus flytrap plants in your collection. If the seeds don’t seem to germinate well, let them be together with your plant in its winter dormancy and they might germinate the following spring. Sometimes they need a cold stratification - a cool period - in order to promote germination.
Individual traps can only close a limited number of times, and the closing time is often increased the more it closes. Just like any other plant the oldest leaves and traps will naturally wilt on the plant. It might also happen a little earlier to traps that’s been closing many times.
Charles Darwin is also quoted to have said that the Venus flytrap is "one of the most wonderful [plants] in the world".