Venus Flytrap (Dionaea) Care Information:
PLEASE NOTE: The care information we have placed here is specific to Venus Flytraps (or Dionaea muscipula in 'geek speak'), and may not be valid for other types of carnivorous plants. For a more basic understanding of the care and maintenance of carnivorous plants, and an appreciation for how easy they are to care for, we suggest that you also read our General Carnivorous Plant Care page first.
A bit of information about Venus Flytraps and their care in general: Venus Flytraps (VFTs) are native to an area called the Green Swamp, which is near the coast at the border of North and South Carolina. The areas where VFTs and most other carnivorous plants usually grow are primarily bogs and fens, where they grow in very moist, acidic, nutrient-deficient soil. They have been planted by humans in other locations (Florida, California, even other countries!) and have become naturalized; but the Green Swamp is the only true 'home' for these iconic plants. They are heavily protected in the wild, and each individual plant that is poached from the wild is considered a separate felony offense! In our opinion, why would anyone want to take one from the wild, when you can get nice healthy plants in pots from PetFlytrap.com! While there are many different cultivars (named identical clones of VFTs, like 'B-52' or 'Alien'), they all share the same general characteristics and growing requirements. Since these are temperate plants, they do best if given a winter dormancy, similar to what they would get in their native habitat. However, if they are given the proper conditions, they can ALSO Be grown quite well as indoor terrarium plants with no dormancy. More on that later.
Regarding general VFT care, they can be grown successfully both outdoors and indoors; the key is providing the appropriate environment. For those with good outdoor growing conditions, place the pot(s) in a shallow saucer or dish. For indoor growing, a terrarium, enclosed grow rack, glass vase/bowl, or similar humidity-retaining method will help keep your plants happy and healthy.
Watering: As with all carnivorous plants, VFTs require pure water of some sort, such as distilled, reverse osmosis (RO), or rain water. Bottled water and spring water from the grocery store are not recommended, as these both contain salts and minerals to make them taste better to us humans. Regardless of your growing method, keep the soil moist but not waterlogged at all times. Do not use tap water or your plant will die over the course of time. Treated tap water contains chemicals and dissolved solids which build up in the soil and will certainly affect the health of your carnivorous plant. Also, never let your plants dry out; place them, pot and all, in a tray or saucer, and add ¼ to ½ inch of water to the saucer. Don't pour the water directly onto the soil, as this can cause the soil to wash up onto the growing point of the plant and stress it. Rather, allow the water in the saucer to be absorbed by the soil before you add more water to the saucer, so that moisture can be kept in the soil but the roots have a chance to 'breathe' in between waterings. The soil around the base of the plant should always be damp to the touch, but the saucer can and should be allowed to go dry before adding more water. Remember: Do NOT let the soil dry out. You are better off using tap water if absolutely necessary, rather than letting your plants get too thirsty! A quick note if you are growing your plants directly in soil (no pots) in a terrarium: be very careful not to overwater your terrarium...it takes very little water to replace the small amount that evaporates over time!
Soil: VFTs are temperate plants, meaning they prefer a more typical looking (dark) soil mix. We primarily use a mix of Sphagnum peat and coarse-grade sand, but any mix that is 2 parts Sphagnum peat and one part sand, perlite, or a mix of the two, will do just fine. Some growers even add a bit of orchid bark or long-fiber Sphagnum (LFS), but these ingredients are more expensive and we have not found them to be necessary at all. Our Standard Soil Mix, which contains Sphagnum peat and perlite, is a wonderful choice. If you are in an area where you can grow VFTs outdoors, this is a wonderful way to grow them, and allows them to experience natural conditions, such as dormancy (nope, not yet...more later!). However, we recommend placing a 'topping' layer of Long-fiber Sphagnum moss or coarse-grade sand on top of the soil. This helps keep the soil from being splashed up onto the growing point of the plant if there is a heavy rain event. Above all, you want a soil mix that is acidic, and it must be open enough to provide for good aeration and drainage. In our Standard Soil Mix, the Sphagnum peat provides the acidity; while the perlite helps to keep the soil from getting too densely packed, and provide for good soil drainage. If peat is used without a means of drainage, the roots of the plant may begin to rot. Replacement soil mixes or individual ingredients can be purchased from PetFlyTrap.com in the Supplies section. If you purchase your soil/ingredients from other sources, be certain that they do not have added chemicals, fertilizers or surfactants in them, as many name brands do. NEVER use potting soil or any nutrients of any kind in the soil: compost, fertilizers, anything that guarantees big beautiful plants. These plants get nutrients through their leaves and traps, and fertilizers in the soil may cause the roots to die off and kill your plant!
Tampering: We understand the draw of teasing the trigger hairs on your Pet Flytrap. And yes, we have teased a few ourselves...usually when we are doing a lecture on carnivorous plants for a school, garden club, or similar group. But overall, you should refrain from doing this, as you may affect the plant's ability to feed and it may ultimately die. The traps of a Venus Flytrap are designed to open and close a limited number of times (approximately 7-10 in optimal conditions). After this, the trap usually dies off. So you can see that triggering the traps all the time will eventually cause all the leaves to die; and then you have a dead plant. Even if this doesn't happen, it can make them unable to snap shut when a bug actually finds its way to the flytrap's beckoning “mouth.” How sad for the plant!
Humidity & Air Circulation: While VFTs can tolerate somewhat lower humidity if they are slowly acclimated to it, they all prefer higher humidity environments, and will stop producing traps (or may even die) if they are grown without enough humidity. Higher humidity helps the traps to produce more prey-attracting nectar, and if the humidity is too low to do this, the plant may not even make traps! Lower (but not stagnant!) air circulation over the plant will aid in the maintenance of humidity. This climate is often achieved by placing the plant inside a plastic or glass dome with air holes to allow for air transfer. This can be something as simple as a 2-liter bottle or cheese ball container! If a dome, cover, or terrarium is not available, frequent misting with pure water may assist in increasing humidity. Keep in mind that direct outdoor sunlight while under any cover or container may result in the plant's death, due to high temperatures; these enclosures can act like a miniature microwave oven!
Food: Venus Flytraps obtain few nutrients from the soil, relying on their traps to catch insects and other prey (yes, it's not just bugs!) to give them the micronutrients they need for long-term health and growth. Bugs and other animals are a dietary supplement (like a vitamin pill) that help the plant to grow faster, but are not required in 'human' quantities for the health and survival of the plant; they still absorb and store energy from the sun (photosynthesize), just like other green plants. We recommend feeding your plant live or freshly killed food items (think juicy...not a dead 'husk of a bug' from your windowsill!) that are no more than 1/2 the length of the trap in which you are placing it. This is so that the trap can completely seal up around the food; after all, if the trap can't completely close, the food may mold and kill that trap. Contrary to myth, do not feed your plant hamburger; it will kill the plant. Never use fertilizer on your carnivorous plants' soil. We know of growers who will use a bit of very weak orchid fertilizer on the leaves of their plants, but we have not found this necessary here in the Houston area. We have plenty of food!
Light: Venus Flytraps enjoy 14 to 16 hours of bright light, either from being outdoors if your conditions allow, or if indoors from a supplemental lighting source of some sort. If growing the plants indoors, we typically recommend bulbs in the 5500K to 6500K color range, and placed 12 to 18 inches from the plant(s), depending on the particular light system you use. The amount of light will determine plant coloration. If VFTs are grown in insufficient light, they will produce overly long, thin leaves, and the traps will be the same green color as the rest of the leaf. As the light increases (and depending on the variety of flytrap), the red coloration intensifies. However, since the red coloration absorbs more heat than the typical green color, if the lighting and heat is above a certain point (which will depend on your area), this can cause the plant to stop producing the red coloration. We have found that VFTs grown outdoors here in the Houston area will grow very nicely, but even on varieties known for having nice red traps, they will be more yellowish green due to the increased sunlight and heat. Over the course of time, this can be fatal for these small, tender plants; so temper your desire to grow them outdoors with a bit of caution and TLC! Above all, remember to slowly acclimate a flytrap to any changes in condition...especially lighting. While they can take bright indirect light, it’s best to start in a lower light environment and slowly increase the amount or intensity of the light gradually to allow the plant to adjust to the environment.
Dormancy: While most flytrap growers insist that these plants must have a natural dormancy in winter, new information that can be found on the International Carnivorous Plant Society web site at this link has shown that if flytraps are grown indoors and 1) given plenty of artificial light for a set (14-15 hour) photoperiod daily; and 2) fed frequently, they can grow as well (or even better) than if they are given a dormancy. In our experience, artificial lighting also causes flytraps to have more intense red coloration than when grown in natural light; so we feel this is the best option for the casual grower with a plant or two. Also, remember that Venus Flytraps grow naturally in USDA Zone 7b. If you live in an area that is warmer or colder than their normal range, your outdoor conditions may not be adequate to give flytraps good dormancy, and may even kill your plants!
Having said that, Venus flytraps can be grown outdoors, and make wonderful additions to an outdoor carnivorous plant bog. The tricky part is dormancy. If you live in the more northern or southern parts of the U.S., dormancy can be problematic. PetFlyTrap.com is located just north of Houston, Texas (USDA Zone 9a), and we grow flytraps outdoors year-round with no special care. However, if you live further north and grow flytraps outdoors, you may need to provide some additional insulation (several inches or more of pine straw works very well) during the coldest months. And if you live in a more southern (or tropical) area, you may be able to grow them outdoors year-round if they are fed frequently, as mentioned above.
Important Notes to remember:
1) As with all carnivorous plants, Venus Flytraps will always have older leaves and traps that are withering and dying back. This is a normal occurrence in nature; simply trim off the dead plant matter. The plants grow new leaves out from the center. You know you have a nice, healthy plant as long as this is happening.
2) Keep the soil moist at all times using the watering instructions above.
3) Keep in mind that YOUR CONDITIONS WILL DIFFER GREATLY DEPENDING ON YOUR GROWING ENVIRONMENT AND WHERE YOU LIVE! Someone growing a Venus Flytrap in Minnesota will need to care for their plant very differently than someone who lives in the arid deserts of Arizona!
Of course, please feel free to contact us via e-mail at [email protected] or 281-433-3290 if you have any specific questions. We're happy to help!