“Oh, your Venus Fly Trap caught that annoying fly. That was so cool. Now I see why you grow these,” exclaimed a friend.
The Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea muscipula) is probably the best known of the carnivorous plants. It can also be referred to as the Venus flytrap plant. It can live up to 20 years in the wild. All wild Venus Fly Traps are found within a 75-mile radius of Wilmington, North Carolina, and nowhere else in the world. They are considered threatened, and it is illegal to gather them from the wild.
Contrary to popular opinion, this carnivorous plant gets most of its energy from photosynthesis. It only catches bugs to get nutrients lacking in the wet, open longleaf pine savannas it is native to.
Description of the Venus Fly Trap
The Venus Fly Trap is a deciduous perennial carnivorous plant. The plant’s leaves are light green. Inside the hinged leaf, the trap is green or deep red. The leaves have filament-like projections on the sides to complete the trap. Leaves are 2-5 inches long and are set low on the plant. The rest of the plant is green.
White cupped flowers appear in May and June on stalks that are four to twelve inches long. These stalks keep the flowers above the traps, so pollinators do not become dinner. In June and July, the plant produces a black fruit with seeds inside it.
Venus Fly Trap Care Facts
- The Venus Fly Trap is hardy in zones 6a to 10a. They prefer to be in direct sunlight but will tolerate partial shade. The inside of the traps will not be as vibrant when they are in partial sun.
- The soil must remain moist and occasionally wet with frequent standing water.
- The Venus Fly Trap plant lose their leaves and go dormant in the winter.
- Outside plants are very slow-growing and only get to 6-12 inches tall and 6-8 inches wide.
- They prefer sandy loam or sand that is acidic.
- The Venus Fly Trap naturally grows in nutrient poor soil.
- If you do not have an appropriate area in your landscape for Venus Flytrap plants, don’t despair. Growing Venus Flytraps indoors is not difficult if you make sure they have a few things.
How Do I Grow a Venus Fly Trap as a Houseplant?
The first thing you will need to do to care for a healthy fly trap is to repot it. These carnivorous plants require a 4-5 inch pot with drainage holes and a saucer. Venus Fly Traps grow long roots, so get a tall pot.
The Best Planting Mix for Venus Fly Trap Care
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The Venus Fly Trap does best in sphagnum moss with sand or a few orchid bark pieces instead of potting soil. The orchid bark pieces are acidic and retain moisture for the plant while the moss quickly drains. You can also use one part peat moss to one part perlite. The peat moss makes this mixture acidic enough for the plant. Wet the potting medium thoroughly before putting it in the pot. In the middle of the potting medium, make a small nest. Place the Venus Fly Trap in the nest and ring it with the potting medium. Venus Fly Traps must have nutrient-free, mineral-free soil with good drainage.
How do I water a Venus Fly Trap?
Never water a Venus Fly Trap from above. Watering these plants from above can leave them vulnerable to leaf disease. The ideal way to water a Venus Fly Trap is to put about an inch of water in the plant’s saucer. The moss and bark will absorb some of the water and make it available to the plant. Keep the plant moist but not soggy.
Venus Fly Traps grow in very pure water. They will not do well with tap water. Use distilled water or rain water. Remember, the nutrients they need come from their prey, not the water.
The Best Light Levels for Venus Fly Trap Care
Venus Flytraps will need to be in bright, indirect light. They do better and their colors are more vivid when they get at least 6 hours of sunlight a day. They can tolerate partial shade, with only 2-6 hours of sunlight, but the colors in the trap are not as vivid.
Venus flytraps will grow under a full spectrum light placed about 6 inches above the plants. A full-spectrum light has all the spectrums of light that the sun does.
Temperature and Humidity
If you are comfortable with the temperature, odds are the Venus flytrap will be comfortable also. It requires temperatures between 70-95F (21-32C) in the summer and down to 40F (4C) during the winter. Closely linked to temperature is humidity. The higher the temperature, the more humidity the plant requires. The plant needs at least 50% humidity. If your house is dry, find a saucer that is big enough to put the flytrap and its saucer in. Fill the large saucer with pebbles. Put enough water to almost cover the pebbles. Set the flytrap in the big saucer, with pot saucer, and all. A microclimate high in humidity is created as water evaporates. Don’t forget to fill the pebble saucer with water when it gets low.
Venus Fly Trap Care in the Winter
Venus fly traps must go through dormancy to survive. Their leaves will blacken and fall off, making the plant appear dead. It is not dead, but merely resting. Place your Venus Flytrap in a cool place, around 40F (4C), with little light in the winter months. The dormancy period needs to be around three months.
The plant should be damp during this time, but not wet, or it will rot the roots. It needs a little light during dormancy. If you use a basement or garage, place a light dusting of sulfur on the plant to keep fungus from growing on it. Check the plant frequently and make sure it doesn’t have fungus on it. If you find fungus, it usually means there is excess humidity. Treat the plant by manually removing the mold, repotting the plant or bright light exposure to balance out the moisture level.
After the 3-4 month dormancy period, gradually warm up the flytrap and expose it to more light. Plunging it immediately into hot temperatures and direct sunlight will harm it.
Do Venus Flytraps Need to be in a Terrarium?
Many people try to grow Venus Fly Traps in a terrarium or aquarium. This usually results in plant death as the temperature gets too high for them. At best, the plant will only barely survive. Leaving the top off the terrarium keeps the temperature low enough for the plants while the glass walls hold in the humidity that the plant needs.
What To Feed Venus Fly Traps
Overfeeding will make your flytrap sick. So will raw meat. Many people will trap bugs, capture insects, mealworms, flies, or gnats. Whatever you feed your flytrap, it shouldn’t be more than a third the size of the trap. The prey has to be alive or the plant will not close on it. You do not need to fertilize the Venus flytrap. The insects supply all the nutrients it needs. Only feed your flytrap one to two live insects per month.
How often should I repot a Venus flytrap plant?
Venus flytraps should be repotted every one to two years to prevent fungus and rotting issues. The growing medium wears out as it decomposes and no longer meets the plant’s needs. If the flytrap has grown significantly, it will need a new, bigger pot. If it has not grown much, you can reuse the pot you have and just remove the old medium with new potting soil. Repotting is an excellent time to divide the plant, as discussed below.
Venus flytraps are a little like popcorn, you can’t have just one. Ethical propagating means using flytraps that have never lived in the wild. Commercially grown plants are often grown from tissue cultures. That requires special equipment and knowledge. There are three ways the rest of us have to get new plants.
When the Venus flytrap plant is mature, after about two years, it will start having flowers. If you let the flowers stay on the plant, you will end up with black fruits with seeds in them Let the seeds dry out before harvesting them. You will need to start the seeds in a peat and sand mix. Keep the mix damp and cover it with a clear bag or plastic wrap to keep the humidity in. The Venus flytrap is slow to germinate so do not expect anything for several weeks. Once the seeds germinate, remove the plastic. The little Venus flytraps should be left for a year before transplanting.
You can take a leaf cutting from a mature Venus flytrap and grow it into a new plant. This is best done in the early summer after the leaves are growing well. Remove a leaf from the rhizome. Place it in a damp peat/sand mixture and put a bag over it. Keep in partial shade until the leaf produces roots. Remove the bag over it. Slowly acclimate the plant to the sunlight and humidity it will be living in. It will take two years to get a mature plant from your cutting.
Venus flytraps grow out of a rhizome, similar to a bulb. After they are mature (at about 2 years of age), they start putting out side shoots. These are the plant babies. To divide the plant, remove it from the pot. Cut off the side shoots along with some roots. Plant these in their own pots. Return the mother plant to its pot. Give it new potting medium and discard the old stuff. You can put the used potting medium on your compost pile if the plant is healthy. It is best to divide Venus flytraps in late winter or early spring.
Varieties of Venus Flytraps
All Venus flytraps are the same species (Dionaea muscipula). However, people have developed cultivars of that species that look a little different than the wild flytraps. Most of them are cultivated because they have different colors, sizes, or mutations. Some mutations are incompatible with life, but others are very interesting. The International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS) designated the International Carnivorous Plant Society (ICPS) as the International Cultivar Registration Authority (ICRA) for carnivorous plants, including Venus flytraps, in 1978. In late 2021, there are 130 cultivars listed.
Here are a few of the better-known cultivars and their descriptions.
Dionaea ‘Akai Ryu’
Registered by Ron Gagliardo This cultivar name means “Red Dragon” and the leaf, petiole, and trap are maroon or burgundy.
Dionaea ‘Justina Davis’
Registered by Barry Rice This cultivar stays bright green even in full sun. There are no other colors on the plant, even inside the trap.
Registered by: Barry Rice, developed by Henning von Schmeling This is considered the largest Venus flytrap, with traps over 2 inches.
Dionaea ‘Bohemian Garnet’
Registered by: Miroslav Srba This plant is half the size of a typical Venus flytrap.
Is it illegal to grow a Venus fly trap?
It is not illegal to have a Venus fly trap. It is illegal to gather one from the wild or buy one from someone who has done so. Venus fly traps are threatened in their native range and poachers are a big problem. Buy from reputable nurseries or growers that have propagated the new Venus fly trap from older, cultivated flytraps.
Can a Venus flytrap hurt a person?
No, they cannot hurt a person. The biggest trap is only around two inches long and is not strong enough to keep you from pulling away. You can hurt the Venus flytrap by triggering it to close, though. Closing takes a lot of energy that the plant needs to put toward growing. The traps can only close a few times before the leaf dies, so false alarms can kill that leaf.
Can a Venus flytrap survive without bugs?
A Venus flytrap can survive without bugs, but it will be slow-growing and weak. A bug twice a month will help it have all the nutrients it needs to grow big and strong.
Can a Venus flytrap survive without sunlight?
No, every plant needs some sunlight. Venus flytraps need bright sun to grow their best. Even when dormant, they need some sun.
How long do Venus flytraps live indoors?
Venus flytraps that are well cared for can live approximately 20 years. They must be allowed to go dormant each winter to keep them that long.
Venus flytraps are fascinating plants. You have to care for them a little differently than most other plants, but they are interesting enough to be worth the effort. Since poaching threatens the flytrap’s existence, always buy them from a reputable source. We sell healthy, cultivated Venus Flytraps with good, solid care and growing instructions with each plant. Follow the instructions and become another devotee of this wonderfully weird little plant.
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