Growing and Caring for the Venus Flytrap
It is possible to grow and care for a Venus flytrap and achieve long-term success. All it takes are ideal growing conditions, a little knowledge, and proper care. Venus flytraps have specific needs and requirements that must be met, or they won't survive for long. This remarkable plant has fascinated people for centuries with its innate ability to catch and consume live insects. No other carnivorous plant has made a name for itself quite like the Venus flytrap.
Contrary to popular belief, the Venus flytrap doesn't originate in the Amazon or another far off place of mystery. These interesting carnivorous plants are native to parts of North and South Carolina, and they're found for sale in garden centers and retail stores across the US. Many people want one of these intriguing plants, because to some, owning a Venus flytrap is like owning an exotic pet.
Most people don't have long-term success with Venus flytraps sold in stores. They take home the little plastic-domed container, pop off the lid, and play with their new insectivorous pet. The plant doesn't respond as expected, and it slowly dies due to lack of appropriate care.
Venus flytraps purchased close to fall are sometimes entering their dormant period. Not long after purchase, the traps begin turning black, and the plant appears to be dying. Many plants are thrown away when they were simply entering dormancy.
TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Karen Thurber adds, "When your Venus flytrap enters dormancy it is easy to confuse it with a dying plant. Knowing what to look for as your plant enters dormancy can help you recognize the difference. Look for the growth of the plant to slow down, some of the traps may become brown around the edges, while others may turn black and drop off. The remaining traps will be slow to close or may not close at all."
The Feeding Process
Venus flytraps actively eat from May throughout October. Prey such as gnats and flies are lured to their death traps by the sweet scent of tasty nectar. When one of the six to eight trigger hairs is touched twice, or when two of the trigger hairs are touched once, the trap snaps shut on the unwary victim.
The plant secretes enzymes that dissolve the victim into a digestible meal. The plant absorbs protein and nutrients from the captured prey for approximately 7 to 10 days, and the closed trap opens at last to reveal the shell of a dead insect. The trap is once again ready to ensnare unsuspecting prey.
Although this sounds like something out of a low-budget horror movie, there's no need to worry. Venus flytraps never grow big enough to capture anything larger than an insect. The traps reach a maximum size of 2 inches in length.
TIP: Karen advises, "In the spring your Venus flytrap may flower. The flower is set high above the plant. This is designed to keep pollinators from being caught in a trap. Producing the flower takes a lot of energy from the plant, removal of the flower is recommended. Plants that flower will have slow growth the following year."
Don't be tempted to feed your Venus flytrap bits of raw meat. It will cause the traps to rot, and as a result could kill the entire plant. They are fully capable of capturing their own food if they aren't housed in a terrarium without access to flying insects, and they don't need to eat on a daily basis. If you must provide their food, 2 or 3 small insects a month is sufficient.
Don't falsely trigger the traps. Although it's a fascinating process, falsely triggering traps isn't good for the plant. Traps aren't designed to open and close indefinitely. They eventually become weak and drop off. Closing them on purpose will compromise the strength of the plant, reduce the sensitivity of the triggers, and could ultimately kill it.
Ideal Growing Conditions
Provide your Venus flytrap with 14 to 16 hours of bright light a day during the growing season, from May to October. A south-facing window is ideal. Plants that don't receive enough light won't be strong, and new traps could develop improperly.
When fall arrives, cut back the lighting period so the plant receives between 8 and 10 hours of light per day. Ideally your plant should be moved to a west or east-facing window. The key to success is providing the Venus flytrap with an environment that closely matches its natural habitat during the growing season as well as the dormant stage.
Venus flytraps thrive in temperatures ranging between 80 and 95 degrees F while not in their dormant period. Temperatures such as these aren’t practical in a home, but housing plants in a terrarium and covering them with glass or clear plastic can produce warmer temperatures as well as the humidity they require.
During dormancy, temperatures should range between 45 and 50 degrees F. Moving plants to an unheated room or basement will help provide the lower temperatures necessary at this time. If they are moved to a windowless area, make sure they receive adequate artificial light.
If you've purchased a Venus flytrap in a little domed container, it isn't absolutely necessary to replant it. You should, however, keep the dome so the plant receives the humidity it requires. If you decide to provide it with a little more space, plant in a mixture containing approximately 50 percent sphagnum moss or peat moss and 50 percent silica sand.
TIP: Karen says, "Venus flytraps that flower and are pollinated will produce small black seeds. It is possible to grow your own plant from seed, although patience is required. When you start your plant from seed it will take a few years to reach maturity. The preferred method of propagation is by division. Venus flytraps form rhizomes that can be divided in the spring.
Watering and Humidity
Humidity in the 50 percent range is ideal for Venus flytraps. Terrariums provide humidity naturally, but humidity can be provided with a humidifier or by placing plants on trays filled with gravel and water.
Fill a plant saucer or tray with pebbles, and add water until it's just below the top of the stones. The water shouldn't touch the bottom of the pot. Set the pot on the stones, and as the water evaporates, it will provide the plant with valuable humidity.
Venus flytraps are sensitive to additives in tap water. Rainwater is the best choice for watering Venus flytraps since it's free of harmful minerals, chlorine, and salt, but distilled water or water filtered through a reverse osmosis system is also acceptable.
Caring for a Venus flytrap requires close attention to growing requirements, observation of the growing cycle, and patience. In return you will be rewarded by having a unique, fly eating plant.