The Venus Flytrap (Dionaea Muscipula) is a beautiful and fascinating plant but it is often misunderstood! This is usually due to the way they are sold as a novelty in many DIY stores and garden centres, as well as the often vague and incomplete care instructions that come stuck in the pot ! In this How To, i’ll be explaining the best way to grow and care for your Flytrap.
When you get your Venus Flytrap home the first thing you need to do is check to see how moist the soil in the pot is. You will probably find that it’s bone dry! As your new Venus flytrap will most likely have been on display under dim light in the store or garden centre it’s important to acclimatize it gradually to bright light if you intend to grow it outdoors or on a very bright windowsill. It’s best not to re-pot your plant just yet. This would just add to the shock of adjusting to its new growing conditions, and in any event should only be done when it is dormant and not in active growth.
This is one of the most important aspects of care to get right. Venus Flytraps like a lot of water, but don’t like growing in saturated soil for a prolonged period of time as the roots will tend to rot. You should use clean rainwater or distilled water, but NEVER tapwater! Don’t water your flytrap from above if you can avoid it as this can cause mould and make the leaves rot. Stand the pot in a large saucer, several sizes larger than the pot, filled with around 2cm of water. This will keep the soil permanently damp and will help increase humidity around the plant. For winter watering see dormancy section below.
Use a mixture of three parts Sphagnum moss peat to one part sharp sand. Make sure the sand is lime free. Perlite can also be used in the mix to reduce peat usage. Drained plastic pots between 3-5 inches are fine for small plants, 8-9 inch pots are better for larger plants. In both cases its best to use deep pots to prevent root rot. Dwarf half depth pots that venus flytraps tend to be planted in from stores should not be used. Flytraps grow best in drained containers but can be grown in undrained containers, as long as care is taken to ensure the pot does not become waterlogged, as this tends to cause rot. Also it is more difficult to ensure the soil does not become too dry.
For maximum growth it is best to re-pot you plant every year in late winter/early spring before it starts growing again.
Venus Flytraps grow best with full sun outdoors for best growth and trap colouration. Make sure they aren’t shaded by any tall plants so they get the maximum amount of sunlight. Indoors a bright S/SW facing windowsill would be ideal, ideally with 6-8 hours of strong direct sunlight per day. Another option is to use artificial light. If the leaves on your plant are thin and spindly, bright (almost fluorescent) yellow/green in colour, more light is needed. Some shade may be needed if the leaves go brown at the edges.
Ideal humidity for a Venus Flytrap would be between about 55-85%. Having the plant standing in a large saucer/tray helps to maintain humidity. Also you can grow the plant in a terrarium. Either a tank style or bottle terrarium ( a plastic drinks bottle cut in half and placed over the pot) works well. When growing your plants indoors try to ensure good ventilation to prevent mould growth. A small desk fan can sometimes help air movement around the plant, this is especially important in winter to prevent grey mould (Botrytis).
Contrary to popular belief, the Venus Flytrap is not a tropical plant. It does in fact originate from the Carolinas in the USA, where the average summer temp is between 70°F and 90°F (21-35°C). Winter temps average around 40°F (4.4°C) but sometimes drop below freezing.
Traps and feeding
It’s very important not to trigger the traps to close yourself without any prey as it tires the plant and can cause the traps to die prematurely. Any dead traps should be removed using small scissors or snips to prevent mould. Plants grown outside will feed themselves just fine. If you grow your Venus Flytrap indoors you can feed it yourself with any live prey such as houseflies, ladybirds (Ladybugs) spiders etc. The traps themselves are triggered when one trigger hair is touched twice or two hairs touched within 20 seconds. Fertilizer isn’t really a good idea but it is possible using a heavily diluted orchid feed applied to the leaves only.
You may find your plant sends up a flower stalk in spring. Unless you require seed it is wise to cut it off as soon as it appears as it tends to weaken the plant. The energy the plant would have used for flowering then goes into growing larger traps!
Venus Flytraps go dormant in winter and quite often look dead! This is when most beginners throw their plants away believing them to have expired- DON’T! The plant is, in fact, probably just in it’s resting or dormant phase. Don’t force your plant to keep growing at this time. Keep the plant cool (10 °C/50 °F Max temp) and the soil slightly moist (let the water tray run dry between waterings) from around late October. Make sure you reduce the photoperiod to let the plant know it’s time for a nap.
Flytaps can survive light frosts but not prolonged freezing conditions. Don’t let your plant turn into a block of ice! Mulching with straw can protect against mild frosts, while a cold frame or greenhouse would be better for cooler climates. Alternatively you can bring your plant inside for the Winter, placing it in a cool room, or refrigerator! Seriously, if your climate is too cold to keep your plant outside during the winter, but your house is too warm. The refrigerator is the next best place. Just remove the plant from its pot . Wash the plant clean. Spray with a fungicide, and place in a plastic bag. Wrap the roots in a little moist sphagnum moss to stop the plant from drying out. Place in refrigerator!
Around March as temperatures increase and the days get longer, your half dead Venus Flytrap will rise like a phoenix from the ashes!