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Fact and Myth: How to Grow and Care for an Indoor Venus Fly Trap

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I had a new plant follow me home last week. I call him Little Audrey. He is a Venus Fly Trap, and he is awesome.

I brought him home because every fall we have a new batch of fruit flies move in, and I have a problem with fungus gnats in my orchids. Not only has Little Audrey shown his enthusiasm for taking care of the nasty little problem, but he is an absoloutely GORGEOUS plant.

One way to get rid of fungus gnats is with a pesticide. You can buy these at gardening stores, or make your own with Ivory dish soap and cinnamon; or you can use those sticky yellow fly papers. Eventually you will run out of mature flies to lay eggs.

The middle, or "rosette" of the plant.  Look at all those tiny traps!

The middle, or "rosette" of the plant. Look at all those tiny traps!

Myth: Venus Fly Traps Need a Terrarium

Absolutely untrue. Venus Fly Traps (or Dionea Muscipula) are native to North and South Carolina. This is not an overly humid area. Chances are, when you bring your VFT home from the grocery store (that's where I found mine) it will be in a plastic container with a lid and a little blurb on the side stating that your VFT wants to be in a relative humidity of 50%. Your plastic container (AKA the "The Death Cube" amongst VFT enthusiasts) will keep the humidity in that range; however, it also does not allow adequate air flow, making a lovely home for microbes and bacteria.

How to Introduce a VFT to Your Home

I started slow with Little Audrey. I left him on the shelf for a day with just the lid off so as not to put him into shock from lowering the humidity too much at one time. After about a day, I VERY CAREFULLY took him out of the cube. He already had mold growing on top of the soil.

Venus Fly Traps grow naturally in swamps and bogs. This means they grow in soil with very poor nutrients (hence the adaptation to eating bugs). When you repot a Venus Fly Trap, be very sure that you use totally unenriched soil. Mix a ratio of 1:1- peat moss and perlite. They are deep rooters, so they also like being in taller pots with excellent drainage. Sitting in a medium that is too wet will cause the roots to begin to rot.

DO NOT use tap water on a Venus Fly Trap. The dissolved minerals and chlorine will burn the roots. It won't happen immediately, but eventually. Chances are, the store you buy your VFT from will have used tap water. Flush the medium as soon as you bring your Fly Trap home.

VFTs love the sun. They like to be in full sun for as long as they can. When you bring yours home from the grocery store, place it in a location with filtered light for a couple of days. Gradually bring it out to full sun. After living under fluorescent lights, just putting them directly into bright sun will cause the leaves to get sunburn and could potentially kill the plant. Give them an hour of direct sun one day, two hours the next, and so on.

MYTH: Feed Your VFT Raw Hamburger

I don't know if you've ever noticed, but the meat on a fly is a lot different than the meat on a cow. DO NOT FEED A VENUS FLY TRAP ANYTHING BUT INSECTS! I had a roommate kill my last VFT by doing this. I can't tell you how angry I was.

I grow indoors, my climate doesn't allow much other than pine trees to flourish outside. In order to make sure Audrey is eating properly, I hand feed him a couple of spiders a month. They do like flies, but spiders, beetles, and ants are actually more nutritious than just flies. They will love you for feeding them mosquitoes and earwigs as well.

I've been told not to kill the bug first, as the fly trap needs the souls to grow big and bad.

"Feed Me, Seymour" A spider I found running through my kitchen.

"Feed Me, Seymour" A spider I found running through my kitchen.

Little Audrey.  If you look closely at the red trap, up at the very top, furthest away from the camera, is a fruit fly carcass.

Little Audrey. If you look closely at the red trap, up at the very top, furthest away from the camera, is a fruit fly carcass.

FACT: Venus Fly Traps Go Dormant for the Winter

I have known a lot of people who believe their Fly Traps are dying every autumn; not necessarily. They actually need to go dormant for 3-4 months in the winter. During this time, it is not a pretty sight. I start losing sunlight in September, so the flowers and leaves are already beginning to turn black. I trim the black stems off so they can't rot in the medium and allow the fungus to grow—personal preference.

You can skip the dormancy period, but your plant won't grow as strong or live as long as one that is allowed to follow it's natural cycle. If you live in hardiness zone 7 or better, your fly trap can have its dormancy period outside. I do not. I live in hardiness zone 2a. I will be taking Little Audrey out of his pot, placing him in a plastic bag, and letting him sleep in my crisper for 4 months. I want to feed Little Audrey stray cats and small children by next year, so it's very important for him to grow big and strong.

You don't have to take it out of its pot for the winter, you can leave it in; either way, be sure to treat with a fungicide before you put it away. You can place it on a windowsill that stays between 0 and 5 degrees C for the winter, or a garage, basement, cold room, porch. I'm doing mine in the fridge because it's my only option.

A Well-Fed Addiction

Contrary to popular belief, these plants are actually very easy to grow once you understand its basic needs. If you are willing to meet these needs, you will not only have a beautiful plant, but a conversation piece. Trust me; all of my neighbors have asked if they can come in and meet Little Audrey. They also want to stick their fingers in the flowers to see them close, feed it hamburger, and all sorts of weird requests.

Good luck, and happy addiction.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: How do I feed my Venus Fly Trap spiders, and can it eat anything else?

Answer: I use tweezers to gently pick the spider up, because bugs are icky and I don't like using my fingers. Put the spider in the trap and keep holding it with your tweezers until the trap starts closing around it.

DO NOT feed it them anything but bugs. Carnivorous bugs are best.

Question: What if I don’t have insects for my Venus Fly Trap? Will the plant still live?

Answer: They don't need a lot of food to live, but like anything else, they do need food to survive.

Question: Do I feed my Venus Fly Traps when they are dormant?

Answer: No, you don't. The traps will turn brown and die off. They store energy from the food they eat during the summer; like a bear during hibernation.

Comments

Peter alexeev on May 16, 2020:

You can't feed Andrew cats because no meat,remember?

.. on February 18, 2019:

I gave mine a fly and it hasn't opened since?

Barbara on May 16, 2016:

I received my Venus flytrap on Mother's Day. I fed it a few bugs. The leaves haven't opened up since. What can I do ?

Chloe from Minnesota on July 31, 2015:

I just bought one and I'm really excited about it. I can't wait to see it eat some bugs.

Amber Joy (author) from Canada on October 07, 2012:

Oh me too...Who doesn't love a plant that eats MEAT? They're actually surprisingly easy to grow too!

Darkproxy from Ohio on October 07, 2012:

I always loved these plants