How to Care for Venus Fly Traps
Venus fly traps are the most commonly known of the carnivorous plants. And probably the most infuriating to keep. But that stems from a misunderstanding of how to care for fly traps – rather than because they’re difficult to care for. You may be surprised to learn that they're a fairly easy pant to care for - providing you know how to do so.
Venus flytraps are, believe it or not, almost non-existent in their native environment. However, there are conservation efforts underway in order to save the flytrap (in the wild) and at least it continues to thrive in domestic gardens, window sills and greenhouses all across the globe.
Its scientific name is Dionaea Muscipula and it can be found (naturally) in the marshy areas that span the coast of North and South Carolina. It requires very little by way of nutrients through its root base/soil content, hence its need to trap prey within its leaves.
However, Venus flytraps that are bought and grown in and around the home are unlikely to be sat in naturally boggy soil – and if they’re kept indoors, they will be unable to trap prey for themselves. Which is what this guide is aimed at - attempting to recreate the flytraps natural environment, as simply as possible.
How To Care For Venus Fly Traps
Discovering how to care for venus flytraps is relaitively straightfroward. This strangely alluring plant isn’t quite as complicated to keep as many would realise. Its natural environment can be easily replicated by following a few simple rules. Added to that, a basic understanding of the Venus fly trap will aid your ability to keep yours healthy and allow it to thrive.
Venus Flytrap Basics
Venus Flytrap Triggers Hairs & Cilia
The leaves of the Venus flytrap are covered with tiny trigger hairs. The outer edges of the leaves are edged with little ‘teeth’ – called cilia - that, when the leaf closes, interlock and prevent its prey from wriggling out and escaping. This allows the leaf to close tightly around its victim and create an airtight seal.
The prey are generally small insects, though flytraps have been known to trap, accidentally or otherwise, larger victims. Unfortunately, when this occurs it can go on to kill the leaf. Anything that exceeds the leaf, that fails to allow the flytrap to close correctly will attract bacteria which in turn rots - this affects the leaf that will then go on to die off.
Venus Fly Trap In Action
The trigger hairs are the nub of the Venus fly traps' success – when an insect lands upon a leaf, it only has to touch one or two hairs and the leaf snaps shut, extremely rapidly. It takes up to several minutes for the leaf to form an airtight seal. Once it’s fully closed, it will remain so for anywhere between 5 to 12 days.
Once the leaf has closed around its victim, it will secret juices that digest the softer, more tender parts of the insect. The insect is eventually digested, which will in turn provoke the plant to re-open the leaf. Anything that remains simply falls out or off the leaf – rain or windy conditions play a part in removing any debris.
Venus Flytrap Care
Venus Flytrap Environment
Feeding A Venus Flytrap
When watering a Venus flytrap use either distilled or collected rainwater. Flytrap plants are sensitive to the chemicals that are found in tap water, so if you do spray your flytrap with tap water, you’re going to harm your plant. If it’s kept in a terrarium, regularly spraying the flytrap is fine as the terrarium creates a false humidity, and one which the flytrap thrives within
If kept in an open planter, sit the pot atop a saucer/drip tray that contains some small pebbles or gravel. Keep this filled with water. The stones will prevent the base of the pot from being constantly submerged in water.
Regarding light, Venus flytraps need around four hours of direct sunlight per day, minimum. It it’s outdoors, you shouldn’t need to feed it as it will trap its own insects as they happen along. If it’s indoors or inside a terrarium, you will have to feed insects to your flytrap but – no more than a couple in a four week period.
The soil needs to be a mix of peat moss and perlite. Successful flytrap growers tend towards a 50/50 mix – and flytraps don’t require fertilisers. They draw the nutrients they need from the insects that they consume.
Flytraps Need A Dormant Period
A Venus flytrap requires a period of dormancy, during the winter months. You will need to remove any leaves that die off – this is perfectly normal. However, if you leave them on, the rotted leaves will affect the rest of the plant and you will risk losing the whole flytrap.
It should be kept in a relatively constant heat of around 45 > 50f and the soil kept damp. A flytrap doesn’t require feeding during its dormant period so don’t be tempted, no matter how much it looks as though it needs it.
Quick Flytrap Tips
A Real Flytrap
Wild Venus Flytrap
- Only use distilled or collected rain water
- Don’t flood the flytrap
- If in a closed environment, feed it insects, but no more than two per month
- At least 4 hours of direct sunlight per day
- 50/50 mix of peat or sphagnum moss and perlite for it’s soil base
- Allow your Venus flytrap its dormant period
- Remove dead leaves during the winter
- Don’t be tempted to ‘spring’ the flytrap
All Venus flytraps will cope with a lack of a naturally boggy environment, providing you replicate it as much as possible. Many thrive, when giving the chance and providing you observe the dormancy periods every year, your flytrap should start to become strong and healthy by the time it’s into its third season.
Remember: too much handling, overfeeding and watering and you’ll end up with a flytrap that’s dead or dying. Venus flytraps are like anything else – with the correct care they will flourish.