When it comes to carnivorous plants, none are more iconic than the Venus flytrap, otherwise known as Dionaea muscipula. These beautiful meat-eaters are a favorite for the home, but they need a bit of specialty care that is slightly different from your standard houseplant.
This article will tell you everything you need to know about how to take care of a Venus flytrap, so you can be sure that yours will grow up to be healthy and vibrant. These plants may be carnivores, but you don’t need to be intimidated!
Where Do Venus Flytraps Grow?
You may be surprised to find out that Venus flytraps aren’t naturally found deep in the jungle; they are actually native to the United States. In the wild, flytraps have only been found naturally growing on the East Coast of the USA, specifically in North and South Carolina, where they were first discovered. They have since been introduced to some other states like Florida and New Jersey.
Venus flytraps like full sunlight and wet, boggy environments, and they are most commonly found in sandy or peaty soil. They are an interesting species due to the fact that they prefer soil that is quite acidic and poor in nutrients like phosphorous or nitrogen. This is because they gain the vast majority of their nutrition and proteins from the insects that they prey on.
The location where you will find the largest number of naturally growing Venus flytraps is within a 100km radius of Wilmington, North Carolina. The coastal bogs in this region are home to a large percentage of the naturalized Venus flytrap population, particularly around North Carolina’s Green Swamp.
Are Venus Flytraps Easy to Take Care Of?
Though they are quite different from most houseplants, Venus flytraps are not too difficult to take care of if you know what you are doing. Under the right conditions, flytraps can live perfectly happily without requiring much more attention than any other plant.
There are a few key things to get right when it comes to taking care of your flytraps. They need to be given the right amount of humidity and sunlight throughout the year, and they need to be getting enough of the right water and nutrition in order for them to thrive. These are the same things that you would expect to be thinking about for any houseplant.
In some specific climates, Venus flytraps can practically take care of themselves, but most people will have to put a bit of extra thought into where your flytrap sits and what you are giving them to eat and drink.
Venus Flytrap Care Tips
When you are trying to meet the needs of your flytraps, there are a few key care tips that are more important than anything else. These are some of the core things that are relatively easy for any grower to get wrong, and they can be quite harmful to your plant.
Give Them Lots of Light
Venus flytraps like lots of direct sunlight. They only grow in the wild in areas that have less than 10% canopy cover so they can get as much of the sun’s rays as possible. This means that you have to take special care over where your flytrap is living so that they have good access to lots of UV throughout the day.
Keep Them Humid
Higher levels of humidity are great for flytraps as they will help to stop them from drying out and will keep their leaves full and healthy. They like to be in environments with a humidity level in the 50%-70% range, which may be easier to maintain in a terrarium but is relatively easy to achieve throughout the house.
Don’t Use Potting Soil
You can buy bags of compost that are specifically formulated for flytraps, but it is important to ensure that you are getting the right mixture when you are shopping around. Venus flytraps don’t like soil that is full of the nitrogen and phosphorous that other plants like – they prefer a more acidic, peaty mixture.
Provide Access to Live Insects
To get enough food, your Venus flytrap will want to do what it does best: catch and eat some prey. Flytraps only eat dead insects if you are actively triggering their trap mechanism, so they can be difficult to feed directly. It is much easier to either keep them in an environment where they have access to insects naturally or one where you can release small insects easily.
Tap Water Can Kill
When it comes to the water that they drink, Venus flytraps are quite choosy, and they tend to struggle with anything that comes out of a tap or a bottle. All of the minerals in the water that we drink can cause a build-up that may eventually become deadly for your flytrap, so rainwater, distilled water, or ionized water are what you need.
Water & Soil Care Tips
Two of the fundamental things that all plants need are water and a place to live, but you can’t just throw anything at them and hope for the best. In their natural environment, the type of soil and water that Venus flytraps need to live is quite specific, and simple tap water and multipurpose compost will often end up killing your plant rather than feeding it.
Venus Flytraps Need the Right Kind of Water
Like a lot of plants, tap water simply has too many minerals for flytraps, and it is often too alkaline. Even most bottled water is full of minerals that, while very healthy for humans, can cause a deadly build-up for your Venus flytrap. Pure water that is mineral-free will keep your flytrap happy and healthy, so you should look to use rainwater, ionized water, or distilled water instead.
How Often to Water Your Venus Flytraps
You want your Venus flytraps to be in humid soil at all times, but they should never be soaking. Generally, watering every 2 to 4 days is about right for these plants, but you should always make sure that you are checking how damp the soil is before you add in any more. Don’t let the soil become dry, but don’t let it get oversaturated either.
How To Water Your Flytraps
The actual process of watering your plants may seem very straightforward, but it is all too easy to accidentally soak the leaves of your flytrap, causing them to rot. Venus flytraps actually do better when they are watered using a water tray, so the soil soaks up the liquid from below rather than having it poured onto the surface from above.
The Right Soil for Venus Flytraps
Due to the fact that Venus flytraps get most of their nutrition from the insects that they eat, they like to live in nutrient-free soil. The standard soil mixture for flytraps is 1 part peat moss to 1 part perlite or lime-free horticultural sand. General-purpose compost or fertilizer can actually be deadly for a flytrap, so make sure you are choosing the right mix.
Feeding Care Tips for Venus Flytraps
The thing that Venus flytraps are most famous for is their ability to feed on insects, and this is definitely a necessity for their health rather than an interesting quirk. Your flytrap won’t be getting much nutrition from the soil in their pot, so you will need to be doing their feeding in other ways.
When To Start Feeding Your Venus Flytrap
Fortunately, Venus flytraps can be healthy for a long time without feeding on many insects. You should make sure that your plant is well watered and enjoying a lot of sunlight before you worry about whether or not they are getting enough food.
Flytraps Can Feed Themselves
In most situations, Venus flytraps will do the work for you when it comes to feeding because they are naturally very good at attracting and catching insects. If your flytraps are outside, it is very unlikely that you will ever have to feed them, and you would be surprised by what they can catch indoors too.
When To Feed a Venus Flytrap
If your flytraps are not managing to attract enough insects, you might need to bring the food to them. This will be a particularly important job if your flytraps live in a sealed environment, like a closed terrarium, where they don’t have access to insects naturally.
Live Insects vs. Dead Insects
If you do want to feed your flytrap, you need to know how the process works. The traps will initially close when they feel something trigger the little hairs inside, but they need to be triggered a second time in order for digestion to begin.
Live insects will move inside the traps, triggering digestion, but if you are feeding your flytrap with dead insects, you will need to use a toothpick or something similar to manually trigger the hairs once the food is already inside.
Don’t Trigger Your Flytraps Too Often
It can be very fun to feed a Venus flytrap, but the process does use up a lot of energy. They only need to close about one trap per week, and feeding any more than that can be harmful to their health. You should also avoid triggering their traps unnecessarily, as this can waste a lot of the vital energy that they need to grow.
Use the Right Size Food
In order for your Venus flytrap to start digesting its meal, its trap needs to be able to seal fully. This means that they can only feed on an insect that is less than 1/3 of the size of their traps, or they will not be able to close. Insects that don’t get digested can cause the trap to rot and turn black, damaging the plant.
What to Feed Venus Flytraps
When it comes to dried insects, Venus flytraps can get a lot of nutrition from mealworms, bloodworms, and crickets, as long as they are the right size for your plant. Live food can be more of a hassle, but your flytrap may well prefer it if you are willing to give it a go.
Fertiliser for Venus Flytraps
Adding fertiliser to the soil or using traditional plant food is going to do more harm than good for your flytraps, so you should avoid using any at all. Flytraps want to be able to feed naturally so they like their soil to be low in nutrients.
Choosing the Trap to Feed
Venus flytraps will happily use any of their traps to feed from and you can even use the same trap every time. After a lot of feeds, individual traps may die off, but this is perfectly healthy and is just like shedding an old leaf. Don’t worry – a new trap will come along to replace the old one in no time.
The Best Light Levels for Venus Fly Traps
Sunlight is often the most important thing that a plant needs, and Venus flytraps like a lot of it. Choosing the right place for your flytrap to live can be a bit of a challenge, and you may even need to utilise some artificial options to make up the difference.
Getting the Right Number of Sunlight Hours
In the summer, when they are doing their most growing, it is recommended that Venus flytraps get at least 12 hours of direct sunlight every day. Throughout the rest of the year, between four and six hours is necessary in order for them to stay healthy.
Choose the Right Windows
Indoors, you will probably want your Venus flytraps to be living near a window so that they are getting as much light as possible. Depending on where you are in the world, selecting the right window can make all of the difference. In the northern hemisphere, south-facing windows get the most direct sunlight throughout the day, and north-facing windows get the least.
Avoid Too Much Shade Outside
It is often easiest to grow your flytraps outdoors, where they have the most access to insects, but you need to be careful that they are not spending too much time covered by shade or shadows. A light amount of dappled shade is good, perhaps provided using a 30%-50% shade cloth, as it will prevent your flytrap’s leaves from drying up or burning.
Alternative Light Sources
If your Venus flytrap doesn’t get enough sunlight, it will become weak and floppy, so you may need to provide them with some additional lighting. High-powered fluorescents and growing lights can do the trick if the sun just isn’t out enough for your plant’s needs.
How To Take Care of a Venus Flytrap During Dormancy
If you’ve ever cared for a plant before, you probably know that they have different needs throughout different periods of the year. Venus flytraps go through a period of dormancy in the winter when you will need to change the type of care that you are providing for them.
What Happens During Winter Dormancy
Over the winter months, Venus flytraps stop growing, and many of their leaves will turn black and die off. Their traps will also stop functioning during this time as they are not feeding. This is a perfectly healthy part of their growth cycle, and it does not in any way mean that your flytrap is dead or dying.
How Long Dormancy Lasts For
Winter dormancy typically lasts for 3 or 4 months and is triggered when the days become shorter, and the temperature gets colder in the autumn.
The Right Temperature During Dormancy
Venus flytraps need to be placed in a cool location for the duration of the dormancy period, and they will need much less light during this time too. You might move your flytraps into the basement or a cool garage, preferably to somewhere with a temperature of between 35°F and 50°F.
Watering During Dormancy
You don’t need to feed your flytrap while they are dormant, but they will need to be kept moist. You will probably need to water less frequently during this time as the soil won’t dry out as quickly when the plant is in a cooler location with less sunlight. Always make sure the soil is moist but not sodden.
Do Venus Flytraps Need To Be In A Terrarium?
Venus flytraps can grow happily and healthily within a terrarium, but they do not need one in order to thrive. Terrariums provide a good level of humidity for your flytrap, but they can also limit the access that they have to the insects they need.
In Summary: How to Take Care of a Venus Flytrap
When it comes down to it, Venus flytraps need a lot of the same basic things that other plants do. They live well when they have the right amount of sunlight, water, and nutrition.
Venus flytraps like to live in nutrient-free soil because they feed on insects to get what they need. Most of the time, they will catch insects without your help, but you do need to make sure that they are feeding.
They like to get a good amount of direct sunlight throughout the year and want enough pure water to keep the soil in their pots moist but not soaking wet. Flytraps also go through a dormancy period during the winter, throughout which they should be kept in a cold environment and won’t need to feed.
Venus flytraps are one of the most exciting and interesting plants to grow, and with the right care and attention, they can flourish in almost any home.