The Venus Flytrap is a strange-looking plant with an unusual but helpful quality: it eats flies. Often Venus Flytraps are kept as houseplants. This is not because of their beautiful bloom but because they are useful and fun to grow. Additionally, they also don’t ever need to be fertilized. Which is good news for the forgetful!
Native to the subtropical wetlands of North and South Carolina, this carnivorous plant is actually well-suited to the houseplant life. They can live up to 20 years and remain interesting to look at for most of the year.
Venus Flytraps have interesting rosettes of leaves which can grow to a width of 30cm. Each rosette usually has around six leaves, plus a “trap”. The trap is actually in fact a modified leaf and one plant can have as many as eight of them.
Venus Flytraps don’t eat flies for the same reasons that we eat sandwiches – they don’t get energy directly from the flies. Instead, they digest insects to benefit from additional nutrients which are not present in the soil.
As a plant with a definite independent streak, Venus Flytraps are easy to look after. They catch their own food, don’t mind poor-quality soil and won’t hold a grudge about a little neglect for instance.
Here is a helpful guide to providing the best care for your Venus Flytrap. This guide was constructed following in-depth research on how care for Venus Flytraps (and wonderful, slightly creepy, visits to the Carnivorous Plants collections at Kew Gardens, London, and the University of Copenhagen Botanical Garden!).
Table of Contents
- Where Should I Keep My Venus Flytrap?
- How Much Light Does a Flytrap Need?
- How Much Should I Water?
- How Hot and Humid Should My Home Be?
- What Do Venus Flytraps Eat?
- Do Venus Flytraps Need Soil?
- When Should I Repot?
- Should I Fertilize Venus Flytraps?
- How to Propagate?
- Can I Split My Venus Fly Trap?
- Do Venus Fly Traps Go Dormant?
- Common Pests and Diseases
- Varieties of Venus Flytrap
Where Should I Keep My Venus Flytrap?
Venus Flytraps prefer full sun or partial shade. Try placing your Flytrap in a south- or west-facing window for example to give it access to the sunlight it needs for photosynthesis.
Venus Flytraps also like relative moisture, so keep them away from heaters which suck moisture out of the air. Also avoid putting your Flytrap in a drafty spot. See more on the perfect humidity conditions for Venus Flytraps to thrive here.
If you are keeping your Venus Flytrap outside, select a sheltered spot. Perhaps on a patio or in a sheltered container. Also make sure to bring it inside before the cold winter months as it will not survive in temperatures below -6°c (or 20°f).
How Much Light Does a Flytrap Need?
Venus Flytraps do best in bright, but indirect, light. Depending on the strength of the sun where you live, and the time of year, the plant may need some direct sunlight.
The key way to tell if your Venus Flytrap needs more direct sunlight is to check the leaves. If the leaves are becoming droopy and weak, it needs more sunlight.
Top tip: As well as the leaves, check the inside of your plant’s trap – if the interior isn’t a pleasant pink color, move your plant to a lighter spot.
Avoid putting your Venus Flytrap in direct sunlight at the height of summer as this can cause it to get too hot and even turn the leaves crispy as it becomes dehydrated.
Venus Flytraps that are reaching maturity prefer full sun or partial shade, but a young Flytrap will need more light. When growing a young Venus Flytrap inside, make sure to keep it at least 10 – 18 cm away from any artificial or fluorescent lights.
How Much Should I Water?
Venus Flytraps need pure water, such as rainwater, distilled or deionised water, every 10 – 14 days. As they naturally grow in damp, low-nutrient soil, the minerals found in tap, bottled and filtered water can kill a Venus Flytrap.
Top tip: Collecting rainwater is the easier, cheapest and most efficient way to give your Venus Flytrap the water it needs. Invest in a water butt to collect rainwater, which can then be used to water your garden or pot plants as well.
The best way to water a Flytrap is the bottom-up method of watering using a water tray. Simply place the pot (with drainage holes!) in a tray with 1-3 cm of water for a few hours so the water can be soaked up in the soil.
During the growing season (spring – summer) especially try avoiding watering from the top-down to prevent the soil becoming overly water-logged.
During the winter aim to keep the soil damp, but not sodden, to keep your Flytrap happy.
How Hot and Humid Should My Home Be?
Venus Flytraps like warmer temperatures in the summer – somewhere around 21°c to 35°c (70°f to 95°f). During the dormant winter period, Flytraps can survive down to 5°c (or 40°f), but will not take kindly to being exposed to frost.
In terms of humidity levels, Venus Flytraps thrive best around 50% humidity. Given that the average humidity level in a house is between 40% and 60%, there is nothing special for you to do. Just make sure to keep your Flytrap away from any heaters that will reduce the natural moisture in the air.
What Do Venus Flytraps Eat?
An indoor Venus Flytrap will need to be fed flies in order to thrive. Aim to feed your plant between once a week and once every two weeks. They can survive up to two months without feeding but the growth will be stunted. Only feed one of the traps on your plant per feeding session.
Living flies work best as their movement will trigger the Venus Flytrap’s trap. Small spiders, beetles and caterpillars can also be fed to a Venus Flytrap instead of, or as well as, flies.
Simply insert the live critter of your choice into the lobes of the trap and the movement of the bug will stimulate the immediate closure of the trap. A Venus Flytrap’s scent will lure back any flies that manage to escape.
If your Venus Flytrap is positioned happily in a terrarium, the best feeding method is to release flies into the small space of the terrarium and eventually they will be attracted to the traps naturally.
Dead flies will not work in the same way because it is the movement of the fly in the trap which triggers the closing of the trap and digestion. If you are using dead flies, rehydrate them first by adding a little water to the fly. Then insert the dead fly (using a chopstick is a good tip) and make sure to brush it past the trigger hairs twice in quick succession. This will get your Venus Flytrap’s trap to close and digestion will begin. The trigger hairs are very thin, hard to see and are positioned in the center of the trap.
If you are keeping your Venus Flytrap outside, it will not need feeding and can actually go long periods without eating any insects – in relative nutritious soil this can be as long as two months! You do not need to do anything to attract flies to your Flytrap as the plant’s scent is designed to draw the flies to it naturally.
Top tip: When feeding your Venus Flytrap, avoid giving it any flies that are bigger than around a third of the size of the trap. If the fly is too big, the trap won’t be able to close properly and bacteria will be able to enter.
Do Venus Flytraps Need Soil?
Venus Flytraps have evolved to live in soil with poor nutrition, and because of their ability to catch their own food they are easy to care for.
Venus Flytraps will prefer a soil mix with horticultural sand or perlite. For the best results, try a mix which includes fine-milled bark, lime-free horticultural grit and perlite at a 2:1:1 ratio.
Whatever soil mix you choose, the essential part is that the soil should be well-draining.
Venus Flytraps tend to prefer an acidic pH level.
When Should I Repot?
Over time the soil will become compacted and this makes it difficult for Venus Flytrap roots to grow. Aim to repot your Venus Flytrap annually to keep it looking fresh and developing a healthy root system.
The best time to repot a Venus Flytrap is just before or during the spring, after it has come out of its winter dormancy period. Especially avoid repotting your Flytrap when it is in bloom as this will upset the plant.
Opt for a plastic, styrofoam or glazed ceramic pot as these materials provide insulation against extreme temperatures and do not leak any minerals into the soil that might upset a Venus Flytrap.
An important thing to remember before you repot your Venus Flytrap is that they grow from a rootstalk (or rhizome), so be careful not to damage the rootstalk when repotting.
Follow this simple repotting method:
- Fill a pot with drainage holes to around 10 cm deep with your soil mix. See the section on the best soil mix to use for your Venus Flytrap here.
- Lightly water the soil mixture in the pot to create a slightly damp atmosphere for your plant.
- Create a small hole in the damp soil mix for your plant.
- Softly remove the plant from its current pot by the root ball.
- Place the plant into the new hole, add additional soil to cover the roots, then pat down the soil around it.
- Water the plant gently until water comes out of the drainage holes. For best results going forward, use the bottom-up watering method described here.
Once your Venus Flytrap has reached maturity, a 10 cm pot will be sufficient and it will not need regular repotting. Though keep an eye on the soil when you have stopped annually repotting your Flytrap – you want to make sure that the soil is damp (but not soggy) and loose (not compact) to promote a healthy environment for your plant.
Should I Fertilize Venus Flytraps?
As Venus Flytraps evolved to enjoy low-nutrient soil, fertilizing them can result in there being too many nutrients and minerals for them to cope.
Don’t fertilize your Venus Flytrap. Simply let this fly-catcher get its nutrients from the way it best likes – from consuming flies.
How to Propagate?
The best method for propagating a Venus Flytrap is to take cuttings. These cuttings should be taken from the flower stalks before they have flowered, as a Venus Flytrap’s growth is slowed when its energy is redirected into growing flowers. Skipping the flowering process will speed up your Venus Flytraps growth as its energy is no longer being redirected.
Before you start propagating, make sure you have the correct plant soil mix (a 2:1:1 mix of milled bark, lime-free horticultural grit and perlite is best), pure water (that is, either rainwater or distilled/deionised water), a pot with ample drainage, a water tray (as bottom-up watering is best for propagating Flytraps), scissors and – of course – a flowering Venus Flytrap.
Here is a useful method for propagating a Venus Flytrap:
- Prepare your pot with the appropriate soil and set up the slightly damp conditions Venus Flytraps love by pre-watering the soil with pure water.
- Cut the Flytrap flower stalks with sharp scissors before they start to flower. The best time to do this is early to mid spring after the stalks have had a chance to grow (around 5 – 10 cm is ideal) but have not yet flowered. Make the cut as near to the base as possible to avoid the bulb and any leaves.
- Divide the cut stalk into smaller pieces around 5 cm in length. The best method is to cut at a slight angle (rather than a straight cut) to increase the chances of successful propagation.
- Plant the flower stalks vertically into the soil, with the cut edge facing downwards. Most of the cutting should poke out of the soil, with around 2 cm in the soil.
- Place the pot in a sunny spot, not too dissimilar from the light conditions favored by mature Venus Flytraps.
- Keep the soil slightly damp or humid at all times by placing the pot on top of a water tray filled with 2-3 cm of water. Refill the tray when the water level drops below this. Mist the cuttings often (or invest in a humidifier) to keep them moist. If the cuttings dry out, they won’t grow.
- In the end your cutting should grow enough to be properly potted and looked after as a mature plant would after 2-5 months.
Top tip: remember to cut at a slight angle (rather than a straight cut) as this will increase the surface area for water intake and root growth, meaning your cutting is more likely to successfully grow into a new and healthy plant.
Warning About Buying Venus Flytrap Seeds Online
Growing Venus Flytraps from seed is possible, but I personally don’t recommend it because it takes between 4 – 8 weeks and you can have problems when sourcing flytrap seeds.
It would be far better to purchase a young plant from a qualified nursery.
Can I Split My Venus Fly Trap?
Your Venus Flytrap may grow so much that it no longer has space in its pot. Other than repotting your Flytrap in a larger pot, you could try splitting your plant to create multiple plants. The best time to split your Flytrap is from late winter to early summer.
Follow this straight-forward splitting method to divide your Venus Flytrap into multiple plants:
- First, squeeze the bottom of the pot to release the soil and the plant. If you have not repotted your plant regularly, the soil will be very compact so be careful to avoid damaging the root system.
- Trim or loosen any excess soil. (This may trigger the traps, but they will reopen once they realize that there is nothing inside.)
- Then, locate the rhizome (the white rootball) and pull the outer leaf downward to peel it off the rhizome – a technique called leaf-pulling. All the leaves on the rhizome’s outer layer can be used to grow a new plant as long as they have their own root system.
- Next, remove any dead leaves or dead roots. Clean off any mold gently with your fingers or a soft cloth.
- Then place your newly separate plants into a new pot with a drainage hole and a Venus Flytrap’s preferred 2:1:1 low-nutrient soil. Leave enough space for the roots to develop and make sure none of them are bent. Add additional soil around your plant, but avoid getting excess soil over the leaves and traps.
- After that place the pot in a water tray with around 2-3 cm of water.
- Finally, after a few weeks when your plant looks perky and healthy, you can return to providing the care given to a mature Venus Flytrap.
Do Venus Fly Traps Go Dormant?
Venus Flytraps need a dormancy period during the cold winter months to flourish. Try to mimic the cooler winter conditions of their natural habitat to ensure your plant goes dormant for the correct amount of time.
Between November and February move your plants to a cooler spot. Make sure that your Flytrap still has access to some limited light. A good winter spot for a Venus Flytrap is somewhere like a garage windowsill or north-facing basement window. If it is an outdoor Flytrap for instance, an unheated greenhouse will work for the winter.
As winter draws in, the daylight hours reduce and the temperature drops. Therefore a Venus Flytrap’s leaves will turn black and the plant will die back to the rootstalk. This is completely normal. Simply trim off any dead growth with sharp, clean secateurs or scissors. This can be done at any time, once the Flytrap has gone dormant.
The end of the winter dormancy period (around February) is a good time to repot your Venus Flytrap to help it grow and maintain a healthy root network. See the tips for repotting your Venus Flytrap here. You could even divide your plant in March to develop a collection of Venus Flytraps – find out how to split your Flytrap here.
Common Pests and Diseases
There are three common pests or diseases which affect Venus Flytraps:
Aphids are too small to trigger a Venus Flytrap’s trap. Although they rarely kill a Venus Flytrap, they can cause damage to the plant.
When you notice aphids on or near your plant, submerge your plant in water regularly for two to three days. Make sure your pot has drainage holes!
Using an insecticidal soap can also help deal with these small bugs.
Mealybugs can cause damage to a Venus Flytrap’s leaves and result in the traps – which are essential for nutrient-intake – dying.
Apply some rubbing alcohol or a 1:2 vinegar-water mix on to the leaves of your plant with a cotton swab. This will destroy the wax that protects the bugs from drying out. It won’t damage your plant irrevocably.
Disease: Gray mold
Gray mold (or Botrytis Cinera) develops when the leaves are constantly moist. It looks a little like the mold found on bread.
Remove the infected parts with sharp, clean scissors as soon as you notice the mold developing. Change the soil to prevent the spread of the infection.
Varieties of Venus Flytrap
Many different types of Venus Flytrap have been cultivated by plant developers. Matching their quirky appearance, the names of these varieties are particularly colorful and focus on a special feature belonging to each variety. Some common examples include:
- Dionaea “Petite Dragon”: the smallest Venus Flytrap variety, which grows to just 2 cm wide.
- Dionaea “Ginormous”: the largest variety, who’s traps alone can grow to a width of 6.5 cm.
- Dionaea “DC All Red”: this variety is entirely red – an unusual coloring make-up for a Venus Flytrap which are more often mainly green, with a dash of red, yellow, green or purple. They grow to an average of 7-10 cm in diameter.
FAQs on How to Care for Venus Flytraps
What is the most interesting thing about Venus Flytraps?
One of the reasons why Venus Flytraps are so fun to grow is because they have the magical ability to move. The hairs on their traps trigger movement when they detect an insect. Even more impressively, the hairs of the Venus Flytrap have evolved so that the trap will not close when something other than an insect is near, for example raindrops or wind.
Where does the name Venus Flytrap come from?
Venus is taken from the name of the Roman goddess of love, Venus, because of the plant’s lovely white flowers. Flytrap, of course, refers to the plant’s ability to close its own traps in order to consume flies.Q. How big do Venus Flytraps get?
There are many different varieties of Venus Flytrap that grow to different sizes. The average Venus Flytrap houseplant would be expected to grow to a maximum of around 30 cm wide.
Are Venus Flytraps dangerous for humans?
A Venus Flytrap is not strong enough to hurt a human. If you did, rather irrationally, decide to put your finger in a Venus Flytrap trap, the plant would be hurt more than you would because of the wasted energy.
What will happen if I don’t feed my Venus Flytrap flies?
A Venus Flytrap that doesn’t have access to flies will not get the nutrients it needs and its growth will become stunted. Over a long period of time your plant may even die.
How hard is it to keep a Venus Flytrap alive?
If you adhere to their care, then a Venus Flytrap is rather easy to care for. When done properly you’ll be able to have a living and vivacious plant for the nest 10-20 years.
Can you feed a Venus Flytrap dead bugs?
No you cannot. These are smart plants and they won’t be fooled by simply dropping any old dead bug into their clutches. A moving bug is necessary as it cues the trap to close and to begin digesting.
What can I feed a Venus Flytrap?
Bugs that are living are the key. Ideally, flies, spiders, small crickets and slugs, mealworms, and bloodworms. Refrain from feeding them ants because they don’t have much nutritional value, plus those ants could’ve ingested something toxic from around your home or elsewhere. Which could be transferred to your plants and eventually kill it.
Are You Ready for a Plant That Eats Like You?
Caring for a Venus Flytrap can be a rewarding and fun experience. There isn’t any other houseplant that does what a Venus Flytrap can do. Despite their remarkable features, Venus Flytraps are not difficult to care for and when they flower they can look pretty as well as interesting.
Key Tips to Remember
- Use pure water (not tap water) to avoid the minerals that will upset your Venus Flytrap.
- Feed your Venus Flytrap live flies every week or two weeks – this is how Flytraps get the nutrients that they need.
- Keep the soil moist, but not soggy.
- Don’t fertilize as Venus Flytraps are suited to nutrient-poor soil.
Venus Flytraps are very easy to care for and will keep you entertained with their fascinating abilities!
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