The Venus Flytrap ( Dionaea Muscipula ) plant is easy to maintain and grow, if some simple needs are met. Venus Flytraps can live for Decades with the right care. There is One in My Friend's collection that He has had since the mid 1950's!
Sadly, the Venus Flytrap is an extremely endangered plant, with last count of less than 150,000 left in Their natural Habitat in North and South Carolina. That's right, the are indigenous to the United States!
Every Venus Flytrap I sell has been Tissue Cultured in My Laboratory, and cultivated by Me and not taken from it's natural habitat. Tissue culturing ensures very clean, robust, healthy, disease free stock, and lots and lots of Them! It is the 'fast track.'
Traditionally, starting from seed, it can take from 4 to 5 Years for a Venus Flytrap to reach Maturity.
With Our Micropropagation process, it takes approximately 18 Months!
Venus Flytraps love LOTS of light; the more, the better, and the healthier Your plant will be. Natural Sunlight is best and for this reason, Venus Flytraps grow fantastic Outside on the patio in direct or mostly direct Sun. Always use a larger and light colored pot and of adequate size if growing outside to aid in keeping the roots cooler. Ceramic is more insulative than plastic for Outdoor growing. Move to a shadier area when Temperatures go up and above 95F or so. If moved Outdoors from an Indoor environment, make sure You slowly acclimate or 'harden' the plant first in shade for the first few Days.
Flytraps can be successfully grown Indoors. Place the plant in an East, West, or South window; wherever it will receive the strongest DIRECT Sunlight, at least full Sun for 3 hours or more a Day or Very Strong indirect Sunlight all Day in that particular spot. (Flies tend to congregate at the windows, too). Alternatively, a compact florescent bulb a few inches above the plant for 18 hours a Day will work good, too. Make sure the bulb says cool white, or blue white for best results. I stock plant specific 23 Watt (100W equivelant) 6500K light bulbs at My store that You can screw into any desklight. It is perfect for ALL plants and sell for 5.00 Do not put the bulb close enough to the plant to get it too hot; about 6 to 8 inches above the tallest part of the plant is about right. For convenience, You can add a cheap wall timer from a hardware store; set it for 16 hours on and You are set.
This is very important. Do not use tap water! (Well Water is even worse!) Most all tap water has too many minerals that will burn the sensitive roots that have adapted for more sterile soil conditions (the reason it became Carnivorous) and will kill your plant over a few weeks. Use rain water, Distilled, or Reverse Osmosis (RO) water. Boiling tap water only removes chlorine and will actually condense the salts and minerals and It will poison your VFT.
Venus Flytraps come from boggy areas that are moist to wet nearly all of the time. Keep the 'soil' of the Venus Flytrap moist at all times; if it dries, it dies! When watering; it's best to water from below using an oversized tray.
( this also means watering less frequently; nice for Vacations).
If grown Outdoors, keep the soil very moist at all times. During the Summer growing months (particularly on hot, Sunny days), keep the soil very wet to soggy by having plenty of water standing in an oversized tray below the plant's pot all the time. This will help the plants roots stay cool, and to prevent from having the soil drying out completely during the course of the day while you are away. Accidental drying out of the soil is something in which it may forgive you for doing once, but it is always harmful and I doubt if you could get away with it again in quick succession without killing or seriously setting it back.
If grown Indoors, Your Flytrap will probably be in cooler conditions with less air movement. This can induce rot if the soil is soggy for extended periods, so adjust the watering accordingly, keeping it a little lesser on the wet side. You can do this by putting some water in the tray and let the soil soak it all up from underneath. Keep adding water until a 1/2 inch or so of water will stand in the tray, but allow this water to evaporate and do not water again until the top of the soil is just dry to the touch. Even indoors, VFT'S can tolerate soggy conditions for awhile; (like when you're going on vacation and put extra water in the tray, so it doesn't dry out), but waterlogged conditions for extended periods of time under less amounts of light and cooler conditions may lead to rotting of the plant's rhizome because the soil is not being allowed to get oxygen.
Venus Flytraps can adapt to virtually any Humidity level. It does seem happier with humidity levels of 40% or more, but it is not essential. A terrarium is completely unnecessary for these plants.
SOIL AND POTTING
Your Venus Flytrap came in a deep, white plastic Stadium cup drilled on the bottom for tray watering. This cup is perfect and more than large enough for a single plant. You will not have to change the soil for a couple of Years if You choose. I chose this cup for its depth that They enjoy, the white color to prevent overheating in the windowsill or Outdoors, and plastic so as not to leach any minerals into the root system.
Venus Flytraps want a very acid (low ph) medium that is nearly deprived of any nutrients, so they thrive in a mixture of 1 part pure Peat and 1 part perlite. The perlite helps with aeration and drainage and is virtually pure of any minerals, unlike 'vermiculite' which does and should not be used. In a pinch, Plain peat moss will also work. I have very good luck with 3 parts peat, 2 parts silica sand, and 1 part perlite. Use Silica sand which is marketed as swimming pool filter or 'sand blasting' sand. Do not use River, Beach or play sand as it can contain too many minerals.
Most all Peat Moss You buy Today is Canadian Sphagnum peat, and fortunately, it is the best. You may have to buy a large bail of it, but it is very inexpensive. You can use other types of peat if you have to but. . . POTTING SOILS OF ANY KIND ARE OUT OF THE QUESTION!
DO NOT use ANY package that bears the name ‘Miracle Grow’ for Venus Flytraps.
Cactus Soils or other Special Use soils are not good to use, either.
LOCAL PEOPLE: If You do no want to mix Your own soil, I usually have pre-made bags of the right soil mix on hand at the Jewelry store. I can repot Your plant if You can leave it with Me and You can provide the decorative pot, as well. Most any pot will work; plastic, foam, glazed Ceramic, etc. Avoid Terra Cotta and Earthenware Pottery, even glazed ones and definately avoid metal pots. Venus Flytraps have deep root systems, therefore enjoy deeper pots. A general rule of thumb is a pot that is twice as deep as the plants diameter, so a 3 inch plant would enjoy a 6 inch or deeper pot, if possible. It is getting harder, but try to find a pot that does not have an attached saucer as I recommend a deeper saucer for the plants watering needs.
FEEDING & FERTILIZER
Trying to 'push' for better or faster growth by giving it any type of commercial or organic fertilizer will burn the sensitive roots and will have the opposite affect of what You want, if not kill it. If insects aren't readily available and feel you must do something; a tiny pinch (approx ¼ Teaspoon) of Miracid or other acid loving fertilizer (orchid fertilizers) diluted in a full, 32 oz. spray bottle, can be used once a Month for a quick foliar feeding only. One or two quick mists on the leaves; that's it. Don't drench the soil to where it can reach and burn the sensitive roots. More is NOT better.
A Venus Flytrap can live indefinitely without any food, as they do get some from the decay of the peat they grow in as well as through photosynthesis. Venus Flytraps will certainly grow larger and be more robust if it does catch or You do feed it live insects. You will also find that the plant is more than capable of catching a variety of insects perfectly fine on it's own. It is impossible to overfeed Flytraps with the right food (insects). Soft bodied insects are the most beneficial. Avoid moths which offer almost nothing in terms of nutrition.
It is fun see the plant in action and you certainly can, by catching a spider, ant, fly, or whatever and holding it with tweezers, lay in trap and wriggle around to trigger the special 'trigger hairs' you can see protruding on the inside lobe of each side of the trap. Once the trap snaps shut, simply let go of the catch and pull the tweezers out. The insect needs to be alive for the trap to close completely and digest it. The semi-closed trap that is initially triggered senses the extra 'squirming' of it's Victim. With this the trap will continue to close and will form a water tight seal over the next 20 minutes. Then it secretes and drowns it's victim with digestive juices and the Flytrap will absorb the nutrients from it's kill. Over the next Few Days (depending on the size of the meal), the trap will re-open ready for more action. Only the 'husk' of the insect will remain.
Make sure the insect You feed it isn't bigger than 1/2 of the trap length. Legs or wings sticking out of the trap can compromise the 'seal' and may induce rotting of the trap, but sometimes can't be helped. Common sense dictates avoidance of grasshoppers or anything that can chew its way out of the trap. Depending on the size and quality of the meal, the trap will re-open in a few Days, ready for another. After a few 'cycles,' an older trap May simply stop working or even die, which is natural. An actively growing, healthy Plant will always have a new trap or two that is growing out to replace the older and dying traps and leaves. Always judge the state of Health of Your Flytrap by the number and size of new traps coming out and not how many of the older traps that are dying.
Do Not feed your VFT hamburger or any 'People' type food. The proteins are too complex and fatty for your plant to absorb; it will burn the trap, or worse.
It's ironic that a Carnivorous Plant can be revenged by some Insects. If Your plant becomes infected with Aphids or Mites; spray the leaves with a Systemic insecticide containing the chemical Acephate (Wharton's has it) and spray again in 7 Days and that should clear them up. Acephate will also clear up those mostly harmless but pesky little black fungus gnats that You will invariably see in Peaty soil, buzzing around. Acephate is 'stinky' so spray in well ventilated area and leave there for a few hours. The smell goes away after this time.
Many People (as have I) have thrown away a sleeping Venus Flytrap, thinking it is dead, when all it wanted is to go to sleep. Venus Flytraps require some kind of Dormancy period every Winter. Young plants or divisions can skip a Year. If Your plant is outside, to trigger dormancy, just leave it there and as the Weather cools and the Days become shorter, it will trigger dormancy in Your plant and old growth may Die off and any new growth will be stunted on broader leaves. Growth of the plant will get slower, and the traps may become slower or non-functional, and new traps will be smaller. It is important to water less and less as the Weather cools; keeping the soil just barely damp to keep fungus away.
Venus Flytraps are pretty hardy plants and can tolerate temperatures down in the mid 30's for extended periods, but bring inside during extended cold Weather below freezing. An attached garage May keep it above freezing and Your plant does not need any light in extreme low temperatures, as by now, it is in a deep sleep. I put My collection in my attached garage in late October when They have gone full dormant from being outside during the fall Months. I over-winter them there, checking them every couple of weeks or so and adding little water if needed to keep them just moist. Very little maintenance is required at this time.
If Indoors, simply keep it near a window where the Colder air and shorter light cycles will trigger Dormancy. Again, use alot less water, keeping the soil just damp. Don't have standing water in the tray. Indoor plants may experience a 'milder' dormancy and may stay Green all Winter, but You will notice new growth may be almost at a stand still.
COMING OUT OF DORMACY
In the Spring, growth will start again and a flower stalk may emerge. Venus Flytrap flowers aren't especially 'showy' and I cut them off and leave a 1/2 to 1 inch stump as it pulls alot of plant resources to produce, weakening the whole plant. All trap growth and production is almost at a standstill until You do cut off the flower stalk.
Trim or pull dead foilage that has accumulated by pulling or trimming as this helps keep crown rot from damaging or killing Your plant. As a further preventative, don't be quick to drench the awakening plant with water right off, but rather increase watering slowly increasing as the temperatures do.
This is the best time to repot. See above instructions for that. This may also be the time that You realize that Your One plant is now two or more separate plants! Venus Flytraps are known for crown division and Your collection has now grown.
The leaves and traps have a lifespan like any other plant, and after awhile, an older trap will become nonfunctional. It is still beneficial to the plant for photosynthesis, and will open wider for this. A while longer and the trap, then leaf will start to discolor and start to turn yellow; then black. It's a good idea to trim them off after the green is gone; cutting back leaving 1/4 inch left sticking out of the soil. This is a good preventative maintenance from keeping fungi out of the picture. If only the trap is spoiled, then just trim the trap off of it’s leaf, so the VFT still has some benefit of photosynthesis still going on with that part. Try to keep accumulated dead plant material trimmed or pulled out of the crown of the plant to help with preventing crown rot.
It’s tempting to ‘tease’ the traps, but try to keep it a minimum, as by doing so, You hasten the life cycle of the trap and it will eventually become non-functional and may die off quicker. It also uses up some of the plants resources. The plant gets false alarms in Nature, too, and the plant knows when it’s been tricked, and an empty, closed trap will open back up within 24 hours.
In the Spring (or when the plant thinks it’s Spring) a flower stalk will emerge.
The flowers aren’t particularly ‘showy’ and for best Vegatative growth, it is best to cut off the flower stalk as it is very taxing on the plant. You will not have any significant trap growth until the flower stalk is cut off. Cut the main stalk leaving a half inch or so stump. Venus Flytraps can be self pollinated, but more and better quality seed will be obtained cross pollinating. From seed to maturity is 4 to 5 Years.
I highly recommend Peter D'amato's book 'The Savage Garden'
The Internet is a rich resource for care and propagating These and many Carnivorous Plants.
FLYTRAPCARE.COM is One such resource with active forums and I encourage You to join in on the fun! It is run by Matt Miller.
Happy Growing !