Venus Flytraps Care & Info Guide
Venus Flytraps should always feature in any carnivorous plant garden. They’re beautiful, unique and arouse a lot of curiosity…..especially with the kids!
Are Venus Flytraps Easy To Grow?
I am pleased to say that YES Venus Flytraps are easy to grow. So long as you follow some basic but important care guidelines you should be able to grow beautiful plants year after year.
After talking to many ‘past growers’ at the markets though there seems to be a high failure rate with Venus Flytraps. To me it’s obvious that there’s a lot of ignorance and misinformation about basic Venus Fly trap care.
Before I explain the basic care tips, I’m going to highlight the one main reason growers have difficulty growing flytraps. If you can understand the following you will not only be able to grow healthy plants but also MATURE plants.
To better explain the number one reason growers have difficulty with this plant I’m going to explain their environment where they come from….
Venus Flytraps come from Sub-tropical areas
Venus flytraps (Dionaea muscipula) are endemic to North and South Carolina in the United States. Here they experience temperatures ranging from 32 degrees Celsius in summer to 0 degrees Celsius in winter. So straight away you can deduce that if you want to grow healthy plants outside where you live you’ll need to experience some changes in the seasons (Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring). The reason is because the plant’s lifecycle has been synchronized to changes in the seasons……including winter.
Venus Flytraps Don’t Die In Winter
If there is one popular theme I hear that explains why so many growers experience angst with Venus Fly trap care it’s this: winter dormancy. So many times I’ve heard the following…. ‘Well my plant was growing really well until winter arrived when it started to die off”. I really feel sad when I hear this because plants get thrown out in the false belief there’s something wrong with them (one look at the photo explains why).
For a lot of growers that’s where their experience with Venus Flytraps ends: a lasting memory of a ‘dying’ plant (ouch!). You see it all comes down to a lack of understanding of the plant’s life cycle. Venus Flytraps like any other carnivorous plant make the most of the insect activity in the warmer months. When winter arrives they simply hunker down and ride out the harsh cooler temperatures.
Why Venus Flytraps Go Dormant
During winter they go into sleep or dormancy mode. This is where they stop producing new traps and just chill out. There are good reasons why Venus Flytraps go dormant and these are…..
- There are no insects to catch in winter! It makes sense for a plant not to spend energy producing traps when little or no insects are about. You see it all comes down to energy spent vs reward. If more energy is spent than being replenished in the form of insects than the plant will eventually die.
- Energy is replenished. For a plant with moving parts it’s hard work catching flies! So winter is a great time for the plant to absorb all the nitrogen it’s derived from all the yummy insects it’s caught. It then just goes to sleep, has a good rest and builds up its energy reserves. I often wonder how rested the plants must feel as they awaken from their slumber in early spring.
A bit of knowledge goes a long way – So hopefully I’ve made it clearer about the life cycle of Venus Flytraps and the way they look in winter is absolutely normal. With this knowledge you now won’t think there’s something wrong with your plant or even worse ….throw it out! Venus Flytraps are in fact perennials and will reward you with fresh new traps year after year.
Now let’s get into the really fun part of explaining how to grow these plants during the growing season….
Venus Fly Trap Care Guide
Venus flytraps are found in phosphorous and nitrogen poor boggy environments. The medium in these environments comprises of decomposed sphagnum moss.
Peat moss is sphagnum moss which has decomposed over time. It’s dark in colour and looks like normal potting mix. These are the characteristics of peat moss:
- Primarily decomposed of sphagnum moss and other organic material found in peat bogs.
- Has excellent water retention properties which makes it an excellent medium for Venus Flytraps and other carnivorous plants.
- Propagating sand or perlite is normally added to peat moss to help with aeration.
- Unlike soil or normal potting mix peat moss has little or no nutrients. This makes it ideal for use for most carnivorous plants that can’t tolerate high concentrations of dissolved salts or minerals around their roots.
So here’s a very important Venus Fly trap care tip for healthy looking plants. Like most carnivorous plants fly traps are sensitive to high concentrations of dissolved salts in water. Chlorides and fluorides are added to tap water to kill microorganisms to make the water safe to drink. In high enough concentrations though these chemicals can burn the roots of carnivorous plants causing deformed leaves and traps.
So why are carnivorous plants sensitive to chemicals added to tap water?
The answer lies in why carnivorous plants have evolved to catch insects at all. The reason is because the peat bogs in which they grow in naturally are nutrient poor. To get around this carnivorous plants have evolved to catch insects which provide vital trace elements such as nitrogen. The plants simply have not evolved to absorb nutrients via their roots. The less dissolved salts in the water and potting medium the healthier your plants will be.
A TDS (Total Dissolved Salts Meter) measures the concentration of minerals, salts and dissolved solids in water. This is really useful if you’re not sure how safe your tap water is for your carnivorous plants. A TDS meter provides a reading measured in parts per million (ppm). As a general rule you want the ppm reading to be below 50 to be suitable for carnivorous plants. Click here to see how to use a TDS meter.
For healthy plants its important to water your plants with ‘soft water’. This is a term used to describe water which has low concentrations of dissolved salts and minerals. Rainwater which falls straight from the sky is considered ‘soft’ unlike tap water which has added minerals. Use either rain, distilled or reverse osmosis filtered water. Soft water won’t burn the roots of your plant resulting in beautiful, fully formed traps.
It’s vital that you never ever allow the peat moss medium to dry out. Venus Flytraps live naturally in peat bogs and wet savannahs. The following methods replicate their moist growing environment.
The tray method – This the easiest way to water your carnivorous plants. Simply place your pots into a tray of water. The water is taken up into the peat moss through capillary action ensuring the roots never dry out. The tray method also provides humidity which the plants appreciate.
Top watering – You can also water your plants from the top if you wish. You will have to do this more often than the tray method to maintain a damp medium….especially during summer with high evaporation rates. The benefit of watering from the top is that any minerals and salts are flushed out from the bottom of the pot.
- If you water Venus flytraps from the top then try to avoid pouring water over the traps. This may trigger traps to close which will cause your plant to spend unnecessary energy.
- Place your pot plant out in the rain and remove the water tray. As the rain water runs through the bottom of the pot it removes any salts or minerals which may be present in the peat moss.
For those living in the Southern Hemisphere a north facing aspect will provide most light. Your plant will get morning, midday and late afternoon sun. However if you don’t have a North facing aspect then try to aim for a minimum of 4 hours of direct sunlight.
More sunlight will not only result in a healthier plant but depending on your cultivar your traps will turn a deep red color.
As a general rule the more sunlight you give your fly traps the more vibrantly colored they’ll be. Here’s a bright red trap that has different shades of red giving it a stunning appearance.
Damp rather wet is best – In winter the plants need less water because they’re dormant and the temperatures are lower. The trick is to have the soil damp but not soaking wet. When you place your finger on the peat moss it should feel damp rather than wet.
The tray method – If you use the tray method of watering then simply allow more time between watering. Allow the tray to completely evaporate, wait say 4 or 5 days and then refill the tray. With low evaporation rates during winter you only around half a centimeter of water in the tray.
Happier plants – Not only will your plants be happier but you will reduce the chance of mold appearing on dead leaves. This can happen if you over water your plants in winter and there is too much humidity.
The Joys Of Growing Venus Flytraps Outdoors
I just love observing how insects interact with carnivorous plants. Here is my favourite video of a fly ‘playing’ with one of my Venus Flytraps which I managed to capture in my own backyard….