How to grow a venus fly trap – Care Sheet with Tips & Information

Venus Fly Traps are relatively simple to care for.   Following a few basic instructions, you’ll have a happy and healthy plant for a very long time!   Here are some tips on how to successfully grow a venus Fly Trap plant.

Water Requirements for Fly Trap plants

Venus Fly Traps ( as well as all other carnivorous plants ) MUST HAVE distilled water, rain water or water from a reverse osmosis filter only.

Everything else contains salts, minerals and chemicals. These things are harmful to the plants fragile root system.  This will more than likely kill your plant if used (sometimes even once!).  You can purchase distilled water by the gallon from your local RX or supermarket for about a dollar ( that’s all, and it will last you a while ).  Some stores sell “demineralized water” which is a good commercial option. Drinking water and other ‘purified waters’ still contain salts ( and sometimes aren’t listed on the bottle ).  To be safe, distilled water is best.  And if you want to collect rain water, place your container out in the yard. NEVER collect it from the runoff of your house/building.  You are getting far worse things in it that way. If you plant has been watered with any other water… Flush the soil out with distilled water.  This will help it recover some from the experience.

Light Requirements for Venus Fly Traps:

The Fly Trap needs lots of bright light for as many hours per day as possible.  They grow naturally in North and South Carolina.  ( Zones 7 – 8 ((thanks Mike!)) ). Always provide bright light for you plant. If you live in the South United States direct sun all day is not advised as it may burn the plants. If you live in the South, provide partial shade for your plant during the hottest part of the day.  This is the same for dessert conditions as well. If you live in the northern part of the United States, lighting will not be problem.   If you live in conditions where  you do not have a window, or want to keep your plant indoors, placing it in a North facing window will be fine.  Avoid a West window ( b/c of intensity).  OR you can always provide artificial lighting for your plant.  If you are going to do this remember a couple things:

1) LED Or Fluorescent bulbs with sunlight  white light- the plant will do fine with this light.  (read more here)

2) Other lights put off heat that can burn the plant or heat the soil to undesirable conditions.  If the soil gets too hot the roots will damage.

3) Place your light about 6-8 inches away from the plant.  Also keep the light on for 13-15 hours a day.  Since they are not getting natural lighting, the artificial light will need to be on longer to emulate its normal day.

Long and dangly leaves could mean the plant is not getting enough light.

If your plant appears to be ‘reaching’ for the light, that is a bad thing. If the leaves are very thin and to the point of leaning over, there is not enough light.

The Venus Fly Trap will produce two sets of leaves. During the spring, the leaves will be squat and low to the ground. In the summer, the leave will be longer and erect. It can get somewhat confusing to tell the difference, but the summer leaves will be standing tall and look healthy. If the plant is not receiving the proper lighting, the plant will not look healthy. It will appear to be stretching towards the light and the leaves will be thin and traps may not develop.

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Humidity Requirements for Venus Fly Traps:

This is up to debate with many growers.  Unlike other plants ( Nepenthes, Saracenia, Drosera, Pinguclia, and Heliamphora)..The VFT really does not need much humidity.  Above 55% is the rule of thumb ( some plants require more than 80%).  Most places have the minimum humidity this plant requires.  If you are concerned about the humidity level OR live in a place where humidity is low, you can put your plant in a terrarium.  You can also place the plastic cup over the plant. When you do this though, YOU MUST keep it out of direct lighting.  If the soil temperature (that is not the temperature of the air) gets above 86 degrees Fahrenheit you will damage the roots and may kill the plant!  Shading IS REQUIRED if you do this.

Feeding a Venus Fly Trap:

Knowing that Fly Traps do not have to consume anything is the most important thing to know.  Some Fly Trap plants go through their whole life not catching a single bug.

Secondly – NEVER feed a Venus Fly Trap hamburger or other human / pet food.   It will kill it.

Think of the Fly Trap catching bugs as a fertilizer for the plant.  Since these plants grow in soil that is very poor ( stripped of all nutrients ), catching bugs is how they supplement minerals, proteins….FOOD!

Just because a plant does not ‘eat’ does not mean that it will be unhealthy. As mentioned above, some plants will go through their life and not catch a bug.  Sure, ‘eating’ makes it grow.  But if it doesn’t eat…it will still grow, just not as fast.

What else can you feed your Fly Trap ( if you can’t find bugs or you just don’t
want to kill anything )?

Many people are of a belief that it isn’t right to kill ANYTHING.  This would include bugs.  Others can’t find bugs to feed their plant.  While still others just can’t hold a bug long enough to drop it in the plant to feed it.

Whatever the reason, there are alternatives to finding bugs for your plants:

1) many people have used Superthrive (R) .  It is readily available in most garden stores/shops.  You want to mix it very weakly.  One fourth (1/4) the strength is best.   Get a Q-tip and apply to the inner lobe of the plant. Once monthly to one (1) trap is enough.  Superthrive (R) contains tons of vitamins and minerals along with growth chemicals that will help your plant to grow.  ( apply to traps only…this is the way these plants feed.  If applied to the soil, you can kill your plant! )   This is experimental.   Results vary.

2) Other people have used egg whites.  It contains similar nutrients that bugs would have and therefore is helpful for the plant. ( Can also be used with Sundews, Butterworts.  Sarracenia and Nepenthes have not done well with this).  The only hang up with this is that you must ‘shake the trap’ once or twice a day. By doing this ( gently ) you ‘trick’ the plant into thinking that it is a live bug ( bugs that are caught by the traps attempt to escape -wouldn’t you- when the try to get out two (2) things happen:

a) the trap closes tighter.
b) it stimulates the plant to release its digestive enzymes to start the process of ‘eating’ If you simply put the egg white in the trap and do nothing to it ( to stimulate it) the trap will open in a few days and the egg white will remain ( this isn’t the case with the butterwort or sundew…they dissolve on the plant, no tricking is involved)

How long does Venus Fly Trap Digestion take?

The process can take a week to two weeks.  When the process is done…you will find the remains of the bug that was caught!  In the wild wind or rain blows/falls and gets rid of the skeleton and the trap is ready to start all
over again!

Note: Too many bugs and a couple of things will happen:

1) the plant will stop growing.  The plant will think that it is doing fine with the traps it is currently producing, so  it won’t make anymore.

2) you will burn the plant/stunt the growth ( similar to #1 ).  Fertilizing ( feeding ) your plant too many bugs ( no more really than one (1) per month for the whole plant – not one (1) per trap per month ) it will overload its system with the proteins, minerals and anything else it gets. The worst case scenario is that the plant WILL DIE!

What type of soil do Fly Traps need?

The soil that these plants grow in the wild is mossy, bog environments. To mimic this, there are a couple of options.

1) Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss– this can be found in many hardware/gardenstores.  Be sure to get this kind.  Many people ( including me ) have had problems with other peat moss.  The problem is that some are cut ( mixed ) with other things/moss.  This is not good for the plant.  You can find it in a bag for around 3-4 dollars ( shredded).

2) Long Fiber Moss.  This is peat moss that hasn’t been shredded.  Many people use this alone for most of there plants!   It is however not as easy to come by as the Shredded kind and is a little more pricey. ( $5-9 or more in some places ) 

3) Perlite – this is a foam material that is also easily found in garden shops / hardware stores.  You mix this ( about 50-50 ) with the shredded peat moss to form a nice soil.  This soil will not be as compact as just straight peat moss ( which is very dense).  It will not affect the Ph level either. Vermiculite does! (beware)

People have mixed other things with their soil…sand, orchid bark, lava rock, pumice, rock wool.  It really depends on the grower and what all you have available to you.  If you have purchased a plant though…that is in a certain type of soil, I would leave it be.  Or mix a little ‘extras’ at a time so you don’t shock the plant!

Now that I know what is in my mix, I want to repot my VFT…

The VFT does not need to be repotted.  It gets nothing from the soil and will not benefit from repotting.  I advocate not repotting for that reason and :

1) You can potentially damage the plant.  If you are not careful you can break roots and cause great shock on the plant.

2) It does take time for the plant to recoup from transplanting ( if you choose to do so ).

3) It looks nice with a layer of green growing moss on top! ( plus it keeps it moist ).  Why do you want to kill moss to repot?  It looks so pretty.

A couple things for those that must replant their VFT:

1) Do it in the Spring!!  Don’t try to repot anything during its growing season.  This will only stunt the growth. Replanting in the spring when everything grows won’t be AS BAD ( though still not good ).  When you bring your plant out of dormancy ( more on that later ) pot your bulb and you are good to go! OR when you pull your whole plant/pot out of dormancy ( more on that later too! ) I would say to dig around the plant…meaning take all the dirt you can so that you do not disturb the roots that much.

2) If you are planting into a bigger pot, pull all dirt out and use fresh to pack around the old.  Since the plant gets nothing from the soil, you are not doing it a favor with new Peat Moss ( soil ).  If you want to do it a favor, make a TEA ( more on later as well!)

In addition to this Venus Fly Trap Growing Guide, there is a full list of Fly Trap FAQ on a new page here.

Venus Fly Trap FAQ Page

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