venus flytrap FAQ

Growing Venus Fly Traps – How to successfully grow the Venus Fly Trap (Frequently Asked Questions – Dionea)

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If you are the happy new owner of an amazing Venus Fly Trap Plant (Dionea), you’ll likely have some care questions or require some advice on how to care for your plant.  Perhaps you just have a few curious questions about how the Fly Trap works.   For that reason, after 20 years of growing these amazing little plants, we’ve put together this comprehensive FAQ about Venus Fly Traps.

During the years of growing and selling plants, the below questions were some of the most frequently asked.


What are the hairs on the inside of the Venus Fly Trap, how many are there?

Usually there are 3-4 hairs ( triggers ) on the inside of the Fly Trap “mouth”.  Now what is more important is how this works in trapping bugs. Many people think that a bug only touching one will work, while others will say that it has to be a sequence of them.  The reality is – a bug must touch several hairs to trigger the trap to close.   Essentially the trap must be “tickled” by a live insect so it knows it’s not a false alarm from rain drops, etc.

I have another kind of soil mix and I want to pot my VFT’s in, Cactus, Orchid, and Potting Soil?

The ONLY things that you can pot your Venus Fly Trap in are:

1) Sphagnum Moss – this is long fiber moss you can buy by the bale.

2) Peat Moss – This is sphagnum moss that has been milled ( or shredded ).  There are not many kinds of peat moss that you can use though.  Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss ( we recommend Schultz brand ).  Make sure that it is not mixed with another type of moss or wetting agent.  It should say on the package.

3) Perlite – Like a Styrofoam, only natural.  This does not affect the Ph level that is important to the plant.

4) Sand – Make sure that you ONLY use Silica sand or others have reported success with Quartz Sand or Silver Sand.  Play sand is usually something that has been taken from a beach and contains salts that are harmful for the plant.  With that, also stay away from beach sand or something that does not specifically say Silica, Quartz sands

How big do my traps have to be to eat a bug?

The traps can be any size and catch a bug. Even small traps can catch little gnats!  However, the thing to remember if you try giving your plant a live insect, is the bug needs to be ¾ the size of the trap.  This is because the trap needs the room to close tightly over the bug.  If it does not close securely over the insect, bacteria can enter into the trap and kill it.  If this happens, remove the trap, but not the whole stem.  The stems can still serve a purpose for the plant ( photosynthesis ).

How long does it take for a fly trap plant to reach maturity?

If the plant is grown from seed, it may take up to 5 years!  That is right five (5) years.  Tissue cultured plants mature in about 2 years.  So an average time to reach maturity for your plant is 2-3 years ( Since most plants now are from cuttings or cultured ).  If buying plants online, sellers usually specify  how old the plants are or how big the traps are (indicating maturity)

How do I get the red in my traps?

Fly Traps are sun loving plants.  Allowing your plant to get adequate sun will result a beautiful red tint on the inside of the trap!  The color will also allow it to attract more insects.

Which Venus Fly Trap is the easiest to grow?

Most Fly Traps grow in identical conditions and really do not vary in requirements.  However with our experience some people think different varieties are easier.

Some frequently mentioned reasons below.

Common:  This is what you see when you go to the hardware store or garden center.  This is an easy plant to grow if you follow directions.

Dente: Just like the common, only with fused teeth.

Green Dragon:  This is a cross between the Red Dragon and the Common.  This is a plant that is healthier ( my opinion ) and is a more vigorous grower than the common, dente, red dragon.

Red Dragon:  The problem with this plant is lighting.  If it does not receive the light it needs, it will turn into a green dragon.

Can I plant Venus Flytraps in a terrarium?

There are a couple of things that you can do for your Venus Fly Trap and a terrarium.  For starters though, Fly Traps don’t really do well in a terrarium setup unless you provide for air flow.  This seems to be a deciding factor for the plant’s vitality.  Opening the lid and letting fresh air in or adding a small fan works well.

Since humidity isn’t a big factor in the plant’s growth, it is just as easy to grow these plants on windowsills or outside.  Just be sure to follow sun requirements.

But if you insist on planting Fly Traps in a terrarium:

  1. Leave it in the pot.  Place the plant in your terrarium.  Many people have decorated the tank/terrarium with a layer of rock and covered the pots with moss.  To make it look like it is planted.  Then just water with the tray method as needed.
  2. Plant your plants into the media.  What many people will do is place a layer of rock, then a layer of long fiber moss, than peat moss/perlite ( or just the long fiber moss ).  Then plant the plants into the moss.  Watering is a tricky issue and it is not required to happen daily.  More like weekly.  A sign of low water in the terrarium is not fogging on the walls of your terrarium.  Remember, just add a little bit.  You have created an environment for them that is not very tolerant of an abundance of water.  Rotting may result if there is too much water in your setup.
  3. The biggest issue with a terrarium and Fly Traps is the proper lighting.  Remember the plants need full sun which is hard to replicate in a terrarium without “cooking” the plants.

Our recommended terrarium is one where the roof can open to let out heat when leaving the terrarium in full sun.

How do I take care of my Venus Fly Trap?

Contrary to popular belief, the Venus Fly Trap is very easy to care for if a few important rules are followed. Below is a list of optimal growing conditions to make your Fly Trap happy and healthy. There are a few exceptions to the growing rules and they will be noted when applicable. Happy Growing!!

Watering:

Venus Fly Traps enjoy plenty of water and humidity. A clear plastic cover is provided with your terrarium to allow humidity to gather and to trap moisture in the container for the Fly Trap. If the cover is used, the plant will only need watering every 3-5 days. When using the cover, do not OVER WATER. If the plant is over watered with the cover on, the roots may rot. When watering, use only distilled water or rain water. Treated tap water contains chemicals that will make your Fly Trap sick.

Light:

The Venus Fly Trap LOVES plenty of light. Natural sunlight is the best to allow the Fly Trap to thrive and grow into an adult plant. Artificial light such as soft white florescent mixed with daylight lamps can be used which mimic the spectrum of light the plants enjoy. The sign of a happy Fly Trap is a bit of pink in their mouths/traps. The Fly Traps will make use of FULL SUN if possible; however, when using the clear cover of the terrarium, full sunlight will damage the plant. If full sun is used to grow the plant, remove the terrarium cover and water often (daily). Most plants grow well in a window with filtered light, approximately 8 hours daily of direct sun.

Temperatures:

The Fly Trap thrives at temperatures of 70 to 80 degrees F. during the growing season. Temperatures should be lower during the winter, as the Fly Trap requires dormancy. Dormancy can be achieved by placing the Fly Trap in it’s terrarium in a refrigerator and reducing the amount of water. It is best to treat the plant with some sort of fungicide before placing it into dormancy. A plant may grow fine for a couple of years without a dormant period; however, you may notice reduced growth.

Food:

Venus Fly Traps LOVE bugs! It is, however, possible to over feed a plant. The Fly Trap uses the capture of a bug to supplement it’s nourishment it lacks in the soil. Insects are not vital to the survival of a Fly Trap but will assist in it’s growth. NEVER FEED YOUR FLY TRAP HAMBURGER OR OTHER PEOPLE/PET FOOD! It is often said that you can feed a hungry Fly Trap hamburger. It *WILL* die if anything other than insects are fed to the plant. Furthermore, never give your plant fertilizer. The root system of the Venus Fly Trap is very fragile and fertilization will burn/kill the roots.

Tampering:

The Venus Fly Trap is a delicate plant. The leaves which make up the ‘traps’ of the plant are designed to open and close a limited number of times (approximately 4-5). By inserting foreign objects such as your finger or a pencil eraser into the trap will cause it to prematurely close. Though this will not kill the plant, it will weaken the traps and may make them useless when a bug actually finds its way to the Fly Trap mouth.

Soil:

Venus Fly Traps show the best growth and survive the longest in acidic soil. The Fly Trap kit you have includes Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss (shredded). This moss has an extremely high acid content allowing the plant to remain strong and healthy. If you choose to replant your Fly Trap, you will need to use a comparable Peat Moss often found at hardware stores. Brands vary, but most Canadian types are the best growing soils. In addition, the Sphagnum Peat is VERY dense (unless using live moss) and needs sand or perlite for the root system and ventilation. If Peat moss is used without a means of ventilation, the roots of your Fly Trap may rot. Replacement moss and perlite may be purchased directly from this site for transplant.

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A few notes:

  1. It is not uncommon for your plant to arrive with a dead or dying trap (or two). These are leaves as on any other plant and are subject to the stress and shock from shipping. In addition, some or ALL of the traps on the plant may be closed due to shaking during shipping. They will reopen in 1-3 days.
  2. If you live in the southern portion of the USA (i.e. Texas, Florida, Arizona, etc), the full sun requirement should be ignored. Full sun in the lower USA is much stronger than in the northern states. Full southern sun may kill new growth or in worst case circumstances, kill the entire plant. Place the plant in partial sun/shade

What WATER does my Venus Fly Trap need?

VFT’s ( as well as all other CP’s ) 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 done ( 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 ).  Drinking water and other ‘purified waters’ still contain salts ( and sometimes aren’t listed on the bottle!).  To be the safest possible, 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.

What type of LIGHT does my Fly Trap need?

The Venus Fly Trap needs lots of bright lighting!  They grow naturally in North and South Carolina.  ( Zone 5 ). Always provide bright light for you plant.   If you live in the South United States direct lighting is not advised.  This light is more intense and can burn/kill your plant.  IF you live in the South, provide shade for your plant.  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) Cool white light- the plant will do fine with this light.

2) Other lights put off heat that can burn the plant or heat the soil ( not

the temp. around the plant ) to undesirable conditions.  If the soil gets

too hot the roots will damage.  Too much heating in the soil will also KILL

your plant.

3) Place your light about 6-8 inches away from the plant.  Also keep the

light on for 13-15 hours a day! Yes 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.

How much Humidity does my Venus Fly Trap need?

This is up to debate with many growers.  Unlike other plants ( Nepenthes,Saracenia, Drosera, Pinguclia, and Heliamphora)..The Venus Fly Trap 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 place 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.

1) it has air circulation.  The Venus Fly Trap needs to have air flow around it ( or atleast do not let the air stagnate- this will cause mold/fungus and the plant

cannot handle that).  To help this out you can add a fan to the terrarium or open the lib slightly once or twice a week.  Not too much, then you let out all the humidity, just a little.  You will lose some, but the benefits are

greater and it is easier to recover from that than have none at all!

2) The lighting in the tank needs to be good.  The Venus Fly Trap loves light, sometimes terrariums are built more for humidity and not lighting. OR it is just hard to get the right lighting for the plants at the bottom.  If you can, place it by a window to give it lighter ( if you do this, you MUST open the lid slightly so you do not fry the plant -soil temps!! )

The best thing you can do for your Venus Fly Trap is to put it in a dish of distilled water and sit it in the window or outside.  Just keep the water in the dish filled and everything will be OK.

How long can my Venus Fly Trap live for?

With proper care ( dormancy and other requirements for the plant ), it can live pass 10-20 years.

There are reports that they can live beyond that, but again, it all relies on how the plant is treated.

What can my Venus Fly Trap eat?

Knowing that Venus Fly Trap’s do not have to consume anything is the first step.  Some Venus Fly Trap’s go through their whole life not catching a single bug ( those are the slow ones ).

However, think of the plant ( as with all other carnivorous plants ) catching prey as 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!  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!

Just because a plant does not ‘eat’ does not mean that it will be healthy.  As mentioned above, some plants will go through their life and not catch a bug.  Sure, ‘eating’ makes you grow…you will notice the plant grow a

little faster and better.  But if it doesn’t eat…it will still grow, just not as fast.

What type of soil does my Venus Fly Trap 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/garden stores.  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 Venus Fly Trap…

The Venus Fly Trap 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 of suggestions for those that HAVE TO replant their Venus Fly Trap:

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!)

How do I make a peat ‘Tea’?

Many people have now learned about adding things to the soil that are not harmful for the plant.  One thing is making a PEAT TEA.  By doing this, you do not have to repot and you can add acidic content to the soil.  Here is

what you need:

1) Get some panty hose or cheese cloth

2) Get a jug of distilled water, glass pitcher, plastic bottle

3) Get some Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss

Now that you have these things….Here is what you do:

1) Pack some peat moss into the pantyhose/cheese cloth.  Be sure to pack it as much as you can so that you get in as much as possible.  Be gentle though not to rip/break the cloth/hose

2) Place your ‘TEA BAG’ in the water bottle. jug, container

3) Sit this out in the sun for a couple days!  It is best to do this in the Spring/Summer when the light is more intense.

4) After a couple of days, you have now made PEAT TEA!  Pour this around the plant ( This is one of a few times that I advocate pouring water around the

plant ).  Be sure to pour around the plant and NEVER ON TOP OF.  You may cause rot/mold/fungus to grow on your plant and damage/kill it!  Water with this until it is gone.  You have now increased the acidity in the soil and

your plant will love you for it!

I want to fertilize my plant to make it bigger, how do I do it?

NEVER fertilize your Venus Fly Trap.  It will die.  These plants in the wild, grow in very poor soil that is void of all nutrient content.  For this reason, the plant has evolved to catch insects in order to get what most other plants get from their soil/fertilizing.  With this evolution, the roots cannot take any type of fertilizing. So if you fertilize the plant, it will burn the roots and you take a very good chance on it dying.

Think about feeding your plant ( whether bugs or an alternative source of food )  as fertilizer.  That is pretty much what it is.  So, feeding your plant 1-2 times a month ( or better yet, allowing it to catch its own food ) will be good enough for the Venus Fly Trap.

How do I make my Venus Fly Trap bigger?

This is something that will just take time.  In the wild, these plants will take up to 5 years to reach maturity.  5 YEARS!!  With the advent of Tissue Culturing, the plant can now reach a very nice size in about 1 year.  With  each passing winter and spring, the Venus Fly Trap will get larger and larger ( that is if proper care is provided for the plant ).  Traps on the plant can reach 1-2 inches, but the size of the plant will not be much bigger than 6 inches in diameter.  That is it.

What Temperatures does my Venus Fly Trap need?

Venus Fly Traps needs and will thrive in temperatures of 60’s-low 90’s.  Generally they will get on average of 70’s-mid 80’s.  NEVER allow your plant to freeze.  The plant is tolerant of temperatures into the low 40’s, but this is not advisable over time.  During the winter the plants will be able to take a light frost, but not much past mid 30’s.

How does my Venus Fly Trap attract bugs?

There are a couple of ways that the plant will attract its food:

1)The color of the traps.  Bugs are attracted to bright color, and during the summer, the inner traps of the Venus Fly Trap will turn to a dark red.  This mimics flower colors and the bugs are drawn to it.

2)Scent.  The Venus Fly Trap produces a scent that will attract its prey.  That combined with the color makes for a prefect way to find its meal.

I have a Flower on my plant.  What do I do?

In the Spring and sometimes in the Summer and Fall, your Venus Fly Trap will produce a flower scape.  When this happens.  Promptly remove it.  The plant will use great energy to produce that flower and the seed.  To keep your plant happy and healthy, cut the flower scape off with some scissors.  Wait until it reaches a size of 2-4 inches, then SNIP!  No Muss no Fuss!!

Due to the plentiful availability of Venus Fly Trap’s, it will be much better ( mentally too ), to go out and buy another Venus Fly Trap than to make seed and try to grow from that.

How long does it take to grow a plant from seed?

Growing a Venus Fly Trap from seed can take years to get to a mature size.  Plus it takes up to a month sometimes to get the seeds to sprout!!  If you are planning buying seeds, ask the seller if they have been stratified?

What is stratified?

Think of the lie cycle of the plant.  In the spring, summer, the plant will flower, make seed and then the seed will fall to the ground.   Winter will come and chill things off.  Allowing for the plant to go dormant.  This is needed so the seeds know when to sprout ( in the spring ).  In the spring, the temperatures will warm up and more light will be available for the plants/seeds, so the plants will come out of dormancy and the seeds will sprout.

So, this all means that Venus Fly Trap seeds need to be chilled in order to grow.  You can place them in your freezer, refrigerator for a few weeks, months.

I can’t wait a long time for seed, what else can I do to make more Venus Fly Trap’s?

Well, there are a few ‘other’ ways to make more Venus Fly Trap’s

1)Separation.  From beneath the mother plant ( the original one you have ) you will notice babies ( plantlets ).  You can separate these plantlets from the mother plant when they are of a decent size and  have developed a good root system.  OR  You can leave them by the momma and allow them to colonize your whole pot.  Then you will have a colony of DEATH <evil laugh>

2)You can take a leaf cutting.  What you do is, take a leaf, and gently pull downward taking some of the white part of the plant ( the rhizome ).  Then you plant that leaf in peat moss and cover with some sort of dome.  What you want to accomplish is high humidity.  Provide the leaf with bright light and wait.  In about 6 to 8 weeks, you should notice little plantlets forming around the base of the leaf.  Allow the plant to get to a decent size, and then you can remove them to their own pot.  Make sure that there are roots on the plantlets ( to ensure survival )

3)Tissue culture.  Probably the fastest way to do things. But the most time consuming.. This involves many items.  But basically, removing a piece of the rhizome, rinsing it in a solution of 10% bleach and water, then transferring that into a container ( test tube, jar, something with a lid ) that would contain a grow media ( like agar with hormones and vitamins )  Then placing that in a sterile environment.  From that piece of tissue, you can produce many new plants.  You would then remove those plants and make more.

What is CITES?

CITES stands for the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species.  The Venus Fly Trap is a CITES II plant. That means the possible extinction in the future.  People dealing in these plants are required to have permits in order to distribute these plants internationally. And sometimes within a country.

I have heard of other kinds of Venus Fly Trap’s, is that true?

Yes.  There are many new hybrids of Venus Fly Trap’s being produced and traded/sold.  There are so many to name, but here are a few.  Some are simply mutations that are not easily reproduced while others have been made in a lab environment:

  1. Dente – having fused cilia ( hairs ) giving it the appearance of teeth
  2. Red Dragon – this is an all red version of the Typical Fly Trap ( also referred to as common  Venus Fly Trap ).  This plant is actually property of the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and those that reproduce the plant must pay royalties for it.
  3. Green Dragon – this is a cross of a red dragon and a common Venus Fly Trap. The outcome is a larger, faster growing Venus Fly Trap.  The traps can exceed 1 ½ inches.
  4. Heterodoxa – this is a plant that is all green.  With the common Venus Fly Trap, a lot of sunlight will produce red ( or pink ) in the traps.  Not with this guy.  No red at all.
  5. Piranha – This is a cross between a Red Dragon and a Dente.  The outcome, a red dente.  Very cool plant!!
  6. Saw tooth – this is a plant that is similar to the Dente, but with fewer ‘teeth’.
  7. Royal Red – An Australian product.  The plant is similar to a Red Dragon and a Green Dragon.  The coloring goes into the stems, petioles.  Shades of red throughout the plant.

I have a plant with traps that are turning black, what do I do?

When you have a trap that is turning black, it is best to remove it right away.  Only cut off the trap, not the stem, as this will help the plant to continue to produce energy via photosynthesis.  If the stem is black as well, then it is best to remove the whole stem/trap.  Allowing it to remain can cause mold, rotting of good leaves.  Remember that it is best to do this for these reasons.  This is not to say that the plant will rot, but you will remove a potential situation.

Is it true that the venus Fly Trap leaves will open and shut 3 times?

The traps on the plant are designed to function so many times.  Three to four is an average and is pretty much consistent.  Sometimes it might be one or two, and sometimes it might be five or six.  But generally speaking the plant’s mechanics are designed to operate a few times.

My Fly Trap isn’t closing on the bug, what’s wrong?

Over time, the traps will lose their ability to catch insects.  At a certain point the traps will do one of a few things:

1)Stop working all together.  Totally not function.

2)Close slowly.

3)Turn inside out.  If this happens, the trap has officially become a leaf, and will help bring energy to the plant ( photosynthesis )

4)The trap will die ( turn black )

My Fly Trap caught a bug, how long will it take to eat it?

Generally the process for the plant to consume the insect can take up to a week.  After that point, the trap will open and the remains will be left behind.  These are the skeletons, and other non-soft tissue parts that the plant could not break down with its enzymes.

How do I get rid of the bug once the trap opens back up?

Many people will wash the bug out with water.  Misting it and tilting it will remove the bug.  Some will blow it out.

In nature, this is how it would happen for the plant.  Just remember not to stick something in the trap to remove the bug.  The trap will close and you will lose one of its four lives!!

Where I live, I can’t find bugs, what do I do?

Remember that it is not important to feed your plant.  The plant will respond to whatever it catches, but it is not necessary.  Some plants will go through their lives without catching a single insect.

If you are in desperate need of finding an insect for your plant you can visit your local pet store.  They normally will carry crickets, meal worms and other bugs that are fed to various animals.  Just remember to feed the Venus Fly Trap live bugs.  Dead ones will not work.

Why do I have to feed the plant live bugs?

The whole process of the plant eating a bug will revolve around the fact that the bug is alive.  When the Venus Fly Trap catches an insect, the bug will naturally try to escape.  When this happens the bug will trigger the same hairs that it triggered to get caught.  Over the course of a day or so, with the bug constantly triggering these hairs, the plant will start to release it digestive enzymes.  Thus allowing for the plant to have a meal.  No live bug, no meal.

I want to feed it a cricket, but I cannot get it to stay still so I can do it….

Here is what you do.  You take the cricket.  Place it in a baggie.  Place that in the freezer ( yes freezer ) and then wait for about 15-20 seconds.  After that point the bug will be in a state of suspended animation.  You can then place the bug into the trap and VIOLA!! No fuss no muss!!!

Sometimes when I feed the plant, the traps don’t shut all the way…

If this happens it means that the bug is too big for the trap.  Remember that the insects should be ¾ the size of the trap.  This will allow for the plant to completely close around the bug.  If the seal is not tight, bacteria can form inside the trap and the trap will die.  Not the whole plant, just the trap that caught a bug.  When this happens, promptly remove the trap, but leave the stem part.

This one time, at band camp, I fed it a bug and it started to turn black….

Bacteria has made its way into the trap during its breakdown process of the bug.  OR  Sometimes Venus Fly Traps will not like what you feed them.  The plant will let you know by showing you.  ( Trap starting to turn black….black spot )  If this happens, remove the trap, but leave the stem.

What types of bugs do I feed my plant?

Rule of thumb:  feed your plant something that is soft bodied.  Crickets, mosquitoes, flies, spiders.  The plant really doesn’t like ants, some spiders, roaches, grasshoppers, wasps, bees.

Keep in mind that if you feed it something and the trap turns black, the plant did not like it.  Cut off the trap, but leave the stem.

I see pictures of plants that have red in them, but mine don’t, what’s wrong?

In order to achieve the red coloration in the traps, the plant will require good lighting.  Think of it as a sign that you are providing the plant with enough light.

But Remember:

Depending on where you are depends on the amount of sunlight the plant can tolerate.  In the wild the plant comes from North and South Carolina.  Zone 5 ( more on the ‘zone later’ ) so what direct lighting is in that area of the world, isn’t the same as in other parts.

In the South ( US ), the light is more intense and the plant cannot take the direct light.  Up North, the light isn’t as strong and the plant can take the direct light.  The Southwest isn’t ideal for the plant to take direct sun either.

A north window is an ideal place for most CP’s.

When in doubt, you can always put the plant into indirect sun. A north or south facing window will work.  After the period of a month, if the plant appears to be reaching for the light, you can reestablish it to a brighter location.   Then go from there.

What Zone am I in?

See zone map

What else could I feed my Venus Fly Trap

Many people are of a belief that it isn’t right to kill ANYTHING.  This would include bugs ( as sick as some people think they are ).  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! )

2) Other people have used egg whites ( Yes egg whites ).  It contains the same 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 one ).  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)

Ok, so could I just skip making my own and go find one in the wild?

Absolutely not!  These plants are a Federally Watched species ( on the CITES list of plant/animals ).  Meaning that they are borderline endangered ( if not already ) in the wild.

The harvesting ( pulling from the wild ) of these plants is subject to high fines and possible jail time.

And now with the abundance of tissue cultured plants, it is so easy ( and cheap ) to obtain a new Venus Fly Trap without breaking the law.

What about Sand for my VFT?

Many people have used sand with their soil mix for all CP’s.  It important to remember a few things though:

1)Silica sand – this is your friend.  This hasn’t the salts that other sands have.  Like play sand.

2)Never use beach sand.  It contains salts which will be harmful for the plants.

3)Some people have recommended silver sand or quartz sands along with silica sand as an additive for your soil mix.

Many CP’s in the wild will live in a soil mix that contains sand along with peat moss.  So for some plants, it is important to add this to your soil.  If finding sand is a problem, you can use perlite.

Tell me about artificial lighting and VFT’s…

Can I use plant lights or artificial lights to grow Venus Fly Traps?

Many people live in area where light is a problem for their CP’s.  With that in mind I offer the following for light solutions for your VFT ( others will be in their specific plant type ).

1)Cool white:  probably the best and easiest to find.  All you need to do is keep the light about 8 inches from the plant and leave it on for 10-13 hours a day.  Many people will offer more light for the plant, some will offer less.  I find that more light doesn’t hurt VFT’s, but you want to allow it some time to rest.  Remember:  these are full sun plants ( in their natural habitat )…I do not think that it is possible to give them too much artificial light.

2)Warn White:  If you have a setup for multiple lighting, I would recommend adding one of these to your mix.  Different lights will put out different colors and the bigger spectrum of light you can offer your plant the better.

3)Sun lights/full spectrum light:  This is a great light to have as well.  Many people will have a 4 fixture light over their plants and this is one I currently use to add a little more to the plants.

When using these lights bulbs you are trying to emulate the sun and the effects that it has on the plants.  So if possible adding different lights will give you an overall wide spectrum of lighting that your plant will appreciate.

How often do I water my VFT’s?

It is necessary to always keep your VFT’s wet.  Leaving them in a try of water that is 1 to 1 ½ inches is the best thing for them.

Only during the winter time do you reduce the watering to just keeping it moist.

Also, when you are watering your VFT’s, it is important to water them from the tray and not to water them overhead.  This will reduce the chance of rotting of the leaves, plant.  Even though this plant lives in conditions that are always wet ( a bog, swamp ), rotting is still a possibility.  So to reduce that risk, water from the bottom.

I want to transplant my VFT into a clay pot.  Should I?

It is important to remember a few things when you have decided to transplant your VFT.  And despite all my attempts at saying otherwise, you still want to do this remember:

1)An unglazed clay pot is a bad thing.  These plants cannot take the salts and chemicals in the clay.  So getting a glazed pot will reduce that down.  Also, the clay pot that is unglazed will pull the moisture out of the soil.  Since the plant needs all the water, that is a bad thing

2)A glazed pot will work if you want to use on.  A drain hole is optional, but probably preferred.  I say this so you can water the plant via the tray method and not dump water over the top.  This will help reduce the risk of rotting and also losing the soil.

3)A plastic pot is the best thing for a carnivorous plant. ( VFT ).  The pot will not take away moisture, and will not contain any chemicals or salts that are harmful for the plant.

I have mold growing on the soil.  Will it hurt my plants?

Yes.  If you notice mold growing on the soil, it is not a good sign.  There are a couple of things you can do:

  1. Fungicide: Cleary3336 ® or Banrot ® are two great fungicides that will treat the mold without hurting the plants.  Apply either when you see any signs of mold and then use as a monthly preventative treatment and you should have no problems.
  2. Replace the soil.  If you have mold, and no fungicide, another option is to scrape off the top layer of soil, throw it away and then replace with new soil.  This will also help to clear up any problems.

Mold can attack the plant as well as the soil.  Since these plants live in constantly wet conditions, it is not uncommon for them to develop a mold/fungus problem.  Air circulation is something that will help prevent some of the molds and fungus from starting.  Stagnant air is something that is very bad for CP’s.  You always want to have some air flow for these plants.  If you have them in a tank, periodically raise the lid to allow for fresh air.  Or better yet, get a small fan and place in the tank.  This will allow for the air flow and fresh air that the plant needs and mold doesn’t!

I have Venus Fly Trap babies growing beside the bigger one, can I replant them?

Yes you can, but only if you check a couple of things first.

1)You want to make sure that the plant is big enough and able to be transplanted.  Remember that these plants will go through tremendous shock from being transplanted.

2)Try to pull as much of the soil around the plant as you can.  It is important not to disturb the roots of the plants at all costs!! Taking soil from around the baby ( plantlet ) you will be doing it making favors and increasing the chance of its survival.

3)Wait.  I normally wait until the winter time to take plantlets from the mother plant ( the bigger one ).  VFT’s can ‘skip’ a year of dormancy if they are under a year old or are just out of being tissue cultured.  So right before you put your big VFT to sleep, I would take the babies and plant them into their own containers and take care of them until the next winter when it will be there turn to sleep.

I see these little things on the soil and things flying around my plant, will they harm it?

Probably not.  What you are seeing are called fungus gnats and their larvae.  These guys will be around any soil that is always moist.  The gnats will lay their eggs in the soil.  There is a way to get rid of them.  Buy a Sundew ( Drosera ) or Butterwort ( Pinguicula ).  These plants will catch the adults that are flying around the VFT’s and will in turn stop them from making more.

If you see other things hopping around the soil, these are springtails.

Both are harmless for the plants, but just hang out around soils that are constantly moist.

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