Venus Flytrap Care
Venus Fly Trap Overview
The Venus Flytrap, Dionaea muscipula, is a carnivorous plant that dines on insects and arachnids. The tip of each leaf has a clam shell style trap that closes when tiny trigger hairs are tripped by prey. Two or more trigger hairs within the trap must be tripped for the plant to capture the prey and begin digestion. This prevents wasted energy when debris falls into the trap and trips a single hair. The Venus fly trap is a very unique plant that has adapted to environments with high organic matter and few nutrients. Carnivorous plants feed on bugs due to the lack of nutrients within the soil.
Growing and caring for Venus fly traps is unlike many common plants and houseplants. The soil must remain moist, while being acidic with little nutrient value. Providing nutrients via fertilizer is not possible. The plant must trap its food sources to grow larger. Water type is very important as well.
Soil for Venus Fly Traps
Venus fly traps have adapted to conditions that have very acidic soil. Do not use potting soil. Potting soil is too rich and will burn the roots of the fly trap. A soil medium consisting of peat moss and perlite is perfect for Venus fly traps. Make sure the peat moss is not enriched with nutrients. Perlite is mixed into the peat to add aeration for the roots which promotes a healthy root system. Perlite has a neutral pH and will not throw off the needed acidity provided by the peat moss.
The mixture can be blended in a bucket or pot. Add water until the peat moss is saturated. Peat moss can absorb quite a bit of water, so be sure to use enough to thicken the mixture but do not turn into a soupy mixture.
Watering Venus Fly Traps
Venus fly traps require water that is pure. Tap water is not pure and cannot be used to water Venus fly traps due to the high amount of dissolved solids within. These solids are usually that of chlorine, calcium, sodium, and several others. These solids build up on the root system of the fly trap and eventually kill it. Pure water is that of rainwater, distilled water, or reserve osmosis filtered water. These types of water are free of dissolved solids and possible contaminants.
How to Water
The soil needs to remain moist at all times. The root zone should not be soggy and saturated, but uniformly moist. The tray method is an easy way to water Venus fly traps if it is in a warm environment with direct lighting. Simply fill a tray or shallow bowl with water and place the potted fly trap into the water. The pot must have holes in the bottom to allow water to be slowly drawn up by the peat moss and into the roots. The tray method is suitable for a warm environment and direct sunlight only. If these conditions do not exist, then hand water by taking note of how moist the soil is from day to day.
Venus fly traps enter dormancy during the winter months. It should be watered occasionally, usually only a few times a month. Growth is slowed during dormancy and the fly traps require less water.
Light for Venus Fly Traps
The Venus Flytrap needs sunlight for photosynthetic processes just like every other plant. Light provides growth, but the plant will remain relatively small if left unfed and reliant on only sunlight.
Venus fly traps should receive 12 hours of light with 4-5 hours of direct light. They can be grown outside during warm months and will receive plenty of lighting and food on their own. Fly traps can be grown inside but require light from a south, east, or west facing window. The center of the traps should be a reddish/pink color when receiving proper sunlight.
Sunlight is the best source of light, but artificial light works as well. Compact fluorescent bulbs will suffice, but the fly trap needs to be placed within 12 inches of the bulb. Be careful not to burn the traps, and move the plant further away from the light if burning occurs. The center of the traps should be a reddish/pink color when receiving proper lighting. Fluorescent bulbs do not emit intense lighting, hence the close placement of the plant to the bulb. Fluorescent bulbs span the entire color spectrum and are often referred to "cool white" bulbs. More expensive metal halide bulbs are used for vegetative growth due to the cooler colors and lower wavelengths emitted. Metal halide bulbs are optimal, but not necessary.
How the Venus Flytrap Works
Feeding Venus Fly Traps
Carnivorous plants that grow in nature are able to attract and consume insects and arachnids. Venus fly traps grown outside will have no problem catching their prey and feeding themselves. However, fly traps grown inside will need a bit of human intervention to capture their prey. Flies are an obvious choice, but mosquitoes, slugs, and crickets are favorites of Venus fly traps as well. These bugs can be caught and fed to the plant.
A very easy way to capture mosquitoes is just to wait for them to bite, and capture them in the act. Injuring a mosquito (or any prey) then placing it in a trap is the best way to coerce the trap into closing, and more importantly, the trap will begin digestion. The trigger hairs are constantly being tripped by the captured prey which sends signals to begin digestion.
Dead prey placed into a trap will not trip enough trigger hairs. Venus fly traps can be tricked into consuming dead prey as long as the hairs are tripped a few times via a small piece of wire or a pin. Once the trap closes on the prey, gently squeeze both lobes of the trap together. This stimulates the trigger hairs as well. This may not always work, which is why live bugs are preferred.
Die-back is completely normal. Traps turn brown when they start to die. The dead traps can be left as is because they add solids and nutrients back into the soil. New traps will begin to grow as soon as the older traps begin to die.
Off-season die-back is also normal. Traps will not grow as rapidly and as numerous during the off-season. Die-back will usually occur as the off-season approaches.