Q. Do you have advice on growing and caring for a Venus fly trap?
The fascinating Venus fly trap, Dionaea muscipula, is not the easiest plant to take care of. Here are several factors to consider.
- Light: They need a lot of sun, the more direct sun the better. Insufficient light is probably one of the main reasons these plants don't do well.
- Water: Venus fly traps are very sensitive to chemicals in water. Tap water is not recommended. Distilled water is better. Alternatively, you can run water through a Brita filter then let the filtered water sit overnight to offgas chlorine.
- How to water: Top watering is not recommended. Pour the water that has been offgassing and pour into a small dish holding the plant pot. During the warm active growing season, always keep 1/4-1/2 inch of water in the dish. In winter, fill the dish to 1/4-1/2 inch, but let the dish become dry before adding more water.
- Fertilizer: Never fertilize these plants. They evolved in soil with poor nutrients and don't like fertilizer.
- "Feeding:" One way these plants developed to obtain nitrogen in poor soil conditions was to trap insects. However, this is not necessary. The plants will produce enough food through photosynthesis.
- "Feeding" part 2: Although no "food" is needed, most people like to try. If you want to, here are some tips:
- NEVER use beef or chicken or any other animal flesh. They contain proteins and fats that the plants can't break down and so they will kill the trap.
- Crickets work really well. At a pet store where you can buy individual crickets, try to buy the smallest ones you can. Then place them in a plastic bag and put them in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to make them sluggish so they won't jump away. Carefully and gently place a cricket into a trap. Be sure to touch at least two of the hairs inside the trap to make it close. Now when the trap closes it is sort of a "loose" close. If the plant captures a live insect it continues to struggle, sending a message to the plant to close up even more tightly. Once this happens a seal is created. Then digestive enzymes fill the trap and dissolve the soft parts of the insect.
- You can remove the insect carcass or "shell" if you like, but it's not necessary. It's more of an aesthetic thing because the trap mostly likely won't be used again unless you decide to "feed" it again. But the truth is you could never "feed" it and it will be fine.
- Dormancy: These plants need to go through a period of dormancy in winter. By October/November the leaves (traps) will be dying. This is normal because light is diminishing and days are getting colder. Don't keep your plant in a warm spot--cold is needed for dormancy. A cold window area is good. Some people place them in a Ziploc bag in the refrigerator, but it's best not to do that because although the plant is dormant, it still needs light. Plus you still need to water in winter as described above.
- Repotting: The plant will be fine in the pot and soil it came in for quite a while. But if you do repot, do it in spring. Use a soil mix with a lot of peat moss or sphagnum moss. Avoid mixes with fertilizer in the soil. A plastic pot is probably best because it helps the soil retain moisture. The pot shouldn't be too big.
- Flowering: Dionaea grow tiny white flowers that are kind of pretty. However, it's best to remove them before they bloom, because flowering takes a lot energy from the plant and can reduce the number of leaves being produced. But if you want seeds to try and grow, then let the plant flower and collect the seeds.
Try not to play with the traps by sticking things into them. They can only close 3 or 4 times before dying.
For tips on a variety of gardening topics, see our Plant Information Guides.
- Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service