by Matt Gibson
Every wanted to grow a venus flytrap? Venus flytraps are the most widely known and widely grown carnivorous plant. Flytraps and all other carnivorous plants are native to bogs and are the result of natural adaptations caused by a humid environment with poor soil conditions. Carnivorous plants couldn’t depend on the soil to provide nutrients for them to thrive, so the bog plants developed other ways of getting the food and fertilization that they require to live.
Some carnivorous plants developed pitfall traps, where the leaves formed deep pools that were coated and partially filled with digestive enzymes that encouraged insects to slip down into the liquid-filled pitchers, where the enzymes would work to break down and consume the trapped insects in the same way that your stomach breaks down a meal.
Other bog plants developed super-sticky leaves that will trap any insect that lands upon them, some made suction cup leaves, or long, inescapable chambers with entrances that close up behind the prey that crawls or flies inside.
The Venus flytrap, however, became equipped with what is known as snap traps. These hinged, sharp-toothed leaves feature tiny hairs that are triggered when prey lands inside the trap, When the hairs are touched, the doors snap shut around the prey, trapping the insect inside its airtight chamber and feeding on it while it is still alive inside. Aside from being incredibly odd, these swamp-dwelling, insect-devouring plants are surprisingly easy to grow, if given the right environment.
Growing Conditions for Venus Flytraps
Despite their otherworldly namesake, Venus flytraps do not come from Venus, but rather, from the bogs that habitat a few small humid areas in North and South Carolina. It requires a moist, even slightly soggy acidic based soil, preferably a mix of equal parts peat moss and sand. The peat moss will help with water retention and the sand will encourage drainage, so they will make the perfect pair to suit your needs.
The water that you use is also a key factor to your success when growing flytraps and other carnivorous plants. Using tap water will not work in this case, as carnivorous plants are very sensitive to minerals and other chemicals that tap water usually contains. Rainwater will work perfectly, otherwise use distilled water or reverse osmosis water to keep the unwanted nutrients out.
Instead of watering from the top like you do with most garden plants, it’s better to submerge the dish of your flytraps in standing water. This is necessary because carnivorous plants rely on their sensory tissue to be able to notice and attract living prey, which can be tough to do when covered in drops of water, as water moves and shifts as it trickles down the plant, which can confuse the tiny hairs to mistake the rain for potential prey.
The environment in which you are growing Venus flytraps needs to be very humid. If you have a humidifier setup, your growing room should be set at 60% humidity, with daytime temperature ranging between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Flytraps will not survive cold temperatures, and at nighttime, they need temperatures of at least 55 F to survive.
If you don’t happen to live in an area that is hot, humid and perfectly suited to carnivorous plants, there is still an alternative option available. This option is to create your own terrarium. Repurpose an old aquarium, or find another large glass container that can be sealed air tight and make your own mini bog-like environment.
Line the inside of your terrarium with a mixture of two parts sphagnum moss and one part sand. Encourage humidity and moisture retention and be sure to supply some living and preferably flying food once your plants are established by releasing some insects inside the container. Place your terrarium in an east-facing window with high indirect lighting and adjust moisture levels as needed, never letting the soil become completely dry.
Planting Venus Flytraps
If you are new to growing carnivorous plants, we recommend that you do not attempt to grow them from seed, but order small, already established plants online or purchase them from your local nursery (if they have an oddities section). Growing flytraps from seed is not an impossible task, but can be tedious and does require a tremendous amount of care for a very low success rate.
If you decide to try your hand at growing Venus flytraps from seed, this guide should get you pointed in the right direction. Once you get your hands on some flytraps, plant them at least three inches apart to allow a little bit of space and room to expand.
How to Care for Venus Flytraps
No fertilizers are needed for Venus flytraps, due to their sensitivity to nutrients and their ability to thrive in nutrient-poor soils. Water with distilled water, rainwater, or tap water only, and maintain a consistent environment of humidity and dampness. Instead of fertilizer, flytraps require live insects in order to get the nutrients that they need to thrive, so ensure that they are in an area where they are exposed to insects, or provide them with insects yourself by releasing insects in their terrariums.
If you cannot use living insects to feed your flytraps, you will need to trick the plant into consuming dead ones. Place the dead insect inside the traps and gently tickle the inside of the traps with a toothpick to get them to snap shut and begin breaking down your offerings.
Though somewhat difficult to start, seeds can be produced and harvested directly from the flowers of the plant. When your flytrap starts to bloom, you must make a choice. To cut or not to cut? We suggest cutting the blooms down more often than not to promote healthy plant growth and keep your flytraps strong, but the blooms can be an especially enjoyable part of growing flytraps.
The flowers that flytraps produce are quite odd and stunning, but they put too much strain on the plants themselves, as making them requires a lot of energy that could otherwise be focused on capturing and consuming insects. If you are satisfied with the amount of flytraps that you have and your plants are not yet overgrowing their containers, it is probably best to remove the bloom as soon as it starts to form. However, if you are ready to propagate and want to try your hand growing from seed, allowing the blooms to unfold is the only way to do it.
When the flowers pollinate, they create seeds. If you are harvesting the seeds, allow them four to six weeks to mature and become black and pear-shaped before harvesting. Refrigerate them inside of a paper towel in a plastic container to begin the germination process.
The easiest way to reproduce more Venus flytraps, however, is through division. Flytraps will reproduce asexually if they are not allowed to flower and pollinate. They do this by extending their roots and growing a bulb root, from which a new plant will grow.
To divide your flytraps when they reproduce, gently remove the plant from the soil, loosely and patiently brushing away the soil until the roots are fully exposed. Then, with a clean pair of garden shears, carefully separate the new plants by cutting the connecting roots and separating the new, smaller plants, from the parent plant. Now you are ready to replant.
Garden Pests and Diseases of Venus Flytraps
Venus flytraps and other carnivorous plants may eat insects, but they still have to deal with certain garden pests that they don’t consider food. Aphids, mealybugs, snails, slugs and caterpillars can sometimes impair carnivorous plants. However, sprays that are recommended for plant use won’t hurt your flytraps any more than other plants, and are probably the best solution to pest problems.
Because of the humidity level needed to grow carnivorous plants, you will also need to keep a close eye out for any signs of fungus growing in your terrariums or in your flytrap habitats.
Botrytis, a fluffy grey mold which can sometimes infect Sarracenias and Venus flytraps around the spring or autumn seasons. Try fungicide if you think you may have caught it early enough, but most likely, you will have to cut away and discard all infected plant materials to save the plants if Botrytis occurs. As a preventative measure, keep a close eye on the drainage and ensure that the humidity does not cause a buildup of stagnant water, which can lead to unwanted fungus and mold growth.
Videos About Venus Flytraps
One of the coolest things about Venus flytraps is watching them devour their prey. This nearly 30-minute long compilation shows flytraps devouring everything that dares to fly or crawl into it’s traps, including flies, snails, and mealworms:
BBC makes some incredible films that document the world’s plant and animal kingdoms. Their award-winning nature documentaries highlight many strange, beautiful, and rarely-seen glimpses of the wonders of nature.
The first series, Planet Earth focused on the various types of locations that the planet has to offer, such as mountains, oceans, forests, caves, deserts, and more. The second series, Blue Planet, focuses solely on oceans and ocean life, while the third series, Life, focused on the world’s plants and animals specifically. This clip, from Life, is all about the Venus Flytrap, and it’s a must-see short. It’s narrated by David Attenborough and beautifully filmed:
This tutorial video teaches you how to grow and care for Venus flytraps in containers. Just under 10 minutes long, this informative how-to guide is a helpful tool when beginning your own flytrap garden:
This instructional video from YouTube user and terrarium expert SerpaDesign, teaches you how to make your own Venus flytrap terrarium setup. The finished terrarium that he creates in this video is quite stunning:
Want to make a terrarium of your own for growing Venus flytraps? This video, also by YouTuber SerpaDesign, teaches you how to upkeep and maintenance your flytrap terrariums to keep them thriving and free of pests, disease, or mold:
This fun science video teaches you all you need to know about the inner workings of the Venus flytrap. Filled with interesting facts about the Venus flytrap, this clip also explains exactly how the plant catches and consumes its prey: