TLDR Venus Flytrap Care Summary
Water Your Venus Flytrap with Distilled Water
Ditch the Humidity Dome
Plenty of Sunshine
Feed Your Venus Flytrap (but not too much)
Respect Your Flytrap’s Dormancy
Bonus Item: Enjoy Growing Your Venus flytrap!!
Growing Venus Flytraps – Basic Care
Hey, did you just pick up an awesome new Venus flytrap from HomeDepot/Walmart/your local nursery? That’s super! Actually, that is exactly how your dear author got started with carnivorous plants some 20+ years ago (more time than I’d like to admit). Maybe this is your first, second, or even third time trying to grow Dionaea muscipula (fancy Latin name for Venus flytrap), and I know exactly how tough it can be to keep your awesome new plant producing big, beautiful traps. -I’ve definitely killed my fair share.
Let’s talk about how to grow a Venus flytrap, keeping it alive and healthy. I go into tons of plant-specific detail on our Venus flytrap genus page, but what about the basics? – Those essential quick tips to help a new grower. Strap in, because here’s your crash course:
Water Your Venus Flytrap with Distilled Water
First thing’s first. Your Venus flytrap requires distilled water. I have an in-depth post dedicated to water quality and types of distillation methods, but the bottom line, and all you really need to know, is that you should water your Venus flytrap with water that has undergone reverse osmosis. You can buy gallon jugs from your local grocery store (usually about $0.99 each), get the stuff delivered via water delivery services like Sparkletts, or install a reverse osmosis system under your sink (which, by the way, makes for excellent drinking water). Use a shallow water tray, and keep it filled during the growing season.
Avoid spring and tap water – the mineral content is too high, and it will damage and eventually kill your flytrap.
Ditch the Dome
Chances are that your Venus flytrap came in a clear plastic container. This plastic dome is great to retain humidity (and moisture, in general), and protects your carnivorous plant in transit from greenhouse to store, and store to your home. Once you’ve got the plant home, chances are you’re going to smother the thing with love, give it enough water to keep it happy, and avoid knocking it around. The dome has served its purpose, and it’s now time to liberate your flytrap so that it has room to spread out, unencumbered. Go ahead and carefully remove the plant from its plastic cage.
If you live in a humid area, you can simply remove and recycle the plastic container. If you live in a drier region, it’s best to acclimate the plant to lower humidity levels. Start by removing the flytrap from its container for a few hours, then returning it for the rest of the day. Each day, remove the plant for a couple extra hours. After a few days, you can remove it entirely.
Do note that without the humidity dome, moisture will be lost to evaporation at a quicker rate, so keep an eye on soil moisture, and don’t let it dry out!
Plenty of Sunshine
Your new Venus flytrap will appreciate ample sunshine. I grow mine outdoors in sunny Southern California in mostly direct sunlight (the plants are shaded from direct afternoon sun by some taller, nearby pitcher plants). Outdoors or sunny windowsills should suffice.
If you picked up your flytrap from a store where it was kept inside, you’ll want to adapt the plant to brighter conditions over the course of a week to avoid frying it. Similar to the humidity acclimation method discussed above, go ahead and expose the plant to more and more light over the course of a week. By the end of the week, the worst case will be a little bit of plant sunburn. The best case is the plant will perk up and start producing pinkish red hues on the interior of traps.
Remember, more sun = hotter = more evaporation, so keep your flytrap’s soil moist, but not soaking wet.
Feeding Your Venus Flytrap
I think we can all agree that feeding a Venus flytrap is the coolest thing about owning one. What’s the best way to feed a flytrap?
What can you feed a Venus flytrap?
Stick to bugs. Don’t feed your flytrap meat, or anything other than what it would naturally catch in the wild. Anything else will cause the traps to rot before the plant can extract sufficient nutrients from the food. Make sure the bugs are 1/3 to 1/2 the size of the trap itself, so that the trap can completely seal around the insect without it poking out between the teeth or causing the trap to bulge. Anything bigger, and the trap will have a hard time sealing and may rot. Anything smaller, and the prey may escape between the teeth.
How do you feed a Venus flytrap?
Small trigger hairs within a flytrap need to be touched twice within a span of 20 seconds for the trap to snap closed. Once it is closed, a live insect will continue to wiggle around, touching the hairs more, causing the trap to seal and digest. If you’re feeding the plant dead insects, you’ll need to slide a toothpick between the teeth and gently rub the inside surface of the trap to stimulate the trigger hairs manually.
Can you overfeed a Venus flytrap?
If grown outdoors, your flytrap will almost certainly catch enough food to keep it happy. If you’re growing indoors, a simple rule of thumb is to feed one trap per week. It takes a lot of energy to close a trap and digest prey. Triggering too many traps with food within a short span of time will temporarily weaken the plant as it works to extract nutrients. If you overfeed, your plant may produce smaller traps until it has a chance to recover. I just try to imagine how sleepy and lazy I feel after a big meal – it’s kind-of like that.
By the way, each individual trap is good for 1-3 meals before it dies. Traps take about ten days to digest prey and stay closed the entire time.
Can I play with the flytrap?
Remember, triggering traps takes energy, and if you trigger too many without actually feeding the plant, you will weaken it, and it will start to produce smaller traps.
Respect Venus Flytrap Dormancy
Probably the hardest thing to pull off as a new grower, winter dormancy for Venus flytraps starts around November, and lasts until late February or early March. During this time, daylight should wane, temperatures should drop, and soil should dry out a bit. All traps will turn black and die, and it may look like your poor flytrap is dead. The hardest part is not throwing your plant out, assuming it has gone to the big bog garden in the sky. As long as you keep the soil very lightly moist, the plant will survive winter, and come back much stronger the next year. Dormancy months can shift, depending on your global location and climate – just make sure your plants get a solid 3-5 months of sleep.
Without a winter dormancy, Venus flytraps will weaken and eventually die.
Have more questions about your Venus flytrap? Ask in the comments section, below and we’ll be happy to answer!