Venus flytraps (Dionaea muscipula) are one of the easiest carnivorous plants to grow. They only need four basic things to survive: wet roots, high humidity, poor soil, and sunlight.
How to Keep Venus Flytraps Alive Indoors
Venus flytraps grow in environments with lower nitrogen and phosphorus content in the soil, like that found in boglands, and are native to certain areas in North and South Carolina. Unfortunately their popularity among plant enthusiasts has led to declining populations in the wild. Today, they’re grown in greenhouses.
While you may think all they need is a few flies here and there, the best way to help them thrive is to recreate their native growing conditions. Growing them in terrariums can help maintain the right humidity and temperature. A small fish tank or bowl usually works well. You can also use a pot with a clear plastic bag placed loosely on top — without restricting airflow.
To recreate their soil and nutritional needs, here some basic tips to follow:
Full sun. Venus flytraps need 6 or more hours of sun per day to thrive during growing season. If you’re growing your plants in a terrarium, you may need to adjust depending on the season. But it will still range between 4 and 8 hours.
During the summer, when it’s warmer, your Venus flytrap may need less direct sun to keep the terrarium from getting too hot. And you plants will go dormant in the winter, so they will need less sun then as well. This period usually lasts for about 3 months and you’ll notice large growth dying and your plant may only maintain the bulb, or rhizome — but don’t throw it out, it isn’t dying.
Water. Venus flytraps prefer rainwater or distilled water and should be watered frequently. For those growing their plants in pots, you can keep about an inch of water in the tray beneath the pot to keep the plant watered — this also helps keep the humidity up around the plant.
But avoid over watering — your plant should not be in standing water, which can lead to rot. Soil should be moist after watering, but not saturated. Allow the soil to almost dry out before watering again. The amount of water needed will vary depending on the season.
Poor soil. A soil mixture of sphagnum moss and sand is recommended for Venus flytraps, and you don’t want to fertilize your soil. These plants require poor soil quality.
High humidity. Terrariums can help provide the warmth and humidity these plants need. If you want to use a pot with a clear plastic bag, be sure to allow for adequate air flow.
Because your plants will go through a dormant period during the winter months, you’ll need to adjust the humidity and warmth it receives. During the winter, you can move your plants away from direct sunlight if you notice that it’s beginning to wilt, which can be a sign that it’s too warm. During dormancy, it requires temperatures between 45 degrees F and freezing.
You can also move your plant to a garage or basement to help maintain cooler temperatures, just be sure to check it often for fungal growth and rot. You can help protect your Venus flytrap during dormancy by wrapping it in damp sphagnum moss before moving it to the basement or garage.
What is the Lifespan of a Venus Flytrap?
Venus flytraps are perennial, meaning they grow back every spring following a period of dormancy. The traps themselves can only be used a few times before withering and falling off the plant. Traps are then replaced, growing directly from the rhizome.
The actual lifespan of the plant remains undetermined. But according to a report from the National Wildlife Federation, Venus flytraps can live for 20 years or more.
What Should I Feed My Venus Flytrap?
Venus flytraps are carnivorous and thrive on the nutrients insects provide. Their diet includes flies, spiders, beetles, and other crawling arthropods like ants and scorpions.
However, like most plants, their main nutrients are drawn from the air and soil. Insects are more supplemental and they only need a few insects a month. Plants that are grown outside will get enough insects on their own.
When an insect triggers the tiny hairs inside the traps, they snap shut. Prey is then digested inside the trap by enzymes. These same enzymes stimulate the discharge of toxins that protect it from predators.
Just don’t feed your plant hamburger meat. It can cause rot and fungal growth.
Can I Feed a Venus Flytrap Dead Bugs?
Some choose to feed their Venus flytrap dead insects, like crickets and flies, during the growing season. But if you do choose to feed dead insects, make sure you massage traps to encourage digestion, otherwise the trap may release without having eaten, wasting precious energy.
Traps are designed to ignore false triggers like raindrops and smaller insects that aren’t worth the expenditure of energy to digest. Live insects that are caught in the trap continue to move, further triggering the trap, but dead insects don’t. So you’ll have to fool your plant if you want to feed dead insects.
Digestion takes a couple of days, after which, the trap opens back up releasing whatever wasn’t digested.
How to Feed a Venus Flytrap a Live Bug
If you would prefer to feed live insects, there are a few tricks that can make it easier.
You can purchase feeder crickets at a pet supply shop or capture insects around your house. Just make sure you’re feeding appropriately sized insects for your traps. You don’t want them sticking out.
Once you have your insects, cool them down slowly, in the fridge or freezer. You want them slow down but still be moving, so they’re easier for you to handle but will still trigger your trap. Once they’re chilled, gently place them inside the trap and allow your plant to handle the rest.
A couple of insects a month is usually sufficient during their growing season. You don’t want to overfeed your plants — it takes a lot of energy to grow and use those traps.