The venus flytrap is the one carnivorous plant that most people have heard of. It’s a gem of a plant, not only because it can eat creepy crawlies, but also because it can easily be grown indoors in an average household, so long as it gets enough light.
These plants are particularly interesting because they move and attack their prey in real time. Once an insect wiggles the tiny hairs inside the trap at least three times, it snaps shut, trapping its prey and consuming it slowly in a flurry of digestive enzymes.
If that sounds gross to you, that’s because it is. But there’s no cooler way to keep house flies and soil gnats at bay, and the venus flytrap is here to help. There are lots of varieties to choose from, some of which include giant red traps or traps with way too many teeth!
History & Culture of Venus Flytraps
These surprisingly resourceful plants evolved from more archaic versions of carnivorous plants about 65 million years ago, in a time when most carnivorous plants only populated Europe. Since then, they have adapted to ever-growing populations of miniature prey.
In the 1700s, when the venus flytrap was first documented, there was little belief that a plant could consume living things such as insects. They were plentiful in the Americas, but English botanists simply weren’t having it.
The great colutionary mastermind himself, Charles Darwin, was taken by the plants well after they had been dismissed. He studied them intently, making them a popular subject in the botany world. The public was first introduced to these plants in the man-eating plant debut, Little Shop of Horrors in 1960.
Since then, venus flytraps have stolen the hearts of many hobbyist growers, amateurs and professional breeders alike. Several hybrid varieties have been bred, boasting either larger traps or more plentiful traps, for the likes of the public and collectors.
There are different light requirements for different seasons of the year. These seasons depend on when your venus flytrap grows, and when it is in its dormant state. Typically, the warm season is the growing season, and the cold season is when flytraps are dormant.
During the growing season, it is typically recommended that your venus flytrap receives at least 12 hours of bright, direct sunlight per day, but this varies depending on window exposure or artificial lighting. Most artificial lights produce enough light to be sufficient placed just above the plant.
However, dormant season hours are far less important. In fact, it’s okay to only provide four hours of bright light per day at a minimum, but if the light source is not very bright, then at least six hours is the recommended amount.
Artificial lights for venus flytraps don’t need to be fancy grow lights. On the contrary; most full-spectrum LED lights that are least 60 watts will provide plenty of light for photosynthesis, given that they’re placed within two feet of the top of the plant itself.
While they’re not particularly picky about light, venus flytraps do need a very specific type of water. These plants grow where water is thoroughly filtered through the ground, in bogs and swamps with high acidity (we’ll get to that later).
Therefore, water that’s rich in minerals could actually harm your venus flytrap. Tap water is generally out of the question, but some have had success with reverse osmosis water. Although reverse osmosis is an option, it can still contain traces of minerals.
Distilled water is the absolute gold standard for carnivorous plants like the venus flytrap. They should never be allowed to fully dry between waterings; if the soil dries, the plant dies. It’s best to keep your venus flytrap in a shallow dish full of distilled water at all times.
Keeping the water clean is important. Clean the water dish regularly to ensure that algae and bacteria don’t have a chance to set up camp, and you should be set! Try not to top water your flytrap, as this can upset its delicate foliage.
For venus flytraps, regular potting soil is a big “nope”. This type of soil typically contains nutrients and minerals that burn the sensitive roots of carnivorous plants, and should be avoided. However, there are carnivorous soil mixes out there that might suffice.
The best way to provide your venus flytrap with fresh soil is to mix your own, using three components: sand, peat, and perlite. These components should be included in equal parts, which will replicate the natural sandy bogs that venus flytraps are best adapted to.
Otherwise, you can also plant in live sphagnum moss. This type of moss is what peat is made from, but in the living form. Venus flytraps love this type of medium, but be careful not to let the moss overtake your venus flytrap, as it can quickly swallow up a small plant like this one.
No matter what mediums you use, make sure that they are contaminate-free, and free of any fertilizers of additives. Venus flytraps don’t receive their nutrients from the soil like most plants do, so there’s no need to try to supply them that way.
Since their growing medium needs to stay constantly moist, venus flytraps do best potted in solid pots. Plastic or ceramic pots are the best options, but any sort of plastic grower pot is the best way to go. Aim for 3 inch pots or smaller.
Avoid using pots made from porous materials like terracotta and clay, which both dry out very quickly and wick moisture away from the roots. You could call this a recipe for disaster, since venus flytraps can’t survive without a constant supply of moisture.
These plants are perfect for terrariums. Not only do terrariums provide plenty of humidity for venus flytraps, they’re also great for companion planting other swamp-native carnivorous plants. Terrariums are easy to light with an LED lamp, and help to create a micro-environment.
If you do opt for a terrarium for your venus flytrap, be sure that there is at least some airflow. Stagnant air is perfect for microbes, and leaving the top at least partially open allows unwanted insects to fly right to their doom.
The aforementioned terrarium setup is ideal for creating humidity, but if you don’t have the capability to create a tiny swamp in a container, you can also try out a couple of other methods. Venus flytraps typically prefer at least 40 percent humidity or more to flourish without drying out.
If your space is particularly dry, you can try using a humidifier with distilled water only to provide humidity to your venus flytrap. This way, when the mist lands on the foliage, it isn’t causing a buildup of minerals that could harm your plant.
Otherwise, you can also try the tray method. Fill a shallow tray with pebbles, then with water to the top. Set the venus flytrap pot on top of the tray. The water will evaporate off the surface of the rocks, creating a little humidity bubble.
One last option is to use a pot cover. Some plastic pots come with a dome, much like a cloche, that covers the plant without touching it; this helps maintain proper humidity, but insects can’t get past it. If you do this, you’ll need to feed your venus flytrap manually.
Since venus flytraps don’t take nutrients up through their roots like other plants do, they need access to their primary nutrient source: bugs. The most nutritious insects are bloodworms or mealworms, rehydrated to replicate a more natural meal.
The traps on your plant won’t close unless the tiny hairs on the inside of the trap are triggered. In the wild, this tells the plant that an insect has walked into their trap, and they can snap shut to trap it in and digest it.
To simulate this process, place a small amount of rehydrated bloodworms or mealworms into the trap. Then, use a small needle or tweezers to gently tap the hairs inside the trap three times. It helps to then very gently massage the outside of the trap to replicate a bug trying to escape.
Once the trap has closed entirely and digested its meal, the trap will wither and die, and should be trimmed away. This can take a few days. Be sure to feed your venus flytrap at least once every two weeks to ensure that it has enough food to thrive!