How to Grow a Venus Flytrap

The following information should be helpful in your understanding of the cultural requirements of Venus Flytraps.

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Where does the Venus Flytrap come from?

Most people are under the misconception that the Venus Flytrap is a tropical plant, found deep in the steamy, dark jungles of the tropics. Not only is this far from the truth, its also far from where they grow! In reality, Venus Flytraps are a temperate, North American native, found in the coastal regions of southeastern North Carolina and northeastern South Carolina, USA.

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The Growth Cycle of the Venus Flytrap

Venus Flytraps are low growing, rosetted, perennials that grow in sandy, moist wetland areas. In their native habitat, they normally start growing in March with wide, short, heart shaped leaves. These wider leaves take advantage of the early spring sun and photosynthesize food to get growth started. In the spring, Venus flytraps send up a tall flower stalk, supporting a cluster of white flowers, typically blooming in May. Small black seeds are produced in early summer.

As the summer progresses and as the surrounding grasses grow taller, many Venus flytraps grow longer, thinner, more upright leaves to raise the traps higher into the air. Venus Flytraps enjoy hot humid summers, tolerating temperature as high as 35C with no ill effects. As winter approaches, the plant starts to prepare for dormancy. The leaf growth reverts back to the shorter, wider leaves of the early spring. Leaf and trap production slows down and eventually stops. This is perfectly natural.

Many people mistakenly think that their plant is dying, when actually, the Venus Flytrap is preparing for its winter dormancy. This resting period is required for the health and longevity of the Venus Flytrap. In their native habitats in the Carolinas, Venus Flytraps can experience temperatures as low as 10C in the winter.

The Trapping Mechanism

The traps themselves range in size from 1-3cms in length. On the inner surfaces of the traps are small trigger hairs. These hairs are touch-sensitive. When an insect touches one hair twice, or two separate hairs in rapid succession, the trap closes on the victim. As the prey struggles inside, the continued
stimulation of the trigger hairs causes the trap to close tighter and form a seal around the outer margins.

Once tightly sealed, the Venus Flytrap secretes digestive juices into the trap. After 7?10 days, the trap reopens, leaving the shell (exoskeleton) of the insect to be washed away by rain.

Avoid the temptation of manually triggering Venus Flytraps to close. The rapid closure of the trap is caused by rapid cell growth in the outer trap surfaces. Futile closure of the trap will weaken the plant if done too many times. The Venus Flytrap expends a lot of energy to cause the trap to close, if there is no nourishment there, the energy expended was wasted. It is also important to realize too, that each trap can only close a limited number of times before it turns black and dies.

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Transplanting, Pot Size and Growing Media

Venus Flytraps usually are sold in 7.5 cm pots. Plants should be transplanted into larger pots the following growing season. Transplanting is best done in late winter or early spring just as the plants are coming out of dormancy. Plants should be repotted every 2 or 3 years.

Be sure to use only plastic pots when transplanting Venus Flytraps as clay pots are porous and trap salts and other minerals. These deposits will prove toxic to your plant over time. Secondly, be sure to use standard length pots as Venus Flytraps have long roots and will appreciate the extra growing room. Larger pots can be used to hold 2 or 3 Venus Flytraps.

When it comes to growing media, the optimal potting mix for Venus Flytraps is a 75% Canadian peat mix with 25 % washed white silica sand. This best simulates their natural soil. Venus Flytrap potting mix is available from Hungry Plants or your local nursery, see our website for details.

Light Conditions

General

Venus Flytraps are sun-loving plants. For strong, vigorous growth, Venus Flytraps should be grown in full sun; a bright window is usually not enough.

Outdoors

During the warm months, Venus flytraps are best grown outdoors in a non-shaded area. Generally, Venus Flytraps will develop a red coloration inside the traps when exposed to bright sun. When moving your plants outdoors for the first time, remember to gradually expose your Venus Flytrap to the increased light levels. Start by moving your plants to a shaded area for one week. Then move it for another week to an area where it will receive filtered sunlight during the middle part of the day. Leave the plant there for an additional week. Finally move it into full sun.

Terrarium

Venus Flytraps are excellent terrarium plants. A two tube fluorescent light fixture suspended 30cms above the plants in a terrarium will provide adequate light. Wide spectrum lights designed for indoor plant growth are excellent. Alternatively, a cool white and a warm white fluorescent tube can be used together to provide wider spectrum light. The photoperiod, or time the plants are exposed to light, should be adjusted to match the natural daylight outdoors. Using an appliance timer, set the photoperiod to match the outdoor daylight hours every couple of weeks or so. Mimicking the outdoor photoperiod is very important as it is the hours of daylight, as well as other factors, that trigger dormancy and flowering.

Watering/Humidity

General

Venus Flytraps are bog plants, thus they enjoy high humidity and lots of moisture. In the wild they are found in areas that are constantly damp to wet. This type of environment is naturally humid ? 60% or higher relative humidity. In these areas, the soil never dries out. Although the surface may feel dry to the touch, there is always water at the root level. Venus Flytraps should be watered with rainwater collected from a downspout.

Alternatively, distilled or Reverse Osmosis water ca be used. Do not use bottled spring water or tap water as the dissolved salts and minerals are slow poison to flytraps. Special water is also available from Hungry Plants or your local nursery.

Outdoors

Venus flytraps like to be wet but not waterlogged. Venus Flytraps respond well to the tray system of watering. Fill a plastic tray or similar container, with water to a depth a depth of 2.5 to 4cms. When the reservoir has just dried out, refill with water. This regime has a number of benefits for the plants. The lower moisture level allows the roots ?breathe?. The open water in the trays will increase the local humidity, which is important for good growth and trap formation. Lastly, any mosquito larvae that may be in the water will be killed off when the tray dries out.

Watering with this method should start in the early spring when plants start to grow and continue through the summer and early autumn months. As the plants prepare for dormancy in mid to late autumn, cut back on watering. Leave the trays emptier longer. When the soil in the pots is just damp to the touch, refill the tray, let the pots soak up as much water as possible, and discard the excess. Maintain this regime through winter and early spring until growth resumes in the spring. The goal is to keep the soil barely damp over the winter months.

Terrarium

When growing Venus Flytraps in terrariums, potted plants should be placed in trays. Watering should be carried out as described above. Keep the terrarium covered with a sheet of glass or plexiglass to maintain high humidity. Remember, as terrariums are covered, the rate of evaporation is significantly decreased. Therefore, watering will be done much less frequently, with less water. When filling trays, only add 1cm or so at a time. In the winter months, it is advisable to leave the lid of the terrarium slightly open to encourage air circulation, decrease the humidity and keep internal temperature from rising. High humidity and temperatures in the winter can lead to fungal growth and rot.

Dormancy

General

Venus Fly Traps are temperate plants. As such, they need a period of rest, or dormancy. In the winter, a dormancy period of approximately 3 months must be respected. Without this rest, Venus Flytraps will loose vigor and eventually die. During this time, plants may continue to grow, albeit very slowly, or growth may stop completely.

There are three factors that trigger dormancy in Venus Flytraps. Decreased daylight, or photoperiod, decreased temperatures and decreased moisture. When a Venus Flytrap is dormant, the temperature should ideally be kept between 2 and 10C, however slightly warmer temperatures should have no adverse effects.

Outdoors

Venus Flytraps grown outdoors in the warmer months will naturally go into dormancy as the daylight hours and temperatures decrease in the autumn. Plants should be brought in just before the first frost and placed in a cool location; a cool windowsill, a cold cellar, or even a garage that stays just above freezing is ideal. In late August or early September, move the Venus Flytrap to a sunny window with a southern exposure, increase watering, move outside when danger of frost has passed.

Terrarium

In the autumn, gradually decrease the photoperiod your plants receive as discussed in the section on light. Water should also be reduced, so that the soil is just damp to the touch. If possible move the terrarium to a cool location, a cold cellar, garage, sun-porch, or anywhere where the temperature is relatively cool. Also keep the lid to the terrarium slightly open so that internal humidity and temperatures remain low. When growth resumes, cover the terrarium and move to a warmer location.

Maintenance

Each of the traps on a Venus Flytrap have a limited life span. Generally they die after the second or third capture. Even if the traps haven’t captured prey, they will die off naturally and the plant will continue to grow new leaves. The dead leaves should be removed and if fungus develops, apply Benomyl / Benlate to the directions. Do not use any fungisite. A special fungisite is available for Carnivorous Plants. For more information on Venus Flytraps, and other Carnivorous plants and how to start your own Carnivorous plant collection go to https://www.hungryplants.co.za/online-carnivorous-plants-shop/

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