Venus Flytrap Care Instructions



Venus Flytraps are one of the most amazing plants in the world. Their jaws-of-death move with lightning fast speed to trap the unlucky bug that lands on one of the plant's sweet pads. Your pet will love to eat all the bugs you can catch, but you also have to make sure it gets everything else it needs.


About Venus Flytraps
Venus Flytrap Growing Instructions
How a venus flytrap works
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About Venus Flytraps


Although it seems like Venus Flytraps (scientific name is Dionaea muscipula--Latin for Venus' flytrap or mousetrap) are exotic plants, they actually are native to the U.S.! These plants grow naturally in the sandy regions of North and South Carolina, where they catch flies to supplement their diets with extra nitrogen. These regions have very nutrient-poor soil, making plant life difficult.  Because of this, Venus flytraps have learned to live in poor soil, and they will actually die if placed in good soil, given water with minerals, or improperly fertilized.  Sadly, plant poachers and continued development have greatly limited the natural habitats of carnivorous plants, as seen in the map below.  My Carnivore does not purchase or sell any plants collected from fields.


Venus Flytrap native distribution map
Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey

The traps of Venus Flytraps produce a sweet smelling nectar that attracts insects.  When the insects get close, they seek the source of nectar--and fall right into the trap!  Each trap has several tiny trigger hairs on the inside of the trap.  If you look closely, you should be able to see some of these tiny triggers.  When two of these are triggered, the trap snaps shut--hopefully catching what triggered it.  The trap then gets tighter and tighter as it senses movement inside, eventually creating a watertight seal.  The plant then secretes digestive enzymes, and the trap becomes a stomach that digest the bug and then absorbs the nutrients.  After a week or so, the trap will reopen, leaving behind only an exoskeleton that will wash away with the next rain or blow away in the wind. The traps are pretty smart and will reopen within a day or two if nothing is inside.  The also know not to close on water or wind, though a strong enough rain or wind can cause them to shut.  A trap will typically only close four to five times before it dies, whether it catches food or not.  If it catches food, a new bigger trap will grow in its place.


Venus Flytrap Growing Instructions


Your pet carnivore is very easy to take care of.  However, there are some very important instructions that must be followed to ensure that the plant will stay healthy in its new home.  These instructions can vary depending on where you live and how close to its natural environment your area is.  Be sure to email us if you have any questions or need help.


Humidity

Unless you live in a humid area, keep your flytrap in its cage at all times.  In humid regions, such as the Southeast U.S., you may keep the plant outside of the cage in its pot.  Just make sure the soil stays moist (dark brown) at all times.  When in the cage, feel free to keep the lid off.  In dry areas, you may take the pet out for a few hours at a time for display or feeding, but make sure you replace it and spray it with rain or distilled water to keep it moist.  You may keep the lid off during the day, but make sure the bedding and moss stay moist, and you should keep the lid on at night.  The bedding is long fiber sphagnum moss, which can hold up to twenty times its weight in water.  Make sure the bedding stays moist, but not soaked, to help maintain humidity in the cage.


Watering

Your plant will need to be spray-misted or watered between once to three times a week, depending on where you live and how you keep it.  In a closed cage, the plant will need watering only once a week.  Spraying the leaves and surrounding soil with a spray bottle is a great way to keep it wet.  Make sure the soil stays dark brown and moist to the touch at all times.  Be very careful not to over-water or drown the plant.  This can rot the roots of the plant.  You may have over-watered it if you see standing water on top of the soil or if the soil appears saturated.  If this happens, hold the plant and soil upside down and press down on the soil to squeeze out extra water.

Flytraps have developed to grow only in mineral-poor acidic soil. To preserve this, be sure to use only natural rainwater or distilled water on your plant.  Tap water contains too many minerals that will build up in the soil and kill the plant.  Place a collection bowl outside to collect rainwater, or collect moving water from a nearby creek.  Stagnant water, such as from a lake, may contain little creatures that can infect the plant.  If you must you tap water, let it sit for 24-48 hours to dissipate the Chlorine.


Light

Flytraps love light.  Place your pet in a good windowsill where it can get strong natural light for at least half the day, preferably in the morning when it is less hot and intense.  Light and warmth will make the traps turn red inside and cause the leafs to grow taller, placing the trap about 2-4 inches in the air.  If your plant is in direct sunlight all day, keep the lid off the cage to keep it from overheating.  The moist bedding and terra cotta pot should hold enough water to keep the humidity up in the cage.  Plants can also be grown outdoors in humid and warm temperature regions.  Keep the lid off when outdoors.  After rain, you may need to dump extra water out of the cage and pot to keep the roots from drowning and rotting.

You can also grow your plant indoors under fluorescent lights.  Be sure to use high temperature light bulbs with full spectrum light placed about a foot over the soil.  In the summer, a 14 hour light cycle is perfect.  In the winter, an 8 hour cycle will help them go through dormancy.


Feeding

Your flytrap loves to eat to give the plant nitrogen and other compounds that will help your plant grow.  Each individual trap can be fed, but the plant should not be fed more than once a week.  Without food, the plant may survive, but it will not grow very well.  A good feeding cycle for optimal growth is once every other week (once meaning one bug to the whole plant, not each trap).  Your plant will also grow well when fed only once a month, but that isn't nearly as much fun!  Any insect that fits comfortably within the trap should be fine--flies, spiders, small crickets, small grasshoppers, large ants, small slugs, or ladybugs make great food.  The plants prefer living food as they can sense movement in the trap, which causes the trap to shut tighter.  However, freshly killed bugs should be fine, as should dry crickets from a pet store.  Do not feed the traps insects that are too big--if the trap cannot close completely around it, it may catch an infection and die.  Closing a trap takes a lot of energy for a flytrap.  A typical leave will only trigger 3-4 times.  If the trap catches a few bugs, it will die and a new bigger trap will grow in its place.  Be sure to cut off any traps that begin to brown.  If the trap is closed by a finger or another non-food item, it will open again within a day or two.  It is safe to trigger the traps by hand, but the trap will eventually die if it is triggered too much.  You definitely need to try it once though!


Planting

Your pet came in a mixture of sphagnum peat moss, construction sand, and perlite.  The peat moss is a nutrient poor acidic soil, and the sand and perlite keep the soil from becoming too dense so that water can flow around the roots.  Although your pet will grow, it will never outgrow its pot.  If you do want to transplant it, use a mixture of 70% peat / 30% sand or perlite.  Make sure the sand is construction grade without salt.  Do not transplant directly into the ground or into potting soil.


Winter dormancy

Your flytrap will need a few months in the winter to hibernate.  During this time, many of the leaves may die, and those that do live and grow will lie flat against the ground with short leaves.  Typical dormancy period is from November until February.  During this time, your flytrap will still need light, but for a shorter time during the day.  It will also need less watering--just make sure the cage stays humid and the soil stays dark brown.  Cut off any browning leaves.  Keep the plant cooler than in the summer.  It also may not be hungry, and the traps will close slower.  As spring rolls around, give the plant more sunlight and let it grow!  Once it starts, it will grow even bigger than the previous year.


Flowering

Flytraps will typical grow a flower on a long stalk during the Spring.  These beautiful white flowers can be pollinated to produce seeds.  Nicely, the flowers grow about 6 inches above the traps so that pollinating insects are not as easily devoured by the plant, though the plant would love the feast after the flower is pollinated.  Making a flower takes a lot of energy, and the traps of a flowering plant do not develop as well.  If you would prefer traps, pinch of the flower stem as you see is start growing.  Otherwise, you may either allow insects outdoors to pollinate the flower or you can do it yourself by gently rubbing two fully open flowers face-to-face against each other.  After a month or so, you can remove the tiny seed pod (it is ripe to pick when it looks like it is about to open on its own), split it open, and spread the seeds in a peat/sand/perlite mixture (as described above).  Seedlings are very cute, but they can take up to 3 years to grow in an adult size plant.


Flytrap Tips

• Unless you live in a humid area, keep your flytrap in its cage at all times.  In humid regions, such as the Southeast U.S., you may keep the plant outside of the cage in its pot.  Just make sure the soil stays very moist (dark brown).  When in the cage, feel free to keep the lid off.  In dry areas, you may take the pet out for a few hours at a time for display or feeding, but make sure you replace it and spray it with rain or distilled water to keep it moist.  You may keep the lid off during the day, but make sure the bedding and moss stay moist, and you should keep the lid on at night.
• Flytraps require a lot of light.  Find a good windowsill where they can get strong natural light, preferably morning light when it is less hot and intense.  If they are in direct sunlight all day, keep the lid off the cage to keep them from overheating.  The moist bedding and terra cotta pot should hold enough water to keep the humidity up in the cage.  Plants can also be grown outdoors in humid and warm temperature regions.
• Make sure to use only natural rainwater or distilled water to water your plant.  If you must you tap water, let it sit for 24-48 hours to dissipate the Chlorine.
• Dying leaves are part of the Flytrap's growth cycle.  Cut off browning leaves immediately before they have time to rot.  Chances are, a new larger leaf will grow in its place.
• Feed your plant no more than once a week, and only feed it live or freshly killed bugs.  Make sure the bugs are small enough to fit in the traps.  Never give your plant raw meat.  This will kill it.
• In the winter, your plant will naturally go into dormancy.  Give it some sunlight, but make sure it stays a little cooler than in the summer, gets less light, and stays a little dryer, but don't let it dry out.  Typical dormancy is from Thanksgiving until Valentine's day.


How a flytrap works


Coming Soon!  Until then, check out the How Stuff Works tutorial on flytraps.

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