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Dionaea Muscipula Care Sheet
"Venus Flytrap"

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Venus Flytrap

The Venus Flytrap is by far the most popular and well known of all carnivorous plants. The Venus Flytrap has gotten a rather nasty reputation for being hard to keep alive. Well, I suppose if you know nothing of the plant it would be hard to keep alive. Armed with the knowledge of this page anyone can raise a Venus Flytrap quit easily.

Where do Venus Flytraps grow? Probably not where you would guess. They are native to North Carolina and a small section of South Carolina, right here in the good ol' U S of A. They grow in sphagnum moss bogs, which is an acidic nutrient free humid environment. As spring arrives they generally put out ground hugging rosettes (1). This helps hold the newly grown moss out of its way and raises the flytrap higher up if needed. Next come long narrow leaves (2) that hold the traps up above the moss. As winter approaches they will generally go back to their ground hugging rosettes (3). The leaves will vary greatly in size and shape depending on the conditions you have them in. Very wide leaves with very small traps (4) mean not enough light.

Flytrap Spring Leaves
First leaves of the season, already putting up a flower stalk.
Flytrap Summer Leaves
Next come the erect summer leaves.
Flytrap Fall Leaves
And then back to a rosette.
Low Light Flytrap Leaves
Needs more light!
click pics for larger pics

Flytraps flower in spring to early summer, if they are old enough. Flytraps start to flower between 4 and 7 years, 5 being average. They can live to the ripe old age of 30 or more. Most people will tell you to cut off the flower stalk. If you are growing them outside in full sun like you should be then its not an issue. Flowering generally stunts the growth some, so if you don't want the seed but do want the largest traps possible then remove stalks as they appear. They generally self seed pretty well on their own. So, if you want seeds then let them flower. Check out the Flower Pollination/Seed Collecting section on the propagation page to learn more about seeds. Also see Flytrap Propagation.

Venus Flytrap Flower

Flytraps grow very slow from seed, but it is very cool to watch. The very first leaf is generally tiny and non-carnivorous. The second is identical to mature plant leaves, except it is tiny. During the first year traps will generally get an 1/8" long and they double in size each year. Even though they are tiny the traps still function perfectly! Capable of catching gnats and other small critters. Once they have several leaves and a small root system their actually pretty hardy plants even at this young age. Just be very careful with the delicate roots if you re-pot. Its best to take some of the media around them, 1" plug about the same deep should be ideal, if you transplant. You can bare root them at the end of their growth cycle for a fridge dormancy if desired.

Venus Flytraps are excellent candidates for outdoor growing year round in most of the United States. So long as water, soil and dormancy are adhered to outdoor Venus Flytrap growing should be astonishingly easy. Use large pots and winterize them so the roots don't freeze, where needed.

Venus Flytraps grown indoors generally fail because of lack of light and/or over watering. Indoor plants can not tolerate wet soil, see watering below. Venus Flytraps require lots of light. It is possible to grow beautiful healthy flytraps indoors, just watch the light and water. Indoor Flytrap soil should be slightly moist, too much water and they will rot.

Here are some things that are critical to the Venus Flytrap.

Dormancy - This is one of the main reasons people kill Dionaea. Venus Flytraps MUST go dormant for the winter, if not they WILL die. Venus Flytraps require a winter dormancy lasting 3 - 4 months. Most often they will try to enter dormancy when its time no matter what. But, its best to help it along by providing some basic requirements. First and foremost the photoperiod must decrease, signaling winter is approaching. The photoperiod is the single most important aspect of triggering dormancy. If you grow your flytraps outside this will happen naturally. If you grow them under artificial light then adjust the photoperiod to coincide with the daylight hours.

Temperature is the next most important aspect of triggering dormancy. Pretty much everywhere in the U.S. it cools to some degree in the winter so this shouldn't be a problem. Flytraps can handle temps to -10°F for short periods, try not to let the roots freeze. Temps should not be above 60°F for any length of time during dormancy, 40°F is even better, or a natural winter outside. If your winters get below freezing (32°F) then you should winterize them or store them in the refrigerator for the winter.

Flytraps can take it fairly cold, -10°F as mentioned. This means you can grow them outside year round in the majority of the U.S. and world for that matter. I leave some outside and I store some in the refrigerator and I'm in Illinois. They often sit under several inches of snow. But, I have to winterize them and they are in a large bog which helps.Venus Flytraps can handle some cold temps. Pictured is one sitting in a thin layer of ice. See the winterization section for how to protect them from hard winters.

click for bigger pic

You can tell a flytrap has entered dormancy when the leaves slow or stop growth. Also, the traps will cease to function, or at least slow enough to prevent capturing prey. Flytraps generally keep their leaves during dormancy, but not always in freezing climates.

The hardest part of dormancy is knowing how wet to keep the media. The answer is not wet at all, just barely moist. Too much moisture will cause rot and you will loose your plant. This is more dangerous than anything else. So when growth slows down during fall act fast, remove them from water trays. Only water enough to keep them from drying out, and only water from the bottom during winter. Don't let the media dry out though or you'll loose your plants. Even mild winters in the 50's should experience drier media in the winter, keep just moist.

A garage, shed, breezway, etc make excellent locations to store dormant venus flytraps. Treating them with a fungicide would be a good idea. You want them to get some light but not much is needed once growth is slowed in colder climates. In warm climates the fridge should be used in winter.

If your winters only have cold snaps below 20°F a few times then you don't need to do much. Just let the media dry as described above and move them to the garage/shed or anyplace else cold but protective during the cold snaps.

If you have harsh winters, no to mild winters or just prefer you can store them in the refrigerator for 2 - 5 months, use the link below to learn how. Storing them in the refrigerator over winter seems to be the favorite method of many growers. It takes the guesswork out of it and pretty much always works with 99.9% success. It does take a little time to bareroot and prep them, but its usually worth the effort.

Flytrap Winterization   Click here to see how to prepare flytraps for winter dormancy in the refrigerator.   Flytrap Dormancy in the fridge

Do not give up on your flytraps if they had a hard winter!!
Even if they are totally black, or so bad the leaves aren't even there anymore. Just let things warm up and see what happens, keep sick plants just moist and in bright indirect light. I am always amazed by what they come back from, so give them a chance. And have patience. The winter of 07' and 08' started bad for my bog. Couple inches of rain followed by freezing rain followed by freezing temps for several weeks. All the bog plants, including some flytraps, were encased in ice. This little scenario played itself out three more times over the winter. The bog was left much much wetter through the winter than it should have been. And I didn't winterize it at all. The flytraps were gone, no sign of them at all. Here it is June 12 and they have started to emerge from the soil. The size of yearling flytraps instead of 5 year like they are, but still. They are alive! I am sure by the end of summer they will get half their size back. Most of the sarracenia survived too, along with D. Intermedia.

Water - The most important thing about water is the type to use, same with all carnivorous plants. I personally use reverse osmosis water. Distilled from the store and rain water are also acceptable. If you get distilled water from the store make sure it says "Sodium Free" right on the front of the jug. If you have very many plants a reverse-osmosis under the sink model from Lowe's/Menards/Home Depot/etc. will pay for itself pretty quick.

The other thing about water is how much to use. Water requirements will vary depending on the size of the pot and the amount of light it's receiving. Use a plastic pot with drainage holes and place it in a plastic water tray. The goal is to keep the media moist, not wet, at all times. If the media ever totally dries out your flytrap is lost. Here is a good starting point for water levels during the growing season.
For 6" Pots:
Keep at least a 1/2" of water in the tray at all times, more if the venus flytrap is in bright sunlight. The more light the more water can be tolerated.
For 4" Pots:
As above but only a 1/4" of water in the tray unless in bright sunlight.

Flytraps grown indoors generally do better if you let the water in the water tray disappear for a day or two before refilling.

If the Venus Flytrap is not in high levels of light (full sun) you have to be careful not to over water or it will rot. You can even let the water evaporate for a day or so before re-filling. In low light keep the soil just damp, I can't stress this enough.

If you grow them outside in full sun they can be wetter for longer periods. But they still shouldn't be soaked for long periods of time. Flytraps are prone to rot. Its critical to not over water. Being out in major rain storms is fine, even appreciated. Just make sure it drains well soon afterwords.

In nature the venus flytrap may be underwater for weeks at a time with no ill effect. If a bug infestation occurs in your venus flytrap pot you can dunk it for a couple days. Sometimes this is faster and easier than chemical treatment. Only do this with plants grown outside in full sun or they won't survive the dunk.

Soil - This is another big killer of the Venus Flytrap. The Venus Flytrap evolved to eat bugs to make up for the nutrient poor acidic soil it naturally lives in. Regular dirt or potting soil kills them fast, and never fertilize a flytrap. Use 50% Sphagnum peat moss and 50% silica sand or perlite, or equal amounts of each, roughly. Silica sand being better for outdoor Venus Flytraps and perlite for indoor Venus Flytraps. You can mix in 25% long fiber sphagnum moss and/or use it for a top dressing if you like. Make sure you get pure Sphagnum peat moss, you don't want Miracle Grow or any other chemicals mixed in with it.

The majority of small pre-moistend peat bags are contaminated. Get the dry sphagnum peat moss that comes in bails. If a bail is to much for you we sell smaller quantities in the Web Store section. Or click Carnivorous Plant Soil For Sale to go directly to Soil.

You can learn more about various media types and peat on the Carnivorous Plant Soils page.

Planting -When you plant your Venus Flytrap make sure not to bury the growth points. You just want the roots and white rhizome to be buried. I fill the pot with my medium and pack it down slightly. Then I use a spoon handle, forceps or fingers to make a hole deep enough to hold the roots. Place the Venus Flytrap in the hole and gently fill with media. Be careful not to damage the roots. Gently watering can help settle soil around the roots, add more soil as needed. They don't seem to be real picky about being planted at the correct depth. Eventually they will get adjusted to where they like to be.
Flytrap planting depth
click for bigger pic

Click here for a step by step guide to planting your flytrap.
second part of refrigerator dormancy

Light - Venus Flytraps need lots of light, 4 - 6 hours of direct sun and indirect sun or better the rest of the day. Fluorescent lighting can also be used. If fluorescent is the primary source of light use 4 - 40 watt cool white 4' bulbs within 10" over the plant. An economical shop light works well for this. Put the light on a timer to go on and off with the sun. Unless you have the "all green" version the inside of the traps will get reddish if they are receiving enough light. If the "all red" versions of Dionea are getting enough light they will be red. With most carnivorous plants colors are a sign of adequate lighting. If you have help from natural light 2 - 4' bulbs may do.

I have also had great luck using the new spiral fluorescent light bulbs. Make sure you get the ones that say "Sunlight Bulb" or they have an orangish glow. 100W output should do fine, keep it 10" - 12" away. The light should be pointed down at the Venus flytrap. I like putting them in the large clamp on shields like what's pictured. You can generally find them anyplace that sells autoparts.

Humidity - If all of the other requirements are met this is not a big issue except in the driest of climates (below 35% steady). If you live in a desert, Venus Flytraps can be grown in a fish bowl. Various fish bowls are offered on the Empty Terrariums page. Venus Flytraps will do best outside in bright light sitting in a water tray unless you live in or near a desert. And even then I would try outside first.

Pests - The most noticeable infestation is from aphids. They will make your flytrap leaves grow funky, twisted and narley. Very ugly. These and caterpillars do the most damage, luckily the latter usually turns into food. :-) Most any plant pest is a problem for these though. Treat with a good systemic pesticide at the first sign of pests. Do NOT use soap based products on any of the carnivorous plants, it will kill them. Avoid aerosols. See the pests and disease section for more info and bug ID.

I made a pdf file for flytrap care and some basic information about them. You can check it out at: Flytraps.pdf Feel free to save it to your computer for easy reference. I still need to complete the different types of flytraps and get pics of them but for the most part its done.

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