Venus Flytrap (dionea)

If there was a leader representing those botanical rebels that decided to turn the tide and defy the natural order by turning to a life of predation, it would certainly be Dionaea muscipula, the Venus flytrap.  While there are over 600 species of carnivorous plants, the Venus flytrap is certainly the most notorious of them all.

In 1760, North Carolina Colonial Governor Arthur Dobbs found a little plant that was actually trapping and eating insects.  He wrote in his diary “The greatest wonder of the vegetable kingdom is a very curious unknown species. Upon touching the leaves, they instantly close like a spring trap. It bears a white flower. To this surprising plant, I have given the name Fly Trap.”  Dionaea fascinated Charles Darwin who described it as “one of the most wonderful plants in the world”.  Venus flytraps have had parts in movies and plays; Audrey the carnivorous plant star in “Little Shop of Horrors” is part flytrap.

How to grow  Venus flytraps, Dionaea muscipula

Growing Venus flytraps is easy if your follow some simple cultivation steps.

Light:

Venus flytraps like lots of light.  Give them as much as you can provide.  They will be quite happy outside in full sun.  However, they should not be placed in full sun all at once, but should be gradually exposed to full sun over a couple of weeks.  If you don’t have a suitable location in full sun they will be fine in a location receiving at least six hours of full sun.    In doors they will only do well in a south facing window sill receiving direct sunlight for several hours a day.  They can be grown under artificial light.  Cool white or warm white fluorescent bulbs work well.  The bulbs should be no more than 12” (30 cm) above the plant.  Provide 14 to 16 hours of light.  Reduce light to 8 hours a day during dormancy.

Humidity:

Venus flytraps may prefer high humidity (over50%), but they actually tolerate low humidity levels 20% to 30% quite well.  When grown in low humidity they should be placed in a large tray of water to help raise the humidity around the plant higher than the overall humidity and to reduce the risk of the tray running out of water.

Soil:

Venus flytraps require acid soil with very low nutrient levels.  We recommend growing your killer in a 1:1 mix of sand or perlite and peat moss.  Using standard potting mix or garden soil will kill your monster.

Water:

Sit your plant in a dish of water about an inch (2cm) deep and do not let the dish dry out.  The water must be low in dissolved solids.  Purified, reverse osmosis or rain water is best.   Most well water and bottled drinking water is deadly to Venus Flytraps.  Tap water will usually work if the total dissolved solids are less than 100ppm.  When using tap water it is best to dump the water out on a regular basis so that the mineral concentration does not build up.

Fertilizer:

Do not fertilize your plant.  They don’t need it and it could kill it.  Your Venus flytrap will feed itself if it’s outside.  If it’s inside your house you may need to help it out.  Catch some fly or beetles and place in the traps.  Do not feed it meat as it not able to digest it.  If you prefer, you can feed it pea size cubes of tofu. If the insects are dead or you are using tofu you will need to gently message the traps so that it is stimulated into fully clamping down on its meal.

Dormancy:

Venus Flytraps grow best when they experience a winter dormancy period of about three months.  If you grow the plant outside in USDA zone 8 or higher you can leave it outside all year or if grown inside you can move it outside for the winter.  If you live in zone 7 or lower you should either mulch your plant so that the rhizome does not freeze or move the plant into a garage or unheated room close to a window where it will experience temperature in the range of 32F to 65F.   Dormant Venus Flytraps require light unless they are kept at very low temperatures (near freezing), in which case, it will go into a deep dormancy and in such a state can go without light.  If you live in the tropics you can place your plant in a sealed bag and place it in the refrigerator. 



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