No terrariums. No myths. No nonsense.
The Venus flytrap, Dionaea muscipula, is the most popular carnivorous plant, and definitely the most readily available carnivorous plant. In cultivation, many varieties of the Venus flytrap highlight or exaggerate a particular feature. The typical form has long, thin teeth along the edge of the trap. The Dente flytrap has short, triangular teeth. The Red Piranha is similar to Dente, but it's entirely red. King Henry is noted for it's larger traps and long thin petioles.
RangeYou will find Venus flytraps in a 90-mile (145-km) radius that encompasses Wilmington, North Carolina. This is the only place in the world where flytraps can be seen in the wild. Some populations have been reported in Georgia and Florida, but humans were the likely vectors!
USDA Zone of Native Habitat: Zone 8Flytraps occurs naturally in zone 8 where temperatures in winter can sometimes reach as low as 10°F (-12°C) for very brief periods of time. In cultivation, you should always follow proper winter care when growing this plant in zones 8 or colder. See below for more information.
Where to GrowFlytraps grow best outdoors as a container or potted plant. It makes an excellent addition to any sunny deck or patio. You may also grow it in a pond or fountain, but keep the crown of the plant above water. Because of its specific soil requirements, avoid planting it directly into the ground, unless you have created a specific type of bog garden.
SunlightDuring the growing season, grow your flytrap outside in full sun. Provide 6 or more hours of direct sunlight for vigorous growth.
If full sun is not possible, provide a minimum of 4 hours of direct sunlight with bright indirect light during the rest of the day. Your plant won’t be as vibrant or sturdy as one grown in full sun, but you will be able to maintain some decent growth.
Heat ToleranceFlytraps tolerate the summer heat well. They originate from an area where temperatures above 90°F (32°C) commonly occur in summer. However, in its native habitat, the soil temperature is moderated by a slow seepage of cool spring water.
When growing your flytrap in containers, you will need to pay attention to soil temperature. While it may not be necessary to shade your plant during the hottest parts of summer, you may need to top water your plants daily to prevent the roots from over heating. Plants will over heat when the soil temperature approaches 110°F (43°). Monitor soil temperature whenever the daytime temperature rises above 100°F (38°C).
If you live in areas where temperatures routinely rise above 100°F (38°C) during the summer, watch Grow Carnivorous Plants DVD, Volume 1 for growing instructions specifically for desert climates.
WaterKeep the pot in standing water at all times. Never allow the soil to dry out completely. The flytrap requires mineral-free water. If your tap water is relatively pure (less than 50 parts per million in dissolved minerals), then you can safely water your flytrap with it. Otherwise use bottled distilled water or water passed through a reverse-osmosis unit.
If you grow your plant in a pond or fountain, keep the water level no higher than halfway up the pot. Avoid drowning the crown of the plant.
SoilFlytraps require nutrient-free soil that provides good drainage and aeration. Use a standard soil mixture of 1 part peat moss and 1 part perlite. Never use potting soil, compost or fertilizer. These ingredients will kill your plants.
Winter CareAs winter approaches, your plant will slow down in growth and eventually stop growing. It’ll retain some of its leaves throughout the winter months, but the leaves will turn brown around the edges and the traps will stop working. This is perfectly normal. Flytraps require 3-4 months of winter dormancy triggered by cold temperatures (below 50°F or 10°C) and shorter daylight hours.
Even while dormant, your plant will still need to sit in a small amount of standing water to prevent its soil from drying out.
Don’t worry about overnight temperature dips as low as 20°F (-7°). While dormant, your plant can certainly tolerate overnight frosts with minimal winter protection.
However, plants are very susceptible to freeze damage when grown in containers. You will need to protect your plant when the temperature falls below 20°F (-7°C) or whenever there is a combination of freezing temperatures and wind. Both types of winter conditions can certainly cause serious frost burn. To prevent frost burn, cover it with black plastic or a tarp, or move it into an unheated garage or shed.
As soon as the freeze is over and the temperature climbs above 35°F (2° C), uncover your plant and allow it to continue its dormancy outdoors.
If you live in an area where the temperature routinely goes below 32°F (0°C) for more than a week at a time, such as in zones 7 or less, you will need to winterize your container plants. Container plants can certainly tolerate brief freezes. But with prolonged freezes, your plants are at risk for frost burn.
You can find additional details on how to winterize your plants for winter dormancy in the Fall and Winter Care section of the e-book, Grow Carnivorous Plants DVD, Volume 1.
Early Spring CareWhen the temperature slowly creeps up and daylight hours become longer, your plants will gradually emerge from dormancy. Clip off all leaves from the previous year to make way for flower buds and new leaf growth. Look for flowers in late spring.
FeedingAlthough some growers like to feed their flytrap, it is not necessary. Carnivorous plants have adapted to capturing insects on their own, and insects will naturally be attracted to your plant.
If you choose to feed your plant, use recently killed insects. Do not feed your plant meat. Feeding is not at all required during the winter months when the plant is dormant.
Because there is already an abundance of insects outdoors, it's not necessary to supplement with foliar sprays.
RepottingFor a robust plant, repot it every year. Change the soil, and if necessary, put your plant in a larger pot. Changing the soil restores soil acidity, improves root aeration and strengthens the health of your plants.
Repot during late winter and early spring, especially if you want really robust plants in time for summer. In general, however, you can repot your plants at any time of the year. If you choose to repot at a time other than early spring, make sure you keep the roots intact.
When changing pots, use a tall one that will easily accommodate its long root system. Flytraps tend to grow faster and larger when their roots have room to grow. Large pots will also give your plants added protection during the winter.
Indoor CareBecause of sun requirements and winter dormancy, we do not recommend growing flytraps indoors, including terrariums. They grow best outdoors as container plants or in bog gardens.