How to Grow and Care for a Venus Flytrap

This carnivorous plant is entertaining to grow, but it requires a little special care. These tips will help you keep yours happy indoors.

close up of venus fly trap plant
Photo:

Evgeniya Vlasova / BHG

When I was a kid, I thought Venus flytraps (Dionaea muscipula) came from the planet Venus. Their little bifold jaws with spiky fringed "teeth" seemed alien enough, but when an insect landed on that enticing pink center and the trap closed around the victim, that was completely out of this world! These carnivorous plants are fascinating and can be fun to grow indoors. Fortunately, that's not too difficult to do, as long as you don't mind catching a few insect snacks for them once in a while. The unusual plants need different care than other houseplants you're probably used to growing, but if you provide the right conditions, your Venus flytrap will soon become your new favorite plant.

Where to Grow Venus Flytrap

Instead of originating one planet away from Earth, Venus flytraps are perennials native to boggy areas of coastal North and South Carolina. They grow in moist, acidic soils in full sun but only survive winter outdoors in Zones 8-10. Gardeners in colder winter climates should grow Venus flytraps in a moist environment, such as a terrarium that can go indoors during winter.

overhead shot of venus fly trap plant
Evgeniya Vlasova / BHG.

Venus Flytrap Care Tips

Light

Venus flytraps do best in bright but indirect light. It's especially important to avoid placing them in direct sunlight in summer, which may get too hot and cause the leaves to turn crispy. When grown inside under artificial lights, keep flytraps 4 to 7 inches away from fluorescent lights. If your plant's traps don't show a pink interior or the leaves look long and spindly, provide more light.

Soil and Water

Venus flytrap thrives in poor, acidic soil that stays damp but still has good drainage. Avoid planting it in regular potting soil: A blend of one-third sand and two-thirds sphagnum peat moss provides the best drainage and moisture retention.

Keep the soil moist, but don't let the plants stand constantly in water. Never give your plants what comes out of your tap; it's usually too alkaline or might have too many minerals. Instead, rely on rain or use distilled water.

Temperature and Humidity

Venus flytrap prefers a temperature of 70°F-95°F, although it can survive 40°F in the winter with protection. For the best Venus flytrap care, keep the environment humid. Good air circulation is also important in growing Venus flytrap plants, so turn on a fan in the room where you keep them.

Fertilizer

Don't add lime to the soil of Venus flytrap plants, and never add fertilizer. These plants get the nutrients they need from their prey.

insect inside venus fly trap plant

Evgeniya Vlasova / BHG

How to Propagate Venus Flytrap

You can propagate Venus flytrap by division, leaf cuttings, or seeds. The best time for division is late winter to spring. Each division must contain a portion of the root system. Make leaf cuttings in early summer and place them in a well-draining mix with a plastic bag covering them. Most people choose division or leaf cuttings to propagate their Venus flytraps. Propagating from seed is possible but complicated.

Types of Venus Flytraps

Plant breeders have been working with Venus flytraps and have come out with a few varieties with large burgundy-red traps. These unusual varieties are available from specialty garden centers or online retailers, like this Red Dragon Fly Trap ($23, Plant Delights Nursery).

What to Feed a Venus Flytrap

The name says it all: Their primary diet consists of flies or other small insects. The trick is that the prey must be alive when caught. Dead flies won't work in Venus flytrap feeding; the insect must move around inside the trap to trigger it to close and begin digesting the food. It also needs to be small enough that the trap can close tightly around it to keep out bacteria.

If you grow the plants in a closed terrarium, the easiest Venus flytrap feeding method is to release small flies inside the space. Eventually, the bugs will be attracted to the traps and be consumed. Although flytraps are carnivorous, they can go for long periods (a month or two) without eating insects. If you grow them outdoors, they'll get enough to eat naturally. If you're growing Venus flytraps indoors, you'll have to feed them bugs periodically. If you're feeding your flytrap, don't give it any insects that are larger than a third of the size of the trap; live flies might be tricky to feed it, but small spiders, beetles, and caterpillars will also work.

close up of Venus fly trap plant

Evgeniya Vlasova / BHG

Winter Dormancy for Venus Flytraps

Like many other plants, Venus flytraps need a period of winter dormancy when they appear to be dead (the leaves may die back) but are merely resting. Keep the plant at 35°F to 50°F. Don't let terrariums freeze; the plants may die, and the glass may break. At about the spring equinox, when days start growing longer, begin to increase warmth and light.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can a Venus flytrap hurt me?

    A Venus flytrap isn't strong enough to "bite" you with any power. If you stick your finger in the plant, it is more likely to be damaged than you are.

  • How big do Venus flytraps get?

    Most Venus flytraps reach no more than 5 inches tall or wide when fully grown.

  • Does Venus flytrap have any predators?

    In the home, the plant is susceptible to spider mites and aphids. Outside, squirrels, birds, and raccoons have been known to snack on them.

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