Questions and Answers about Venus Flytraps
This is a FAQ (a frequently-asked questions compilation) compiled by Stephen Doonan
- Seedlings & Fertilizer
- Flowering & Dividing
- Traps Getting Smaller
- Are Venus Flytraps Bog Plants?
- Traps Aren't Red
Seedlings & Fertilizer
Q: A lot of the Venus Fly Trap seeds I received several weeks ago have germinated... I also have several more that are now just beginning to show signs of germination. I know that Fly Traps are very sensitive to fertilizer salts in their soil. Would you recommend giving them some fertilizer... say 1/4 tsp of MaxSea 16-16-16 fertilizer to 1 gallon of RO (reverse osmosis) water? I also add 3 or 4 drops of Superthrive to the 1 gallon of RO water as well. Do you think this too much for fly trap seedlings?
A: I wouldn't give them any fertilizer at all. It might burn the very delicate first root hairs and exposed root of the just germinated Flytraps, and even a slight spray or watering of very weak fertilizer is likely to cause a messy bloom of slimy algae on the soil surface in the bright (but indirect) light that the seedlings will want in order to grow their best.
Regarding Superthrive (a vitamin supplement for plants, including vitamin B), years ago I used it routinely, but found no difference in growth, the rate nor extent of root development, nor lessening of transplant shock when used for Venus Flytraps, so I discontinued using it. However, I believe it is harmless (has no negative effect in my experience).
Flowering & Dividing
Q: My Dionaea (Venus Flytrap) has recently stopped growing normal-sized traps, and it has decided to produce zillions of small traps instead. I've counted more than 30 traps, all sprouted in the last 2-3 weeks. This happened right after I cut the flower stalk (it was about 3 inches tall at the time), but this had never happened in the past, when I grew my Dionaeas outdoors. Today I'm forced to grow it indoors, at my office desk to be exact, under a 23-watt white fluorescent lamp (16 hours of light / 8 hours of dark). Was cutting the stalk the reason that caused all this growth this time?
A: The Flytrap is dividing. It's common for a Venus Flytrap to grow one or more new rosettes (growing crowns) after putting up a flower stalk, usually but not always followed by a pause in growth before the new divisions become visible.
One way to look at it is this-- A single Venus Flytrap, with just one growing crown, will flower as the terminal action of that growing crown, just as many annual plants finish their growth by flowering and setting seed. In the case of the Venus Flytrap, the end of the growth of one rosette (represented by putting up the flowerstalk) often means that this particular rosette is ready to die, at the end of its lifecycle. But the plant (usually) has plenty of food and nutrients stored in the rhizome, from which new plants (the divisions) arise, from the tissue shared by all leaves at the bottom of the rhizome.
Some Venus Flytraps, depending on various characteristics or conditions, will produce just one new growing crown, or several, or many. These divisions can also happen (and frequently do happen) at other times of the growing season as well. Some Venus Flytrap clones tend to divide more frequently than others, but all have the capacity to replace themselves with new young plants from the old plant's remaining tissue.
Over the next weeks and months, every leaf from the old growing rosette, before the Flytrap produced the flowerstalk, is likely to die, and when the last one dies and the remaining part of the flowerstalk has darkened and died, nothing will remain of the old Venus Flytrap except for some leaf-base material under the surface of the growing medium that continues to feed the new, young divisions until the old reserve is exhausted and the divisions have become healthy, self-sustaining plants that will eventually flower and produce divisions of their own.
Traps Becoming Smaller
Q: My Venus Flytrap seems to be healthy, but the traps it's producing are smaller than the traps it had before. All of the growing conditions seem to be the same. What's wrong?
A: Venus Flytraps produce larger or smaller traps all during their growth, seasonally and for many other reasons. Often the largest traps of the season will be those produced immediately after the Flytrap emerges from dormancy, rather than later in the year when the plant is more mature.
Sometimes the traps will grow smaller when the plant is putting most of its energy into producing a flowerstalk and setting seed, or producing divisions (new offshoot plantlets). Sometimes the traps will be smaller when the plant is exposed to too much light or too little light; this sometimes happens in mid-summer when the sun is highest in the sky and most intense, and the days longest, or correspondingly, when the plant is not getting enough light, such as when it's grown indoors with little full sunlight. The traps and entire leaves are also often shorter and smaller when the days become cooler and shorter in the Fall as the Venus Flytrap prepares for its yearly dormancy, and throughout its dormancy.
Are Venus Flytraps Bog Plants?
Q: I heard that Venus Flytraps are bog or swamp plants that grow in really wet soil or sometimes in water. Should I keep my Venus Flytrap very wet?
A: No. Venus Flytraps prefer to be moist, but not wet all the time. It is a misconception or myth that Venus Flytraps are bog plants, although some of them do grow near bogs, usually on the bank at a higher level than the water. In their natural habitat, they usually grow in sandy savannahs (grasslands) or pine barrens in very poor, porous soil that is well drained and quick drying, kept moist by reasonably frequent rains and more importantly, by a fairly high water table (the level or depth at which water is available or pools if one were to dig for it) that is perhaps only one to three feet below the surface of the soil. Venus Flytraps like to be able to have water available to their roots, but the surface of the soil where they grow naturally dries fairly fast between reasonably frequent rains because of its sandy, porous nature. With a high water table beneath the surface of the soil, the ground water is wicked upward by capillary action to the roots of the Venus Flytrap, which in a mature plant can easily grow to six, eight, even ten inches or more in length.
For a watering regimen in cultivation it is best to follow the "moist, not wet" rule. That is, the soil should be watered thoroughly so that it is consistently wet, allowed to drain freely to get rid of excess water, then allowed to dry until just moist before the next thorough watering, which depending on planting container size, air temperature and active growth, could be anytime from 2 or 3 days during the growing season, or 8-14 days between waterings during dormancy when the cool air and diminished water needs of the dormant Venus Flytrap cause the growing medium to dry much more slowly.
Traps Not Red Inside
Q: I see lots of pictures of Venus Flytraps that are really red inside the traps, but the traps of my Venus Flytrap aren't red. How can I get them to turn that nice red color?
A: Venus Flytraps can sometimes be unpredictable or stubborn about turning red inside the traps. There are two types of red coloration that Venus Flytraps produce: one is dark red coloration in various areas of the leaves caused by a production of the organic red dye anthocyanin, and the other is the red color (probably also produced by anthocyanin) that occurs on the inside surface of the traps including the tiny digestive fluid glands covering the interior of the traps of Venus Flytraps.
Both the red and green coloration (the green caused by chlorophyll) of the leaves of Venus Flytraps occurs in response to sunlight or other light. However, the red develops more slowly than the green color, so the traps will look green at first and only slowly turn red with continued exposure to strong light. If the trap closes (to capture and digest an insect, for example) the development of the red color can stop for awhile, until the inside of the trap is once again exposed to direct light.
In addition, at some seasons of the year the red coloration is more likely. During a cool Spring and during the Fall, the traps and leaves of a Venus Flytrap are more likely to be red than during the warm, active growing season. There are two primary reasons for this: the faster the leaves grow, such as during the summer, the greener they are, both because the red takes much longer to develop and is spread thinner so to speak in a greater amount of plant tissue; and in Fall, older leaves that have been exposed to bright light for a longer time after reaching their full size, tend to develop a red or deeper red color because of the prolonged light exposure combined with little growth.
One dependable way to cause Venus Flytraps to turn red is to expose them to a lot of red light, which can be done artificially using Fluorescent or LED (light-emitting diode) lights that produce more light in the red or near-red light than other frequencies of visible light. Venus Flytraps can grow very well indoors under artificial light, if it is strong enough. (A single, ordinary compact fluorescent bulb is not usually sufficient unless it is so close to the plant that the heat it produces burns the plant, making it an impractical artificial-light solution.)
A Venus Flytrap with red trap interiors. This particular Venus Flytrap clone is named "Jaws."