How to Grow Healthy and Happy Venus Flytraps
The Essential Basics
Venus Flytraps are very easy to grow if you remember that although there aren't many rules, the few rules that do exist are very strict. There are many ways to kill a Venus Flytrap, but also many ways to grow them not only successfully but also in robust good health.
The essential rules for Venus Flytraps involve water, soil, light and dormancy (their yearly rest period). Each of these topics is covered below in summary, and in detail in their own sections here at VenusFlytrap.info. The navigation menu listing those pages is to the right.
Venus Flytraps should be watered only with pure water. That means that most tap water, city water, well water or garden water will damage or kill Venus Flytraps over a period of several weeks to several months. The reason is because of the things in water that you can't see.
Most water has minerals dissolved into it, and even if the water looks completely clear, it can still contain a small or large quantity dissolved mineral salts and other soluble material. The content of this soluble material in water is often refferred to as TDS (total dissolved solids). The TDS of water pure enough to use for Venus Flytraps and other carnivorous plants should be below 50ppm (below 50 parts soluble material per million parts of pure water). Using water with a TDS of higher than 50ppm will risk giving your Venus Flytrap (or other carnivorous plant) "salt burn".
A cheap TDS meter can be bought at many places online that can be used to measure the TDS of your tap, garden or well water, and if it happens to contain less than a reading of 50 or less on the TDS meter, consider yourself lucky: you can use that water for your Venus Flytraps, sundews, Cephalotus, Nepenthes and other carnivorous plants.
The native soil of Venus Flytraps is mostly sand. Mixed with the sand in their natural habitat is a little bit of vegetable matter mostly on the surface, and perhaps some sphagnum or other moss, living or dead and slowly decomposing. Pine or other evergreen needles are also a common component of the Venus Flytrap's native soil.
In cultivation, when Venus Flytraps are grown by us humans, we need to make a soil for them that mimics in some ways their own natural soil. It should be extremely poor in nutrients, absorb and hold plenty of water but be free draining, with enough air in the soil, to dry reasonably quickly and not stay soggy for long. Most soils or "growing mediums" for Venus Flytraps include sphagnum peat moss (dried, partially decomposed dead sphagnum moss) to hold water without adding nutrition, and perlite or sand to aerate the peat moss and make a springy soil that Venus Flytraps love.
An easy soil recipe for Venus Flytraps—
- 1 part by volume (not weight) of sphagnum peat moss (with no additives such as plant food in it; not Miracle-Gro brand)
- 1 part by volume of silica sand (no other kind of sand) or perlite (with no additives; not Miracle-Gro brand)
No Fertilizer: there should be no fertilizer of any kind in the soil, and no solid or liquid plant food dissolved into the water that is used for Venus Flytraps.
Venus Flytraps love lots of sunlight, but if the weather is extremely hot, somewhat shadier conditions are helpful, especially during the hottest part of the day during their growing season from mid-Spring to mid-Fall.
One problem in giving Venus Flytraps the sun they want is that the direct sunlight can heat the sides of the pot they are planted in, and the soil can become so hot from this phenomenon that it is actually possible to bake the roots and kill the plant in direct sunlight in very hot weather. This applies to a wide variety of plants, not just Venus Flytraps. The smaller the pot, the easier it is to overheat in direct sunlight. Larger pots with a greater amount of soil to help buffer the temperature and slow down the temperature variations, and especially insulating pots that are double-walled, made of polyurethane foam or styrofoam (polystyrene foam) or are insulated or protected from direct sunlight in other ways (by shading the pot while allowing sunlight to strike the plant, for example) are better choices for growing Venus Flytraps and many other plants, carnivorous or not.
Insulating pots can help keep Venus Flytraps' roots cool in the sunlight they love
Like tulips, daffodils, lilies and many other plants, Venus Flytraps need a yearly rest period called a dormancy. A Venus Flytrap dormancy begins at the end of the summer when the days become shorter and the temperatures cooler. At that time, Venus Flytraps' leaves will grow shorter and smaller, and stay much closer to the ground, in contrast to the longer, more upright leaves typically produced during the warm growing season.
When Venus Flytraps enter dormancy over a period of several weeks to a couple months, they don't grow nearly as much or as fast, and need water much less frequently. As the temperatures become cooler and nights longer, care should be taken not to water so often that the soil remains too wet for too long, which can encourage fungal or bacterial infection and rot. Instead, the soil (growing medium) should be allowed to dry until just moist before watering again. This is similar to the ideal watering during the growing season, except that there will be more days between waterings when the Venus Flytrap is dormant. During the growing season, depending on temperature, exposure to direct sunlight, wind and perhaps some other factors, Venus Flytraps might need thorough watering every 2-4 days. During dormancy with decreased evaporation because of lower temperatures, and decreased use of water by the plant as the Venus Flytrap tries to "sleep", thorough watering might ideally occur only every 8-14 days or so.
Light during dormancy— It is important to remember that although Venus Flytraps need their yearly dormancy with cooler temperatures, they still need sunlight or strong artificial light, because although they don't grow very fast during dormancy, they do continue to grow and use sunlight to create and store food in the bases of their leaves through photosynthesis.
Protect from freezing— Although Venus Flytraps grow naturally in an environment that occasionally has a light to moderate frost that can kill the leaves, it rarely experiences any strong freeze that makes the ground freeze solid. Although Venus Flytraps can grow new leaves if their leaves are killed by frost (air temperature that drops below freezing, while the soil temperature remains above freezing), it does use some of the plants' food reserves. Venus Flytraps can be much healthier and happier if they are protected from frosts and freezing by being placed in an area that won't freeze during the winter. A greenhouse, warm south-facing outer wall, an unheated, enclosed porch, an unheated attic with a window the plant can get light from, etc., are all possible locations in which a Venus Flytrap can experience the cooler temperatures it likes during dormancy while being protected to some degree from freezing.
Temperature range during dormancy— Venus Flytraps will have a comfortable and healthy dormancy if the temperatures for most of the hours of the day during the winter are between 38 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (between 4-14 degrees Celsius). It's perfectly fine for the temperatures Venus Flytraps experience during dormancy to rise into the 70s and even briefly into 80s (21-30 degrees Celsius), so long as most of the hours of the day, on most of the days, are cooler.
Length of dormancy— Venus Flytraps' dormancy usually lasts about 3.5 to 4.5 months, but in cultivation, protected from freezing and given plenty of sunlight in mid-Spring, they can emerge from dormancy after 10-12 weeks, giving them a longer growing season in which to develop into healthy, robust plants. The longer natural dormancy such as they experience in their native environment is also fine, although 10-12 weeks is sufficient if the Venus Flytrap emerges from dormancy on its own after that time. It is preferable to allow Venus Flytraps to determine for themselves when to emerge from their winter semi-sleep. This can easily be accomplished in protected and controlled growing environments such as a greenhouse merely by giving Venus Flytraps somewhat warmer (less cool, warm but not hot) temperatures and more light as the days become longer in the Spring.
Much More Information Available
For more information in much greater detail about the subjects mentioned on this webpage, please see the pages dedicated to water, soil, light, dormancy and other cultivation issues such as planting containers, pest management and growing Venus Flytraps from seed, using the MENU. If you have questions or comments about the information at VenusFlytrap.info, please leave a comment below or send them to the website author and maintainer, Stephen Doonan.