What you need to know about a Venus flytrap
Name: Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula)
Plant type: small carnivorous herbaceous perennial
Height: less than 10cm
Foliage: various colours, part leaf, part trap.
Climate: all except arid and semi-arid. Venus flytraps can be grown indoors where climate is unsuitable outdoors.
Soil: moisture-retaining, inclining towards an acid pH.
Position: full sun, very sheltered, cool winter.
Flowering and fruiting: flowers appear in spring.
Feeding: should not be fed.
Watering: bottom-water only.
Appearance and characteristics of a Venus flytrap
One of nature’s true oddities, the carnivorous Venus flytrap looks like it’s from another planet. In fact, the Venus flytrap is a native to the sub-tropical wetlands of the eastern United States.
The Venus flytrap is one of nature’s cleverest plants. Most have evolved to survive in situations where the soil holds little or no nutrition, so the plant makes its own food by catching and decomposing small insects. The Venus flytrap is perhaps one of the most fascinating of the carnivorous plants, and it’s surprisingly easy to grow.
The Venus flytrap is a very low-growing herbaceous perennial. That means it dies back in winter, and has unusual leaves. The leaves have two distinct sections—the horizontal leaf and the upright trap on the end. The plant will also produce leaves of different forms at different times of the year, so don’t be surprised to see your plant go through a range of changes as it grows.
The leaves shoot from an underground bulb-like structure. As the weather becomes cooler, the leaves will all shrivel up and turn black. Many people think they’ve actually killed their flytrap at this stage, but don’t panic—it’s just going into its winter dormancy and will reshoot come spring.
The trap is an ingenious mechanism. Tiny hairs trigger the trap to close when an insect brushes against them, trapping the insect inside. The insect is then dissolved by digestive juices emitted by the trap, reducing it to liquid fertiliser.
To trigger the trap, two hairs need to be touched within 20 seconds of each other. Then, when the trap closes, the hairs need to be triggered five more times for the digestive cycle to start.
Uses for a Venus flytrap
A Venus flytrap has many uses, including:
Great for the kids.
How to plant and grow a Venus flytrap
A Venus flytrap must have at least 4 hours of direct sun daily to grow and colour well. In very hot regions they may need to be watched carefully and given some afternoon sun protection.
If growing your Venus flytrap indoors, position if on a windowsill that receives sun all day.
Your plant must be kept moist, not wet. It will need to have a cool period during its winter dormancy.
Re-potting a Venus flytrap
A Venus flytrap usually grows in damp, slightly acid soil. When it comes time to re-pot, you’ll find that experts recommend a variety of complicated DIY blends, but you can just use straight sphagnum moss. The most important thing is that the material you use does not contain any extra fertilisers, and that you don’t add any, as they will kill the plant.
When selecting a pot, go for something that has good depth to allow for downward root development.
Caring for a Venus flytrap
For best results, follow these tips to care for your Venus flytrap:
Don’t water your flytrap from the top—stand it in a small saucer of water instead.
If you’re not growing the plant for seed, cut flower stems off as soon as they appear. The plant uses a lot of energy to flower, meaning the traps will be smaller.
As tempting as it may be, don’t trigger the traps for fun. Closing the trap uses a lot of energy, and each trap can only close 3–5 times.
Do not feed your Venus flytrap with fertiliser. It gets all the nutrition it requires from catching and digesting bugs.
If your plant is kept indoors you may have to manually feed it some small insects to keep it healthy.
How and when to prune a Venus flytrap
The only pruning your plant will need is to tidy up dead leaves.
How to propagate a Venus flytrap
When growing a Venus flytrap from seed, sow the seed as soon as it is collected. Spread it onto a mix of sphagnum moss and sand or perlite, then keep warm and reliably moist—do not let it dry out.
Dividing a Venus flytrap
Older, healthy plants will produce “pup” plants around their base. Carefully separate the pups when re-potting and place in a suitable mix.
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