Grow Happy and Healthy Venus Flytraps
The Most Important Basics: (see expanded information below)
- Only use distilled water, reverse osmosis water or clean and fresh rainwater.
- Do not over water. Keep your growing medium moderately moist and not sitting in water.
- For the first week, gentle sunlight, such as 3-4 hours of morning sunlight.
- After acclimation, at least 3-4 hours of sunlight per day.
- Use mineral-free growing medium/"soil." No fertilizers/Miracle-Gro at all. Rinse water through the soil.
- It is important to be gentle on your new plants for the 1st week, because although they have been growing in sunlight, they have just been uprooted and transported, and will briefly need to adjust and acclimate to their new conditions. They do need sunshine, but gentle sunlight for the 1st week (please do not immediately place them outside in full blazing continuous direct sun) during this brief adjustment period. For the first week, gentle sunshine is needed such as a morning sunshine, outside dappled light (shade mixed with sunlight) or a south-facing windowsill. Thereafter, gradually increase the exposure of your new plant to extended periods of continuous direct sunlight. After this adjustment period, your Venus flytrap will thrive on and require more sunlight (at least 3-4 hours a day minimum) and can be in the sunlight all day unless it is a harsh climate.
- Please note that it is very normal during this adjustment period that you will see some blackened traps, as the plant sacrifices some of its traps to adjust. The blackened traps do not hurt the plant, and you can simply remove them easily once they are dry and crunchy, or clip only the black parts off carefully if you wish. You should see new growth coming up soon, to replace the dying traps. Note: this cycle will occur throughout your Venus Flytrap's lifetime, so it is not something to cause concern unless no new growth were to occur and the majority of the traps are blackening. In this case, we have noticed that overwatering is usually the culprit.
- Carefully unwrap any packing material, including the dome on potted plants that is only there to protect it in shipping. Be gentle with your new plants, careful to not disturb the roots, rhizome, and traps too much. During this process, if your plants are bareroot, be careful to not let the roots dry out. Use Distilled water only to moisten the roots.
- Planting media — If you are planting bareroot (unpotted) plants and haven't ordered your growing medium from us, a 1:1 mixture of 50% pure sphagnum peat moss and 50% Perlite is a good basic growing medium for Venus flytraps. Mix these ingredients together and add water to moisten and mix again. You might also use New Zealand long-fibered sphagnum moss for a growing medium - this growing medium simply requires moistening with Distilled water to prepare for potting. Warning: do not use Miracle-Gro brand sphagnum peat moss nor Perlite; they contain added minerals that may easily kill Venus Flytraps. If you're unable to find any suitable media for your plant locally, you can purchase Venus Flytrap planting soil from the store.
- Planting container — Contrary to popular belief, Venus flytraps are not "swamp" plants, and do not do very well in terrariums, but if you do choose to use one, it should only be used with fluorescent "grow lights," as direct sunlight through a clear container can easily burn Venus flytrap roots. You must also be extra careful to not overwater if you are using a terrarium. Venus flytraps do much better in actual sunlight and with outside air movement. Use glazed ceramic, plastic or insulating polyurethane foam planting containers that have a drainage hole and are at least 4 inches deep, and preferably 6-8 inches deep.
- Potting your Venus flytraps — Now you can plant your flytrap(s) in the peat moss/Perlite growing medium by filling your pot with growing medium, and then poking a hole in the growing medium with a screwdriver or similar tool, then gently guiding the plant's roots into the hole, and filling the hole back in with your hands. Plant them so that the rhizome (the bulb-like whitish, swollen part just above the roots) is buried into the planting medium while the green part of the leaves is just above the surface.
If you are potting in New Zealand long-fibered sphagnum moss, simply pre-moisten it, then fill about half of the pot with it, wrap it around the rhizome (bulb-like white portion) while keeping the green part of the plant out of the moss, place it on the moss in the pot, and fill in the areas around it. You do not want to pot your plant too tightly in the moss - it should be the consistency of a moist cake, and not too densely packed, which will keep too much moisture tightly on the plant's rhizome and roots.
If your plant arrived already potted, all you need to do is gradually acclimate it to sunshine (see first arrow point above) and keep the growing medium moderately moist- not sopping wet, and not sitting in water, but certainly not dry either.
- Rinsing — You'll want to water your newly potted plants immediately, in order to rinse the peat moss of any minerals that may be in it that are harmful to Venus flytraps. You'll want to water from the top and allow the water drain out the bottom of the pot. You should do this about 3 times, to ensure that the minerals are rinsed out. Be careful to pour very gently and not disrupt your newly potted plants. You can do this over a few days, too. Use DISTILLED WATER ONLY (reverse osmosis water will also work, but please NO tap / well water or "drinking water" or "spring water"! - these types of water have minerals that are harmful to Venus flytraps). At all times from this point on, you'll want to keep your plants' roots moderately moist, while not sopping wet. Venus flytraps will rot if they are kept too wet, but their roots do need moisture at all times. If you are using New Zealand long-fibered sphagnum moss, you need not do the rinsing step. Just keep your plant moderately moist with distilled water: not sopping wet, and not dry.
General Care Requirements for Venus Flytraps
- Use only rainwater, distilled water or reverse osmosis water. Venus Flytraps require very pure water. Your tap water is likely to be too high in dissolved solids—minerals and salts—that may kill a Venus Flytrap, possibly within weeks. Always keep your Venus Flytraps moist, but never soggy for long, and never dry. One way to accomplish this is to water thoroughly from the top or by allowing water to soak into the medium from the bottom through the drainage hole, and then allow the planting medium to dry until it is just moist before watering again. Although some people recommend it, I personally don't like to place Venus Flytrap containers in a tray of water for hours or days unless it's absolutely necessary to prevent them from drying out while unattended (such as when you are taking a vacation or trip for a few days). When Venus Flytraps are very wet, they should also be warm and in the sun. Wet and cold is unhealthy (just like it is for people) and can cause fungal infections, rot and even death.
- Venus Flytraps must have a particular kind of soil that is poor in nutrients and slightly acidic. They will very likely die in "potting soil" or soil from your garden or yard. Their soil must be like the soil in their natural habitat: acidic and with almost no nutrients, moisture retentive but well drained. Until you learn what various types of ingredients you can have in their soil (from research on the Internet or from books, for example), it is best to use pure shagnum peat moss (no other kind of "moss") mixed with a more or less equal amount of silica sand (not beach or river or "play" sand) and/or perlite.
- Venus Flytraps are sun lovers, and in general, the more direct bright sunlight you give them, the healthier they will be. However, if the sides of a planter become very hot in full sun, try to cool the planter so that the roots don't overheat or burn. One way to do this without depriving the Venus Flytrap of the sun it wants and needs, is to place the planting container inside another larger container, with perlite filling the space between the two to insulate the inside container. Another way is to plant the Venus Flytrap in a styrofoam container (like a 16 or 20 ounce insulated beverage cup) or in a polyurethane foam planter.
- No! Never! Although experienced growers can occasionally fertilize Venus Flytraps lightly using special techniques such as foliar feeding, Venus Flytraps will probably die when fertilized by beginner growers, for the same reason that they usually die from tap water: too many minerals and chemicals. These burn the plants' roots and kill them. Venus Flytraps get all the nutrition they need from the sun (through photosynthesis like any plant) and from the insects they catch. If they are healthy and if you put them outside sometimes to "hunt," they will catch insects on their own. You can also feed them captured flies or other insects (but not meat!). It helps to place a captured fly in a glass bottle that is very cold for a few minutes to make the fly lethargic. Use tweezers to hold the drowsy fly by a wing, then place the fly in a trap and move it a little to stimulate the trigger hairs near the middle of the trap, which should cause a healthy trap to close. Don't close the traps over and over again, because each trap must grow a very particular way to be able to close, and can only snap shut a few times (perhaps half a dozen) before it won't respond anymore.
- Venus Flytraps must have a rest period of a few months every year. When the days become shorter and cooler in the Fall, the plants begin to slow down, not grow as much, and the traps begin to be sluggish. During dormancy Venus Flytraps should be kept cool. Although the plants can survive light frosts and brief freezing, it is better to keep them above freezing: 40°F to about 55°F degrees at night is sufficiently cool, and they can be warmer at times during the day, but should be cool to cold most of the time. An unheated porch or garage can work for most people. Venus fly traps should not be watered nearly as often because they don't need nor use as much water during their dormancy. Carefully cut off any traps that turn black. This is natural. Venus Flytrap leaves, like all plants' leaves, eventually die and are replaced by fresh leaves in time. During dormancy a healthy Venus Flytrap can look almost dead on top, but assuming it has not dried out completely nor rotted from too much water, it is healthy and will begin to grow vigorously again sometime in the Spring. At that time it will appreciate being placed in warmer conditions and watered more frequently again.
- You're on your way!
- If you follow the above tips, you'll be well on your way to growing healthy and happy Venus fly traps!