Feed a Venus flytrap

Step by step instructions to quickly grow Venus flytraps from seed to adult plants by feeding them regularly

by Francois Boulianne (Maiden)

Introduction

Let’s learn how to properly feed a Venus flytrap!!!

I remember, in my childhood, when I got my very first Venus flytrap. I remember that little green plant in a plastic dome with the peculiar looking traps sitting on the kitchen table; it looked so fragile. At the same time, in my mind, that little plant was the representation of the perfect predator. Apparently immobile, perfectly still, and then….SNAP! Eating time!

As cultivators, we must keep in mind that the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is carnivorous from the time a baby flytrap produces its first tiny seedling trap. This means that even the very little recently sprouted seedlings are capable of capturing prey and can benefit greatly, growing much more quickly, from being fed.

Below I will describe my very personal technique for making these seedlings thrive at their best, using freeze-dried bloodworms.  I have successfully raised Venus flytraps from seed to adult-sized, flowering plants in just 8 months using this technique!

At the end of the article, we will discuss how to feed other carnivorous plants.

So let’s get started on how to grow Venus flytraps from seed to adulthood in a few months!

Steps to grow Venus Flytraps from seed to adulthood in less than a year

Handful of Venus Flytrap Seeds
Handful of Venus Flytrap Seeds

To the left is a photo of fresh Venus flytrap seeds. Good and strong germination of our Venus flytrap seeds will be especially important to our success of quickly growing these seeds to adulthood.

Similar to humans, when one gets a good start in life, what follows will be easier. The same is true for baby Venus flytraps! 

With a good and fast start, a baby Venus flytrap will be able to keep up the same growing speed and this will make the seedling much stronger and allow it to thrive from the very beginning of its life.

Flytrap Seed Sowing
Flytrap Seed Sowing

As seen in the photo to the right, the next step is sowing the seeds for germination.  My preferred germination medium is long-fiber sphagnum moss (dead) or living sphagnum moss.

Sprinkle the seeds on the surface because as soon as they germinate, the baby flytraps will need a lot of light. Do not bury the seeds!

The seeds will sprout quite quickly in high relative humidity, and at relatively high temperatures. In my setup, I have massive and quick germination at 30°C during the day and 25°C during the night. This could be called “lowland conditions” for those people who are in the carnivorous plant hobby.

Venus Flytrap Seed Germination
Venus Flytrap Seed Germination

Germination will normally occur from 10 to 20 days after sowing the seeds but can take much longer if conditions are not ideal. In order to ensure elevated humidity, seeds should be started under a plastic dome or in any humid terrarium.

Very high relative humidity will result in much quicker germination. From my experience, from 90% to 100% relative humidity is the best.

After the germination, I suggest keeping the relative humidity very high. Some growers like to bring down the relative humidity in order to avoid algae and fungal growth. But for me, the seedling will grow much faster in very high humidity. After all, they are native to areas where the relative humidity is quite high.

Shortly after germination, perhaps within the first 2 weeks, the recently sprouted baby Venus flytraps will develop their first tiny traps. These traps are fully functional and ready to do some serious business!  The problem is that they are exceptionally small and thus can’t capture most types of natural prey.

At this stage, the traps will have a kind of square form. It is important to feed baby Venus flytraps immediately after their first trap opens.

Nutrition, Nutrition, Nutrition!!

Dehydrated Blood Worms
Dehydrated Blood Worms

Let’s quickly discuss the nutritional value of the food that carnivorous plants capture through predation. The closest relative of the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is the King Sundew (Drosera regia).

The amazing Drosera-relative, the Venus Flytrap evolved to a complete closed leaf to maximize nutrition gained from the digestion of prey! The reason is very simple; Drosera species and Venus flytraps (Dionaea) catch mostly flying insects with less nutritional value.

The best meal a carnivorous plant can get is from crawling insects, like worms, spiders, big ants, and other creepy crawlers. These sorts of insects are higher in nitrogen, which is the major element that carnivorous plants are trying to supplement by capturing prey. So with a totally closed trap instead of a sticky leaf, the assimilation of nutrition is much better.

So, it is for these reasons I will introduce the dehydrated freeze-dried bloodworms to my plant. This product is very high in crude proteins and nitrogen so the plant will be always on a boost.

Pot of young, hungry Venus Flytraps
Pot of young, hungry Venus Flytraps

To the left, you will see a photo of a pot of young, but very hungry, Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) seedlings. Of course, feeding my young pets is my very personal method, and a big nursery cannot take the time to do this for all of the plants they grow.

Should they choose to augment the nutrition of their Venus flytraps, most will probably use foliar fertilizing (spraying or misting the traps and leaves) or very light doses of fertilizer added to the soil to increase nutritional uptake by the roots.

And in vitro propagation of Venus flytraps allows for mass propagation of plants and also allows those plants to grow much more quickly in a sterile environment than they normally would in the real world.

Rehydrating Freeze-Dried Blood Worms
Rehydrating Freeze-Dried Blood Worms

In the photo to the right, you can see the freeze-dried blood worms being re-hydrated. For plants like Venus flytraps and sundews, I’ve found that it is best to use re-hydrated blood worms. After removing the excess water, the worms can be rolled into little “meatballs” which can then be fed to your Venus flytrap, as you will see below.

A good rule of thumb is to roll the freeze-dried blood worms into balls no larger than one-third the size of the trap.  If too big of a piece is used, the trap could rot and die during the digestion process.

Feed a Venus flytrap!

To actually feed a Venus flytrap, simply put the little meatball on the tip of a toothpick and then stick it in the trap to be fed and gently move it around inside the trap.  The trigger hairs will be stimulated, and the trap will snap shut!  On seedlings, the traps often close more slowly, so have patience when feeding Venus flytraps.

Feed a Venus flytrap
Insert bloodworm meatball into the open trap
Feeding a young Venus Fly Trap
Make sure the trap triggers closed
Feeding a young Venus Fly Trap
Massage the sides of the trap to stimulate digestion to begin

In the above series of photos, you will see the Venus flytrap feeding procedure in detail. The first photo shows the blood worm meatball entering the trap.  In the second (middle) photo, the trap has snapped shut but has not yet sealed.

When flytraps catch live prey, the prey struggles within the trap, continuing to hit the trigger hairs and telling the trap to seal and begin digestion.  This saves the plant from attempting to digest something inanimate that entered the trap and will provide no nutrition.  

But in this case, our blood worms are nutritious enough that the plant will benefit from sealing the trap and beginning digestion.  The problem is that there is no movement to stimulate the trap to seal.

The solution for us is, with two toothpicks or a forceps or even our fingertips, to press very softly on each side of the trap. This will mimic a living insect still moving inside the trap, and the trap will seal. If the trap is not sealed after 30 minutes, press again very slowly and gently on each side.

Sealed and Digesting Young Venus Flytrap
Sealed and Digesting Young Venus Flytrap

In the photo above, you see a sealed trap. This means the digestion process has begun! This trap will stay closed for several days; normally about 5 days in warm conditions.

A normal, healthy trap can absorb 2 to 4 meals before becoming inactive.  Once the trap loses its ability to snap shut, it can still provide food for the plant through photosynthesis as long as it stays green, so do not cut off any inactive, but live, traps!

Quickly Growing Young Venus Flytraps
Quickly Growing Young Venus Flytraps

In the above photo is a forest of Venus flytraps that are rapidly growing now thanks to all of the feeding! For maximum growth rate, it is best to try to feed one or two traps, once a week, on each Venus flytrap.

Nearly Adult-sized Venus Flytraps
Nearly Adult-sized Venus Flytraps
Nearly Adult-sized Venus Flytraps
Nearly Adult-sized Venus Flytraps
Nearly Adult-sized Venus Flyfraps
Nearly Adult-sized Venus Flytraps

Providing Ideal Conditions for Rapid Growth of Venus flytraps

Below is a list detailing my exact growing care for Venus flytrap collection:

  • 80% Relative humidity at all times
  • Temperatures 24°C (75°F) during the day with a low of 18°C (65°F) at night
  • Raise the day temperature from 24°C (75°F) to 28°C (82°F) for 48 hours after each feeding session.
  • High output T5 fluorescent tubes will full spectrum on a 16-hour photoperiod (16 hours on, 8 hours dark).
  • Blue spectrum 2700K vertical tubes on each side of the setup.
  • Push a little airflow around the plants.
  • Soil mix is 50%-25%-25% proportions of the following materials: peat moss-perlite-coconut husk chunks
  • Water twice a week, from the top, with distilled water.

It should be noted that the rehydrated blood worm diet can be used all the time, at any growing stage, not just on small or baby flytraps.

Almost all genus of carnivorous plants can be fed with freeze-dried blood worms. I say “almost all” because some plants are very hard to feed, like Utricularia(s) and genlisea(s). Even Sarracenia minor is quite hard to feed.  On some genus, you will have to grind the freeze-dried blood worms in order to make them more easily digested.

Feeding other Carnivorous Plants

For Heliamphora, Cephalotus, Nepenthes and some Sarracenia, the best method is dusting the freeze-dried blood worms inside the pitchers. Or, if you prefer to wet the freeze-dried blood worms first, you can use a toothpick and deposit in the pitcher in a similar fashion to feeding Venus flytraps.

Feeding Heliamphora Dehydrated Blood Worms
Feeding Heliamphora Dehydrated Blood Worms
Feeding Heliamphora Dehydrated Blood Worms
Feeding Heliamphora Dehydrated Blood Worms
Feeding Heliamphora Dehydrated Blood Worms
Feeding Heliamphora Dehydrated Blood Worms
Feeding Cephalotus Dehydrated Blood Worms
Feeding Cephalotus Dehydrated Blood Worms

A photo of Cephalotus feeding can be seen above.

Feeding Pinguicula Dehydrated Blood Worms
Feeding Pinguicula Dehydrated Blood Worms

And a photo of Pinguicula feeding with the “dusting method” can be seen above.

Conclusion

You can find freeze-dried blood worms in many pet shops, drugstores, and big surface stores in the pet aisle.  They are commonly used as fish food. Many people are allergic to freeze-dried blood worms.  Fortunately, I’m not allergic, but I do know many people with the allergy, which can be quite acute and even life-threatening in rare situations.  So one should always take care and use toothpicks to avoid direct contact with the freeze-dried blood worms.

With a single bottle, you will make your plants thrive! It’s cheap, fast, easy, and a very rewarding method for growing these plants at an accelerated speed!

– Francois Boulianne (Maiden)

External Links

Barry Rice’s page on Feeding a Venus flytrap:
http://www.sarracenia.com/faq/faq2460.html