The 4 Horsemen of the Venus Fly Trap Apocalypse

Researcher John Gottman published an article about the “four horsemen” of the human relationship apocalypse, those being the things people do in a relationship that both create illness in relationships, and indicate that there are  problems.  They are:  Criticism, Defensiveness, Stonewalling, and Contempt, with the last one being the most indicative that things are not going well.

It got me thinking, what are the 4 Horsemen of your relationship with your Venus Flytrap?  In other words, what are the worst ways to treat a Venus  Flytrap that will lead to its demise?  

Here’s what I came up with:

1.  Denial (of authentic Venus Fly Trap needs)

Many people really super want their Venus Flytrap to be a swamp plant because that’s how it’s been imagined to them in the media.  But it is SO not.  And if you provide your Flytrap with swamp-like conditions, like constant water immersion, darkness or poor light, and little air movement, you are surely triggering one of the 4 Horsemen of the Venus Flytrap Apocalypse.  Denial of a Flytrap’s authentic needs isn’t helping anyone in the long run.  Venus Flytraps are NOT swamp plants, please release into the ether this very interesting but very inaccurate representation.

2.  Unrealistic Expectations (of Venus Fly Traps)

Probably due to “Little Shop of Horrors”, a lot of people think that Venus Flytraps are very large plants.  And that they talk, and eat people.  No, just kidding on the last one, ha.  Anyway, Venus Flytraps are very small plants, even at their most mature generally growing to be 5″ wide or tall, with 1.75-2″ traps. 

If you are expecting your Venus Flytrap to grow larger than it naturally will, you might try some dangerous stuff, like fertilizer, which of course has minerals that will kill a Venus Flytrap.  Some people who are super-experts can apply tiny bits of fertilizer to help a Flytrap grow, but all you’re doing is speeding up growth a little bit; the Flytrap will grow to the same size on its own, just in a bit longer time period.  No need to sprinkle it with death-dust aka fertilizer.  Even if you do fertilize intelligently and it works, you’ve now got to re-pot sooner, because the minerals toxify the growing medium much faster. 

If you can appreciate the realistic size and growth of a Venus Flytrap, you and your Flytrap(s) will be happier and healthier.

3.   Inattentiveness (ignoring your Venus Fly Trap for too long)

Just like in any relationship, if you ignore your Venus Flytrap for too long, you could miss signs about what it needs and what’s happening with it, how it’s doing.   Venus Flytraps will tell you what’s happening with them, in plant-speak. 

For example, if their foliage is getting thinned out and weak, they’re not getting enough UV light, and outdoors is about the only place you can get the unfiltered UV light they need.  If your Venus Flytrap starts getting funky new growth that is stunted or in odd shapes, it is telling you that it needs a re-pot, or possibly miticide.  If it won’t grow up and outward, it is telling you it is potted incorrectly, too low below the surface, and the traps can’t come out like they should.  And if you’re not paying attention, you might miss that your Flytrap needs more water, or less water, or a re-pot, or more sunshine. 

Just like in relationships with humans, if you pay attention to the needs of your Venus Flytrap, you will be rewarded right back with a happy healthy companion that/who can give back to you.  The circle of attention-life!

4.  Overattentiveness (helicopter-parenting your Venus Fly Trap)

Yes, that’s right, you can over-attend to your Venus Flytrap.  If you super over-think it, you will overdo it.  And you’ll subject your Venus Flytrap to all sorts of weird experiments and stimuli that you’re hoping will help your Flytrap, but really all you need are the 4 basics:  outdoors sunshine, mineral-free water, mineral-free growing medium, and not overwatering but of course never dry growing medium. 

I’ve seen and heard of people doing outrageous things while overattending to their Venus Flytrap.  Cutting Flytrap roots to make them even like bangs, fertilizing with all kinds of toxic stuff, moving the Flytrap around all day long, feeding the traps constantly with all manner of odd insects, feeding with hamburger meat, potting in uber-expensive obscure growing mediums…  Well, you get the point. 

It’s great to pay attention to your Venus Flytrap(s), but they really just need the basics.  Just like humans need the basics:  to be seen, heard, and feel like they matter…outside of that, just let us watch our Netflix already, ha.

Venus Flytraps – lifetime companions

Venus Flytraps can be lifetime companions if you treat them right, and isn’t that cool that they can technically live forever? Wow. And they’ll gift you back with those happy smiling traps, beautiful looks, and fascinating trap-action. Here’s to a good relationship with your Venus Flytraps!

Ways Venus Flytraps are like Humans

  1. They both have 20-second short term memories. Humans can, with rehearsal, keep something in their short term memory for 10-20 seconds. Venus Flytraps, after having 2 or more trigger hairs touched, have to have them touched a 2nd time within 20 seconds in order to close the traps shut.
  2. They grow best with fresh air and sunlight. Humans create Vitamin D that they need, when sunshine touches their skin. Venus Flytraps create food that they need when sunshine touches their tissue. Fresh air movement helps keep mold, fungus, and bacteria from remaining on both humans or Venus Flytraps for too long.
  3. They don’t like to freeze and they don’t like to be too hot. Both humans and Venus Flytraps do best in temperatures between 45-95F
  4. They can both catch their own food. Humans don’t catch their own food very often these days, except for gardeners, but they are capable of it! Venus Flytraps can munch on pretty much any bug that will fit in its traps.
  5. They need room to grow. Venus Flytraps have a “rhizome” underground where they store food, putting even more emphasis on the rhizome storage during dormancy, and less during the active growing season. The rhizome grows over time, and can’t be potted too tightly, so that the rhizome can be allowed to grow. The rhizome needs a few inches at least of space around it, too, separated from anything else growing near it, so they don’t bump rhizomes into one another, retarding growth. Humans of course also need their space, about 1.5 feet of space for personal space, and 4 feet for social space. This is more of a psychological than physical thing, but they both still need space!
  6. Both are slow growers. Venus Flytraps take a long time to grow, compared to most other plants. From baby to mature they can take up to 5 or 6 years to mature. Humans are also slow growers, with their ginormous heads/brains requiring that they come out of the womb before they can walk or care for themselves. And then taking 15-20 years to be considered a grown adult, physically. This compared to a newborn horse foal, which can prance about shortly after birth!
  7. They like water, but if they sit in too much water for too long, it’s bad for them. You’ve all have prune hands from a bath, right? Or you’ve heard of soldiers getting infections from having wet feet for too long? (It’s called “trench foot.”) Well, even though Venus Flytraps are considered by many to be “swamp plants” they aren’t really, they are from pine savannas in North Carolina. If it super hot and dry out, a Venus Flytrap can sit in water all the time because it’s evaporating and because they’re drinking a lot of it. But otherwise, Venus Flytraps can get sick if they sit in water for too long. That said, they should always be hydrated, never completely dry. Just like humans! Humans can only go about 5 days or so without water.
  8. Humans and Venus Flytraps are miracles of nature. Now, technically everything is, but humans and Venus Flytraps are pretty complex, especially humans of course. And we need to remind ourselves that we are incredible miracles, just like we think the same of our Venus Flytraps!

So tell me, how are humans and Venus Flytraps alike in your opinion?

What gets to grow with your Flytrap(s)?

I’ve noticed in a few photos online that some people, and even a particular retailer, leave a certain type of moss growing on the surface with their Venus Flytrap(s). The type of moss I’m referring to is “carpet moss” and it looks just like it sounds. It looks different than live sphagnum moss in that it’s very dense and quite even of height, like a dense carpet (not shag).

Carpet moss, if left to grow on the top of your growing medium with your Flytrap, will eventually take over and suffocate your Flytrap from growing well or at all, and should be removed. It removes in strips usually, or one big piece, because it’s densely connected, so be careful to not let your Flytrap get uprooted. If the carpet moss cannot be removed without disturbing the Flytrap, the Flytrap should be re-potted.

I’m not sure why carpet moss gets left to grow with the Flytrap, perhaps it’s seen as a protective or pretty topping? But it should definitely be removed, as it can choke out your Venus Flytrap for sure. You will also want to remove anything else growing in your Flytrap’s growing medium, such as grass sprouts or tree seedlings (we get those a lot here at FlytrapStore in Ashland, Oregon- the seeds fall of the trees and plant themselves in the Flytrap pots, it’s verrrry annoying). Anything growing with your Flytrap will steal what your Venus Flytrap needs – water, space, and sunshine – so try to remove the entire thing, root and all.

The only thing that could be OK to keep on the top of your Venus Flytraps’ growing medium would be live sphagnum moss, but in our experience, it’s really unnecessary unless you think it’s helping your Flytrap from drying out when it gets very hot in the summertime.

Some people might think or hope that other growth that they see in the pot with their Flytraps is a new Venus Flytrap growing in, but Venus Flytraps divide at the rhizome (“bulb”) so any new divisions will be right next to the main plant, touching. Whatever else is growing in your Flytraps’ pot is almost certainly not a baby Flytrap, unfortunately.

You can pot other Venus Flytraps in a pot, but you want to give each one about 4″ or so space from one another, so they have room to spread their traps and grow their rhizomes out.

You don’t want to pot pitcher plants with your Venus Flytraps because they require a lot of water, tons of water, and Venus Flytraps will rot if given too much water, though they do need to be hydrated at all times, just definitely not a swamp situation.

A sundew will do OK potted with a Venus Flytrap, as they have similar care requirements, but even sundews differ some in our experience, not necessarily liking as much sunshine as do Venus Flytraps, for example.

So the answer to this post’s title is, nothing gets to grow with your Venus Flytraps other than other Venus Flytraps or possibly a sundew. Your precious Venus Flytraps should get a swank clean mineral-free set-up for just their own growth. If only we all could, too! Your Flytraps will appreciate it, they’d thank you if they could!

Potting tips

Potting is quite an art when it comes to Venus Flytraps – they love to have some room to grow so you don’t want to pot too tightly, but in the summertime the growing medium can dry out too quickly if the growing medium is too airy.

The solution we’ve found is to pack in the bottom 1/3 or so of the growing medium so that it’s tight, and therefore will hold on to water for much longer. The rest of the growing medium can be looser, sort of like the density of a wet sponge, with some bounce to it but firm enough to hold the plant upright.

You’ll want to repot about every 6 months, optimally. You can go longer, but I’ve noticed Flytraps really love a re-pot, and all sorts of things build up in the growing medium over time, so fresh growing medium is very helpful for Venus Flytrap growth and health.

Make sure you use the appropriate growing medium, one that is mineral-free or minimum. If you use peat moss, you can flush minerals out of it by potting up your Flytraps, then running water from the top of the pot through to the bottom and letting it drain out and away. If you do this 3 times or so, you should flush out most minerals.

You can test the mineral content of your growing medium by soaking it in mineral-free water (Distilled, for example) and then then testing it with a TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) meter, which is usually just only $10 or so. Interestingly, the best growing medium we’ve used so far, premium long-fibered New Zealand sphagnum moss, has a high TDS count (ppm), but is perfectly safe for Venus Flytraps. My guess would be that whatever dissolved solid(s) are in it are OK for Flytraps while those in peat moss are not. A good TDS number is going to be between 0-40 ppm.

When you pot/re-pot, make sure the rhizome (the white-ish “bulb”) is underground but no baby traps should be underground. If the plant is shoved down too far into the growing medium it won’t grow well at all. Sort of like Tom Hanks stuffed down in that blanket-hole in The Money Pit, ha.

Make sure your pot has some insulation, thicker plastic pots or fiberglass pots are best. Ceramic, metal, and glass don’t insulate hardly at all, so should be avoided, especially if you’re growing your Flytraps in extreme temperatures.

So, just like humans, Venus Flytraps don’t like to be held too tight, but like a strong foundation, and appreciate a safe insulated home.

Happy flytrapping and potting!

To trim or not to trim

People often ask if they should be trimming parts off of their Venus Flytrap, and the answer to this is yes, if it is black. It isn’t necessary to trim or remove the black pieces that are left when traps die (a natural process, traps die off after eating a certain number of times, usually 4-5, and after time, and always new growth should also be coming in, even during dormancy). However, it does look nicer and neater to trim them, and too much dead debris could potentially keep the sun’s UV rays from touching the plant. This is why you would especially want to remove dead matter after dormancy has ended, because it can build up too much and keep the plant from all the UV it could be getting.

You don’t want to remove any green matter, as it is still helping feed your Flytrap, using chlorophyll. And please goodness do not trim any root or rhizome material (someone actually did this, cut the roots off like a haircut, oh my goodness, it hurt me inside).

Usually you don’t even need scissors, the dead material will dry up and become crunchy and come off easily using your fingers.

One little note, be careful to try and not trip any traps if you are manicuring your Flytrap. It takes a ton of energy to close a trap, so you only want to do that if you have food to offer.

Please Don’t Poke the Flytraps :) ….and why plants are cooler than people sometimes

When Matt and I first started doing this Flytrap situation that has now very surprisingly become the focus of our life (thank you, customerpeople!), we shilled them at a few Farmer’s Markets, and oh my gosh you would not believe how many people would just walk up and poke the mouth of the Flytrap. And guess who the majority were – children or adults? It was adults.

There are 2 things about this that stand out to me – first of all it is so very cool that Venus Flytraps bring out the child in all of us. They produce a sense of awe, and awe is one of the best things about being alive, even science says so.

What I see myself and others do when a Venus Flytrap’s trap closes is to step back a little, put their hand on their heart, and open their mouth a little. It’s so great! Just totally in the moment. A complete perspective shift, all of a sudden.

And it’s one of those things that kind of has to be in-person to really get how amazing it is, a plant moving of its apparent own volition. Of course, other plants move, too, but it’s so slow that we generally can’t see it without time-lapse cameras, etc. But Venus Flytraps are the sprinters of the plant world – boom! gotcha, bug!

The 2nd thing about the phenomenon of people poking into Venus Flytrap traps leads me to the title of this post. We had to put up a nice sign asking to please not touch the Flytraps. That’s because if you poke a Venus Flytrap (on the trigger hairs, twice within 20 seconds – which BY THE WAY, human short-term memory is also about 20 seconds, whaaaat), and it closes, that would be like asking Usain Bolt to run 100 meters just for funsies, no prize, no reward. It’d be like telling you if you do 50 push ups I’ll give you a piece of pizza, but then, no pizza for you. In other words, it takes a lot of energy, and a food reward helps make up for that.

It’s incredible enough that many plants can make make energy out of sunshine (well, technically, powered by sunshine, making energy out of carbon dioxide and water). But then to be able to Usain Bolt the trap? Awe-inspiring. Literally.

Plants in general are way bigger contributors to the world than many humans, in my opinion. I mean, most contribute oxygen every single day, as the result of photosynthesis. I wish that when I ate, I released something of value to the world afterwards, how cool would that be?! (Matt definitely releases something afterwards, ha, and then asks if I “heard that spider”, heh-heh).

So, yes, unless you have a treat, Please Don’t Poke the Flytraps. Also, I now have a lot more respect for people working at the Farmer’s Markets – it’s hot and crowded and it’s a ton of work for not much payback. Thank you, Farmer’s Market people, and Flytraps. 🙂

(Also, here’s a pretty nice article on awe written by Susan Cain, the person who wrote that awesome book about Introverts – my peoples!).

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It is so nice to hear from everyone, after sending out our annual newsletter. Thank you for all the support and kindness, and it’s so good to hear that your plants are doing well! It makes me very proud to be part of such a supportive community. Please know you can comment on these posts and I will be happy to respond. Love the feedback!

As for the FlytrapStore “trappenings”, as one awesome creative artistic customer calls Flytrap happenings on his FB page, the Flytraps are doing well, with DC XLs in particular getting very nice red coloration on its trap interiors during dormancy. So pretty. B52s are also looking really nice, despite being dormant – very nice coloration.

Hope your week has gone well, everyone, and thanks again for the replies and support about the Newsletter! That thing took me forever to do, and I appreciate it so much! (*ergh I just saw my one typo on the newsletter, darnit!….did you find it?)

The first frost

Well, we finally got our first frost here in southern Oregon, on December frigging 3rd, wow, the climate is just odd these last years. We keep our Flytraps outdoors until it is almost frost/freeze and then bring them into greenhouses and keep them at around 50F.

For “dormancy” the most important thing is the plant’s exposure to the changing light cycles, this triggers the Venus Flytrap to go into dormancy. Venus Flytraps, like other species like trees and bears, like a nice winter rest so they can spring back in the Spring. Cool temperatures also help, but the outdoors light cycles are integral. So, if it’s frost/freeze where you are, be sure your Flytraps are in the windowsill that gets the very best light and sunlight, and then put them back outdoors when the weather allows!

Nighty night little traps!

So you think your Venus Flytrap is healthy…

We at FlytrapStore often get emails from people asking why one of their Venus Flytraps is not doing well, stating that their other Flytraps are doing great. Almost always, upon looking at photos, actually all of the Flytraps are in poor health, but the one the person emailed about is just faring worse. And it makes you realize, there are a lot of misconceptions out there about what a healthy Venus Flytrap looks like.

It seems some caretakers are believing their Flytraps are healthy because they are green, but that doesn’t tell you as much as you’d think. A Venus Flytrap that is lacking appropriate UV light can be green, but also weak and spindly, with unnaturally elongated leaves reaching out for sunlight it’s not getting. And eventually a Venus Flytrap that isn’t getting enough UV light will perish.

The way to have a Venus Flytrap that is as healthy as it can be, not just struggling or middling along, is to have it outdoors as much as possible, in direct sunlight when it’s available depending on the season (even a cloud day has more UV light than the light through a home’s windowpane). The healthiest Venus Flytraps are also not constantly sitting in a lot of water, this can lead to rot. And they are re-potted at least once a year in appropriate growing medium, so they aren’t sitting in collected minerals that build up over time in growing medium.

Those who claim their Venus Flytrap is healthy even if it isn’t under these conditions are likely dealing with a less than optimally healthy Venus Flytrap that is doing its best to keep up. We at FTS want people to have the healthiest, best-looking Flytraps they can have, so please, ensure you care for them appropriately and don’t be fooled by the confusing messages about care that are out there. I was even sent a link from ICPS that contained inappropriate care information, so be discerning!

Venus Fly Trap Myths


TED Radio Hour and Venus Flytraps

What do these two things have in common? Well, they’re both awesome, for one.

Also, recently I’ve been listening to TED Radio Talk podcasts while I’m potting and working with the Flytraps, time flies, and together these things give me hope for people and plants and this planet.

I learn all kinds of wonderful things like if Earth’s history were 1 calendar year long, humans have been on the planet since 12:59.59 on New Year’s Eve.

We sure have done a lot in less than 1 second of this planet’s history, wow.

I also learned that trees talk to one another through yellow-ish thread-like fungi filaments, underground, and share things, like gases and nutrients.

And that there are “mother” trees, and they tend to funnel more good stuff to the trees that are more closely related to them. Nature is truly amazing.