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Carnivorous Plant Growing Tips
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Venus Flytrap - Dionaea muscipula

Venus Flytrap
1:1 peat:sand
Venus Flytrap
4" plastic pot
moist to wet
full to part sun
warm summer, cool winter-tolerates frost
outdoors, windowsill, terrarium, greenhouse
The Venus Flytrap, Dionaea muscipula, grows naturally in the pocosins of the costal plains between North and South Carolina.  It grows among the grasses in the open sun, where the moist soil is typically a sand/peat mix, often sandier than peaty.  The climate is warm temperate.  The mean summer temperature is 80°F (67°C) and the mean winter temperature is 47°F (8°C) with temperature ranges between 0-104°F (-17-40°C).  Rainfall is about 8”/month (20cm) in the summer and 5”/month (13cm) in the winter.  Companion CPs include Drosera intermedia and Sarracenia flava, among others.
The Venus Flytrap is fairly tolerant of general CP growing conditions.  A standard CP soil mix of peat and sand works well.  The ratio of peat and sand is not critical.  Mature VFTs prefer a deeper pot of 4-6” (10-15cm) because of their long root(s).  It does best when the soil is evenly moist, but not soaking wet.  It can tolerate very wet, even submerged conditions, for weeks at a time.  Let the soil become drier; yet remain somewhat moist, during winter dormancy.  Water from below with mineral-free water.  The tray method works very well.  Stand the pot in a tray or saucer and keep about 1/2 - 1” (1.25-2.5cm) of water in it at all times during the growing season.  VFTs prefer full sun and develop their best red colors in very bright light.
A winter rest period is required of mature plants.  As day length and temperature diminish the plant will slow its growth and many of the traps will die back.  Several traps may remain green during the winter, but they will be slow or ineffective feeders.  Cut back on watering and allow the tray to become dry in between waterings, but the soil should stay somewhat moist.  Provide cooler temperatures during dormancy.  A cold porch or garage may work well.  An alternative method is to de-leaf and bare-root the corm (bulb), place it in a vented zip-lock bag with slightly damp peat and a bit of sulfur powder or other fungicide, and keep it in the refrigerator during the winter months (Nov-March).  Repot in a fresh CP soil mix in the early spring. 
VFTs only need to “feed” about once a month during active growth.  Avoid the temptation to feed them.  Let the plants catch prey on their own.  Even indoors they will attract and capture an occasional fly or other insect.  Do not feed them meat or cheese.  Complete trap closure to initiate digestion requires a struggling victim.  An inanimate piece of hamburger or similar “food” will only sit and rot and possible kill the trap.  If feeding is desired, use tweezers to place a live insect, spider or similar prey that is about 1/3 the size of the trap, directly into the center of the trap.  It helps to gently trigger the trigger hairs so that the trap closes around the “meal.”  Digestion will take 3-5 days depending upon the temperature and general health of the plant. 

Other Considerations
  • Avoid closing the traps without a feeding.  The plant uses energy to close and reopen.  If it does not gain any nutrition, the plant is weakened.  Repeated closures without a feeding may kill the plant.  One or two closings to show off the plant are okay, just do not over do it.
  • Traps work for 3-4 feedings and then naturally die and turn black.  This is normal and these dead traps may be trimmed away.  New traps will emerge.
  • Dryness, low light, or dramatic changes in temperature can trigger the plant to enter dormancy.  The plant may appear to be dying, and loose all of its traps, however, it is likely only beginning to go dormant and dying back to the corm.  If this happens, let it rest for a few weeks, and then reintroduce it to health CP conditions.  New growth should begin.
  • It is generally a good idea to remove the flower spike when it forms.  If left to grow, it draws energy from the plant and can weaken a potted plant to the point of death.
  • If the plants are to be grown indoors, consider placing them in a vented terrarium under fluorescent lights with a timer set for 16 hours/day.  The lights should be about 6” from the plants.
  • Repot every few years in a fresh CP soil mix, since the peat breaks down and can create poor drainage.  This is a good time to divide the corm and/or take a few leaf cuttings for propagation.  This is best done in the spring, before active growth begins.
  • Consider growing VFTs outdoors.  They can tolerate frost or a light freeze.  They grow exceeding well in a bog box or bog garden in the yard.  They will thrive in full sun and moist CP soil, naturally catching a variety of insects.  VFTs flower in June, and go to seed in July, producing many small plantlets by late summer.

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