As fascinating as houseplants are, they don’t move around much. But other plants are a little more active, moving, interacting with their surroundings, and sometimes even catching prey. The venus flytrap is one of these fascinating carnivorous plants. Native to North Carolina bogs, these small, moisture-loving plants use their leaflike “traps” to capture insects for nutrients in addition to absorbing them from the soil. The traps of these colorful plants are often an attractive pink that pops against the plant's vivid green leaves.
The spiky jaws that give the venus flytrap its name are actually a modified leaf, which rest about a third of the way open and tantalize nearby insects with the sweet scent of the nectar that grows on the pink interior portion of the leaves.
When the insect lands in the trap, it touches tiny hairs on the trap surface. After a few of these hairs have been triggered, the trap immediately closes on the prey, with the “teeth” on its edges acting like a cage to keep the insect from escaping. As the insect struggles, the jaws close tighter and tighter, then release an enzyme that dissolves the insect’s innards for the plant to digest. Afterwards, the flytrap opens its jaws to drop the hard exoskeleton and await another insect.
- Botanical Name: Dionaea muscipula
- Common Name: Venus flytrap
- Plant Type: Perennial
- Mature Size: 6 to 12 inches tall
- Sun Exposure: Direct light
- Soil Type: Well-drained, nutrient-free soil
- Soil pH: 3.9 to 4.8
- Toxicity: Non-toxic
How to Grow Venus Flytrap
Despite their love of humidity, venus flytraps are temperate rather than tropical plants. This means that they do well in cooler temperatures, with nights in the 40-degree range and days in the high 50s.
Venus flytraps also need lots of light, since they’re used to full sun outdoors, so putting them in a bright, sunny south-facing or west-facing window is a good idea. If it doesn’t get enough light, your venus flytrap will become etiolated (long and leggy) trying to reach for the sun, and it won’t grow as many traps.
Since their native habitat is wet and boggy, it’s important to keep your venus flytrap’s soil wet at all times. Set the pot in a tray or saucer of water so that the growing medium always stays wet. Group your venus flytrap with other houseplants that enjoy similar conditions to create a more humid microclimate.
Venus flytraps do best without fertilizer. In fact, it’s best never to fertilize them, as they grow best in very poor, low-nutrient soils. You can purchase specially made venus flytrap soil or make your own blend. Popular blends include a mix of two parts long-fibered sphagnum moss to one part coarse sand and a combination of equal parts unenriched peat moss and perlite.
Because they love wet, humid conditions, venus flytraps are great plants to grow in terrariums.
During the summertime, it’s a good idea to bring your venus flytrap outside to a place with full sun if you have a porch, balcony, backyard, or window box available. Acclimate your plant by taking it out into the sun over a week or so to help it get used to the brighter light.
Start with a few hours the first day, then a few more hours the next day, and so on. Outdoors, your venus flytrap will have the chance to feast on plenty of insects. Bring your plant inside in the fall, checking them carefully for pests or other issues.
How to Propagate Venus Fly Trap
The easiest way to propagate your venus flytrap is by division of a healthy, mature mother plant. As they grow, the plant will form additional rosettes. Wait until spring to remove and repot the rosette.
To divide your venus flytrap, you’ll need a healthy mother plant with multiple rosettes, a planting medium such as venus flytrap soil, and a small container in which to plant the new division.
Step 1: Examine your venus flytrap and count the leaves of each rosette. Once a rosette has at least seven of its own leaves, it should be mature enough to be propagated and removed from the mother plant.
Step 2: Prepare the container by filling it with the growing medium and moistening the medium well. Using your finger or a pencil, poke a hole a few inches deep into the growing medium.
Step 3: Gently turn the mother plant out of its pot, taking care not to damage the plant. Using your fingers, carefully pull apart the rosettes and look to see if the new rosette has developed a root system of its own. If not, the plant is not yet ready to be divided, and you should wait until the following spring to divide it. If the new rosette does have a root system, you can continue separating the rosettes.
Step 3: Plant the division in the prepared container. Replant the mother plant in its original container.
Step 4: Place both containers in a tray of water so that the soil remains constantly moist, place them in an area with full sun, and care for them as usual.
Common Growing Problems
Air that is too dry will prevent your venus flytrap from growing new traps. In addition, keep them away from hot or cold air vents, which can dry out the air around the plant.