The Venus Flytrap is the plant most people want to start with, but it is the one that many have difficulty with. It is not a tropical plant and comes from the same part of the world as the Sarracenias. It does like full sun-south facing window or conservatory, but also needs a winter. If your house is heated, move the plant somewhere cooler for the winter.
It will flower prolifically, and unless you have had your plant at least a year, we would suggest you cut the flowers off as they appear. Otherwise, it will put a lot of energy into the flower instead of the traps, and unless it is a strong plant, it can suffer and even die after flowering.
Venus flytraps are not large plants and are best grown in pots in water trays or saucers of water. They can be grown outside (see Growing Carnivorous Plants Outside)
Always use soft water, preferably rainwater. Venus flytraps are particularly sensitive to lime. If rainwater is not available, use distilled or de-ionised water, or maybe filtered water. Bottled mineral water may well contain high levels of lime and is unsuitable. Never use softened water. We keep ours standing in 2-4cm water from March through October, and then just damp through the winter. They do literally stand in water – not over a gravel tray, and they do not need to be sprayed with water.
Never give any fertiliser through the root system. If the plant is grown in fly free conditions, it is best to feed live insects into the trap during the growing season. Due to the way they digest their prey, it is important you only feed them live insects. Dead ones will only cause rot. Each trap will catch around three insects and then die back. This is perfectly normal. and we never feed them artificially. They don’t catch a huge amount, but will catch a nice variety especially if put outside in the summer. If you have children, encourage them to catch something for their flytrap, rather than poking it, as this will weaken the plant. They do not need feeding over winter.
Venus flytraps are remarkably tough over winter. We have over-wintered one outside down to -10oC. That may be a little extreme, but they definitely do better with a cool rest, below around 7oC. If kept too warm, they may either struggle to grow or they may rot at the root. The plant will be getting weaker. They do start to look a bit ill in the autumn – traps going black and the plant not looking healthy. This is when you may panic and put it somewhere warm and feed it up. This is the worst thing to do! Put it in an unheated room or cold greenhouse. Cut back on the water as it is not growing so fast. It can dry out slightly between watering. As the traps go black, remove them. Some plants will lose all their traps and almost bury themselves in the pot, others retain a few traps for the winter. Watch for botrytis (see pest and disease page). It will start coming into growth in early spring, but it really depends on how much sun we have.
We use a mixture of 3:1 Sphagnum peat: sharp lime free sand. Parts by volume. Re-pot every two years to achieve maximum growth, but will tolerate being left for four years. Old compost, ericaceous compost or houseplant compost will not do. Most composts contain lime, which flytraps hate, and/or fertiliser. As their roots are designed to take in fertiliser, the nitrogen can burn the roots. Therefore it is important to use the right compost.
Grow from seed (takes 2-3 years for mature plant, but isn’t difficult). Stratification (place pot in fridge for a few weeks) helps germination. If you have let your plant flower, collect the seed from the seed pod, just as it is splitting on the top. You can see the black, shiny seeds inside. Sow immediately or dry and keep in the fridge over winter. You can divide your plant in early spring. If it has formed a clump, it will divide easily into separate plants.