Instructions for growing Venus Fly Traps.

Robert Allen (Robert.Allen@Eng.Sun.COM)
Tue, 1 Feb 1994 13:58:54 +0800

>> This summer, somebody gave me a Venus Fly Trap as a joke. No plant
>> is a joke so I decided to keep it alive. That's where the problems
>> started. The litterature I have on CP is very, very sketchy. One
>> book even goes as far as suggesting I throw it away when it dies.
>> What I need is this: can somebody provide me with the basics of
>> this plant so I can keep it alive. I'm sure somebody has a file
>> hidden somewhere with the info I need!
>> The plant is in peat moss and has not been repotted. Right now,
>> leaves grow but the tips don't seem to be able to generate a
>> "mouth" (for lack of a better word).

Welcome Marc. Here is a file I created long ago about growing the
VFT. What you probably don't know is that they go dormant in the
winter. Often all the above ground foliage turns brown and dies.
They will withstand light frost, and if mulched under a pile of
mulch, they can survive heavy frosts (mostly anyhow). Your plant
is probably trying to go dormant. Cut back on the water until
the soil is just barely damp: dormant plants are prone to rot. If
you can, let the plant sit somewhere it's cool and not too bright.
If you put it outside, don't let it get so dry it dessicates. In
the spring it will start putting up a flower stalk and new leaves.
The flowers are ok, but the stalk saps the strength of the plant,
so if you want lots of traps cut the stalk off. I grow my flytraps
outdoors year round. Most of mine look dead right now, but the'll
come back. In fact once the plants get mature, as long as it's
cold outside they are (in my experience) not that likely to rot.

Anyhow here's the file. Others should keep this too and give it
to friends who end up with a flytrap:

They are easy to grow, if you know how. For detailed cultural
hints on all U.S. carnivorous species check out Carnivorous Plants
of the U.S. and Canada (I think) by D.E. Schnell.

Here are culture hints in a nutshell:

Growth medium: use a 50/50 mixture of canadian peat moss and
perlite. Other mixtures work also, but this is the
simplest. Make sure and use good quality peat moss WITHOUT
any additives such as fertilizers. Don't use Hyponex brand!
If you have access to live, longrain spahgnum moss, you can use it
as a top dressing to the peat/perlite, to keep down splash if you
water from above, and to judge the quality of your water, and
humidity. If the moss won't stay alive then the plants won't
either probably. These plants don't get deep roots, so a 5"
diameter pot will be fine. Use PLASTIC POTS ONLY. Don't use
clay, as the soil will dry out quickly, AND, the clay will hold
toxic salts from your water. Speaking of this, you might want
to flush your pot once or twice during the growing season.

Sun: these plants can take full sun, but don't overheat them.
You can tell if the plants are getting
enough sun if the insides of the traps get a bright red, going
to dark red as you get more sun.

Water: use pure water. If your local water is not free of of salts,
etc., or if you use a chemical water softener, use distilled water.
Reverse-osmosis processed water is also good. Almost all carnivorous
plants are VERY sensitive to fertilizer, salts, or any soil
additive. They are used to growing in bogs, in an acid PH
soil. During the growing season I leave the pot standing in
a tray of water. These plants have been known to grow under
water for short periods of time, but generally prefer a damp
but not soggy growth medium. I usually keep the soil the
consistancy of a damp, but not soggy, sponge. During the growing
season you will go through a lot of water. You can grow them
in an undrained container if you watch the undergrown water
level carefully (via a small pot or plastic cup with holes in
the bottom burried in the growing pot: water seeks its' own
level, and you can monitor the water level this way if you
grow in a big enough pot.

Humidity: VFTs are bog plants, and so expect a decent level of
humidity. However, I grow my VFTs and other carnivorous plants
outdoors in the San Francisco Bay Area. As long as the soil
is wet, and there is some amount of evaporative humidity from
water trays, a large, pot, etc., you shouldn't have any problems.
Direct, afternoon sun tends to dry the plants out a bit if you
aren't careful.

Growing season: these plants go dormant in the winter, at which time
they either cut back on growing, or stop altogether. Cut back on
watering keeping the soil just damp. The plants will survive frost
if the root and rhizome system doesn't freeze. They are
native to the Southern U.S., They will send up flower stalks in spring.
If you want the plant to produce lots of healthy
traps, don't let it flower. If you want seed to grow more plants,
it's best to have two plants flowering at the same time. When the
flowers open, just rub the flowers on different stalks together to
transfer the pollen, and watch for a maturing seed pod. Selfing
from the same plant is problematic due to the different maturation
times of the sexual parts of the flower.

Food: these plants will attract and capture their own food if kept
outside. Bugs are used as a source of nitrogen for the VFT, which
grows in nutrient poor soil. The plants do photosynthesize, so
they don't need to catch bugs to survive. DO NOT fertilize
carnivorous plants. Done improperly (i.e. as you would normally
use fertilizer) it will kill the plant quickly. You can use
1/4 strength fish emulsion sprayed on the leaves once in a great
while, but it's not necessary and is more trouble than it's worth.
The plant will use the colour of the traps (the red, remember?),
plus nectar the traps produce, to attract prey. It will catch
flying bugs, but crawling bugs are more likely food.

Propagation: After a season or two of growth, the plants will spawn
offshoots which can be carefully broken off and planted seperately.
However, I prefer to just let them fill a pot. You can also grow
them from seed, germinated in high humidity, warmth, and wet, in
straight peatmoss, or you can grow them from leaf cuttings, where
you peel a leaf off the onion-skin like rhizome. Get the hole
leaf including part of the white, underground part. Again, I'd
just let the plant produce offshoots and fill the pot.

Pests: indeed, VFTs and other plants can get aphid and scale infestations.
In extreme cases you can cut off the affected leaves and they should
grow back during the growing season. If they don't, the tender
young leaves will grow deformed from the aphids sucking on them.
Using pesticides on carnivorous plants is dangerous, but can be
done. I use a 1/2 strength diazanon foliar spray (Lilly Miller
brand! Other brands may or may not kill your plant) to kill aphids.
The aphids usually live deep in the growing meristem area, and
may be hard to see. Watch for the deformed leaves. Using ladybugs
to kill the aphids on VFTs is tedious :-). If you err, err on
the side of a weaker poison solution and do another spraying a
couple of days after the first.

Other pests are squirrels, cats, and bluejays, who may dig up
the plants looking for food, or to bury nuts in, etc. I keep
a chicken wire screen over my plants.