Flytrap cultivation info

Robert Allen (Robert.Allen@Eng.Sun.COM)
Thu, 17 Feb 1994 14:09:41 +0800

+Has anyone had any great success in raising and possibly breeding
+the Venus Fly Trap?
+What is the best climate to raise them in and the
+best food to use?
+ANY Clues?

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 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. The key is to get a mix that won't easily rot
in water, and which is still light weight.
Make sure and use good quality peat moss WITHOUT
any additives such as fertilizers. DO NOT use Hyponex brand.
If you have access to live, longrain spahgnum moss, you can use it
as a top dressing to the peat sand, 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.
Morning sun is best. 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. Some plants seem to have
a genetic pre-disposition to get red, or not. If your plant
absolutely won't get red, get another plant and try again.
If you grow your plants in a terrarium DO NOT expose it to
direct sun, as heat buildup in a terrarium will get to 100
degrees F. in minutes.

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. Once or twice
a month you might want to let the water tray dry up completely
for a day, to give the soil a chance to breath. Sometimes
you will get anaerobic bacteria growing in the soil, which
you can detect by the powerful sewer-like stink exuding from
the soil. If that happens throw out the old soil, rinse the
pot out, and re-pot. 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 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. I think they
catch prey better in the sun than in shade, perhaps due to the colour
of the traps.

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 Lilly-Miller diazanon foliar spray 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.

You can buy lots of other carnivorous plants via mail order suppliers.
You might want to do what I've done, and get a long plastic undrained
planter, and put in some VFTs, a couple of smaller pitcher plants
(Sarracenias), a sundew or two, and/or some butterworts or bladderworts.
If you use all US plants then they should have similar growth
requirements. Here are some mail order sources (this list does not
construe an endorsement):

CP Nurseries

Mail Order

Peter Pauls Nurseries
Canandaigya, NY 14424

Chuck Powell
2932 Sunburst Dr.
San Jose, CA 95111

Carolina Exotic Gardens catalog pamphlet $1.00, US plants,
Rt. 5, Box 238-A life spahgnum moss
Greenville, NC 27834 USA

Lee's Botanical Gardens all kinds of CP
P.O. Box 669
LaBelle, FL 33935-0669

Southwest Carnivores catalog free w/ SASE or 2 reply
Gordon Snelling coupons. lots of CP, plus live
436 W. Gladstone spahgnum.
Glendora CA 91740

Allen Lowrie Australian Species. seasonal
6 Glenn Place
Duncraig 6023
Western Australia

Mellinger's Inc
2310 W. South Range Rd.
North Lima, Ohio 44452-9731

order line: 1-800-321-7444

The following CP are sold:

Sarracenia (Pitcher plants)
Drosera (sundews)