Nigel's Gardening Hints and Tips

2 Conversations

A banner for Nigel's Gardening column

The Venus Fly Trap

I was aged about nine at the time, and I can always remember my first Venus Fly Trap, Dionaea muscipula. I was mesmerized at the way the little traps snapped shut when triggered, and after watching one on television, I desperately wanted one.

This proved to me that plants are in fact living things, by moving before my very eyes. As they were featured on Gardeners World one Friday night, they were so popular that many garden centres sold out over the weekend. We must have visited every garden centre local to us without much luck, but after a few days deliveries were made and I managed to get my very own moving plant!

At the garden centre the problem was of course, that children and parents liked to test them out, and if each trap was shut repeatedly it could cause the plant to die from exhaustion. Where I worked we had to put up notices asking customers not to purposely close the traps, but it did not have much effect. I used to have to tell children off on a daily basis for sticking their little fingers in each one. Perhaps if Venus fly traps were designed so they bit the ends off any finger it would be a good idea, but then we would probably be sued! In the end, we decided to display them at a higher level which helped with the wastage figures.

Caring for them

In order for the Venus Fly Trap to do its best, the following factors are needed:

  • Water: It is recommended to use rain water, as normal tap water does not contain the right minerals to keep the plant at its best. If it has not rained for a while, you can use distilled water which will be sufficient. It is best to keep them moist, but not sitting in water. Make sure that the pot has drainage holes, and discard any water in saucers or trays as this can become stagnant.
  • Positioning: During the spring, if the sun is not very strong, the Venus fly trap will benefit from a sunny position either on a windowsill or in a conservatory. Beware of the hot summer sun as this can cause the plant to dry up quickly. You are really aiming for half sun and half shade, if possible, throughout the year. A sign of not enough light is long spindly leaves. Too much light and they will scorch. They are surprisingly hardy: I have known them to be grown outdoors during the summer months.
  • Humidity Factors: These plants come from a small area between north and south Carolina, USA, which is a high humidity environment. So it is important to try to copy this position the best way you can. Some people do this by planting them in bottle gardens or terrariums, but these should only be placed indoors as frosty conditions will cause them to break. Don't over-water, as it has nowhere to drain off. Water sparingly, but check every day. Also, be aware that glass heats up like an oven, so position in a cool, shady area which avoids the hot afternoon sun.
  • However, you do not need to grow them in these mini-greenhouses, misting once a day during the growing season will be sufficient. This is important if growing in dry conditions such as a greenhouse or conservatory. At the garden centre, we used to stand them on gravel beds which we dampened down on a daily basis during the growing season.
  • Tidying up: During the spring, the Venus fly-trap may produce a flower. I would recommend that this is cut off, as it weakens the plant and could cause it to struggle through that particular growing season. This is mainly because it would put most of its energy into flowering, and could not produce enough new growth to keep itself healthy.

    The only other essential part of the tidying up procedure is to remove any dead leaves or traps. This should then encourage it to produce new growth.
  • Repotting: Ideally, repotting every couple of years will benefit. The best mixture to use is 1/3 clean sand to 2/3 moss peat. Oh no, I have mentioned the p word! Moss peat is the best to use, as it is acidic with the right balance of nutrients for it to do its best. Many specialist growers use ½ sand to ½ moss peat. This is okay, but can cause the soil to dry out quicker. If you really insist on not using peat, then a peat free ericaceous compost will be an alternative. If you do use this, then a sprinkling of grit and sand will help.

    Spring is usually the best time to repot as they are just starting growth from the dormant season, but this is not a definite rule. Repotting can be undertaken at any time of year, providing the soil is not frozen. I would recommend knocking the old soil off before repotting, remembering to water well in afterwards. Generally, the root systems are not very big, but if the actual plant looks like it needs a larger pot then choose the next size up. Don't choose one too deep, as the soil can go sour at the bottom of the plant.
  • Feeding: No feeding is necessary, as the plant will get the majority of its nutrients through photosynthesis. However, it should catch a few flies or insects through its life which is an added bonus as these will be absorbed by the plant and gradually break down. Think of it as a sort of special treat, like a nice juicy dessert!

    If the trap has been deliberately shut, by a stone or simply by putting your finger in it, then it will open up again within about 12 hours. It is their way of saying 'yuk', and spitting out what it cannot digest. If it is something digestible it will take approximately 48 hours to open.
  • Dormant Season: Around October, the Venus fly-trap will go into the dormant state which will cause the leaves to go black and die off. It is important to remove these, as they will go mouldy and could cause the plant to rot. This dormant time is essential as it ensures the plant builds up strength for the next season.

    They are in the big sleep for approximately three months. During this time, it is important to check the plants for water requirements approximately once a week. Water sparingly during the dormant season.

    If you do have any outside, I would recommend bringing them in for the winter months.

If you are successful in growing Venus Fly Traps, then perhaps you could venture into growing other types of carnivorous plants. Some are more difficult to keep than others, but experiment and enjoy!

A country lane in Texas.

Nigel's Gardening Hints and Tips


06.08.09 Front Page

28.05.2009 Front Page

Back Issue Page

Bookmark on your Personal Space



Infinite Improbability Drive

Infinite Improbability Drive

Read a random Edited Entry


h2g2 is created by h2g2's users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the Not Panicking Ltd. Unlike Edited Entries, Entries have not been checked by an Editor. If you consider any Entry to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please register a complaint. For any other comments, please visit the Feedback page.

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more