Getting the Best Out of Your Venus Fly Trap

Venus Fly Trap

Dionaea muscipula

This is another must-have if you are thinking of starting a carnivorous plant collection.

The Venus Fly Trap is native to  the United States and is found in bogs and pine barrens.  As with all carnivorous plants it derives its energy from catching and digesting mainly insects.

The trapping mechanism has 3 hairs which are sensitive to touch and when triggered twice in succession will cause the trap to snap shut trapping its prey.  The reason why the trap will only respond after two triggers is so that the plant doesn’t waste valuable energy on non-prey items like a leaf blowing across the hairs.  Anything other than its intended prey causing the plants lobes to shut will greatly deplete the plants energy and is counterproductive so don’t be tempted to touch!  Once trapped the leaf will squash it’s prey between the two lobes, secrete its digestive enzymes and absorb all but the victims exoskeleton.

Only the exoskeleton remains …

Here you can see my plant has been busy and is waiting for the wind to tidy up after it.

Dionaea muscipula should be planted in a mix of vermiculite, peat and sphagnum moss and should be kept permanently moist either by regular overhead watering or by standing in a shallow tray of soft water (rainwater).  Never use tap water, there’s too much calcium in it and over time will kill the plant.  There’s much controversy regarding the use of peat in horticulture and I normally would not advocate its use as there are for most situations alternatives, but this group of plants will not tolerate anything but.

Levels of sunlight and how many hours a day the plant receives will affect its health.  As a rule it will generally need at least 4 hours of direct sunlight a day.  Couple this with fresh air (I open my kitchen window daily during the summer) and you are likely to get a low-growing rosette which is highly coloured.

New leaves forming …

Temperature also affects growth and in turn the watering regime.  The plant will tolerate temperatures just above freezing but growth will cease until the temperature rises again to 13 degrees centigrade.  Growth stops again above 27 degrees centigrade.  When there is no growth, watering should be reduced accordingly.

Dionaea muscipula can be propogated by seed, division or by leaf cuttings of the petiole.

As far as potential pests and diseases are concerned, the Venus Fly Trap may be susceptible to slugs (in the greenhouse, hopefully not indoors!) and botrytis.  Fresh air and regular tidying of dead and dying leaves will help to avoid this fungal disease.

Carnivorous plants in the home are a practical and eco-friendly solution to unwanted flying intruders and they are fun to watch too as they go about their daily business of catching flies and other insects.


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