How to Care for Venus Fly Traps Indoors (Complete Guide)

How to to grow and care for a venus fly trap

Venus fly traps are relatively low-maintenance plants to grow and care for and need full sun, moist acidic soil, and should be fed flies every 2 weeks. Venus fly traps do not need fertilizer and often turn dormant in Winter, with the foliage dying back before regrowing in Spring.

One of the most common mistakes that I see people make when they grow Venus fly traps is overwatering.

The key to taking care of these plants is for you to learn how Venus fly traps grow in the wild and then replicate these conditions in your home. How do you do this? It is actually very easy! In this article, I highlight everything you need to know for your Venus fly trap to thrive!

Growing Conditions:How do you Care for Venus Fly Traps Indoors?
Feeding:Feed Venus fly traps once every 2 weeks if they are not catching flies inside.
What to Feed Venus Fly Traps:Flies, wasps, spiders, crickets, live mealworms.
Fertilizer:Do not use any fertilizer.
Sunlight:Locate in full sun.
Watering:Water from the bottom as often as required so that the soil is evenly moist.
Temperature:Room temperature of around 65ºF to 75ºF (18ºC to 24ºC) is best for growth.
Repotting:Repot every year or so in the Spring.
Soil:Use a well-draining mix of equal parts peat moss, sand, and perlite
Winter Dormancy:Plants can die back and go dormant every year in response to low temperatures and less light. You can prevent this by supplementing light and keeping the plant at room temperature.
Flowers:Remove the flower in Spring as flowers take too much energy from the plant.

About Venus Fly Traps

Venus fly traps (Dionaea muscipula) are native to a very limited area of North and South Carolina on the East coast of the USA. They thrive in coastal boggy areas with soil that is too acidic and too low in nutrients for other plants to grow.

They are well adapted to these harsh conditions thanks to their ability to attract, trap, and digest the abundant fly and insect populations in these areas, using digestive enzymes to break down their prey so they can benefit from the nutrients. It’s a pretty cool adaptation, don’t you think?

Contrary to what the name suggests, Venus fly traps can actually digest a whole range of insects rather than just flies.

As Venus fly traps do not need fertilizer, it is your responsibility to feed the trap indoors!

(Did you know the rapid closure of the traps takes 100 mili seconds, making it one of the fastest movements in the plant kingdom?)

How to Feed a Venus Fly Trap

Venus fly traps have specifically adapted to grow in environments with very low-nutrient soil, so it’s essential that you do not use any houseplant fertilizer for your Venus fly traps.

High fertility soil is contrary to their natural conditions and can even cause the Venus fly trap to droop and die back as the nutrients can burn their sensitive roots.

Feeding Venus fly traps may be a completely passive process for you, the plant parent, as they trap their own flies if you leave them outdoors due to their ability to attract flies.

However, if you keep your Venus fly trap indoors, then it is unlikely the plant is not going to encounter enough prey.

  • Live prey is always best for feeding Venus fly traps, as each trap has several trigger hairs that must be stimulated in sequence (by the trapped fly or insect moving around) to initiate the digestive process.

My top tip: You can, however, feed Venus fly traps dead flies as long as they have only recently been swatted (as flies or insects that have been dead for a long time tend to lose their nutritional value).

In my experience, this can be quite tricky as you have to be precise when dropping the fly into the trap as you do not want the fly to bounce off the cilla (which are the stiff hair-like protrusions on the lobes) and out of the trap, or to accidentally stimulate the sensitive trigger hair of adjacent traps.

This happened to me the first time I had to feed Venus fly traps in my job at a plant nursery, and whilst it wasn’t fatal to the plant in this instance, it does cost the plant unnecessary energy.

Personally, I have found the best method to use tweezers to carefully lower your fly into the trap.

Once the trap closes you have to massage the outside of the closed trap to simulate the movement (which stimulates in sequence the trigger hairs inside the trap) of a live insect and ensure that the trap starts the digestive process.

Typically you only have to feed the Venus fly trap every 2 weeks when indoors to meet the nutrient requirements of the plant. I have gone longer between feeding Venus fly traps, but I noticed the plant grows much slower.

Eventually, the trap should reopen, and you can often see the shell of the insect it digested, which I think always looks fascinating if a little macabre!

Do not attempt to remove this shell, as you might inadvertently stimulate the trigger hairs to re-close the trap unnecessarily.

What can I Feed my Venus Fly Trap?

I must emphasize that Venus fly traps are specifically adapted to digesting insects, and they do not have the digestive enzymes to eat meat or cheese, so they also stick to insects.

Here is a list of what you can feed your Venus fly trap indoors:

  • All flies that can comfortably fit in the trap.
  • Wasps.
  • Spiders
  • Crickets
  • Live mealworms.

Venus fly traps are capable of digesting other species, but I would recommend sticking to this list to avoid problems. If you don’t want to catch the prey, I find you can always buy live mealworms or blood worms from fishing supply stores.

Avoid feeding your Venus fly trap:

  • Centipedes
  • Earwigs
  • Ants
  • Catepillars.

The problem with centipedes, earwigs, and caterpillars is that these insects can actually attempt to eat their way out of the trap and escape which not only damages your Venus fly trap but it is also a waste of its energy and resources.

Venus fly Traps Need Full Sun (6 hours or more)

Venus fly traps naturally grow in nutrient-poor acidic soil that other plants cannot tolerate, which means they grow in open areas with sun all day long.

When grown indoors, locate your Venus fly trap on a south-facing window in direct sunlight.

Whilst Venus fly traps attain their nutritional needs from preying on insects, they still need to photosynthesize like any other plants.

In the Summer, I place my Venus fly trap outdoors (so it can naturally catch its prey) on a table to benefit from full natural sunlight.

I must emphasize that Venus fly traps do not tolerate low light. When I lived in an apartment in New York, in the Winter, certain sun-loving houseplants did not receive enough direct sunlight due to how my window was orientated. Hence, I used a grow light in the evening, which supplanted the natural light and ensured my plants grew well.

(I would recommend taking your Venus fly trap inside if the night temperature is forecast to dip below 55F (13C))

How to Water Venus Fly Traps (Water from the Bottom)

Venus fly traps are particularly sensitive to the minerals and chemicals found in tap water, so use filtered water, distilled water, or rainwater instead.

Avoid using bottled mineral water as this has a mineral content that is too high for the Venus fly trap to tolerate.

I would also caution against watering at the surface of the soil as, in my experience, I have found that Venus fly traps are quite susceptible to crown rot, and a damp soil surface can exacerbate the risk.

The best advice that I have received from growers of carnivorous plants within the growing industry is to always water at the bottom by using a saucer or tray underneath the pot and allowing the soil to draw up water.

This avoids the risk of crown rot and ensures the soil is evenly moist.

My best tip for watering: What I recommend is to keep the saucer filled with water for a day or so to allow the pot to draw up moisture and then pick the pot up to assess the weight whilst the soil is evenly moist (it should feel reassuringly heavy) then discard the excess water in the tray or saucer.

Keep picking up the pot periodically over the next few days to judge when it is lighter (which indicates that the soil has dried somewhat); when it feels lighter, that is the right time to top up the saucer of water.

This is the best method for watering as the Venus fly trap’s demand for water fluctuates according to the time of year.

Venus fly traps use significantly less water during dormancy, and the pot should dry out more slowly. Adjust your frequency of watering to the time of year.

Do not let your Venus fly trap sit in water for several days, as this can cause the soil to be too boggy and result in root rot.

If the soil dries out completely, it is likely the Venus fly trap dies back.

Keep Venus Fly Traps at Room Temperature

A temperature range of 65ºF to 75ºF (18ºC to 24ºC) is optimal for growth.

It is important to locate your plant out of the way of air conditioning, forced air, draughts, and temperature fluctuations from open doors.

Here where I live, the window sill can get too cold in the evenings, which I noticed caused the rate of growth of the plant to reduce significantly. Because of this, I moved my plant away from the window sill if a colder night temperature was forecast.

How to Re-pot a Venus Fly Trap

When I was working in a commercial greenhouse and supplying plants to garden centers, I was told It is best to re-pot Venus fly traps every 12 months to avoid the soil becoming too compact, which can hinder the growth of roots.

However, I personally tend to leave my less mature Venus fly traps in the same pot for 2 years, and they thrive.

The best time of year to re-pot a Venus fly trap is in the Spring, as this is when the plant is at its most resilient and most likely to survive any transplant shock. Do not re-pot Venus fly traps in the Fall or Winter when the plant is dormant.

Venus fly traps are very particular about their soil, and their potting mix must mimic the characteristics of their native environment.

Venus fly traps grow in very acidic soil that is very low in nutrients.

In commercial greenhouses, the potting mix that I used was a mix of peat moss, sand, and perlite in equal parts.

If you have these three ingredients to hand, then you can mix your own soil before repotting.

However, if you do not, then I recommend buying a special carnivorous plant potting mix online or from a good garden center, which I think is a great option if you are a beginner.

Do not plant Venus fly traps in normal potting soil, as this contains too many nutrients and is also unlikely to be acidic enough for the plant.

You can re-pot Venus fly traps into any pot with drainage holes in the base. Only repot the Venus fly trap to a pot that is 1 or 2 inches larger in diameter than the previous one to avoid over-potting.

I personally recommend using a ceramic pot with a light color (such as white or cream) as this avoids the pot heating up too quickly and drying the soil too fast, whereas I find that dark pots and plastic pots can heat up much quicker and potential cause drought stress to your Venus fly trap.

Important tip: After repotting, place the repotted Venus fly trap in a saucer of water and allow the soil to draw up moisture to alleviate transplant shock.

How to Care for Venus Fly Traps in Winter

Venus fly traps often turn black and appear to die back in Winter. As the number of daylight hours and the intensity of light decreases, the Venus fly trap enters a state of dormancy to preserve its resources in the Winter.

This is always alarming if you are new to growing Venus fly traps, but fear not!

The plant is still alive with preserved resources in the underground rhizome, ready to emerge again with new growth in the Spring.

It should be noted that Venus fly traps do not necessarily have to die back every Winter if the Venus fly trap is indoors if you create the right conditions. I have personally been able to avoid Venus fly traps dying back each Winter.

In my experience, it is key to provide the plant with additional light (by using a grow light), ensure it gets around 12 hours of sunlight/grow light per day, and keep the plant at room temperature.

I found it also helps to increase the humidity with regular misting or perhaps by moving the Venus fly trap to a bathroom.

If you use a grow light to supplement the natural light, then keep watering at normal, but if the visible foliage Venus fly trap dies back, then reduce watering so that the soil is only slightly moist.

Pro tip: Some commercial growers that I have spoken to think a Winter ‘rest’ period where the foliage dies back is better for the plant as it replicates its natural annual cycle, and the plant can create new growth in the Spring.

However, as I personally have a grow light, I prefer to keep the plant alive through the Winter. If you do this, ensure that you feed the Venus fly traps every 2 or 3 weeks in Winter to meet its nutritional requirements.

What to do with the Dead Parts of the Venus fly Trap?

Individual traps often turn brown or black and die while the rest of the plant remains healthy. Individual traps may only last for a few months before dying back, which usually stimulates the new growth of more traps.

Do not worry if this happens to your plant, as this is a normal part of the plant’s life cycle! But what do you do?

Once the trap has turned completely brown or black, then it no longer performs a function for the plant, and you can cut back to the base with a sharp pair of pruners…

Remove the Venus Fly Traps Flowers in the Spring

Small white flowers often emerge in Springtime on flower spikes.

I recommend removing them with a sharp pair of pruners as the flowering process takes a lot of energy away from the Venus fly trap, which can reduce the growth of new traps.

Whilst this may seem harsh, Venus fly traps are prized for their interest in fly catching rather than floral displays. Therefore, by pruning back the flowers, we look after our plants by preserving their energy!

If you have any problems with your Venus fly trap, read my article, How to Revive a Dying Venus Fly Trap.

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