How to Properly Care for a Venus Flytrap

These carnivorous plants are super cool, but they have specific care needs.

Published January 31, 2023
Venus flytrap taking a bite of a finger

Want to become the proud plant parent of a healthy venus flytrap? This carnivorous plant has different needs than most other popular houseplants, but you can absolutely be successful at growing this uniquely beautiful species. Learning how to care for a venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) starts with making sure you understand - and meet - the plant's unique needs.

Where to Grow a Venus Flytrap

You can grow a venus flytrap plant indoors or outdoors, depending on where you live. Venus flytrap is hardy in USDA Zones 7-10, and can even make it through winter in Zones 5 and 6 with protection against the cold. It's easier to grow this plant outdoors than indoors, largely because it grows best in a bog-like environment where its roots stay wet all the time.

Grow Your Venus Flytrap in a Container

Venus flytraps are blog plants, so they generally don't do well in-ground, unless you have an actual bog on your property to plant them in. For that reason, it's best to grow venus flytrap plants in a container, whether you are growing them indoors or outdoors.

Plant size is an important consideration when choosing a container. Venus flytraps typically grow to reach between six and 12 inches tall with a spread of between six and eight inches.

Venus flytrap plant
  • Larger plants - Use a pot with a four- or six-inch diameter.
  • Smaller plants - Use a pot with a three- or four-inch diameter.

Plastic and fiberglass containers are best for venus flytraps. You can also use ceramic as long as the pot is fully glazed. Don't use one that is glazed on the outside but not the inside. Make sure the container you choose has at least one drainage hole in the bottom.

Need to Know

Do not use terra cotta with a venus flytrap. This type of pot dries out too fast for a plant that needs to stay as wet as this one does.

Provide Nutrient-Poor "Soil"

Caring for a venus flytrap starts with planting it in a nutrient-poor growing medium. Yes, nutrient-poor. This may seem counterintuitive, but a venus flytrap shouldn't be planted in garden soil, potting mix, or any nutrient-rich medium. Instead, use one of the following options:

  • Mixture of two parts peat moss and one part perlite
  • Blend of 50% peat moss and 50% perlite
  • Sphagnum moss (on its own - not mixed with anything else)
Fast Fact

This plant's soil needs are the same regardless of whether you're growing it indoors or out.

Keep the Growing Medium Wet

Venus flytraps require a lot of water. The soil should never be allowed to dry out. It should at least be moist (preferably wetter) at all times. It's best to water venus flytraps from the bottom, and you'll need to do so every couple of days. Simply fill a saucer with cool water* (see below) and place the container in the saucer. Leave it there for a few hours so it can soak up plenty of moisture, then remove it until the next watering.

Need to Know

*Don't leave your flytrap in a saucer filled with water all the time, as doing so could cause root rot. If your plant is outdoors, you may need to water it daily on hot days.

Use the Right Kind of Water

With venus flytraps, the type of water you use is just as important as the volume and frequency. When watering a venus flytrap, you can't use ordinary tap water or even well water. Why? This type of plant doesn't react well to water than has chlorine or minerals in it. You should water it only with distilled water, rainwater, or water than has been filtered via reverse osmosis. This is very important. Other types of water will kill the plant - not immediately, but initial damage will start right away.

Need to Know

Tap water is fully off-limits for venus flytraps. You can't just boil it and let it off-gas by cooling. It'll still kill your plant over time.

Venus Flytrap Light Requirements

Whether they are growing indoors or out, venus flytraps need quite a bit of bright light - at least six hours per day - during their growing season.

  • Outdoor: The ideal outdoor location for a venus flytrap is one where the plant gets a combination of direct sunlight and bright indirect sunlight.
  • Indoor: The ideal indoor location for this type of plant is a south-facing window that gets six hours of full sun, though you can supplement with grow lights if needed.
Fast Fact

If you're going to use grow lights, place them at least six - but no more than eight - inches above the plant. Keep them on for 10-12 hours per day.

Feeding Your Venus Flytrap

The good news is that you don't need to fertilize your venus flytrap. You do, however, need to make sure it gets a sufficient supply of insects to eat if you want it to grow. If the plant is outdoors, it'll catch all the insects it needs on its own. If your plant is indoors, though, you're going to need to feed it live insects every week or two.

You can purchase things like crickets and meal worms at pet stores, or you can catch insects (think flies, beetles, slugs, etc.) to feed to your plant. You don't have to feed every trap on your plant every time you feed it. Just feed one or two of the traps. The nutrients will go to the plant as a whole.

Need to Know

Only feed live insects to a venus flytrap. Do not feed it any other kind of meat, or any food prepared for humans or animals.

Winter Care During Dormancy

Venus flytraps go dormant during the winter, so don't be surprised if your plant's leaves turn black and fall off when the days get shorter and the temperature cools down. This is perfectly normal - both indoor and outdoor plants go dormant for between three and five months during the winter.

  • Keep your plant in a cool (not cold) area near a window (doesn't have to be very sunny) when it's dormant.
  • If it's outdoors and you live in an area that has cold winters, you'll need to put it in your garage, basement, or house for the winter.
  • If it's outdoors and you live in an area where winter temperatures stay above 30°F, you can leave it in place. If an unusual cold snap is predicted, take it in.
  • Continue watering your plant during dormancy. It doesn't need as much water as during the growing season, but the soil should not be allowed to dry out.
  • Don't feed your venus flytrap any insects during dormancy; it doesn't need insects during this time because it's not growing.

Once the temperature is consistently above 50°F in the spring, your plant will be ready to come out of dormancy. Move it back to its ordinary spot so it can get ready for the growing season.

Quick Tip

When you put the plant out after winter, take a few minutes to snip off any dead leaves if there are still any on the plant.

Ready to Parent a Carnivorous Plant?

Now that you know how to care for a venus flytrap, you've got all the information you need to decide if parenting this type of plant is right for you. It's definitely not the easiest houseplant to grow, but it's a super-cool one that's sure to impress - and maybe even inspire - everyone who visits your abode.

How to Properly Care for a Venus Flytrap