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Sep 19, 2002
Western MI USA
Edit: Changed the temp info to better clarify temp range.

So, after a few weeks of speratic work, the first draft is done.  Sorry, my editor hasn't looked at it yet so their may be like a million typos and bad spell-checker words, but I'd like to here your comments and sugestions so I can get the content proper first
thanks all.

The following information is intended as an overview of as many potted growing techniques as Possible.  It is not, however, to be used as a bible on how to grow a venus flytrap, but rather a starting point.  It is important to remember that what works for one person or plant may not work for them all and any advice on this page should be taken merely as a suggestion or even better, as an example of what works for others.  If you are new to carnivorous plants (CPs), it is perfectly acceptable to make mistakes.  Just remember to learn from any misfortunes and eventually you will develop a successful cultivation style of your own.  I hope this helps to get the gears going on your own future growing technique, enjoy.

The Venus Flytrap (VFT)
Intro: Perhaps the most famous and often exaggerated of the carnivorous plants, this insect eater is unmistakable, even to a child.  It is native to the Carolinas and feeds primarily on ground crawling invertebrates and small nectar seeking flies.  To attract prey the VFT produces a faint nectar odor and secretes a small amount of nectar around the rim of the trap.  Bright coloration also may help attract prey.  Once an insect enters the mouth of the trap, it will likely bump into trigger hairs which signal the plant to rapidly close the trap.  Should the hairs continue to be stimulated by the struggling prey, the trap seals off and digestion begins.  VFTs vary greatly in individual appearances, but their is only one species, Dionaea muscipula.  Most plants reach a full diameter of about 4 inches (10 cm) with some individuals being larger and others smaller when full grown at about 7 years of age.  Most traps are no more then 1 inch (2.5cm) long.

Like many carnivorous plants (CPs), the VFT is a bog plant.  Bogs are, by nature, low in available organic nutrients and minerals which is why many bog plants have alternative methods of gaining these vital resources (like "eating" bugs).  However, a side effect of living in such pure water is the weakening of the roots through generations of gentle living.  Few bog plants today can handle anything other then the purest of water and lowest level of nutrients feasible.  What this means for the grower is that neither tap nor spring water will do as these contain harsh minerals and chemicals that will destroy the plants roots.  If you picture the plant's root system as pipes in a house, it's easy to see how hard water can eventually clog the tubes and prevent water flow.  Their are three generally accepted methods of obtaining pure water for your plants.

1. Distilled Water
Distilled water is the purest water one can find.  It is often sold for clothing irons which will clog and spit from mineral build-up if anything but the purest water is used in them.  Distilled water is expensive and probably should only be used for small collections. (at time of writing, cheap distilled water is 0.75-1.00 American dollars)

2.  Reverse Osmosis Water
The purity of this water is mainly based on how well maintained the filter is.  This water is purified by forcing it through a membrane and thus filtering out everything but the water molecules.  It is mostly used in countries with little fresh water who use the technique to make sea water safe for problems in reactions.  The final common location to find these machines is in grocery stores.  One may purchase a refillable bottle and get a discount on refills.  This water is mostly sold for drinking.  Should you find yourself with a very large collection, it may be wise to invest in your own reverse osmosis system. (bottles usually cost 2.00-5.00 American dollars with 0.10-0.50 American dollars for refills)

3.  Rain Water
While years ago this was the best source of pure water, pollutants make it a much riskier source today.  For indoor plants, rain water may be collected in clean buckets.  Outdoor plants will take advantage of the rain on their own.  Unfortunately, depending on your area, rain water may be as lethal as tap water.  Before using rain water as a staple source of moisture for indoor plants, consider the pollution level in the area.  Many people experience no issues with rain water, while others do.  This is a tuff choice, but one you may have to make if your collection becomes large enough to make distilled water impractical.

Moisture Levels:
The amount of moisture a VFT is kept in varies a lot.  A large part of the variance is that, like all plants, the amount of water used depends on local light, temperature and humidity levels.  However, the one thing nearly all growers will agree on is that the soil should never be aloud to  
become bone dry, but merely fluctuate between fully saturated and moist.  As many household plants are more likely to suffer from over watering then under watering, this makes the VFT relatively easy to maintain.  Should you, however, have a habit of forgetting to water plants, the VFT may not be the best choice.  Butterworts are attractive flowering CPs and many species come from drier regions.  These may be a better choice should you find your VFTs frequently dehydrated.

Watering Methods:
Their are three main water methods that are found successful for VFTs.  The most common are variants of the "Tray Method", but top watering is also occasionally used.  When top watering, it is important to try and avoid getting water directly on the plant as this may trigger the traps and waste the plants energy.  Top watering may also prove difficult should the soil mix contain a large level of perlight or other lightening agent prone to floating.

1.  Deep Tray
Those in southern or other very warm claimants will find the tray method a necessity.  This method consists of placing the pot on a plate or tray and filling the tray with 1-4cm (1-2in) of water.  The amount of water and how often it needs to be refilled will depend greatly upon the individual claimant.  It is important to remember that when using large amounts of water with a plant that air circulation and high light levels be properly maintained.  One of the most common problems with deep tray watering is stagnant water leading to root or crown rot and the eventual death of the plant.  Their are two ways to avoid such a problem.  The first is to top water at every tray refill to flush out the old water.  The second is to let the tray run dry between waterings without letting the soil dry out.  Which method works best will depend largely on local humidity levels.  Areas with low humidity will not be able to safely maintain the second method without the soil becoming bone dry and potentially hurting the plant.  Areas of high humidity may find that any water dribbled on the plant will be prone to rot and thus should avoid the first method.

2.  Shallow Tray
Those in northern or other cooler claimants will find Shallow Tray watering more easily maintained.  Shallow tray is just like deep tray in that the pot is placed on a tray or plate and filled with water.  However, cooler areas usually use 1 or less cm (.5in) of water at a given time.  Letting the tray run dry while keeping the soil moist is easier in cooler claimants.  One of the largest issues with tray watering in cooler areas is again stagnant water.  A single tray filling of water should not last more than 1 week and should you find that after a week water is still in the tray, dump it out and let the pot sit in a dry tray for the remainder of the day.  Then, next watering, don't fill the tray as high.  If you are concerned that leaving the tray dry may allow the soil to dry out too much, top water the plant between each change of tray water to prevent root or crown rot.

3.  From the Top
Should you be in a highly humid cool claimant, or have your plant in a sealed indoor terrarium, this method will probably be your best choice.  You will need a tray again, but this time it should not be filled with water.  Instead, carefully poor the water into the soil while holding the pot over the tray.  As soon as you see water come out of the drainage holes in the pot, that’s your cue to stop.  Set the pot on the tray, it's okay if some water continues to come out the holes.  For a sealed terrarium, repeat once a week.  For an open pot, repeat every 3-4 days or as needed to keep the soil moist but not water logged.

Just like a VFTs water must be free of minerals and nutrients, so must it's soil.  VFTs prefer well drained light soils with an acidic nature, but can also be grown in heavier mixes depending on the individual plant and claimant.  Generally speaking, their are two common types of VFT soil mixes, that of pure Long Fiber Sphagnum and a 50% organic 50% inorganic sphagnum peat mix.

1.  Long Fiber Sphagnum:
Long Fiber Sphagnum is often sold as a product to shield plant roots during shipping.  It can be purchased at most garden shops in small dried out bails.  When purchasing Sphagnum moss, it is important to make sure the word Sphagnum is actually on the label as many other mosses that are lethal to VFTs are also sold.  "Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss" is considered by many to be the best, with New Zeeland being second choice.  Once you have the dried moss, wetting it becomes the next issue.  While  when wet it can hold great sums of water, the dehydrated form is water resistant.  Try squeezing handfuls of it underwater to rewet it.  The VFT can be planted directly in the moss.  Eventually, the old dead moss will probably sprout new live moss which not only makes a nice top dressing, but also helps protect the plant from illness and dehydration.  Because Long Fiber Sphagnum holds such large amounts of water and is a heavy planting media, it is probably best used in areas with higher temperatures.  Variations on this concept include mixing small amounts of pure silica sand in to help improve drainage.

2.  50-50 Mix:
Their are several 50-50 mixes that are popular with growers.  All involve the use of one part Sphagnum peat for one part inorganic material.  Sphagnum peat is not the same as Sphagnum moss.  Peat is what you get when the moss breaks down into a dark heavy soil.  The Sphagnum moss will look a bit like a bunch of seaweed just dragged out of a lake so it should be easy to tell the two items apart.  When purchasing peat, it is important that it is labeled "Sphagnum Peat" as their are other forms of peat that are lethal to VFTs.  Again, the peat from Canada is preferred by most growers.  
To prepare the peat, moisten it the same way you would Sphagnum moss (see above).  Once wet, placing the soil in the microwave on high until it heavily steams is an excellent way to sterilize the soil.  Some people also boil the peat on stove top, and I've even heard of others that bake the dry peat in the oven.  This step isn't required, but it seems to prevent some of the more common issues that show up in new pots of soil (like fungi and algae).  Also, remember that fungi and algae spoors are also in the air so 100% prevention is impossible.  Your much more likely to see algae break outs if rain water is used because, on it's way to earth, the drops pick up algae spoors.
Packing the now sterile peat in a container with drainage holes and running water through it until the water is clear will also significantly reduce the appearance of unwanted guest by removing any trace nutrients they could use to grow.  The order which you do these two steps in doesn't really matter, and some people wait to flush the pot of soil until after the entire thing is mixed up.  Also, to flush the pot, many growers use tap water and then finish off with an extra rinse of pure water to get rid of any harmful residue from the tap water.  While these steps are not required for full grown plants, should you have seedlings, you'll want to do this to prevent premature death of the young and vulnerable plants.
The inorganic portion of the mix is usually made up of silica sand and/or perlight.  Perlight and the larger grains of sand seem to work best for VFTs, but perlight is more prone to getting a light coating of algae which may pose a threat to seedling plants.  The inorganic material will also need to be rinsed, particularly if it is perlight.  Some people use only perlight, others prefer to only use the silica sand, but whatever you decide to go with, the total amount of inorganic ingredients should be equal to the total amount of peat.
For example, lets say I want to use all three products in my soil mix.  I would mix together:
2 cups (packed) Sphagnum Peat
1 cup Silica Sand
1 cup Perlight
Variations on these mixes include using slightly more or slightly less then 50% inorganic material to adjust drainage to claimant.  Also, some people have success with pure peat alone, but I find this relatively uncommon.  Occasionally, people use vermiculite instead of perlight.  If you have the option, avoid vermiculite because it can raise the soil ph, but if it's all you have, it will probably work and just cause slightly slower growth.

Generally speaking, the more light a VFT can get the better.  The only exception to this rule is if the VFT is in a terrarium.  Too much direct light can cause a terrarium to quickly over heat and essentially turn it into a vegetable steamer.  However, for all other set ups, the more light you can give your plant the better.  
If your plant has come from poor lighting, be sure to increase the amount of light it receives slowly.  Also, if your plant is used to artificial lighting or light filtered through a glass window, be sure to start it in the shade on a cloudy day if you want to move it outside.  Increasing light too quickly will cause sunscalled (AKA burn).  While a healthy adult plant may be able to quickly recover from this trauma (which kills a large amount of the flesh around the edges of the plant), a young plant may die.
It is also important to note that Sunscalled/Burn is much more likely to occur if their is also a dramatic increase in temperature at the same time.  Of course, another area to remember is that more light increases the rate of photosynthesis which means the plant will use more water.  This coupled with increased temperature and the sun directly beating down on the tray of water means the plant will need much more water then it did inside (at least at first).
Eventually, a plant "hardened off" to living outside will slow it's water usage as it adjusts itself to it's new claimant by darkening it's colors and thickening the waxy cuticle that slows water loss from the leaves.  A plant shocked in extreme light and heat without an increase in water will produce small, trapless, fleshy twisted leaves, but will probably survive.
All this being said, having a plant that can live in drier conditions probably isn't want you want.  Which is why you should do your best to keep outdoor plants well watered.  Yes, they will slow their water usage a bit after they get used to more light, but it's best to ensure they don't have to do this just in case it goes to far and sends the plant into years of abnormal growth.  However, should you successfully and slowly harden off your plant to outside conditions, you'll find you will have a larger, healthier, beautifully colored plant that you could never achieve in the lower lighting of your house.
During the summer, 8 hours of direct light is considered by many to be the ideal amount of light a VFT should have (with a few extra hours of indirect light).  Because VFTs require a winter dormancy, lighting must be reduced in the winter months.  If you are using natural lighting, the sun will do this for you, but should you be using artificial lighting, 5 hours of direct light or less in the winter is standard.  However, if you have to refrigerate your plant for dormancy (read below), your plant won't need any light because photosynthesis stops at those temperatures.

The VFT can handle a surprising range of temperatures if given a chance to slowly acclimate to them.  During the summer months, temperatures from 70-80F are best, but the plant can adapt to temperatures in the mid nineties if done so slowly with increased water and humidity.  Winter months require cooler temperatures from just above freezing (OC, 32F) at the coldest night to 75F(24C) as a rare daytime max.  Most growers feel the best way of insuring good winter temperatures is to decrease the temperature by 10-30F using the plants summer growing conditions as the starting point. Don't freeze your plant!  A light dormancy requires some amount of lighting available to the plant, if your windowsills or outdoor temperatures match this range during the winter, the plant will happily occupy these locations.  If, however, your winter is too cold or too hot, you can put the plant in the refrigerator for a deep dormancy.  When the temperature stays that low consistently, the plant can't photosynthesize, so it will not die trying to (like it may in a warmer garage).

Winter Dormancy:
VFT's absolutely MUST have a nap time.  The only exception is if you get a plant mid winter or have seedlings, these plants can skip a single dormancy.  Typically, VFT go dormant from late November to early February.  Please check the temperature section above to see if your plant can go dormant outside, on the windowsill or if it requires refrigeration.  
If your plant is outside or on the windowsill, you can treat it as normal but with a bit less water, remember to keep the plant moist, but don't let it sit in water.  One effective way to accomplish this is to top water the plant until the water comes out the holes in the bottom.  Then, drain the extra water out of the tray and repeat this as often as necessary to keep the soil moist.
If you find that you will need to refrigerate your plant for the winter, top water the plant until the water comes out the holes in the bottom.  Let the extra water drain away and then place the pot in a plastic bag and seal it.  Now put the bagged pot in a paper bag to help shield it from any refrigerator fluctuations and place it somewhere you won't trip over it constantly.  Be sure to tell your family members so they don't take it to lunch some day by mistake!
Some people use a spray of fungicide on their plants before dormancy as a precaution.  Weather you choose to do this or not is a personal decision because fungicide is highly toxic and you may not want it in your refrigerator.  Larger collections, or those that have had fungal problems in the past are more likely to have a problem during the winter.  If you choose not to use fungicide checking your plant and remoistening it every 1-3 months over the winter will probably be enough to ensure nothing goes horribly wrong (colder temps slow any infection that may arise).  Another way to reduce your chances of a fungal attack over winter is to have live sphagnum moss growing in the pot with the plant.  You can find live sphagnum for sale on-line and sometimes it comes with prepotted plants.

Ending Comments:
These are the basics of what it takes to grow a VFT.  They do not need to eat, and you shouldn't try to feed them anything, but let them ketch their own occasional live food.  Detailed answers to various Specific questions that come up regarding the health of a VFT can be found at the health key.
Jul 12, 2002
The caresheet is quite an impressive work darcie. Truthfully it even helped me out and I allready knew how to care for the plant(learned about max and min dormancy temps). It would be even a greater work if you add an extra part about all the VFT cultivars. Of course that is optional and you should do it if you feel up to it.
Aug 27, 2001
Western New York, USA
excellent care sheet Darcie!
I only disagree with one point:

"Winter months require cooler temperatures from just above freezing (OC, 32F),at the coldest night to 75F(24C) daytime max. "

I think saying 75F for a maximum winter high is FAR too high!
that might make people believe that if their winter daytime highs are in the 70's, its ok for winter dormancy..it isnt!
yes if it reaches 75 *once* during the winter, during an unusually warm spell thats lasts only a day or two, that would be ok...but IMO maximum *all winter average* daytime highs should never reach 60 degrees for sucessfull dormancy..normal winter highs should be 30-50..highs in the 70's all winter is far too warm, the plant wouldnt go dormant at all..

average daytime January high for Wilmington NC (native VFT climate) is 55 degrees. monthly mean temp for January is 45 degrees..meaning its generally in the 40's and 50's during the winter in the native VFT climate..


Jul 12, 2002
Hey now 60 highs are great enough. Don't believe me? I have an expert friend  who live in the hot Southern CA. He grows VFTs fine year round outdoors. I will let you contact him if ye want. His name is Brad on the cpukforum.
Mar 15, 2002
I stick mine in the refrig and the past two years one plant has survived...It is a proven method!!! k/d I think it works just practice - I am not sure about the temperture up to 75 F, my vfts never feel the temp rise past 45 F. O'well different strokes for different people.

Darcie, that is a very impressive care sheet for vfts! I think it would be very helpful for alot of people out there.

Sep 19, 2002
Western MI USA
Thanks for the compliments guys. Yah, the temps kind of struck me as funny too, but I had multipull sorces say 75 when I went to double check my numbers. Since it struck everyone else as funny too, I'll put it between gut and my number check to upper sixties and enfisize the rarely reaching thing. Thanks for helping me tweek it
Sep 19, 2002
Western MI USA
</span><table border="0" align="center" width="95%" cellpadding="3" cellspacing="1"><tr><td>Quote (uglypho @ Aug. 16 2003,02:52)</td></tr><tr><td id="QUOTE">The caresheet is quite an impressive work darcie. Truthfully it even helped me out and I allready knew how to care for the plant(learned about max and min dormancy temps). It would be even a greater work if you add an extra part about all the VFT cultivars. Of course that is optional and you should do it if you feel up to it.[/QUOTE]<span id='postcolor'>
I have a cultivar page I work on too. It's a little tireing however, because not many varients are registerd and I have to collect photoes from all over the web to write up my own standard. Basically, at this point, I can't go much further with that project untill I actually own some of these plants so I can fill in the gaps in the data.