Venus flytrap, or Dionea, is the most popular, bright and conditionally unpretentious plant among carnivorous indoor predators. She became famous not only for her ability to feed on insects. The inimitable beauty of the brightly colored traps makes it an extravagant and highly decorative indoor decoration. An exotic baby requires a special approach to care, and it is not easy to find the conditions for it. Sun-loving and moisture-loving, it fully justifies the reputation of a plant not for everyone. But it is the Venus flytrap that is best chosen to get acquainted with carnivorous houseplants.
Venus flytrap – predator plant on the windowsill
What does the legendary Venus flytrap look like?
Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) Is a slow-growing plant that can live for several decades, with a height of 5 to 10 cm. Dionea forms a compact rosette of 5-7 leaves growing from an underground shortened bulbous shoot. With age, forms groups with daughter outlets. The leaves are folded, bizarre lanceolate-keeled, often with an asymmetric jagged edge, up to 7 cm long.
Dionea is a carnivorous plant that does not lose its ability to photosynthesis. Trap valves at the top of the leaves develop after flowering. There are varieties with vertically or horizontally directed leaves painted in rich purple or green tones.
Venus flycatchers’ traps are very decorative. Expanded modified leaf blades seem to be folded in half – they consist of a pair of halves, resembling a plant version of mollusk shells. When open, the trap flaps are bent outward. After slamming, they bend, forming a cavity inside.
Along the edge of the valve, they are decorated with dense, sensitive prongs-outgrowths and almost imperceptible glands, which secrete on the rims a sweetish nectar attracting insects with a very pleasant aroma. The inner “edge” consists of triggers – hairs that are hypersensitive to mechanical irritation.
The flowering of Dionea is unexpectedly beautiful, but weakens the plant and is best prevented. In the spring, at the very beginning of growth, low-flowered inflorescences with simple white wavy flowers rise to an astonishing height of up to 50 cm on thin peduncles.
Artificial pollination produces seeds. They easily wake up from the capsules, lose their germination after 4 months and are stored only in the cold.
How does a plant feed on insects?
Venus flycatchers feed on ants, beetles, spiders, grasshoppers and flying insects, not responding to miniature midges, dirt, dust, debris and water. Their protection against false positives is unique. Traps are closed only if mechanical stimulation of triggers is repeated five times, with an interval of up to 20 seconds and at least on 2 hairs.
At first, the teeth of the trap do not close tightly to prevent over-etching of too small victims. If there were no insects inside or they got into the gaps, the trap opens after half a day and the plant does not waste its energy. But bigger prey is so unlucky.
As soon as the insect touches the bristles inside the leaves several times, feasting on the nectar of Dionea, the traps slam shut more tightly, and with a sufficient size of the prey, a slow process of over-etching the prey begins.
It is very complex: recognizing the victim and changing the composition of enzymes depending on its type, the Venus flytrap first drowns the insect in the digestive juice, kneads it, and only then sucks out the nutritious juices.
The whole process of over-etching takes from 7 to 14 days, after which the trap opens, and only the dry chitinous skeleton of the victim remains on the hairs. After 3-5 “feedings” the trap dies off. It is because of this limitation that it is not worth launching a mesmerizing “collapse” just for fun.
Growing conditions for indoor Diones
For Dionea, it is necessary to recreate the natural moisture and lighting of the fertile swampy American savannahs, which is not easy at all in living rooms.
Lighting and placement
At the slightest shading or reduction of daylight hours, instead of large and bright traps, this predator releases miniature, green, devoid of red color in alignment and teeth along the edge of leaves with very long cuttings, withers and weakens. Bright sunlight is vital for the normal development of Dionea.
Even in winter, the Venus flytrap needs 4-5 hours of sunshine. Artificial supplementary lighting is permissible and even desirable in bad weather, up to the optimal duration of daylight hours from 14 to 16 hours in summer and from 8-9 hours in winter.
It is imperative to monitor how the plant reacts to direct rays: the southern and midday sun can cause burns.
The plant does not like turning and displacement in relation to the light source.
Temperature control and ventilation
Venus flycatchers prefer stable heat during the period of active growth with a minimum of 22 degrees in summer. They tolerate heat well in not very dry air and with abundant watering. For normal development, you need to withstand a cold dormant period from mid-autumn to March with temperatures from 5 to 12 degrees Celsius. Lighting in winter is very important. Overheating and hypothermia of the pots are unacceptable.
For Dionea, access to fresh air and neat, draft-free ventilation (regular even in florariums and showcases) is critically important. In summer, for natural nutrition, Dionaeans are most often placed in the fresh air, choosing warm and secluded places without direct sun.
Dionea care at home
Stable soil moisture and no additional fertilizing is a guarantee of longevity for Diones, which do not always justify their capricious reputation.
Watering and air humidity
Watering for Dionea is carried out mainly in the lower way, but classic neat watering is also acceptable. You can water the plant through the tray, pouring water to a level slightly above the bottom of the container as it dries. You can use containers with auto-irrigation or periodically immerse the pot to saturate the earthen coma.
Excessive dampness is unacceptable, but soil moisture should be stable, medium, and not light, with a gentle drying of the very top of the substrate. In winter, watering is adjusted for temperature. Flycatchers do not like droughts of Venus, shedding their leaves.
For Dionea, only watering with warm water is permissible. It should be soft, preferably rain or distilled, at the same temperature as air.
For the Venus flytrap, medium or high air humidity is needed with indicators of at least 40% and an optimal value of 70%. With careful control of stable soil moisture, it can withstand drier air. For the Venus flytrap, humidifiers, simple spraying, and installing pallets of wet moss or pebbles are suitable.
Top dressing for dionea
There can be no talk of any classical dressing, even as a supportive measure for the Dionea. Venus flycatchers feed on insects during the warm season. 1 insect every 4-6 weeks is enough for them, in fact they are content with 2-3 flies for the whole summer. Dionaeans hibernate without food.
Insects for feeding can be found in the aquarium departments, but it is not necessary to artificially feed the plants, because it is enough to expose the bushes to fresh air in summer or place the dionea in a room without protective screens on the windows.
Feeding with worms, slugs, and even more so with meat and other products is unacceptable.
Transplant, containers and substrate
It is better to replant Dionea annually, after the end of wintering, in extreme cases – every 2 years. Plants are carefully transferred into new containers, avoiding contact with leaves and traps.
Dionea are grown only in substrates with pH values lowered to 3,5-4,5, peat-containing or inert, rough, excluding compaction, loose soils – special soils for insectivorous plants, a mixture of perlite, coconut fiber and sphagnum or quartz sand and peat. In extreme cases, Dionaeans are planted in the soil for rhododendrons with the addition of perlite.
Plants are planted in sufficiently deep pots equal in width and height. The minimum depth is about 12 cm, for adult Diones the standard is 20 cm.
To adapt, you need to increase the humidity of the air and put the plant in shade.
Diseases, pests and growing problems
Predatory Venus flytrap can suffer from aphids, mosquito larvae, thrips, which multiply rapidly inside the traps. Excessive dampness of the soil can cause the spread of rot. Dionea is treated with insecticides or narrow-acting fungicides.
Read also our article The best indoor carnivorous plants.
Venus flytrap propagation
Dionea seeds are sown in a sandy-peat substrate superficially, under glass or film, and are kept at high air humidity on a sunny windowsill. Seedlings appear in about a month.
Adult, large shrubs with several growth points can be separated every 3-4 years. Daughter plants developing on the sides of the mother rosette must have several strong roots. The cut of the processes is carried out with a sharp blade with the treatment of wounds with charcoal. Under no circumstances should the trap “collapse” mechanism be triggered.