Question: My son came home from a field trip to a greenhouse with a Venus's fly trap. To his dismay, we have no flies in our house for this creature to eat. Will it starve to death? He'd like to keep it growing, and I'm thrilled with his interest in the plant.
Answer: Venus's fly trap (Dionaea muscipula) and other carnivorous plants are generally native to locations with poor soil. Unable to absorb nutrients from the soil, they adapted to get nutrients from animals. Venus's fly traps snare insects in their hinged leaves and then digest the contents of their bodies. Insects are not crucial to the plant's survival, however, because it can also make food through photosynthesis, like all other plants.
To keep your plant healthy, remember it is native to boggy areas of North and South Carolina. It will do best when you try to replicate its natural growing conditions.
In winter, keep your plant in bright light with some direct sunlight, and cool temperatures (over 50˚F). Keep a clear plastic dome over the top of the pot, to maintain humidity, and keep the soil just moist. (They are usually sold with a dome.)
Once it's reliably warm outside, you can move your plant outdoors, unless you live in an arid region, in which case you should keep it inside where you can control humidity. Transition it slowly, introducing it to a partly sunny location over the course of a few days. Remove the plastic dome so it can "hunt." Keep the soil consistently moist. If the plant is not catching flies, you can feed it occasionally with insects you've just swatted, or tiny pieces of ground beef. (You can tell if it has caught flies by the fact that some leaves are closed. They may remain closed for two weeks after a catch.) There is no need to repot your plant. They usually come full grown, in a mixture of peat moss and sphagnum moss.
Love weird plants? See The Complete Guide to Cacti and Succulents.
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