Venus Flytrap Watering Care Guide
When bringing home that first Venus flytrap, you already know that typical houseplant care rules are going out the window. After all, we already know one strange thing about Venus flytraps: these plants eat. In the literal sense.
They have some very specific needs, that’s for sure!
But there’s nothing to worry about: this guide has everything you need to know to make sure that your new plant friend is properly watered and ready to thrive.
First, you need to make sure that you have the proper water to do the job. While many plants will do just fine with regular tap water, the Venus flytrap is not one of them. Because they need water with a total dissolved solid (TDS) measurement of 50ppm or less, it’s best to use distilled or reverse osmosis water when caring for your Venus flytraps. Rainwater will do the job as well, but collection can be difficult for some caretakers.
You can test your tap water with a TDS meter if you’d like, but the mineral content will likely be too high. You are looking for minimal amounts of minerals like alkaline salts, magnesium, sulfur, chlorine, and sodium. If high-TDS water is used, these minerals will build up in the soil over time and cause your Venus flytrap to get very sick, much like a high sodium diet is, over time, lethal to us as well.
If you opt to use your tap water, your Venus flytraps will require additional maintenance such as regularly-scheduled repottings (at least 1x a year, if not more) with fresh soil and frequent soil flushings (which is an all-day watering event, using the proper, clean water) to prevent mineral buildup. Casual hobbyists may prefer to opt for store-bought distilled water or another previously-mentioned option in order to keep maintenance costs down.
Unfortunately, unlike with other kinds of “unclean” water, boiling your tap water will only create more of a problem. When your tap water is boiled, the water alone will evaporate out, leaving a higher proportion of salts-to-water in its place.
Once you have the correct water in hand, there are a few basic rules to follow in terms of watering technique.
Venus flytraps like soil that is consistently kept moist, but not soaking wet. Water the soil to
the point of being thoroughly soaked, but not soggy or soupy.
To reiterate: Venus flytraps like soil that is consistently moist; it is to never dry out completely, or you’ll have one unhappy flytrap!
Allow the soil to dry out until it’s barely damp to the touch (but not dry!) before watering again. While Venus flytraps are tolerant to wet soil, overwatering can cause soil issues that lead to plant illness.
Advanced Lessons in Venus Flytrap Care
soil science— “bottom’s up!”
One way that owners can best ensure that their Venus flytraps get the proper amount of water without overwatering them is to take a “bottom’s up” approach. By that, I mean, this: many growers opt to place their Venus flytraps’ planters in a tray of proper water instead of using a watering can or other vessel to pour water over the plant and soil surface. A “bottom’s-up” approach allows for the water to be absorbed through the drainage holes on the bottom of the pots and into the full volume of soil; the planters are then removed from the tray once the soil is thoroughly wet to the touch. Plants can even remain in the trays for a few days if caretakers are going on vacation, but should not remain in the tray year-round.
Watering the Venus flytraps this way takes full advantage of soil’s ability to absorb and retain water, which is a property called “field capacity”. Field capacity is defined by geologists as the maximum amount of water that soil retains after excess water drains away. As such, watering your Venus flytraps using a “bottom’s up!” approach is the surefire way to avoid overwatering, backed by science!
However, it needs to be noted that Venus flytraps do benefit from traditional pour-over watering techniques, as this aerates the soil and is a way to add some nitrogen to it. However, novice caretakers may find it difficult to judge when their plants have gotten a proper amount of water when watering their plants this way.
A good rule-of-thumb is to slowly pour the water over the entire surface of the soil using a watering can until you begin to see the water drip out of the drainage holes under the planter. Once you see water coming out of the bottom, stop immediately; the soil has met field capacity and is now draining out the excess. Any more water will be considered “overwatering” and create soggy, soupy soil that is subject to mold, fungus, pest infestation, and other issues for your new plant friend. While Venus flytraps themselves are resilient (they can survive up to a few days completely underwater!), the soil itself can become a problem if left too wet for too long.
is Venus in retrograde?
Like with some other plants and animals, Venus flytraps go through a hibernation period. As a result, they have different needs and it’s important to adjust their watering schedule accordingly. Venus flytraps have two seasons—a “growing season”, which begins in the weeks leading up to spring, and ends just as autumn sets in—and a “dormant season”, which takes place for most of the autumn and winter months. In North America, the turning points occur around mid-February, as the days begin to lengthen, and again in mid-October, when the days begin to shorten. The peak of the “growing season” is on the cusp of summer, around Mid-May, which is when water needs are their highest.
It’s extra important to keep an eye on the differences in the dampness level of your plant’s soil during these periods as you get to know your Venus flytrap’s needs. As your plant’s growth waxes and wanes, the water needs of your plant, too, will increase and decrease accordingly. In the winter, when your plant is hibernating, as much time as 3-4 weeks can go by before the soil is dry enough to need water. In the summer, however, your plant can go dry in as quick as a few days, depending on its general conditions—sunlight, temperature, and whether or not it’s kept outside.
A general rule of thumb? Cut back on water in the winter and be vigilant about preventing soggy soil; the plant will not rebound from overwatering as well during this “dormant season” as it would in the summer. During the “growing season”, check your plant a little more frequently for dryness until you have a good grasp on how quickly it gets dry; creating new growth is thirsty work after all!
scheduling conflicts: so, when exactly do I water my Venus flytrap?
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to the question “how often should I water my Venus flytrap?” As with most things in life, open communication and flexibility is key here. In other words, pay attention to your plant because its watering schedule is subject to change at any time.
The best advice here is to take your plant’s container size, its growing conditions, and what “season” it is in into consideration, but a hands-on approach is best because conditions change.
In a general sense, Venus flytraps in smaller containers will need more frequent waterings than those in larger containers, but those in a “dormant season” will need less water than those in an active, “growing season”. Keeping both of these in mind is key, but observing the soil (by sticking your clean fingers in it!) and judging for yourself whether or not its soaked, wet, damp, moist, or nearly dry, and then proceeding, is your best bet.
somebody call a doctor: why does my Venus flytrap look sick?
When it comes to sick-looking Venus flytraps, watering habits is definitely something to consider. Your Venus flytrap can’t tell you what’s wrong when it’s unwell, so it’s important to keep track of how
often you water your plants because that information is crucial in deciding how to proceed next. Keeping a watering log is especially helpful in this case. A small notebook placed near your plants is all you need.
When diagnosing your Venus flytrap, there are two watering-related problems that you can check immediately:
First, check the soil—is it especially waterlogged or soggy? If so, back off on watering for a bit. Check back every few days. Touch the soil, gauge the dampness, and repeat until your plant’s soil is nearly dry and is ready for a drink.
Additionally, check the soil for signs of fungus, mold, or pests. If you detect any, repot immediately. Revise your watering schedule appropriately—both overwatering and infestation can be cured by a decrease in watering frequency.
Second, check your water—have you been using the proper water? If you have been using tap water, discontinue use immediately; tap water generally has too high of a mineral content for Venus flytraps. Repot your flytrap with fresh soil and water it thoroughly with an approved source—distilled, reverse-osmosis, or rainwater.
It should be looking happier in no time.