© RHS/Janet Cubey


Venus fly trap

Botanical name: Dionaea muscipula

Common name: Venus fly trap

The Venus fly trap (Dionaea muscipula) is a fascinating plant with distinctive jaw-like traps that snap closed when triggered and digest live insects. It is relatively easy to grow as a houseplant, as long as it’s planted in the right potting mix and kept permanently wet, using rainwater or distilled water.


This compact plant forms a small rosette of leaves, each one modified to form a pair of hinged jaw-like lobes with a reddish surface. When triggered by tiny hair-like structures, the traps close at lightning speed, often within one-tenth of a second. In spring, established plants may send up a cluster of small white flowers on a tall stem. 


The Venus fly trap comes from subtropical wetlands, so loves waterlogged conditions. When it’s grown as a houseplant, the pot must be kept in a saucer of rainwater or distilled water. Plant it in a mix of live sphagnum moss and perlite, and keep it at 10–27°C (50–80°F). Full sun helps it thrive and ensures the traps turn red. Give it a cooler rest period over winter.


This swamp plant dislikes dryness at the roots, so keep it permanently wet. However, tap water, especially in hard water areas, can kill it, so always give it rainwater. It can’t survive in soil or compost – plant it in live sphagnum moss and perlite or a tailored mix for carnivorous plants. Poor light causes weak, straggly traps that won’t function properly. Avoid keeping in a warm room over winter – it needs a cool rest (but above 10°C/50°F).

Did you know?

Venus fly traps won’t ‘eat’ inanimate objects (such as cheese or meat) – they only go on to digest the food if they can detect movement from live prey. A trap can only close a maximum of three times before it dies, so triggering them for amusement will eventually weaken the plant and is best avoided.

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