Introduction: How to Bring That Store-bought VenusFlyTrap Back to Life!

Picture of How to Bring That Store-bought VenusFlyTrap Back to Life!

I just wanted to help out all those people who have a dying VFT on their hands. They happen to be easy plants to grow, as long as the instructions that came with them are thrown in the fire. All you need is a sunny window, some distilled water, and a little understanding of how these plants grow in their natural habitats, North and South Carolina, and other places where they have been naturalized.

A sunny windowsill +
That poor, sad-looking VTF you got at -insertstorehere-
Some distilled or R.O. water**
A sacrificial Tupperware container

+ if you don't have this, these plants will be happy under a CFL with a 6-10 hour photo period.

** RO means Reverse osmosis, and filter units have gotten considerably cheaper over the years. Some of the better ones cost around $300 and can be installed under the sink or with a spigot in the backyard.
You usually won't need to get a RO unit unless you end up using more that a couple of gallons of pure water each week.

Ok, so you probably will never find these particular types of VFTs at the store, but these are two I set outside a week or so ago. The one on the left is Dionea muscipula "B52" selected by breeders for it's vigor and large trap size. The one on the right is my brother's VFT, and is Dionea muscipula "Dente"- called as such for it's short, tooth-like margin-hairs.

Step 1: Understanding the Plant

Picture of Understanding the Plant

As many people know, these plants do eat bugs, thus having a "Cool" factor with little kids and Carnivorous Plant (CP) enthusiasts. But one misconception people have is that they are jungle plants. They aren't, and grow in low-mineral soils in N/S Carolina as mentioned earlier.
They require LOTS of water as well.
They have 3 basic requirements:

Lots of sun
Pure water w/o chlorine
Stuff to eat

They also have a winter "dormancy" during which they usually loose their leaves and turn into a small underground "bulb." This usually lasts from late September into early January, but sometimes earlier or later.

They can be fed any bugs you can find, as long as they are within 1/3 the trap's size. One or two small crickets a month from the pet-store is usually enough. Note: In order for the plant to actually eat the bug, it must be alive and moving. The continued struggle of the victim after the trap closes is what signals the digestive process to begin.

Here is a picture of a flower, but you will be lucky to see it until a couple of years after you buy the the plant, as the plants at the store are usually only a year or so old.

Step 2: Now Lets Put All That Knowledge to Use.

Picture of Now Lets Put All That Knowledge to Use.

Here is a basic cultivating setup that I am currently using for my VFT and other CPs.

Ok, got that tupperware container? It has to be big enough to hold the VFT's pot in. This will be our "water tray" and will be used to supply the VFT with the water it needs.

Put the pot in the container, no lid please, and fill it up to about 1 to 1-1/2" of distilled or RO water.
Place the whole thing on that sunny windowsill, or under that nice desklamp. I recommend the "daylight-spectrum" CFL bulbs, they last longer and produce the light the plant needs. Be sure to turn it off at night!

Don't feed it until it has made it's first new, healthy trap, otherwise mold may set in and kill the poor thing.

Maintain that 1" or so of distilled water, but lower it to 1/2" around September, and if you are using a lamp-light be sure to shorten the time it is on. Eventually it will go dormant, be sure to put it outside if you live in a climate that rarely frosts or snows. If you get frost or snow often, put it in a cool, bright place like a garage window.

Be sure to keep that water level up, and when it starts making new leaves around the end of winter, move it back to where you had it.

One last hint: If you see a flower stalk developing, be sure to cut it off, as it has a weakening effect on the plant. But, be sure to congratulate yourself, as you have successfully grown a VFT to flowering size.

If you want more information on other Carnivorous plants, a Good book to have is Peter D'amato's Savage Garden - it is a wonderful book with lots of information on growing, breeding, and Keeping those plants happy! He also has a Greenhouse that you can visit.
You can also order plants from his website,

Hope this helps, and Happy Growing!!

CP enthusiast,
Chance H.


midgard83 (author)2015-01-01

For what it's worth and for the library enthusiasts that want to read but not buy the book :

ISBN-10: 1607744104
ISBN-13: 978-1607744108

The info was and is readily available, but for convenience's sake, I figured it should be listed here as well

Wynd (author)2014-12-28

Thank you for this info! My gf and I have been wanting to buy some and see how they grow, and now we have some info to begin with ;) Thanks!

BrandyD (author)2014-11-29

Should it sit in a container of water like that all the time? And if your house is around 78 in November because of fireplace is this too hot? Good idea to put in colder window 30's outside when it is hot? Bought mine at the grocery store where I am a produce manager and they sent these to me to sell in Oregon.

Spedy (author)BrandyD2014-11-29

Wow, its always funny to see replies so far downstream from the original post. Brought a smile to my face :)

To answer your question: Yes, it makes keeping the proper soil hydration levels much easier. However, you do not want the "outside" dish to be full at all times. You should fill the dish to full then allow the water level to drop to empty, then re-fill while the soil is still damp.

I do not have much experience with hibernating flytraps outdoors; if I remember correctly they shouldn't be exposed to freezing conditions for long periods of time.. Either way, you definitely do not want it sitting around in 70's conditions during the hibernation period. A healthy flytrap might survive "missing" hibernation, but it will always be worse for wear afterwards.

Unfortunately it has been a rather long time since I've grown a flytrap myself so I can't offer much advice from personal experience. This site should give you all the specifics you need, however:

Good luck, dude :)

Clarice73 (author)2013-02-16

Hello. I have VFT trap, and it was small during it's dormancy, but started to grow beginning of January(i was back from almost 2 month abroad too:)and since I live in Norway - it's CHALLENGE to get ANY sun for the plant, other than lamp light. Now, all the tips/edge of the plants' leaves and the 'brach'(flower to be) has black tip, or edge. I ordered 6500 Kelvin lamps from coming next week. My question-is there any way those black marks will leave the plant once they get the light needed?? pls answer me soon, im desperate..tnx!

Spedy (author)Clarice732013-02-18

Hello. Unfortunately, the black parts will not go away or heal. Old leaves will naturally rot away with time. All you can do is make sure to give it the best conditions possible. With good light and pure water it will grow healthy new leaves to replace the old ones.
best of luck :)

rcosmo (author)2011-04-15

IM having another problem...i bought a very weak venus fly trap, and it is growing very slow (almost nothing) and wont close the traps (some of them are turning black and dying). Any ideia what it is, perhaps dormancy? and what i can do to save it?

Spedy (author)rcosmo2011-05-05

Sorry for the late reply; I need to check my email more often. It sounds like it MIGHT still be in dormancy. Otherwise, check your water purity, sunlight exposure or for pest infestation. I hope I'm not replying too late :<

rcosmo (author)2011-04-02

Very helpfull. i had a dying VFT on my hand. Not anymore =) Hugs from brazil.

Da Maan (author)2010-03-28

 Mine has bugs small white ones what should I do?

8bit (author)Da Maan2010-05-22

Sounds like aphids. Now to the search engine with you! 

daulef (author)2009-08-21

yep, distilled water is the key! here in australia they wont last more than a couple of weeks off our mains water.

Scott_Tx (author)2007-09-27

You can let water sit over night and the chlorine will evaporate also. I do that for adding water to fishtanks.

Spedy (author)Scott_Tx2007-09-27

Actually, this doesn;t make the minerals disapear. It NEEDS to be distilled or RO.

Scott_Tx (author)Spedy2007-09-27

Ok, thought you were just wanting to get rid of the chlorine. It wouldnt be too hard to make your own solar powered distiller either.

Spedy (author)Scott_Tx2007-09-28

Yah, but it's easy enough to go down to the local grocery store and get a gallon of distilled water for smaller CP collections

Dr_Remag (author)Spedy2009-08-20

Yeah, Wal-Mart have their GV (generic water...well I suppose the concentrated water that you are suppose to add to water is worst or the $200+ water in a wine bottle...I like tap myself) for under a dollar and it comes in distilled, spring, and drinking water. I suppose distilled would be the best, but my plants seem to like the drinking water with some caught rain water fine. Think I may have included an algae along the way though.

bratkitty (author)Scott_Tx2008-01-29

Chlorine will go away, but a lot of municipalities in the US are now adding chloramine, which will not go away unless heavily agitated for weeks.You should ask your water provider if they are, especially for your fishes.

Pull and Twist (author)2007-09-27

All Toys'R'Us' now carry Venus Fly Traps along with a few other carnivorous types... and as far as my knowledge goes, we have at least 2 stores in every state.

Spedy (author)Pull and Twist2007-09-28

Ah, yes. The mass market is now going for other carnivores thanks to Tissue Culture technology. A common one is "Sarracina Pupera" the purple pitcher plant. It's kind of squat with a ruffled collar around the mouth of the trap. I might do an instructable on those and any other store-bough CP's. I heard they were even putting rare Asian pitcherplants in stores like Home-depot and Lowes.

Dr_Remag (author)Spedy2009-08-20

I got mine PPP from the store completely green, but I got a dish for it and my fly traps and they are beginning to become purple in color.

clibanarius (author)Spedy2007-10-04

Yep, our WalMart has had two different species of Nepenthes for sale in the last six months. The first batch arrived in the summer and went from magnificent (and $19) to pathetic (and $5) in a matter of weeks; I "rescued" one at the clearance price and it's recovering nicely. The second batch has only been there a couple of weeks. However, these can be BIG plants and I'm not sure I have the room for more than one!

Spedy (author)clibanarius2007-10-04

wow, neps at wal-mart? that's a sight Nice to see that you are growing them successfully.

Spedy (author)Spedy2008-08-09

Just to re-post: Yes, they get HUGE if you don't trim them. I have one going in the bathroom that has a vine like 4 feet long.

cafegurl (author)2008-10-23

Venus fly traps are easy to take care of if you get a healthy one from the store. All i have to do to mine is trim away the dead leaves, and water it. Other than that the occasional fly and good sunlight is all it needs. :-) Ha! parents thought i couldn't take care of them, they thought it was a hard plant to take care of. I proved them wrong :-)

Solderguy (author)2008-10-10

I had a Venus flytrap but I kinda murdered it, on purpose. It was a pain to take care of. Trust me when I say this, they're more trouble than they're worth.

Spedy (author)Solderguy2008-10-21

No way are they not worth it. These things are EASY if you find out the right way to grow them. What were the conditions you grew it in? How much water were you giving it? How much light did it receive? Did you give it a chance to hibernate?

Solderguy (author)Spedy2008-10-22

It grew fine, I put it in a large plastic bottle on a little rock, surrounded it with water, and placed the lid slightly cracked on the bottle. It grew very nice, but the bottle occupied so much space that I took it out, and decided that I'll grow it without the bottle, or let it die. It started to turn yellow and mold grew on it before I realized it was beyond saving. It was on purpose though.

MakerBreaker (author)2008-08-06

your using the wrong soil!!! no wonder they die....your supposed to use peat moss or peatmoss with about 30-45% fine sand

Spedy (author)MakerBreaker2008-08-09

Who was this comment pointed at? My plants have never died except when a family member forgets to water them while I'm gone >.>

Sunny124613 (author)2008-07-09

when ever it rains I put my indoor house plants outside to soak up some sun and rain(the pot has holes in the bottom so it can drain)

Mrs. Skunkbait (author)2008-06-28

Question about VFT... Do they actually eat house flies? Are they a good source for natural killings of these pests. I have a bunny, a cat and a dog in house and so the flies are nuts. I want to kill them but a cooler thing would be if a VFT would do the job for me.

Rishnai (author)Mrs. Skunkbait2008-07-01

I've seen them eat flies, but remember that it will take them a day or two to digest a fly and then open back up to be ready to eat another one. Unless you have a TON of VFT, the flies would probably be able to outpace the traps. But if you can get things under control by other methods and then have a couple of VFT around to eat any stray flies, that would be pretty cool.

Mrs. Skunkbait (author)Rishnai2008-07-02

Thanks for the info on VFT. I don't know much about them and didn't realize it took them so long to open back up after eating. I guess it would take a TON of them to be good for controlling flies. So if I do get a VFT then I will just get it for the fun of it and not as a means of killing my pest.

Spedy (author)Mrs. Skunkbait2008-06-28

CP's generally aren't effective pest controllers, except under certain situations*. The best flycatcher plant is a mostly-white variety of a plant called "S. leucophylla" *If you have a bad flea infestation, place several sundews and butterworts on the floor during the night. Place a large lamp (incandecent) above the plants to attract the fleas. If it worked, alot of the fleas will be stuck to the plants now! (This is a story I read in the cited book)

Mrs. Skunkbait (author)Spedy2008-06-28

Thanks for the response. We don't have fleas just flies (real bad). But using someone else's ibles I was able to kill several with homemade trap.

parkadge (author)2008-03-14

Thanks for the tips, I was just looking at my VFT today and wondering was there any hope for it.

spylock (author)2008-02-23

My mother got a vft to bloom,but when she died it did too,I dont think it liked me very much.

Shifrin (author)2008-01-04

Oh, How I love the "Venus Flytrap" I remember my first one! I found it at my local nursery, here in Chicago... I'm looking forward to getting more his Summer! Great Instructable... P.S. those are real nice plant you have there!

Spedy (author)Shifrin2008-01-05

Thanks! They're doing great outside for hibernation. Can't wait to see 'em in full growth again.

Shifrin (author)Spedy2008-01-05

Yeah, I once got a flower, but my cat ate it : (, have you ever had one?

Spedy (author)Shifrin2008-01-05

I haven;t had one from my VFT yet, but my butterwort, another CP, flowers a bunch and they get eaten sometimes.

Shifrin (author)Spedy2008-01-05

They are really pretty!

tz1_1zt (author)2007-10-05

Good idea for an instructable. You mention distilled and R.O water, of course rain water is also fine for carnivorous plants. The main aim is to avoid exposing the plants to dissolved minerals found in ground water, because as you say they are not present in it's natural environment. Fertiliser will kill them very quickly. I'm in the UK and grow Fly Traps in the garden. They are pretty hardy to our cool weather. Warm summers mean bigger and more impressive plants, so I might try growing one indoors as you suggest.

Spedy (author)tz1_1zt2007-10-05

I forgot about rainwater lol. It's a little impracticable for me, so I guess that's why I missed it. Nice to here your plants are doing well. Do you grow them in a container? or a bog garden? Growing them indoors is what I've always done, It's never humid enough outside for them here in CA

tz1_1zt (author)Spedy2007-10-05

I grow Fly Traps, Drosera and small hybrid Sarracenia in a large half-barrel bog garden. It works well and incorporates a vertical section of drain pipe to indicate the saturation height of the water. Creates a nice bog environment. Larger Sarracenia are in pots, they grow too fast in the bog and take over all the space.

Spedy (author)tz1_1zt2007-10-05

Cool. Sounds like you have a nice collection going.

boocat (author)2007-10-04

Carolina Biologicals has VFTs. Now, does anybody know where I can buy fireflies to breed? There aren't any in Oregon and I miss them terribly in the summer.

A.C.E. (author)2007-10-02

dead flies dont have the juices a live fly does and dont struggle to make them close. a good thing to feed baby ones untill they start making stuff to attrack them is hamburger meat.

Spedy (author)A.C.E.2007-10-02

NO NO NO! no hamburger! how many times do I have to say it? No offense, but that will kill the plant. I recommend wingless fruit flies.

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More by Spedy:My take on the Leyden JarHow to bring that store-bought VenusFlyTrap Back to life!Anoying paper thing, another version.
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