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
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.
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, www.californiacarnivores.com
Hope this helps, and Happy Growing!!