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Venus Fly Trap
Member Name: worst_trip
Venus Fly Trap
Advantages: Who wouldn't want one?
Disadvantages: Difficult to keep healthy and over the long-term; strong tendency to fail and die
From time to time, for some reason, there seems to be a minor 'craze' for carnivorous plants that hits British garden centres, and for a while there'll be a slowly-declining stand set up somewhere near the checkouts, featuring Sarracineas (upright pitcher plants), Nepenthes (hanging pitcher plants), Droseras (sudews), Pinguiculas (butterworts) and of course that hoary old insect eating chestnut, the venus fly trap.
Some of these plants are doomed from the start. Nepenthes hybrids are spectacular and will look good for about, at most a month, before the pitchers dry up and the plant, in the dry atmosphere of someone's house, beings to invest in leafy growth only. If you're buying them on a 'cut flower' principle I suppose this could be all right. Sundews and pinguiculas can grow quite well in a household setting and are OK for specialists, but honestly, being small, and flat, they don't tend to make the most the spectacular or most eye-catching of specimens. Sarracineas - well you'll need to give 'em rainwater and keep them constantly moist, but they can look good and live a long time.
But it's venus fly traps that everyone wants. Know four things about venus fly traps, and you might have some success.
1. They need to be kept moist with rainwater - the stuff out of you tap, in many areas of the country, is absolutely no good. Given hard water with a high mineral content, the plant will begin to slowly weaken, and die.
2. Do not attempt to feed them flies; once a trap shuts round a fly and begins digesting it, it will eventually darken and shrivel up, while this is quite natural, too many flies = fewer traps and an ultimately weakened plant + death.
They are no use whatsoever as a practical fly control mechanism for your home; even if you lived in a house in a in bog in prime venus fly trap country, in South Carolina, or wherever, and were surrounded by hundreds of vigorously growing wild venus flytraps the entire time, I still doubt that their combined insect eating efforts would render you exempt from problems with flying insects. Translate this to one slowly declining fly trap on a kitchen windowsill in the south of England during a fly-plague in summer because the bin collections are down to once every two weeks in that area - no. Clearly that's not going to work, really.
3. They need to be kept in a humid environment at all times, or they will, predictably, begin to slowly decline and die. To achieve this you can either stick them in a sealed, heated terrarium which is a ridiculous hassle if you only have one, or you could try what we call 'the biodome' approach.
Basically upend some kind of clear glass vessel, large enough to cover both plant and its pot without touching the green parts / leaves, over the flytrap, keep the whole condensation-seeping set-up on a bright windowsill (out of direct midday / strong sunlight for preference) and hey presto! Warmth, light and humidity for the flytraps guaranteed. They seem to do quite well in this kind of environment. Depending on the size of the plants the clear glass vessel can be something as a simple as a large upside down jam-jar - this will not look especially attractive; sometimes you can find globular clear glass light-fittings that might work, and in garden centres at the moment they're selling glass bell jars for about £16 that could be worth trying - although these are disproportionately huge compared with the size of most venus fly-traps.
Please bear in mind that if you intend to put wobbly glass arrangements high up on windowsills, and you have small children, you'll need to set things up so that the glass won't dislodge and fall on their heads. Perhaps go for something shatterproof as well, in that case - although that way it will of course be much heavier and potentially dangerous if it falls on anyone.
4. If they're going to live a long time venus fly-traps need a period of dormancy over the winter. Apparently you should prune off most / all of the leaves and put the bulb-like plant base in the fridge for a few months to lie dormant, before repotting it in spring. If you're serious about this, you'll need far better instructions than these - do a search on Google to check the details. Without this period of dormancy, the plant will steadily weaken, and though it may survive several years, will ultimately fail.
We never had the nerve to prune off all our venus flytrap's leaves and put it in the fridge; it survived in its biodome a few years then pegged it, possibly as a result, but then also one summer we were away and it dried up, so that can't have helped. They're devilish tricky to keep happy, these plants.
Summary: Need specialist - or at least, knowledgeable care if plants are to be viable long-term
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