How to Make Potting Soil for Venus Fly Traps — 7 Easy Steps
The Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is probably one of the most unusual and fascinating plants you’ll ever encounter. It’s the only species in its genus and one of few kinds of carnivorous plants. It’s not large, only getting less than 1 foot tall. It has a rosette on the bottom where the business end of the plant exists. Through the centuries, the leaves adapted to become traps for insects.
While it looks prehistoric and exotic, the Venus Flytrap only grows in the United States in South and North Carolina. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) classifies it as a vulnerable species due to its small range and threat of habitat encroachment. It’s an endangered species in the states where it’s found. It’s also a felony to poach them.
Before You Begin
Its legal status means you should only get Venus Flytraps from reputable sellers. You can easily tell if a plant is nursery-grown or poached by a few telltale signs. A cultivated specimen will come in a container with soil that looks uniform without any debris or other weeds in it. It’ll most likely consist of peat moss and little else.
Understanding the plant’s ecology can provide a helpful guide on how to make potting soil for your Venus Flytrap. The species typically lives in wet savannahs and bogs in its native habitat. The coastal areas where it lives are often humid. The soils often have standing water and are usually acidic. The other significant point is the soil quality.
They lack the nutrients you’d find in high-quality rich earth. They are often low in phosphorus and nitrogen. Unsurprisingly, Venus Flytraps are quite tolerant of these less-than-ideal conditions. That’s where the insects come into the picture.
The plant uses a snap trap to catch its prey. When an unsuspecting insect brushes up against the hair-like extensions within its leaves, they close and trap it. Interestingly, it usually doesn’t take its pollinators, which are usually bees. They’re attracted to its showy white flowers, not the nectar in the leaves that entices flies.
The leaves of the Venus Flytrap can only close a limited number of times before they wither and die, regardless of their success rate. While flies are its main prey, they will also take ants, beetles, and spiders.
The key to caring for a Venus Flytrap is replicating its boggy environment. Some information may seem counterintuitive to what you may expect to do with houseplants. It thrives in poor soils since its prey will supplement its nutritional needs. Don’t plan on fertilizing it, either, for the same reasons. Amendments won’t benefit from these products.
It’s worth noting that this species grows best in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7–10, although you might have luck with it if you take care of it during the winter to extend it through zones 5–6. You can also grow this plant in a terrarium so that you and your children can observe it.
The 7 Steps to Make Potting Soil for Venus Fly Traps
1. Rinse Out the Container
We always like to start with a clean slate, or pot in this case. Rinse out to make sure it’s ready for your Venus Flytrap. Luckily, the plant is relatively tolerant of most conditions, except drought or extreme cold. The plant isn’t susceptible to many diseases or insect pests.
2. Add Rocks on the Bottom if No Drainage Holes Are Present
The Venus Flytrap can handle wet soils. However, it won’t thrive if that’s the status quo. It also sets up the environment for bacteria development. While usually tolerant, most plants won’t survive a rampant fungal or mold infestation.
3. Mix a 1:2 Portion of Sand to Sphagnum Moss in a Bucket
The ideal soils for the Venus Flytrap are acidic and well-draining. A mixture of sphagnum moss and sand in these portions will provide the proper soil chemistry that replicates its native environment. Stir it thoroughly using a scoop. You should not use regular potting soil since it’s too rich for these plants and may not provide the necessary drainage.
4. Test the Acidity of the Soil
Test the soil for acidity before you plant your Venus Flytrap. The ideal pH is less than 6.0. You can add more sphagnum moss if it’s not within this range. Remember that bogs often contain dying vegetation which naturally lowers the pH.
5. Fill the Container or Terrarium With the Mixture
Fill the Venus Flytrap’s forever home with the soil mixture. The sphagnum moss adds volume to the soil when it’s dry. You may find you’ll use more than you think to fill your pot.
6. Soak the Soil
Soak the soil mixture using distilled water instead of what comes out of your tap. Your water likely contains minerals that these plants don’t need. It can also influence the soil pH unduly.
7. Place a Layer of Sphagnum Moss on Top of the Potting Soil for Looks (Optional)
This step is optional but one you may want to consider, especially if you are using a terrarium. The extra layer will help retain moisture and prevent the soil from drying up between waterings. Besides, we think it looks great. You can mist it with distilled water to increase the humidity.
Venus Flytraps differ from other plants on several scores, not the least of which is its carnivorous feeding habits. The plant’s native habitat provides all the information you need for making a potting soil mixture that will support its growth. Unlike other species, it takes care of its own nutritional needs. The soil ensures the best living conditions for it to thrive.
Featured Image Credit: lecoallan, Pixabay