Death of a Venus Flytrap

Beware of the Venus Cowtrap!

While I was buying an electric trimmer a couple of weeks ago, Meryl, my oldest, bumped into the Venus Flytrap display. She was excited at the prospect of owning a flesh-eating plant. Who wouldn’t be?

The pictures of the plants focus on the outerworldly, clamshell-like leaves that snap shut on unsuspecting prey. The plants are never shown next to anything you’d know the size of, so as a kid, I naturally imagined there existed an immense and
fearsome Triffid-like species that grew large enough to eat large, hooved mammals. Coooooooool!

This is quite the opposite of reality, and especially what’s in the store. Its “leaves” are smaller than my thumbnail. I am sure I’ve passed by the display several times before, oblivious to what it actually was. I’m also sure I would have never bought one once I saw it wouldn’t be able to handle some of the spiders in the house. I know she’s eventually going to kill the thing; however, I liked the prospect of her getting interested in something quasi-dangerous and flat-out weird instead of her usual staple of dancing faeries and princesses. When she gave me that dad-melting twinkle, I grudgingly agreed to buy one.

I’m trying to teach the kids the value of money and that we have to make choices with what we have. Thus, whenever she wants to buy something, I ask her a bunch of questions to help her prioritize what she spends money on. It seems to have helped her stave off wanton consumerism.

My wife read the brochurelet on the plant’s care and feeding. Venus Flytraps like lots of moisture. Check They like warm climates and lots of sun. Uh, oh… Well, this is the summer.

We set up the plant on the outside patio table because I refused to keep it in the house. I knew the kids would accidentally lose whatever bugs were for the intended feast. I don’t want to step on one at 1:00 a.m. on the way to the bathroom. (Ewwwwwww.)

Meryl and Helen were both eager to scour the yard for bugs. Helen quickly lost interest, preferring to play with the pillbugs. (We didn’t think they’d be good food since pillbugs are mostly exoskeleton, and flytraps don’t eat exoskeletons.) Meryl remembered the boy across the street likes bugs (well, duh) and invited him over to help feed the plant.

This was unexpected. The two had been getting along really well until March when the boy, who’s one year older, got a little too aggressive in a game they were playing. He got a reaction to an evil grimace/loud growl, and has since been repeating the noise whenever he sees Meryl. She convinced herself that he’s out to “get her.”

We walked over, ring the doorbell, and the boy happily agreed to come over and hunt for bugs. (Four months of social issues are instantly undone!)

They gawked at the plant, then hunted for bugs for about twenty minutes before losing interest. For the next hour or so, they were happily playing “follow the leader” in the greenbelt behind the house.

The venus flytrap looked sadder with each passing day as its leaves turned from green to brown to black. The plant is now officially dead, and will become part of the ecosystem.

Meryl has been asking for a pet. I’ve been loathe to get one since we know who’ll really end up caring for it. The demise of the flytrap hasn’t dispelled this notion, though we are happy the animus between the kids seems to be over. In the meantime, we’ve asked Meryl to “research pets” so she’ll understand some of the responsibilities. I am hoping it’ll take her awhile to getting around to doing so. However, to her credit, when she had the short-term gig taking care of a neighbor’s mice, they all survived.


  1. Amusing story, very animated, poor plant. I came upon this site trying to look for different pancake mix brands,………….not sure how i ended up here, but none the less it was fun reading your entries. Have a good one and keep up the humor/writing, your very good at it.

  2. You just reminded me of the time I went to pick Charlotte up from daycare and she introduced me to a little boy she knew with, “This is Soandso – the boy I HATE.”

    Of course, I scolded her, “Now you wouldn’t want to be introduced to HIS mommy that way, would you?”

    “But, he’s mean to me all the time.”

    Well, by the next day she’d apparently forgotten that she loathed this particular kid. They were happily playing with blocks together when I showed up. Go figure.

  3. Amusingly I was at a friend’s place last night, and he had three dead pots sitting on the counter that looked a bit like your picture above. When I asked what had died he said venus flytraps 🙂

  4. Great story… I came to this site looking for info on the care and feeding of the Venus Flytrap. I purchased the little devil/devils(seeds) from a flytrap kit in The St Louis Science Center. Almost 40 days ago. Sadly, there is no visible sign of growth to come. I’ve kept the small pot(1″ dia.) in a well lit aquarium with full light. Water was always kept in the bottom of a saucer and never allowed to dry out. The temperature maintained between 80 and 90, With 70 to 80% humidity. Any suggestions that may benefit the birth of a flytrap are welcome with open ears. I’ve heard that the flytrap is a fragile plant, and great care is needed for its survival. But I didn’t realize that growing them from seed may be more difficult than keeping them alive. I guess time will tell. Until next time….

  5. wow….i like ur kids..just like me!Anyway,me+my brother just got a venus fly trap.right away he starts over feeding it!….it’s going to die.i feel sorry for it:(
    *notice that i am like your kids because this letter had nothing to do with ur story!(TOLD ‘YA!)

  6. Venus Flytraps originate here in America, in North Carolina. Keep them planted in a mixture of sphagnum moss and perlite (50:50 ration)and NEVER in regular soil or dirt, set the pot into a container that will keep an inch or two of water at the bottom of the pot at all time (to keep the moss from drying out…the flaytrap’s pot should never be allowed to completely dry out). Then, set the pot in an area with FULL direct sunlight. Don’t keep the cheesy cover over the pot. Don’t ever fertilize the “soil”. Also, don’t get carried away with finding bugs and feeding the flytrap too often (its sort of like overfertilizing a regular plant). Only transplant during the late winter/early spring when the plant is dormant (the plant will go dormant, appearing to die, in the fall, but it will pop back out in the spring).

    Specific info, yes, but not really very complicated at all. Keep the plant indoors and it will die (remember, direct, full sun!). Don’t even put it in a shady area outside. Give it a minimum of 4 hours of direct sunlight daily. If you live in the south, leave the pot outside during the winter (don’t keep the dish as wet, but still never let the potting mix dry out completely). If you live in the north, put the plant in a shed or some other outside shelter.

    If you do this, you will have a venus flytrap that not only prospers, but will even produce flowers and seeds, and multiply in the pot to take up much larger pots.

    The problem is that everyone thinks they are delicate and tropical. They are not. Treat a full-sun outdoor plant that naturally grows in peat bogs in North Carolina like an indoor tropical, and you’ll kill the plant every time. Remember, in a peat bog, there is no dirt, only peat moss and decaying plant matter, and it is always wet. There are no trees, hence there is full sun all the time. This is North Carolina we are talking about, so the temperature can freeze for a while every winter and no big deal. The dormancy of the plant helps it make it through the winter freezes.

    I have several venus flytraps growing in pots, and they grow like weeds if you treat them as above.

    Hope that helps those having trouble.

  7. Poor little thing. I read many faqs after bought her, many of them with the information that Goblin gave to you. I hope that my little plant have a very different destine than yours.

  8. My girlfriend and I bought a venus flytrap at a walmart about two weeks ago. Foolishly I have had it growing inside our apartment. I water it every day but like you all have suggested, the plant became worse and worse every day. Although not completely dead, I will take it on the back patio tomorrow and keep it wet. Does our poor venus fly trap stand a chance?

  9. We’ve had ours since my granddaughters’s birthday in late August. It’s alive only because of the internet! But it’s doing ok on the kitchen window ledge above the sink (north east exposure).

    I came online today to find out how to deal with winter dormancy. I think that’s all it takes – – finding the correct information BEFORE doing the wrong thing.
    As for watering, I let my tap water sit in an open jug for a day or more, to let the chlorine evaporate, before giving the water to the plant. (I live in the Pacific Northwest, with good, soft tap water. If I lived in a hard water area, then I’d use distilled water.)

    People say flytraps are hard to grow. I think they are just different from other houseplants. But that’s why we like them!

  10. I have a venus flytrap as well. these plants aren’t fragile. they thrive on neglect! Thats why I love them. Just make sure they have water, are in full sunlight OUT SIDE unless it is less than -5 degrees celcius. Just let it in real sunlight, and it should survive. a patio or porch will do nicely.

  11. Plus, they should never have more than four or five smll bugs the size of a fly a month.

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