Should I Let My Venus Flytrap Flower? Is it Bad For The Plant?
Do you have a Venus Flytrap plant in your home and aren't sure if you should let it flower or not? There are several different opinions on whether letting this plant grow its full flowers will actually help, or harm it. Gardening expert Madison Moulton walks through a little history of this popular plant, and if you should let yours flower or not.
The Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is perhaps the most famous carnivorous plant. If you haven’t seen them in person, you’ve more than likely spotted them in horror movies or snapping at Mario in Super Mario Bros.
While they don’t breathe fire or have large white spots, Venus Flytraps can seem ominous. But, they’re not as scary as they look and make wonderful unique houseplants. When growing them, many people wonder if this plant is indeed a flower, once the blooms start to come in.
Yes, the Venus Flytrap does produce flowers, but not in ways you might expect. Let’s take a look at everything you should know about this very unique and interesting plant.
Understanding Carnivorous Plants
Before we answer the question, we have to understand what carnivorous plants are and how they work. As daunting as these plants may seem, they’re really easy to define.
What Are Carnivorous Plants?
Like other carnivores, these plants catch and kill their prey. No matter the insect or other type of prey, once trapped, they’re digested by the plant for their essential nutrients. Different types of carnivorous plants have different ways of catching their prey, and some even trap and digest small rodents.
Carnivorous plants are the products of evolution. They first appeared 70 million years ago following several mutations to adapt to difficult times. Several studies have shown that non-carnivorous plants mutated in different ways due to a lack of nutrients. They did this by duplicating their genomes (DNA) and, with those copies, were able to diversify their purpose. Leaf and root DNA were affected the most, changing to not only catch prey but also absorb its nutrients.
The great success of these mutations caused the original leaf and root genomes to become redundant, and so, they began to disappear. These plants also adapted and changed according to their environment, resulting in several species of carnivorous plants. Some are highly specialized and complex, like Bladderworts. This unassuming carnivore traps its prey using hidden, trap-door-like bladders (which are mutated leaves).
Others are far more simple – like Pitcher Plants. These plants have mutated tubed leaves that are slick and lined with tiny hairs. Small insects get trapped inside these vase-like leaves and can’t get out. Water tends to collect inside these leaves too, drowning the trapped prey. In the wild, Pitcher Plants and others like it, sometimes catch small animals.
What About the Venus Flytrap?
The Venus Flytrap evolved a little differently. Their mouth-like traps are on display for all to see. These traps are modified leaves that are lined with insect-attracting nectar. The thin teeth-like growths you see lining the edges are trigger hairs.
When an unassuming insect touches one of these hairs, the mouth clamps shut, trapping it inside. This plant then excretes digestive enzymes, which eat away at the prey for about a week. Once the insect has been eaten, the plant then reopens its mouth to entice more unsuspecting prey.
Are Venus Flytraps Flowering Plants?
Venus Flytraps are easy indoor plants and are easy to care for. Healthy, happy plants can live for several years, keeping insects at bay. After about 2 years, yes, the Venus Flytrap can produce flowers. But, the trap itself is not considered a flower, these flowers are completely separate from the traps.
Like other plants, they produce flowers in order to seed and reproduce, but it’s not imperative for their survival. As mentioned, these plants evolved into different unique species that thrive by being unorthodox.
Compared to the unique, fly munching leaves, the flowers aren’t very impressive. They are white and often have green veins running along their petals. The flowers sit on very long, 6-inch stalks, so pollinators can do their job without getting trapped and eaten.
One plant can produce several flowers throughout spring. It’s easy to spot these stalks, as they’re very different from new leafy traps. They pop up in the center of the plant and are thick and cylindrical. Eventually, these stalks produce nodes, which become white flowers.
These flowers are not a prey-attracting device for the Venus Flytrap. In fact, a recent, in-depth study was done to determine exactly this. Entomologists collected several prey samples from Venus Flytraps and found that very little had pollen on them, and very few were pollinators. When it comes down to it, this plant lures its prey with its nectar and brightly colored mouths. Its flower is just a flower.
Should I Let My Venus Flytrap Flower?
So, we’ve established that the Venus Flytrap can grow flowers. But should you let this plant actually flower? Typically, no, you should not let this plant flower. Let’s take a look at what to do if you’ve already passed that point.
Cut Them or Leave Them?
These flowers have caused quite a stir within the gardening community. Many argue that the entire flowering process is deadly to your indoor venus flytrap, insisting the stalks be cut away. Others simply suggest letting the plant do what it does naturally – catch insects and bloom every spring. Some may even advise some extra TLC during the flowering process.
This is confusing for new owners and experienced ones alike. To navigate the confusion, the most important thing is understanding your plant and its health. Then, it comes down to preference.
The flowering process does not kill the Venus Flytrap. However, producing flowers does take a lot of energy, draining it away from other important uses like general growth. The lack of energy can put stress on a young or unhealthy plant, causing slower, stunted growth. Only very seldomly can it result in the death of a Venus Flytrap.
A happy, mature plant will produce flowers throughout the blooming season and continue to thrive, with no extra care or fuss needed. A young or unhealthy plant, however, may struggle to bounce back once all its energy has gone to its flowers.
It ultimately comes down to your experience, the state of your plant, and personal preference. If you don’t like the flowers, cut them away; but if you do, keep them.
If you decide to cut the flowers off, for whatever reason, it’s best to do so as soon as they appear. Simply snip them off at their base. You may have to do this a few times throughout spring.
Propagating (if Flowering)
Allowing your Venus Flytrap to flower opens up new ways to expand your collection. You can either propagate using its seeds or its stalk, but both do take a bit of work.
Propagating from seeds
Venus Flytraps don’t self-pollinate on their own, so it needs a helping hand. Once the flowers are in full bloom, you can gently tap on the stalks or place an electric toothbrush against the plant. This replicates the disturbances created by pollinators, causing the pollen to fall on the stigma (where the pollen germinates).
After some time, the flower will begin to die back, leaving behind capsules of seeds. Harvest the seeds and place them in a well-draining tray filled with carnivorous plant soil. Water the tray thoroughly and pop it in a sunny spot. Keep the soil moist and at room temperature for a few weeks. The seeds should germinate and be ready for transplanting in about two months.
Propagating the flower stalk
You don’t have to let the stalks flower for this method, but they do need to be relatively long.
First, you need a pot or container with plenty of drainage holes, filled with well-draining, sandy soil. Then, snip the stalk of the plant and cut it into sections that are about 3 inches long.
Next, you can pop the mini stalks vertically into the container, covering a tiny bit of it with soil. You can also opt to place the cuttings horizontally into the pot, gently pressing them into the soil. Cover them with a thin layer of soil. The cuttings produce roots after a few short weeks, especially if the container is kept in a high humidity area.
No Flower, No Problem
If you’re not a fan of the plain flowers but like the idea of an eye-catching and different Venus Flytrap, then you’re in luck. There are several stunning varieties to choose from, each with different colors and sized traps.
The Dionaea ‘Petite Dragon,’ for example, lives up to its name, sporting little, half-inch traps. Their vibrant colors make up their small size. This variety brightens a room with brilliant green and maroon traps. The D. ‘Ginormous’ or D. ‘Jaws’ on the other hand, sport much larger traps that can measure longer than 2 inches.
There are serval choices for those who love brilliant pops of color, too. The D. ‘Red Dragon’ is perfect for the red and maroon lovers out there. This cultivar is completely red and stays that way throughout its life.
The ‘Red Piranha’ is another red cultivar, but sometimes its teeth-like trigger hairs are lime green, creating a beautiful, eye-catching contrast.
If green suits you better, then the D. ‘Justina Davis’ is the cultivar for you. The entire plant is green, and it stays that way no matter its age.
When Venus Flytraps suddenly produce long stalks and white flowers, it can shock their owners. While mature, healthy plants produce flowers throughout spring, the real showstopper is the modified leaf traps that this plant is known for.
When it comes to answering the question of what to do with the flowers, the age and health of your plant are important, but it ultimately boils down to personal choice. Luckily, those who’d rather cut the blooms off but still want an eye-catching Venus Flytrap are spoiled for choice. There are several varieties with differently shaped and sized traps, each sporting different colors, that you can choose from.