The Venus flytrap is a fascinating and extremely popular member of the carnivorous, or meat eating plant family. However, contrary to popular belief, the plant does not require insects for survival. The Venus flytrap will actually live longer if the traps are not fed anything. This is due to the fact that after three meals, the individual trap dies. The trap takes a week to digest each insect, and after 21 days of hard work, the traps just shrivel up and die. The mechanism by which the trap works is rather ingenious. There are six little trigger hairs on each trap, and if an individual hair is touched twice, or more than one hair is touched, the trap quickly snaps shut. If the unfortunate insect continues to struggle, and touches another hair, the trap seals itself up tightly and crushes the insect. The interior walls of the trap secrete digestive enzymes, and in about 7-10 days, all that is left of the insect is the skeleton.
The Venus flytrap is a swamp plant, native to a small area in North Carolina. This indicates what type of conditions it best responds to: wet, warm, sunny, and growing in poor soil.
The best way to simulate the natural habitat is to grow the plant in a terrarium-type container, with the lid off since it must also have full sun. Water frequently, and use distilled water since the plant responds poorly to the salt found in most tap water. Fertilization is not necessary, except for an occasional foliar misting with a general houseplant food diluted to 1/4 strength. The soil rarely needs to be fed except in a case where there is a persistent yellowing of the foliage that cannot be corrected by increased humidity or sunlight. The proper potting medium, and that in which most commercially bought plants will be potted, is live sphagnum moss, with a little bit of sand mixed in.
During winter dormancy, you will notice the growth rate slowing and the new traps will become smaller due to lower light and cooler temperatures. Cut back on water and keep at 50 degrees until spring, when the plant will resume its normal growth rate.