Venus Flytraps are an incredibly interesting plant to grow. Not only does eat it live insects, it’s also an interesting looking plant with its bright red, spiky mouth and green exterior. While these plants are sure to grab your attention at the store, keep in mind that flytraps can be difficult to care for even the most experienced green thumb!
As we have described, caring for a flytrap is not like caring for your typical houseplant, and therefore comes with some pretty interesting questions like “Can I feed my trap a dead bug?” and “What do I do if my flytrap grows a flower?”. While those questions will be answered in this article, one of the most popular, if not the most popular, is “Why doesn’t my flytrap close?”
To better understand why a Venus Flytrap doesn’t close, you need to know why and how a Venus Flytrap closes its trap!
How and Why a Venus Flytrap Closes
A Venus Flytrap closes its trap because it has caught an insect. Once it has caught the insect, it “eats” it, which is why it is considered a carnivorous plant. There are many steps in the trap closing processes:
Step One: An insect lands in the trap.
Step Two: The insect moves enough on the trap to trigger the tiny, stiff hairs on the inside of the trap.
Step Three: Once the same hair has been triggered at least two times within 20 seconds, the trap will close shut, creating an airtight seal.
Step Four: The trap closes tightly to cause the digestive juices of the insect to secrete.
Step Five: The flytrap liquefies and digests the soft parts of the insect, leaving the exoskeleton.
Step Six: The trap reabsorbs the insect’s digestive fluid and reopens, ready to catch its next victim!
While most owners will get to see these steps in action, some may never get to because their Venus Flytrap will not close around prey. It can be pretty disappointing to come home after purchasing your new plant to discover that it will not close, even if a bug lands in it. While it can sound like your plant has something terribly wrong with it, don’t fear! A flytrap refusing to close does not always mean it is on its last leg. There could be a very simple solution to the problem.
The Top Eight Reasons Why Your Venus Flytrap Won’t Close
1. Its Environment is Too Cold
Venus flytraps prefer hot, humid environments; it is native to swamp or marsh areas like the Carolinas. If a room is too cold, it could cause the trap to go into survival-mode and save as much energy as possible. Considering the digestive process for Flytraps takes 12-15 days, this encompasses the majority of its energy resources. By refusing to close, therefore not entering the digestive process, the flytrap saves considerable energy and can survive longer in a cold environment.
It is important to keep in mind that Venus Flytraps can handle light frost and even a few freezes. With that being said, it cannot handle a prolonged freeze, and would need to be moved indoors if you reside in that type of climate. If it is indoors, place it near a window that receives direct sunlight, and ensure that it is placed in an area where the air is kept at a comfortable temperature.
2. Its Environment is Too Windy
As stated above, the flytrap prefers hot and humid environments. If its environment is too windy, it could go into survival-mode and refuse to close due to the unideal living conditions. Because Venus Flytraps are carnivorous plants, the majority of their energy comes from digesting insects. It would take a very airy, windy environment to cause it to refuse to consume its food-source, but it is possible.
To resolve this, make sure your Venus Flytrap is not placed in a drafty area. If it is outside and receiving too much wind, consider rehoming it to a different part of your yard that doesn’t receive as much wind. If this will still not fix the issue, place the plant in a pot and bring it indoors. If your flytrap is already indoors, make sure it is not placed in a drafty area (right under the air conditioning vent, for example). Consider placing it in front of the window that receives the most sunlight, but not too close to any exterior doors that could let in cold outdoor air.
3. It is Not Receiving Enough Sunlight
Venus Flytraps are native to the boggy, swampy areas of the Carolinas. This means that it thrives in hot, humid environments that receive plenty of sunlight. One of the top reasons Venus Flytraps die is because it does not receive enough sunlight. When a flytrap doesn’t receive enough sunlight and begins to die, it will no longer close its trap, even if there is an insect inside of it.
To ensure your flytrap is receiving enough sunlight, you need to be very conscientious of where you plant it. If you are going to plant it outdoors, plant it in a spot where it will receive sunlight for the majority of the day. If you are going to plant it indoors, place it by a window where it will receive direct sunlight for long periods of time.
4. You Tried to Feed It a Dead Insect
Venus flytraps only close because the cilia (little leaves on the inside of the plant) are stimulated. These leaves are stimulated when an insect has landed in the trap and then tries to move away. The repeated movements of a live insect are what causes the cilia to be stimulated enough to close the trap.
This is why the trap will not close if raindrops fall inside the trap, for example. If a dead insect is fed to the plant, there will not be enough movement to stimulate the trap to close.
If you are struggling with your Venus Flytrap eating live insects, it is possible to successfully feed your flytrap a recently deceased insect. This is typically only an issue if your plant is inside and has very low access, or no access to bugs in your home (you live on a high story of an apartment building, for example).
To feed your flytrap a dead insect, place the insect into the trap and use a pencil to gently stimulate the cilia on the inside leaves. Once you have stimulated the leaves, the trap should close and start digesting the insect.
Many people are unaware that Venus Flytraps do not have to consume insects to survive. It can survive without eating insects, as long as it receives enough sunlight and water!
5. It Ate an Insect That Was Too Big
Your Venus Flytrap could have eaten an insect that was too big. It probably seems like this wouldn’t cause an issue, but it really can! When a flytrap eats an insect that is too big, the leaves of the trap cannot close properly, therefore not creating the airtight seal needed to keep the digestive juices inside the trap.
This means that there will be portions of the dead insect hanging from the plant, which will then start to rot. That rotting bacteria can transfer to the trap, and the trap could start dying, which would cause it to not try to catch any more food.
If you notice parts of an insect sticking out of the trap, do not try to push the remaining parts inside of the trap! This will cause the airtight seal to break and will create bacteria inside the trap itself. Using tweezers, try gently pulling off the parts that are sticking out. The goal is to completely remove any part of the insect that is sticking out to avoid rot.
6. Your Venus Flytrap is Tired!
It might sound silly, but your Venus Flytrap could also just be worn-out. The leaves of a flytrap have a shelf-life. They typically can only snap shut 10-12 times. After that, the leaves remain open and it acts as a traditional photosynthesizing plant.
If you bought your flytrap from a superstore or unreliable source, your flytrap could have already used most, if not all, of its closes. We suggest buying your Venus Flytrap from a reliable source that specializes in flytraps.
If your flytrap has remained open for a considerable amount of time (outside of its hibernation period), but still appears healthy and thriving, there is a very good chance that it now only photosynthesizes and does not require digestive juices to stay alive. Your Venus Flytrap will stay alive for a long time in this stage. If this is something that really bothers you, try purchasing a new plant from a nursery or online store that specializes in Venus Flytraps. They typically sell young flytraps that would not have trapped many insects.
7. Your Flytrap is in Hibernation Mode
It is important to note that this plant hibernates! It will lie dormant , meaning it will essentially be resting, from the start of fall throughout the next spring. Flytraps have no need to feed during this time, as it is hibernating and has no need for supplementary nutrients. If your Venus Flytrap seems alive and well, but hasn’t caught any insects for a while, try to stimulate the cilia on the inside of the trap. Flytraps will not respond to stimulus while hibernating). If it does not respond to stimulus but seems completely fine and it is within the hibernation time frame, it is probably in hibernation mode!
While the flytrap will not require food during this period, it still needs regular sunlight and to be watered. Please do not think that just because it is hibernating, you can stick it in a closet and forget about it until the spring! It is still a plant that requires water and sunlight!
8. It is Dying
Your Venus Flytrap may not be closing because it is dying. Once a Venus Flytrap has reached its untimely end, it will no longer have the need to feed itself, and therefore will not close. Once a flytrap has died, the leaves will slowly start to turn black. If the leaves have not turned black, but you still think it is dying, be sure that it is not just in its hibernation period. A hibernating flytrap can often appear like it is dying when it is really just resting.
The main culprits that cause flytraps to pass on prematurely is lack of sunlight and inadequate soil. Venus Flytraps need a lot of sunlight to survive, and they need their special peat and sand mixture (half peat, half sand). Flytraps can be very tricky plants to cultivate if you live outside of their natural habitat.
What to do If Your Venus Flytrap Doesn’t Close
Remember, it is not always a cause for concern if your flytrap doesn’t close. Be sure to check that you have it in its proper environment. If your flytrap is in a drafty or chilly area, or it is not receiving enough sunlight, move its pot or replant it somewhere else where it can thrive.
You also need to check that it has not tried to eat a dead insect or an insect that is too big. The insect best suited for a Venus Flytrap is alive and 1/3rd the size of the trap. If you have fed it a dead insect, either take it out or try to trick your flytrap into eating it by stimulating the inside of the trap. If you have fed it an insect too big, check your trap for signs of rot, which will start as a small black spot. Once it has started to rot, there is not much you can do.
Lastly, be aware of the hibernation time. Flytraps hibernate from the beginning of winter into the following spring. Do not try to force a flytrap to eat during its hibernation time.
How to Properly Care for Your Venus Flytrap
You have read about how and why a flytrap closes and reasons why it won’t, but you might still feel nervous about caring for your Venus Flytrap. That is completely understandable! Venus Flytraps are notoriously hard to care for. Keep reading to learn more about the basics of caring for your Venus Flytrap.
Buy Your Trap from A Reliable Source
Always buy your flytrap from a reputable source. Try not to buy Flytraps from superstores or big-box stores. Those flytraps have most likely been sitting on a display for a few weeks, with plenty of people playing with them trying to make them close. It may have been jostled or dropped by someone. You may even buy it after it has already closed for the final time, or it could already be dead.
Ordering Venus Flytraps from someone who specializes in them or is at least a skilled horticulturist, can greatly alter the longevity of your plant. You can even find Flytrap specialists to buy on Amazon!
Use the Appropriate Soil to Plant
You cannot use regular soil when planting your flytrap. You should use a mixture of peat moss and sand. The mixture should be half peat moss and half sand.
Peat moss is a type of mossy soil that mimics the boggy soil of North and South Carolina where Venus Flytraps originate from. Peat Moss can be bought at many nurseries and even some hardware stores that have a large plant selection.
The type of sand used is important as well. Do not use sand found in backyards, beaches or sandboxes. Buy sand from a nursery or hardware store. The sand found in stores will be clean and free of any bacteria that you will find from sand that has been outside.
Plant it in the Right Place
As stated previously, Venus Flytraps thrive in hot and humid climates. Plant your flytrap either inside or outside but be sure that it will receive direct sunlight for long periods of time.
Keep in mind that if you plant it outside, it will have a plethora of chances to eat insects. If you plant it inside, but you still want it to stay true to its carnivorous roots, there is a good possibility that you will need to feed it insects.
Venus Flytraps are incredibly interesting plants to have. Due to their exotic nature they can be difficult to care for and leave the owner with many questions. If you are worried about the care of your plant, it is best to consult a Venus Flytrap specialist, or at least a local horticulturist on best practices.
Keep in mind, there are many reasons why your Venus Flytrap doesn’t close. It could be for a completely normal reason, but it could also mean that there is something wrong. Venus Flytraps require a lot of care and observation. With great upkeep, flytraps can be an amazing and interesting plant to own!