Venus flytraps can actually survive without ever catching and digesting prey or otherwise being fed. As you may guess, they won’t grow as fast as they would if they were eating regularly. So how should you feed a Venus flytrap if your situation does not let it catch and digest prey?
There are several things you should and shouldn’t do when it comes to feeding a Venus flytrap. First of all, we recommend that you do not feed your flytrap anything dead. This includes not only dead bugs but also raw meat of any kind. While doing so won’t necessarily harm your flytrap per se, it will often kill the single trap and reduce the overall vigor of the entire plant. This might be due partially, at least, to bacteria having a head start on growing within dead organic matter. In our opinion, it’s best to stay away from feeding your flytrap dead bugs or meat.
So what can you feed a Venus flytrap? The safest (and most convenient!) things to feed your Venus flytrap are dehydrated blood worms. These are the kind that you can find in any fish section of any pet department. Simply mix enough dried blood worms in some distilled water for a good size meal for each open trap that you have. It will be easier if you use just enough water to re-hydrate the blood worms. This way, you won’t be chasing them around in water later as you try to get them out. Next, use a toothpick to swirl up a few re-hydrated worms (like spaghetti!) and use the worm-covered end of the toothpick to activate a trap. slowly pull the toothpick out, being careful that the blood worms stay within the trap.
Finally, in nature, live prey will struggle once caught in a trap. This struggling causes the trap to seal tightly and begin digesting. To simulate this when you feed a Venus flytrap, simply pinch the trap closed lightly for 20-30 seconds. Without this final step, the trap will simply open back up in about a day without digesting the food. Also, dehydrated blood worms are said to lose their nutrition value quickly, so it may be better to buy smaller containers of them as needed instead of one giant container.
What about fertilization? To start, flytraps should never, EVER receive normal fertilizer. You may have read that some people fertilize their flytraps via foliar feeding, which means that fertilizer is applied to the leaves and traps instead of into the soil. This is true, but doing so also causes some problems in itself and never with normal plant fertilizer.
Even though the intention is to feed only the leaves and traps, some fertilizer will inevitably get into the soil over time. This causes two problems. First, it will cause salts and minerals to build up in the soil, which can be deadly to the flytrap. Second, it also causes algae (not moss, moss is fine) to bloom on the surface of the soil. This can be unsightly and is also not ideal for the plant. For these reasons, foliar fertilization should only be used if you are keeping many flytraps (too many to feed each by hand) and only if they are all indoors or otherwise unable to catch prey naturally. Again, Venus flytraps can live without ever catching any prey, so you should never feel obligated to feed or fertilize your plant.
If you do feel that fertilization is called for, the most widely accepted method is to use very dilute Maxsea brand fertilizer mixed in a spray bottle. We use 1/4 teaspoon per gallon, applied 2-3 times per month during the growing season. If possible, try to spray from the side, across the soil onto the plant, not down toward the soil.
But again, fertilization is not recommended. If you only have a few plants, then using blood worms to feed a Venus flytrap is not only much more fun (and can be quite relaxing), but it is also safer for the plant.
Click here to learn more about flytrap care.