Help! My Venus Fly Trap is Turning Black! Causes & Solutions

Dead Flytrap ClippingsFirst, you need to take a deep breath and not panic! If your Venus fly trap is turning black, it’s most likely going through completely normal processes.

The main reason a trap turns black and dies is that it’s simply at the end of its lifespan. Each individual trap on a plant has a lifespan of about three months during which it will catch about 1-4 insects.

As long as green new growth is replacing the dying traps, your plant is doing fine! However there are a number of other reasons why your Venus fly trap is turning black. Read on to find out what these causes may be, and their solutions!

  • Overfeeding

It’s quite possible your plant is developing black traps if you fed every single trap on the plant. Yes, insects provide the nourishment that those traps seek, but closing every trap and digesting every single piece of food that’s inside those traps takes a huge amount of energy.

Traps may begin to die off to concentrate their remaining energy on photosynthesizing new growth. It’s also possible that the overload of nitrogen from too much food causes the traps to die. The solution to this is simply not hand-feeding your plant for about a month. Give it time to recover and maybe catch its own food.

When the new leaves are fully mature and open, you can resume feeding, but only 1-2 traps per plant once a week at the most. For more feeding advice, read my Venus fly trap food guide.

  • Eating something too big 

Too big!
Too big!

In order to successfully digest its food, a Venus fly trap must seal both sides of its leaves together. Sometimes an insect with long legs or large wings gets caught in the trap. If these legs or wings stick outside of the trap, it cannot fully seal and may turn black and die as a result.

When feeding your plants, remember to keep the food 1/3 the size of the trap. Unfortunately, traps will sometimes bite off more than they can chew on their own. In this situation, leaving the plant alone is the best thing to do. Again, new growth will replace the dying trap.

  • Stress from moving or repotting

Did you get a new plant within the last month or few weeks? Did you also happen to put it into a new pot? If so, your plant simply need time to adjust to its new conditions. Traps dying on a newly repotted plant is normal, and essentially expected to happen.

To minimize potting stress, wait until the end of dormancy (February or March) before repotting. Even if it’s still in the same pot, being shipped in a box or even just a ride in the car from the nursery can be stressful for a plant. Time and good care is the best cure!

  •  Improper soil/water/container

Venus fly traps along with most other carnivorous plants need nutrient-poor soil. The go-to options are usually pure peat moss or New Zealand long fiber sphagnum moss. The soil shouldDying Venus Flytrap be aerated with perlite or silicia sand.

These must have no fertilizers or nutrients added, or the plant may suffer mineral burn. If you’re using regular potting soil or something with additives, take your plant out immediately! 

Soak it in distilled water while you go out and buy the right ingredients.

On the subject of water, your tap water likely has a higher concentration of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) than what most carnivorous plants can take. If water has 50 ppm (parts per million) TDS or less, then it’s safe for carnivorous plants.

Most growers (myself included) need to buy gallons of distilled water for their plants. Saved rain water is also an excellent source for your plants. If you want, you can buy a TDS Meter to check your water sources. You may be one of the lucky ones that has nearly pure tap water! Yes, I’m jealous.

Your planter could also leech minerals into the soil and be the reason your Venus fly trap is turning black. Clay, terracotta, or un-glazed ceramic pots are highly discouraged for carnivores. Because they’re porous and made from organic materials, they will add minerals to your soil over time. This is a slow process that you can hold off if you regularly flush your pot with distilled water.

For the long term, you’ll want your plants in a plastic, foam or completely glazed ceramic pot.

No terrariums! Planters should be opaque. I like these pots a lot for adult plants, and also have a stack of these handy for seedlings and smaller plants. You can also find good ones at your local dollar or thrift store. Remember they must also have drainage holes in the bottom!

  • Dormancy

Black Venus FlytrapAs cold weather approaches, Venus fly traps may start losing more of their leaves in preparation for dormancy. Dormancy is a completely natural process that is essential for Venus fly traps to survive.

When dormant, some plants may lose all of their traps or they could have a few remaining. There won’t be much new growth until the next spring, so the only solution is to wait until then.

Dormancy sucks for every grower, but it really makes you appreciate how stunning the plants are in the summer! Consider getting an easy tropical plant like a cape sundew to combat those dormancy blues!

Still have questions about your Venus flytrap or other carnivorous plants? Enter your email below for a free FAQ on growing carnivorous plants!

Thanks for reading, and I hope you found this information useful! Good luck with your Venus flytrap and I’ll see you in the next blog post!

33 comments

  1. Hayden says:

    My VFT cluster got torched due to some really intense Alabama sunlight on my new porch. It has already been stressed a bit from a move from NC and they have lost all their leaves. I took a peek at the rhizomes without digging them up and was relieved they were still white. Should I keep them where they are so they can get a chance to harden off or move them to the slightly shadier front deck to get a break? As well I plan on buying some VFT cultivars as well as a drosera capensis; what should I do to prevent this from happening again?

    • Maria says:

      Hi Hayden!

      Flytraps and South African sundews like D. capensis don’t like intense heat if temperatures get into the mid-90s and up. On really hot days, I recommend giving them full sun in the morning and shading them in the late afternoon when the sun is more intense. And just make sure they are adequately watered. Thanks for writing!

  2. Mike says:

    My VFT traps seem to turn black most times if not every time they catch something or I feed them. The bugs are way way smaller than 1/3rd the trap size.

    I wonder what is going on ?

    The plant is getting plenty of artificial light from a fluorescent lamp specifically designed for plants and it is on a timer.

    I water the plant with only distilled water.
    It’s in the original soil it came in.
    I don’t fertilize.

    My VFT looks very healthy otherwise.

    I’m not sure what’s going on.

    • Maria says:

      Hi Mike!

      How often are you feeding the traps? They may be eating too often and overloading on nitrogen. Start feeding them only once a month and gradually increase to once per week. If they are catching their own food, you don’t need to hand feed them.

      Are you feeding them live prey so the trap can seal and trigger digestion? If not, the traps may be stressed from triggering without eating. If you haven’t already, please read my feeding guide, especially the section on live prey. http://www.thecarnivoregirl.com/the-venus-fly-trap-food-guide-feed-those-hungry-mouths/

      Lastly, how long have you had the plant? If you’ve had it under two months, it just may need to adjust to its new conditions. It’s best not to feed it during its adjustment period. Have patience and it will be happy eventually!

      Good luck with the plant! I hope this was helpful!

  3. tara says:

    i recently bought a venus fly trap, its the first one ive owned. i have had it about 2week, i water it with bottled water. i have not fed it yet. the bigger traps on it look fine but the smaller ones are all starting to turn black. its still in the pot that i bought it in, i have never fertalized it. i was affraid it might be getting to much water or not enough light??? i have it in my house in regular light, is that ok? its starting to get cooler weather so it could be going dormant. is there any tips you could give a new venus fly trap mom??? i love it and dont want it to die, please help!!!!!!

    • Maria says:

      Hi Tara! If you’re using bottled drinking water, it may still have too many minerals for the plant to handle. I recommend buying a gallon of distilled water. It should last you a long time for one plant.

      It may be going black due to stress from adjusting to a new environment, or dormancy or a mixture of both. Give it as much light as you can. Keep it outside if possible, and bring it inside if you expect below freezing temperatures for a few weeks straight. Keep the soil just moist, but not wet. You can even let it dry slightly.

      Hope that helped! Good luck, Tara!

      • Yes, listen to Maria!
        ONLY distilled/rain/RO water, nothing else! And if it is indoors it should be right up against a VERY bright (with sun) window, but outside is better as long as it is not freezing weather… 🙂

  4. Bruné says:

    My VFT started turning its leaves black after flowering, it had two stems of flowers and there after the new leaves turned black as they emerged? What can be the cause of this?

    • Maria says:

      Hello! Flowering can be stressful for a plant that is still adjusting to a new environment. Unless you want seeds, it’s often recommended to cut the flower stalk. If you are in the northern hemisphere, the plant is also likely entering dormancy, its winter rest period. It may look dead or sick but is just dormant for the winter.

      • Autumn says:

        What shall I do while it is dormant? Do I still water it. Should black pods be cut off or should I just leave them? Do I still need to feed it?

        • Maria says:

          Hi Autumn! You don’t have to water it as often, but you should still keep the soil just moist. I would check it once a week or so. Water it if it’s starting to dry out.

          You can cut the black traps off if you want to. If the plant is in a well-ventilated area like outside, the dead traps will dissolve with time. If the plant is inside, they may rot and encourage mold or fungus.

          Do not feed it while dormant. The plant is saving energy to rest, and not spending it on catching and digesting food.

          Thanks for commenting! Hope that was helpful. 🙂

      • Definitely cut the flower stalks! I learned the hard way, I let mine flower and kept thinking to myself: “Didn’t I read to cut the flower?” I waited too long and it REALLY set back my plant! I am still trying to get it back to a normal state! I will always cut the flower stalks from here on out…

  5. Devon says:

    Hi Maria. I’m currently raising 2 flytraps that seem to be in different stages of their growing cycles. One (actually a cluster of 3 plants) is producing short rosettes close to the ground, the other is producing longer leaves up off the ground. I’m currently keeping them under artificial light (just enough to make the mouths a little pink) with a 9 hour photoperiod, and in an ice chest of snow to keep their day time temperature in the high 50’s and night temperature in the high 40’s. Do you have advice on what I could be doing better? I’m also working on a controlled temp/humidity winter dormancy terrarium, but that’s an entire paragraph on it’s own.
    I’m also raising some Sarracenia leucophylla x oreophila and Sarracenia rubra ‘Jonesii’ under the same conditions. They seem to be alright, but I just transplanted them and used Sunshine #4 peat/perlite mix, which has no added fertilizers, but does a pH adjuster to raise the pH to 6.5. Any thoughts on that particular media? I’ve been flushing the pots regularly with distilled water just to be on the safe side. Thanks!

    • Maria says:

      Hi Devon, thanks for commenting!

      Your set up sounds good to me! I’ve honestly never heard of keeping them in an ice chest of snow to keep them cool. That’s really creative! As long as the plants don’t freeze, I imagine that will work just fine.

      I’ve never used that mix before, so I can’t comment on how well it works. All you can really do is keep an eye on the plants over time and see how well they do.

      I hope that answers your questions! Thanks again for the comment and happy growing!

      • Devon says:

        Upon consulting terraforums, I decided I’d switch out the mix for my own peat/perlite mix. I never realized how hard plain peat is to find around here during winter!
        The ice chest is only a temporary measure until I complete my cold terrarium, which will use ice cold water circulated from holding tank outside to cool a small terrarium inside to a more controlled level (and hopefully able to get temps down into the 30’s). My prototype, which was wildly inefficient, still managed to lower the temp 27F from ambient conditions. With a thermostat, I should be able to keep the temps at exactly what the plants need.

        • Hi Devon,
          You made the right move on the media, I looked it up and here are the ingredients: Sunshine Advanced Mix #4 is Canadian Sphagnum peat moss, sustainably harvested from carefully managed bogs in rural Canada. The peat moss is blended with horticultural grade perlite, coir, dolomitic lime, a starter organic fertilizer, mycorrhizae and an organic wetting agent to complete the mix. Lime adjusts the pH for optimum fertilizer availability, the starter organic fertilizer helps transplants establish, mycorrhizae assists in fertilizer uptake and the organic wetting agent helps peat moss absorb water better.
          So, it does have a fertilizer in it, which is bad for your plant.
          And just one other FYI: Perlite does contain some slight Salts… Instead of perlite, I purchased some #12 silica sand on Ebay, and it was perfect!
          I found very pure peat on Ebay, it was very excellent quality!
          I made sure that both of these products from Ebay were definitely pure before I bought them, and have been using them with Fantastic results.
          Just wanted to add some suggestions and info, mainly from experience… 🙂

  6. Samantha says:

    Hello! Thanks so much for the guide you wrote, it’s really helpful.

    A quick question (and probably a no-brainer): if the VTF is in its dormant stage with its traps turning black, should I be snipping off these dead/dying traps while they turn black, or just leaving the plant be?

    • Maria says:

      Hi Samantha! Glad you found it helpful! It’s really up to you. If you cut the black traps, there’s a lesser chance of mold and bacteria forming, and it also looks nicer. If they’re outside or in a well-ventilated area though, they’re not likely to get moldy anyway. So basically, do it if you want to! If not, no big deal. 🙂

  7. octapusxft says:

    I have my flytrap for over half a year but now at the start of the spring, the edges of the new trap leaves get black very fast as in this picture:
    http://i68.tinypic.com/2ev55x5.jpg

    Do you happen to have any idea what might be causing this? Is it some nutrient deficiency?

      • octapusxft says:

        Light: Plenty of daylight as it is in the balcony outside

        Soil: Exactly the soil that it was in when I bought it. I think it is the swampy kind of soil.

        Water: Only water that I collect from our dehumidifier (which I believe is basically free of salts)

        It had been a mild winter and the plant was always outside during that time. The sundew plant that I also had in the same conditions has show a complete revival after the winter.

  8. Kun says:

    Hi. Do you have any ideas why my sundews are growing strong but at the same time flytraps are dying/ turning black(not just single trap).
    I use peat moss and sand as the base and the light are 4*24W T5-ho. I also use RO water.

    • Maria says:

      How long have they been in those conditions? Could they still be adjusting? Or were they doing fine before and are suddenly declining?

  9. Ian says:

    Hello! I’ve had a venus flytrap since May 2016. Live in Westren Canada and it can get pretty cold. I keep my flytraps inside all the time and they get good light. In July I started to notice that almost all of my leaves were dying. Now I have 6 green stems but they are also turning black. There are a few that haven’t turned black, hopfully they won’t. I’m not sure why most leaves are black…

    Another Question: Becuase I live in such a cold area, I’m not going to put my venus flytraps outside for dormancy. What should I do? I’m thinking of puting it in my basement where It can stay cold and not freeze. Will I be making the right call?

    • Maria says:

      Hi Ian. Yes, a cold basement would do well for dormancy.

      As for the traps turning black, I recommend posting photos on a carnivorous plant Facebook group if you’re on there. With pictures and a details about your growing conditions, people should be able to help you out.

  10. Malinda says:

    Is it ok to cut off the black stems or just leave them be?
    Thanks for all the great info!!
    Malinda

    • Maria says:

      Hi Eva. It may be in shock while adjusting to a new environment or it may be dormant. When it grows new traps in the spring, it should be ready to eat.

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