Tom's Carnivores

If your flytrap's leaves are turning black, don't panic - traps can die for many different reasons and this is rarely fatal to the plant. Five common causes are...

Why is my Venus flytrap turning black or yellow?

Tom Bennet
By Tom Bennet,
I've been growing a wide variety of carnivorous plants for over 2 decades. I got my first Venus flytrap at age 10 and now have an entire greenhouse full of carnivores.

If you’ve fed your Venus flytrap a tasty meal, only to have the trap turn black and die over the following days, don’t panic!

Traps can turn black for many different reasons, and most are not fatal to the plant. I’ve listed 5 of the most common causes below.

1. Inappropriate food

Don’t feed your plant bits of sausage, chocolate, or anything else it wouldn’t catch in the wild. This is a guaranteed way to cause the trap to rot. Snip off the dead leaf, and start feeding your plant properly!

A good Venus flytrap menu: mealworms, bloodworms, and crickets.
A good Venus flytrap menu: mealworms, bloodworms, and crickets. View on Amazon.

If you’re feeding your plant bugs, don’t give it anything larger than about 1/3 the size of the trap. If the insect is too big, or if a stray leg or antennae is left poking out, it’s likely the trap will be unable to fully seal, which will again cause the leaf to die. Simply snip it out and wait for new growth to replace the old trap.

2. Stress from poor growing conditions

If your growing conditions aren’t ideal, your plant’s traps may turn black every time they’re fed, or even if they haven’t been fed at all. Traps turning yellow before turning black - especially ones which haven’t been fed - is a common symptom of poor growing conditions.

Notice how my plant pictured below is growing very happily despite not a single trap having yet caught a fly!

Venus flytraps don't need to catch loads of flies to keep growing healthily!
Venus flytraps don't need to catch loads of flies to keep growing healthily!

You should focus on providing a good growing environment - suitable sun, water, and soil - before worrying about food.

You can read my complete Venus flytrap growing guide here, or grab a copy of Peter D’Amato’s carnivorous plant “bible”, The Savage Garden.

3. Winter dormancy

Like many other temperate plants, Venus flytraps require a cold winter dormancy in order to survive long-term. As the daylight hours shorten and temperatures drop, it’s normal for some traps to go black and die as your plant enters its winter resting phase. In the northern hemisphere, this period typically lasts between November and February.

Venus flytraps entering winter dormancy - their rest period.
Venus flytraps entering winter dormancy - their rest period.

If your flytrap’s leaves have started to die in late Autumn (and if you’ve taken care of all their other growing requirements!), it’s likely that your plant is simply starting its dormancy. This is completely normal, and you can safely trim off any dead leaves and slightly reduce watering until Spring. Your plant will then begin producing new traps when the days get longer and temperatures rise. You can read more about Venus flytrap dormancy here.

4. Overfeeding

Closing a trap and digesting an insect requires energy. If you feed every single trap on your plant - or worse, trigger the traps for fun without giving them a meal - it’s likely that some of the leaves will turn black and die.

This probably isn’t fatal, so don’t panic. Your plant is simply focusing its energy on producing new leaves. Hold off from feeding for a month or two, and in future, try to avoid feeding more than 1 trap per week (especially on small plants). You might also try putting your plant outside on a sunny day to let it try catching some food naturally.

Some cultivation advice I always give to new growers: feeding your plants should be the very last thing on your list! There are more important things which you should tackle first if you wish to grow carnivorous plants successfully.

5. Natural lifecycle

If it’s the oldest traps in the rosette which are turning black, or if the blackening trap has already caught and digested several insects, then this is likely a normal part of the trap’s lifecycle. If your plant is continuing to put out new growth to replace the old traps, then you have nothing to worry about.

My healthy Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) produces traps which turn nice and red in the sun.
My healthy Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) produces traps which turn nice and red in the sun.

Why is my Venus flytrap still dying?

What if the worst happens, and your flytrap is beyond help?

If you discovered this post too late, and only now know the correct way to care for a flytrap, you can buy a new healthy Venus Flytrap over at South West Carnivorous Plants. They also have an excellent range of flytrap cultivars including giant and all-red forms, as well as ideal companion plants for your flytrap.

For readers in the US, I highly recommend you hop over to California Carnivores. They have an extensive range of healthy Venus Flytraps available for quick delivery, as well as many other carnivorous plants which make ideal companions for your flytrap.

You can also get 10% off your order with the code tomscarnivores.

Hope this was useful - any questions, let me know in the comments. Happy growing!

Tom Bennet
By Tom Bennet
Site Owner

I've been growing carnivorous plants for over 2 decades, having been fascinated by these plants since I got my first Venus flytrap at age 10. I now have a large greenhouse to house my collection and am an avid breeder of Nepenthes pitcher plants.

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