The very particular name indicates a plant of American origin, long cultivated, both as a houseplant and as a plant for particular collections; it is a carnivorous plant, which particularly attracts lovers of these species. The name Dionaea derives from one of the attributes of Aphrodite, daughter of Dione; it was attributed to her by one of the first scholars who took an interest in this small plant, who found it so beautiful and graceful that it was similar to the goddess of love and beauty.
The dionee are in fact very particular plants, they produce small rosettes of light leaves, generally low on the ground; along with the leaves develop long stems, prostrate or erect, which bring to the extremity of the particular circular conformations, divided in the center by a depression, with thin filaments on the external margin: they are real traps, which, at the slightest touch, they snap, closing tightly.
In spring from the center of the rosette stands a cylindrical stem, which bears at the apex some buds, which will produce small white star-shaped flowers.
The plant originates from a short rhizome, which produces a small root system.
Dionea, like many other similar plants, is a carnivorous plant: it gets the mineral salts it needs from small insects, such as mosquitoes or flies, which are trapped between the leaves. The plant has the ability to digest insects, and exploit them to obtain nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, and other microelements, or minerals that we generally add to the soil of our potted plants.
Thanks to this stratagem, carnivorous plants can survive in places completely free of mineral salts, in soils where other plants can hardly survive.
In reality therefore it is not a question of real carnivorous plants, it would be better to call them insectivores; each of these plants generally needs about 2-3 small insects per month, to meet the needs of mineral salts of the entire plant.
Remember that the plant uses a lot of energy to trigger the traps; It is therefore a good rule to avoid triggering the traps with your finger or inserting small objects, because it could lead the plant to spend an excessive amount of energy. Over time, leading to the decay of the entire plant.
How to grow them
Dionee generally do not develop too much, they are small plants, which find their place in a small vase; the soil must be very acidic, poor, without fertilizer. Since the plant draws the mineral salts it needs from insects, it is not necessary to fertilize it, but it is also harmful to plant it in a rich and fertile soil, since the root system does not like the presence of mineral salts in the cultivation substrate, which can quickly lead to the death of the plant.
Placing our dionea home, then we try to reproduce the soil that it finds in nature: we mix sphagnum with acid peat and little perlite, in order to obtain a very acid, soft and light soil.
In nature these plants live in places saturated with water, with perennially high humidity.
We therefore remember to keep the soil always damp, but not soaked with water; the best way is to keep the pot in a saucer, where we will constantly keep a few centimeters of water. When we water we avoid to wet the plant, but we add water in the saucer. If the soil should dry, periodically we can also immerse the whole pot in water, and remove it when the substrate is completely wet, to the surface.
Dionea plants love very bright places, even with direct sunlight, even for many hours a day, at any time of the year; remember that sunlight, especially in summer, causes rapid evaporation of water, and therefore forces us to water very frequently in the hottest months of the year.
During the winter months these plants enter a period of semi-vegetative rest, during which they produce few leaves and few traps; with the arrival of cold we reduce the watering, and try to keep the soil slightly damp.
Where to keep them
The dionee tolerate the summer heat quite well, and from spring to autumn they love to be grown outdoors, exposed to the elements, to rainwater, to the sun.
They can also withstand the cold, as long as it is not intense and prolonged frost, so in autumn they can remain outdoors, while in winter they should be hospitalized in a cold greenhouse, or in a sheltered place, such as a window sill or the corner of a terrace , where they receive sun and rain, but are not completely exposed to frost.
The specimens grown at home hardly grow at their best, first of all due to the constantly hot climate, as if spring were eternal; secondly due to the low presence of environmental humidity, given that domestic heating and summer air conditioners dry the air a lot, making the climate definitely not suitable for cultivating a dionea.
If desired, it is possible to cultivate dionee in a terrarium, as many enthusiasts often do, where it is possible to control environmental humidity; in any case our terrarium will be exposed outdoors for most of the year; in winter we can place the terrarium in a non-heated area of the house, or on the terrace.
Venus flytrap - Dionaena muscipula: Watering
Carnivorous plants do not like the presence of mineral salts in the growing medium; even small traces of mineral salts can lead to the deterioration of plants, where an excess leads to the rapid death of the root system.
We therefore exclude the possibility of watering our carnivores with aqueduct water, which is often rich in limestone.
We can water these plants with mineral water, remembering however that in the saucer, with evaporation, especially in summer, mineral salts tend to concentrate
The ideal is to use rainwater, or demineralised water used for aquariums or irons, completely free of mineral salts.
In any case we avoid increasing the mineral salts present in the pot, therefore we avoid supplying fertilizers of any kind, and we also avoid repotting the plant using universal nursery soil, which is generally enriched with fertilizers.