So let me guess what happened: You were at a grocery store or plant nursery, and you saw a tiny plastic cup printed with snarling plant graphics that contained an interesting little carnivorous Venus flytrap. You bought it, and now you want to know how to keep it alive. (Am I right?)

Venus flytraps 'Jaws'

‘Jaws’ is a fine Venus flytrap cultivar…that’s very hungry.

Photo Credit: Barry Rice/sarracenia.com

Venus flytraps

With plenty of light, Venus flytraps can turn bright red.

Photo Credit: Barry Rice/sarracenia.com

Venus Flytrap and crane fly

This crane fly picked the wrong place to rest!

Photo Credit: Barry Rice/sarracenia.com

The truth is that it’ll be easier for you to kill your new little plant than it will be to keep it alive. But the good news is that you can keep it alive – and even have it thrive. First (and I kid you not), you must forget whatever the clerk at the store told you. Bless their hearts, most nursery professionals and grocery store employees hardly ever know how to grow a Venus flytrap. So don’t believe anything they might have told you about windowsills or “bits of hamburger meat.”

Next, try to put thoughts of feeding your plant out of your mind. I know, I know – you bought the monster so you and the kids can see it eat bugs. But the fact is that your plant doesn’t really need to eat meat. Yes, a bit of animal flesh from time to time will benefit your plant, but only a healthy Venus flytrap can actually digest prey. If you aren’t growing your flytrap very well, a bug in the trap will actually hurt it!

The No. 1 thing your plant needs more than anything else is plenty of sunlight. In the wild, flytraps grow in open sites under full sun. A kitchen windowsill is just not bright enough for them. If you can, the best thing you can do is keep the plant outside in full sun. Growing it indoors is possible, but bear in mind that doing so puts your flytrap under a great deal of stress, so it’s likely to do poorly. Your best chance for indoor plant survival is to put your flytrap in the very brightest window of your home, where it can get as much direct sun as possible. (Don’t even think about a north-facing window, unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere!)

The second thing your plant wants is a moist, humid environment. This means the soil should be moist all the time, every day. If you touch the soil, you should see water on your finger. And humidity should be high – flytraps like 50 percent humidity or higher. (But if you keep the soil moist, the plants can survive in more arid conditions.)

Third, you must avoid the common killers of flytraps: bad water and fertilizers. Carnivorous plants grow in soils that lack just about any kind of nutrients. In fact, if you give them nutrients, they’ll die. (No, fertilized flytraps don’t grow into horse-eating monsters – they just keel over!) So never fertilize your plant.

That means even the water you give it should be water that’s purified by distillation or “reverser osmosis.” (You can buy this kind by the gallon in grocery stores.) Bottled drinking water or water that comes from tabletop filters or water softeners isn’t good enough for your finicky little monster – it needs no nutrients.

On a high note, flytraps aren’t picky about temperature. They’re happy to grow at temps that are comfortable to humans (anywhere from 50-100 degrees F) – which actually makes them perfect for a home environment.

So if you picked up one of these little beauties at your local grocery store or nursery (or through an online source) and you can meet your plant’s top three requirements, you’ll have a happy, hungry little carnivore on your hands. (And then, yes, you can feed it bugs – but no hamburger meat!)