The Carnivorous Plant FAQ v. 12

Q: Dormancy tricks that may work

A: Let me discuss dormancy more, and this time give you more specifics. Mind you, I am not promising your plant will survive the winter.

You should select one of the four methods below to get your plant through winter dormancy. Choose the one that is best for you. Yes, there are many repeat facts from the previous FAQ page, but I keep getting questions about this topic even though I have already answered it in these pages!

  1. Outside: If you live in a place with a naturally chilly winter, you should consider letting your plant go through winter outside. A "chilly" winter is one where the daily highs are not much warmer than 24°C (75°F) and the night temperatures rarely (if ever) drop below 0°C (32°F). If you live in such a climate, keep the plant outside all winter. The plant will happily drowse itself through the winter, and will probably love it. The plant must stay moist, of course. It will want lots of sunlight because it will still be doing photosynthesis, although not quite as much. If you experience the occasional frost, protect the plant by covering it with a sheet of newspaper on those boreal nights.

    This is the method I use for my terrarium plants. I do not move the whole terrarium outside during the winter, of course. I just put the plants in a tray of water. Even if it is low-humidity for the winter, the plants are not doing much in the way of photosynthesis or respiration, so they do not mind.

  2. Chilly window: If you live in a place with winters that are too harsh and cold, consider wintering your plant next to a sunny window. The plant will get sunlight, but being close to the cold window it might be chilly enough for dormancy. Folks who live in the far north are used to chilly rooms, anyway, so the plant might fit right in. As in Method 1, the plant will need light because it is photosynthesizing to some degree.

  3. Refrigerator: Put the plant in a sealed bag, and stick it in your refrigerator (not the freezer!). The plant will enter a deep dormancy in this very cold storage. Since it is in such a deep dormancy, it will not need sunlight---but the soil should be kept moist.

    In the spring, take the plant out of the refrigerator. I do not think this method works as well for Venus flytraps as it works for some other carnivorous plants, but I get pretty good results doing it. Avoid repotting the plant to fit it into your refrigerator (fall repottings are bad for the quasi-dormant plant), but if you must do this for some reason, be very careful not to damage the plant or its roots.

    This is probably the best method for people in the tropics to use.

  4. Nothing: Don't do anything. Just let the plant grow in your terrarium or wherever you have it. Yes, it may die or grow poorly, but you can get another in the spring. (Would you rather I lie to you to placate your soul?) If you have a terrarium, you may increase the chances your plant will live by decreasing the light intensity or duration by about 30%. I am just guessing, though.

  5. Somewhat chilly and very dark (this will NOT work): Do NOT put your plant in the basement or in a dark garage, car port, or closet. Unless your plant enters a deep, deep dormancy like a refrigerated plant in Method 3, it will still be trying to do photosynthesis. If your plant is in a dark area, it won't be able to get the necessary light, and it will die.

Good luck figuring out what to do!

Page citations: Rice, B.A. 2002, 2006a; personal observation

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Revised: 2018
©Barry Rice, 2018