you have not purchased Savage Garden, you might want to get
it for some winter reading, it's pretty much considered the
Bible of Carnivorous Plants.
Okay, so if you have a plant that in the wild grows anywhere
in the US, Canada, Europe or Northern Asia then your plant
will need a dormancy. There are some southern hemisphere
plants that can tolerate dormant periods and there are also
plants with unique dormancies (tuberous Drosera, petiolaris
Drosera and the S. African winter growing Drosera) but they
will not be discussed here.
Dormancy should begin anytime between now (mid-September)
and Thanksgiving depending on where you live and how you are
growing. How do you know when your plants should go dormant?
If you are growing them outside just keep an eye on your
plant, they will tell you. If you are an indoor grower keep
an eye on your plants as they usually change their growth
pattern. If they donít seem to be giving you any indications
shoot for the Thanksgiving date.
Basically there are 3 ways to do dormancy:
3) Skip it
Let us go over these one at a time.
If you live in the Northern Hemisphere and you think it is
time to put your plants to sleep for the winter your first
question is probably ďHow long do I need to do it?Ē The
answer: at least THREE (3) months (so if you put them down
around Thanks giving, you can take them out around
Valentines Day, easy dates to remember.)
A rapid change in climate is probably not appreciated by
your plants at any time of the year, the more gradual the
shift into dormancy, probably the better. Forcing a plant
into dormancy can result in the loss of the plant, however,
just because it can, doesn't mean it will. If you have no
other choice but to throw all your flytraps in the fridge at
once, then you have no other choice, they will probably come
out OK next spring. That being said, if there is any way to
slowly prepare your plants for a climate change then utilize
it. At the very least, if you can start acclimating the
plants towards dormancy by giving them less light, and
possibly cooler temps, that is a real plus!
The main method of indoor dormancy is to use your
refrigerator, especially if you live in hot, semi-tropical
to tropical environments, where winters are not cold enough,
and the days are not short enough to cause dormancy.
You have two options here:
1) Put plants in the fridge bare root. To do this, gently
remove the plant from its container, with soil around the
root ball. Then dip the plant in distilled water and swish
it around gently to remove the soil from its roots. When you
are done you should have a nice white crispy rhizome and
roots (in most cases, some plants may have green and red
rhizomes and what not depending on their type.) All should
be firm to the touch, squishy material is obviously dead.
Now, dip the entirety of the plant in another bowl of
prepared fungicide solution (more on this below,) you may
also spritz here, but dunking probably gets more of the
plant. You may have to clip some leaves here, larger plants
like Sarrs are probably too big, and have to much insect
material in their gullets, and clipping those pitchers is
probably a must. I have heard of people clipping, and not
clipping flytraps, it's really your choice... sundews, just
dunk and wrap. When all is said and done, wrap the plant up
in a damp (NOT SOPPING WET! You should not be able to
squeeze any water out of it.) paper towel, sphag or
sterilized peat and place it in a zip lock baggie and
squeeze out most of the air. Now all that is left is to
place it in the fridge, in the vegetable drawer if possible.
Check on the plant regularly to ensure it still has enough
moisture and is not rotting or suffering fungal attack.
2) Leave the plant in the pot. This is pretty much the same
as above. You will need to clip some leaves probably, and
you'll definitely, more than ever, need the fungicide. Dunk
the entire pot, including plant in the fungicide solution
and let it drain well. Youíre going to eat up more
fungicide per plant this way, but if youíre really scared to
un-pot them, then I guess it's your only option.
Fungicide is a must when you are using the fridge and it
never hurts to use other times either. Whether your have
your plants outside under mulch, in their pots in the
fridge, or bare root in the fridge, your exposing them to
damp, cold, and stagnant conditions, and those are prime
conditions to make your little treasure rot away this
winter. This web site sells Banrot and Cleary's fungicide
(professional grade! ) at a very affordable price, there is
no excuse not to use it!
If youíre lucky enough to live in the Southeast, costal
California, or any of the other regions where these
magnificent plants live naturally, then you donít have much
to worry about, especially if you are already growing your
plants outside. Chances are they have already started
snoozing for the winter or are just about to and you
probably hardly noticed. All you really have to do here is
cut back on watering; the media should never be more than
damp. Be careful though, being planted in a pot is lot
different than being planted in a ground, and if you get
frosts, or hard freezes, youíll need to take other
precautions to insulate your pots, such as burying them,
mulching around them, covering with a sheet.
There are those that have a huge outdoor collection, and
live in somewhat colder environments, where putting them in
the refrigerator are not an option. You might be able to
move a few plants to a cool window that gets little sun,
such as northern windows, or a basement window that gets a
little light. It is important to remember that when a plant
is dormant it still requires light. You must still provide a
light source for the plants.
I will also add that a greenhouse or a cold frame is ideal
for carnivorous plants. Make sure you take the plants out of
their saucers of water and buy some fungicide from a garden
centre as damp December days are ideal for mould developing.
Dilute it (not with tap water! ) as instructed and give them
a thorough spray, especially around the centre of the plant.
You can then leave them but make sure they are protected on
especially frosty nights - bubble wrap or an upturned fish
tank will do this. Check them every week or so and remember
to snip off any of the black leaves.
I am also going to add here a comment made by member
Sarraceniaobsessed that I think is very pertinent:
I would like to add my humble but
limited experience with temperate CPs (I do have 30
years gardening experience that does translate however.)
These plants are not as tender as some people and even
books make them out to be. GIVEN that they have had a
sufficient 'cooling down' period similar to fall. Take
for example the 7 degrees F we had here in Atlanta last
weekend (it was 19F in Wilmington, NC, fly trap
country.) I had trapcicles. I did protect them with a
heavy layer of straw and a tarp. That came off 2 days
later when we got back to typical winter temps at night
(that can be 28F.) They since have thawed with no
visible signs of damage. I even burned the bog off last
week and they still look fine if that tells you
anything. My bog is a slightly raised large wooden box
in the parking lot of my office. It is subjected to the
ravages of nature and gets at least 8 hours of sun. It
has good air circulation and stays wetter in the winter
than in the summer. HOWEVER, an artificial environment
is a whole other story (i.e. refrigerators.) I have NO
experience with that.
Listen to the experienced growers about such things as
fungicides and air circulation. I am adding my two cents
for outside cultivation. The other important thing to
understand is the next day after hitting 7F the temp
came up to 25F. That does not seem like much but it
makes a difference. In Atlanta, the cold does not stay
for long. You guys up North are going to have to
moderate how low your CPs go and for how long. The
extended cold is what kills (excluding S. purp) I hope
this has helped in some way. I think over coddling can
kill but then again so can ignorance. Good growing to
Before I go any further into this let me tell you that
dormancy makes your plants grow more vigorously next spring,
skipping it can cause deformed leaves, slow and weak growth,
and eventually death. Your plant works hard to be pretty
all year long for you, all it asks for in return is a nap!
So think about that before you decide to forgo dormancy.
How you do this is really easy, just keep you plants growing
where ever they are.
There are many cases where skipping dormancy is legitimate:
1) Tropical plants don't need dormancy. This would be your
Neps and Drosera from S. America and Africa and the like.
Many of these can handle temps down to the high 50s low 60
though and so if you are greenhouse growing you can often
leave them and get away with it.
2) Seedlings. There is some debate as to whether or not
plants that are less than 2 years really need a dormancy
period. In my experience Sarrs do not need a dormancy period
till their third year, that however is just my experience.
3) Plants you just purchased that you know are fresh out of
tissue culture probably do not need dormancy.
So there are your basics and that should answer most of your
questions. What I have following is pretty much a recap of
all the questions that get asked and the typical answer. If
your question was not answered above then check below, if it
isnít there either then feel free to post and ask it
There are lots of people here experienced in dormancy
because they have gone through it before. Guys to especially
pay attention to are: Phil, Ram_Puppy, Tony P., PlantAKiss,
Alvin Meister, Linda, UnknownClown, FatBoy, Tamlin,
Sarracineaobssesed, Sarracenia, Mike King, Vic Brown, Pyro,
BigCarnivorousKid and Vertigo (If I forgot anyone, Iím
Some of these people live up north, some down south, and
some on tropical islands! They have the breadth of
knowledge to tell you all the different ways you can put
your carnivorous plants to bed for winter.
Things you need to tell us when youíre asking a question:
1) Where you live.
2) Average indoor and outdoor temperatures for winter.
3) How and where you keep your plants.
4) What kind of plants you are concerned with. (Be specific
too, there are many kinds of CP's, and ones that seem so
close can have different requirements and levels of winter
hardiness. A prime example would be S. purpurea ssp. venosa
and. S. purpurea ssp. purpurea. Or if you want to get real
nitpicky S. purpurea ssp. venosa var. venosa and. S.
purpurea ssp. venosa var. montana.)
Q) How much light do they need?
A) At the very least a few hours direct light. The thing to
keep in mind here is not to give the plant the idea summer
is here. If a plant is outside during the winter it gets
around 8-10 hours of various intensity light. If you are
giving your plant 15 hours of light (even if it is low
light) it is going to think it is summer and come out of
Q) How often should I water them?
A) Not very often, remove the tray and only top water enough
to keep the media damp. As a rule of thumb you should be
able to stick your finger in the media and have it come out
with only a few flecks of soil without needing to wipe any
Q) How much fungicide should I spray into the soil?
A) Enough to wet the plant and the surface of the media
Q) Do I only need to apply the fungicide once?
A) Once should be enough but keep an eye on your plants and
if you see fungus spray again.
Q) Should I cut all the growth back on every plant?
A) On plants going into the fridge this is probably a good
idea. Outdoor plants do not need to be clean cut but I do
recommend removing all dead material.
Q) Do I have to cut off all the leaves on my plant to put it
in the fridge?
A) Some people feel that trimming off all growth before
putting plants into dormancy keeps the plants from getting
mold or decay started on them during dormancy. Others are
from the school of thought that if it isnít dead you should
leave it on leave it on as it gives them a head start in the
spring 'cause they all ready have leaves to start
photosynthesizing. As far as I know there is no proof either
is better so do what you think best.
Q) What sounds more suitable, my garage or my basement?
A) What gets the right amount of light and temps? This is a
question that we really canít help with because it is
specific to each situation. If your garage has temps in the
30s-40sF and gets 5 hours direct light a day while your
basement is at 50F all the time but has no light go with
your garage. If it is the other way around do the basement
Q) I was thinking of either putting my plants down in my
basement this year for dormancy, either that or the garage.
I'm not sure if the basement is cold enough, it's probably
around the mid to lower 50's F in the winter with minimal
light. The garage is probably around low 30's - 40F with
more light than the basement, but still not very much.
A) I would go with the garage and see if maybe you can add a
shop light on a timer
(see the answer above for more info.)
Q) With the refrigerator method, which month should you put
it in? November? December? And until when? February? March?
A) As a rule of thumb go from Thanksgiving to Valentineís as
the dates are easy to remember. However, if you are growing
your plants in Maine and it is dropping to the low 40sF by
mid-September then consider starting dormancy early. Like
wise if the nights are still freezing in March then wait
Q) When you put it in the baggie, if the paper towel isnít
damp, how do you make it damp again?
A) Take it out and put in a new towel. Just keep an eye on
it afterwards as you might have introduced fungal spores.
Q) How do I re-pot after dormancy?
A) Very gently
Seriously though, re-potting after
dormancy is just like any re-potting job.
Q) Do you have to put it in a baggie and take it out of the
A) No and no. But (there is always a but) without the baggie
the plant is likely to dry out and if the plant stays in the
pot there is a greater chance of rot setting in. (Also, most
parents donít like to lose fridge space to you CP collection
Q) Instead of a paper towel could I use a damp regular
towel, like the kind you use to dry your hands with?
A) I donít see why not.
Q) Drosera capillaris and capensis don't need a dormancy
that I know of, and both my VFT's and my sundews share the
terrarium. If I get a cooler fan and send my whole terrarium
into dormancy without moving any plants, will it harm the
drosera, or should they be ok?
A) D. capillaries and capensis and many other CPs are
actually very tolerant of lower temps and while they do not
require dormancy they can actually go dormant. If you can
hold the terrarium at a stable 50-60F then all the plants
should be okay as long as you meet all the other dormancy
Q) What temps should I keep my VFT at for dormancy?
A) For an idea of the best temps for VFT dormancy check this
http://www.sarracenia.com/faq/faq2460.html > This site
has a ton of information and I highly recommend that every
new CPer go over it top to bottom.
Q) Just wanted to know if it would hurt my VFT's to go
straight into the fridge after the gradually reduced
photoperiod, and without gradually reduced temps, or if I am
supposed to gradually reduce temps as well
A) If you can do both that would be better but a gradual
reduction in photoperiod alone will help a lot. You can
probably get away with putting you plant outside in a
sheltered place every night to help with the temp drop
Q) I live in New York City, where we do get snowy/icy
winters. I am very leery about refrigerator dormancy; it
just doesn't seem like the right thing to do. If I choose
not to refrigerate, is there another option? IE: a cool,
dim room? Under a box? In a styrofoam cooler on the fire
escape? (styrofoam is a great insulator, would it protect
from frost?) I understand the plant needs to "REST" but why
A) There are always other options it just depends on how
much work you want to do. A cool dim room would work if it
got enough light to allow the plant to photosynthesize.
Under a box probably wouldnít work but you could try it if
you wanted. I canít say about the styrofoam as I have never
tried it, it might work though.
Q) Dormancy should last for 3 months? What determines when
you should begin dormancy? Different states seem to have
different requirements-but most of the people who visit this
site don't seem to be from this area.
A) At least 3 months yes. The determining factor is your
plants; most plants that need a dormancy period will alter
their growth to indicate the time.
Q) Why a refrigerator
A) You refrigerate to simulate cold, but not freezing
temperatures. Its not the best because the plants don't get
a photoperiod, but the extreme (but not freezing) cold puts
them to sleep deep enough that their photosynthetic
functions essentially shut down, so light is not that much
of a problem.
Q) I was wondering if my 2 year old Sarracenia rubra
gulfenis needed a dormancy. I also have a very young purple
pitcher plant that I am unsure of the exact age and type but
it has about 3" pitchers. I also have a VFT common with
about a 1/4" traps. From these vague descriptions do you
guys think they need dormancy?
A) Every Sarracenia needs a dormancy. While it has been said
that plants less than 2 years old can go with out it does
not mean they always should.
Q) Can Sarrs take temps in the 20sF?
A) Many Sarrs will even tolerate lower than 20sF. What
Sarracenia hate are dry cold desiccating winds. They like
shelter, a moist but not dry potting medium which will help
keep the rhizome plus residual vegetation turgid. That way,
all Sarracenias (and VFT) will get a decent dormancy
Q) I've seen in another thread that both cinnamon and
cornstarch can be used as a fungicide. Is this true for
plants going into dormancy (meaning can I somehow make a
cinnamon solution to dip my VFT in) or just to dust onto
plants that are still potted (year-round)? If cinnamon or
cornstarch isnít appropriate for this situation I can go and
pick up some fungicide at a store.
A) Cinnamon and cornstarch are used to treat a fungus
problem (and the jury is still out on their effectiveness
for that) not as a preventative. One of the reasons
fungicide is recommend for dormancy as a preventative
measure, is because the plants are often put in the fridge
and forgotten. By the time you remember to check it the
fungus may have already killed it. The same goes for
outdoor plants they are often covered in mulch for
insulation or snow and it's hard to check on them through
Q) I live in SoCal and December in LA = July in LA, it's all
the same. But, I don't want to get a VFT and eventually have
to stick it in the refrigerator. It's a beautiful plant and
it seems like sticking a wonderful painting in a vault. I
will NEVER put it in the refrigerator. So, I'm going to see
whether it's feasible to buy a terrarium where the temp can
be adjustable to between 40-85F, even if it means getting
creative with accessories. We have a walk-in cold room (40
degrees F) at work that I can always use, as well.
A) I have heard of people successfully growing VFTs and
Sarrs outdoors year round in SoCal and Florida. The plants
get enough of a dormancy that way to not suffer. You might
want to consider that approach. The terrarium idea is
feasible but likely costly and the cool room probably
wouldnít be too much different than a refrigerator.
Q) I saw something that may cause me to rethink the whole
refrigerator thing. If I have my VFT in a terrarium sold on
this site, can I stick the whole thing in the fridge after
just spraying the plant with fungicide?
A) If you've got the room in the fridge then I don't see why
not. Just make sure that any companion plants have the same
dormancy requirements. Treat it just like you would a potted
plant in the fridge.
Q) I don't like fridge dormancy. It's what Iíve done for the
past two dormancies but I seem to lose an unacceptable
A) Then maybe consider another technique or see if there is
anything you could do different for your fridge treatment.
Follow-up comment) Maybe Iím doing something wrong. Last
year I remove the plants from their pots and dipped them in
fungicide. Then I wrapped them in a damp paper towel or LF
sphagnum and put them in baggies. After I had finished all
of them I put them in one large zip lock bag. I then put
this in a container in the fridge.
A) Sounds about right to me. Things to consider would be
that maybe the paper towel/LFS was too wet and did you
squeeze the air out of the baggie?
Q) How cold should the fridge be? Between 32-35 degrees F?
What if it gets warmer than that sometimes? Will the plants
try to photosynthesis and exhaust themselves from the lack
A) Whatever a fridge is normally set at is fine. Periodic
warming (I assume you mean as in opening the door) should be