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Plant Dormancy Demystified

What is plant dormancy?

Dormancy is a period in the life cycle of a plant during which its growth, development, and metabolic activities slow down significantly or temporarily cease. This dormant phase is a survival strategy that plants adapt to conserve energy and resources, often in response to unfavorable environmental conditions. During this resting period, plants focus on photosynthesis to conserve energy for the upcoming growing season.


Do plants need dormancy?

Dormancy is highly recommended to ensure the proper growth of your plant. Without dormancy, the plant may not bloom and will have stunted growth in the upcoming season.


Which plants go dormant?

Carnivorous plants that go dormant:

Most aroids and general houseplants do not go dormant.


When do plants go dormant?

Most plants that have a dormancy period typically start to rest around winter time as the light period reduces and less sunlight is available.

 

What does a dormant plant look like?

  • Few to no new traps or leaves
  • Production of non-carnivorous leaves only
  • Forms a hibernaculum
  • Smaller, flatter, reduced trap size
  • Sarracenia/Venus flytrap may drop most or all leaves

How do I know the plant is no longer dormant?

Plants coming out of dormancy usually start to produce more active growth; there may be more traps, or sticky dew on leaves (Drosera, Pinguicula). The plant may also bloom while coming out of dormancy.

For carnivorous plants coming out of dormancy

  • Sarracenia and Venus flytraps produce more traps
  • Pinguicula and Drosera produce leaves with sticky dew

How do you care for a dormant plant?

Note these are recommendations for temperate plants, for Mexican Pinguicula please see their care guide.

If indoors under grow lights: 

  • Move to a non-heated area (that won’t freeze) if possible
  • Reduce your “daylight” by at least 3 hours for at least 2 months
  • Reduce watering frequency as cold-wet plants are more prone to rot

If outdoors: 

  • Move to a sheltered area away from harsh winds/ice
  • Most temperate carnivorous plants can tolerate as low as high 20°F
  • Bring indoors or to an unheated room if outdoor weather is colder than the  high 20°F
  • Reduce watering frequency

How do you bring a plant out of dormancy?

Most plants will naturally come out of dormancy over time as Spring appears with more light and warmer temperatures.


Do plants really need to go dormant?

The jury is still out on whether plants require a dormancy period or not as researchers continue to test the subject. We know of hobbyists in the tropics that grow their temperate carnivorous plants outside year-round and have been living healthily for several years with annual blooming. Young plants are able to “skip” dormancy by giving them supplemental light throughout the winter months with no negative effects. There is anecdotal evidence that older plants don't tolerate skipping dormancy as well as younger plants. 

 

Need more information? See our growing tips and care guides.


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