I had the idea of sharing some of my experiences about Venus flytraps’ dormancy. I hope to help some growers, and I’m open to discussion if I gone wrong somewhere. Please note that the following advices were written for beginners. I wanted to show as much photos as possible, because I think it’s better than describing the look of dormant plants. I hope you’ll like the article, and any suggestions are appreciated. Maybe I’ll learn something new, too. The whole text and photos are mine, and if you want to use them you should contact me before. I'm sorry about my english, I bet there are some errors:)
Let’s start – Tell me, what’s winter dormancy?
Almost every plant is changing it’s activity throughout the year. The growth of the plant and it’s metabolism is influenced by the weather conditions, which are different during spring, winter etc. Each plant has got it’s own growth period, which simply occurs when the conditions are good. But in most cases, it can’t last the whole year. Most plants spend the unprofitable part of the year in a state called dormancy. The Venus’ flytrap go dormant too during the winter months, and that’s why we call it “winter dormancy period”. A plant that goes dormant usually slows down it’s metabolism and growth significantly. Why is it so? The lower temperature and shorter daylight period cuts down the activity of some hormones responsible for growth, saying it shortly. It’s a complicated process, and we don’t need to examine it thoroughly here. But, there is a few things you should know:
-Lower temperature puts the plant into a “deep” dormancy. In this state the plant needs less light, so if you don’t have access to a good light source, make sure your VFT’s have got a lower temperature - around 32-41 degrees F, what means 0-5 degrees Celsius can even make the plant survive without light. Of course, it is not recommended because the plant will be in bad condition then. We’ll talk about it again later.
-The plant doesn’t stop it’s growth during dormancy, so it still needs some water and light.
-It’s very important to make the plants enter into dormancy in the right way. You can’t simply put the plant from a warm place to your fridge immediately. We’ll talk about it later, too.
VFT’s waking up during the spring after dormancy. The flower stalks were removed the previous year, they were “autumnal” ones.
Is dormancy really necessary?
Well, the answer isn’t that easy. Why is it so? Flytraps that weren’t dormant still grow well. Especially, the young plants are resistant if you skip dormancy. But, they can’t grow this way for too long. Mature plants that weren’t dormant for 2 years were growing abnormally (deformed leaves, non-closing traps, etc) and finally died. If you want a healthy, good-looking plant you should make it go dormant. There is a couple of other reasons, too:
-Plants that were dormant during the winter not only grow faster next year – they also divide, forming new plants.
-They reach the mature size faster
-They develop flower stalks with a larger amount of flowers
Let’s talk about hibernating small plants now. As we know, they are more vulnerable to unfriendly conditions, such as lack of light and lower temperatures. Technically, putting them into dormancy isn’t that hard and can be beneficial, but it should be tried by more experienced growers. Beginners can skip the dormancy of small plants (up to 4-5 cm, 1,5-2 inches), without having to worry about negative effects. Seedlings can be “cheated” simply by repotting them.
Smaller plants don’t need dormancy
But, is it really beneficial to hibernate smaller VFT’s? The answer is: yes, it is. They grow better then and reach the mature size faster. You should be careful about it, tough. It might be better not to hibernate them, if they are your first and only plants. If you can assure them the right conditions, you can give it a try. If not, there’s nothing wrong if you wait until they reach a bigger size and hibernate them the next year.
Even the smallest plants can be hibernated, if putted to dormancy in the right way.
When does the plant enter into dormancy? How can I tell if it’s the right time for it? How do I put it into dormancy?
You will easily notice when the plant is entering dormancy, if you grow them outdoors the whole year. If you live in a moderate climate, with mild winters you don’t even need to “put” plants into dormancy, they’ll do this themselves. Venus’ flytraps that enters into dormancy grow a little slower, the closure speed of the traps is affected too. The plant becomes “sleepy”. Then, some of the leaves can die off. Their shape and growth manner may change too because of the worse light conditions. There’s also other effects which concern some cultivars – some of them will get a striking coloration, because the plant “recycles” the chlorophyll from traps and leaves. The red pigments stay in the leaves’ cells, and the plant gets red. Some plants may even lose all it’s leaves during dormancy.
Venus flytraps enter in dormancy in late autumn, and it lasts for 4-5 months. November is a good time to put plants into dormancy, if you grow them indoors.
This good-looking plant is already dormant despite it looks
A ‘Spider’ plant’s outdoor dormancy during a mild winter.
A small ‘Dentate Traps’ plant during dormancy
A nice example of the effect of retrieving the chlorophyll from the leaves by the plant. Please note that the leaf on the left is turning red
But, hibernating the plants in colder or warmer climate could be impossible outdoors because of the inappropriate temperatures. Venus flytraps do well during dormancy when kept at temperatures between 32-50 degrees Fahrenheit (0-10 degrees Celsius), but they can withstand lower ones too. I noticed that some plants can go dormant at slightly warmer places, but during spring they are weaker probably because they growth wasn’t appropriately cut down. When putting plants into dormancy “artificially” at home, it is important to lower the temperature and light gradually. It will ensure that the plant will enter into deep dormancy which is the most profitable dormancy type. After 4-5 months of dormancy, place the plants in a slightly warmer place. This will “wake them up” and they’ll start to grow normally again. Make them get as much light as possible, too.
This plant isn’t dead, it’s only dormant. Removing the dead leaves isn’t necessary during dormancy
Indoor dormancy in artificially-cooled aquarium
Should I water the plants during dormancy? Do they need light? Should I feed them?
Yes, it is necessary to water your plants during dormancy. But you don’t need to do this everyday – just keep the soil moist, not wet. For example, during dormancy I water my plants every 2 weeks, because the peat stays moist for a very long time at lower temperatures. Don’t let the dormant plants stay in water, though. You can overwater them with ease.
When kept outdoors, the plant receives a plenty of sunlight during dormancy. They need light, so if kept indoors make sure they get reasonable lighting conditions. Artificial lighting may be necessary.
Dormant plants don’t need to be fed with bugs. As mentioned before, the traps usually don’t close, too.
So, where should I hibernate them?
You need to find a cool place with access to light, if you can’t grow them outdoor whole year. Putting them into dormancy in a fridge isn’t good for them, so try to avoid it if you have the possibility to.
A new trap emerging from the plant’s rhizome. Please note that all other leaves are dead
What can go wrong?
Various fungal infections are a common problem during dormancy. You can remove the mold manually or use some fungicides.
If you put your plants in a very cold place, you can eventually freeze them. That’s the effect:
After freezing, the leaves die off completely, but the plant itself usually survives. You should be careful about it, though.
If you place the plants immediately in a cold place, they leaves will die off and the rhizome could be seriously injured. Remember to put the plants into dormancy gradually.
This ‘Pink Venus’ plant was put immediately in a cold place after it was kept indoors the whole year.
Another ‘Pink Venus’ plant during dormancy, that was put into it gradually.
This plant didn’t slow down it’s growth, what means it’s too warm for it to go dormant. Temperature isn’t the only dormancy factor, but probably the most important one.
Venus flytraps are hardy plants. This one was hibernated outdoors at very low temperatures. It survived, and developed a flower stalk despite the incredibly small size of the leaf rosette (1,5cm what means 0,6 inch). After flowering, it reached it’s normal size quickly.
These seedlings were accidentally hibernated with some adult plants. As we can see, they look quite well.
A ‘Sawtooth’ plant slowly going dormant.