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Many inexperienced Venus flytrap growers make the assumption that Venus flytraps are tropical plants. They believe that Venus flytraps should be kept in warm growing conditions year-round. However, the truth is that Venus flytraps are very hardy perennial plants.
This means that Venus flytraps grow and bloom over the spring and summer. Come fall, they die back to a small rosette by winter. Then they grow back in the spring from their energy reserves saved up in the underground rhizome (bulb).
Venus flytraps go dormant naturally in the fall when growing outdoors. They can withstand frost and light freezes. However, freezes that last an extended period of time can kill Venus flytraps.
In order for Venus Flytraps to survive long-term, they must have a dormancy period every year that lasts three to five months. A minimum dormancy period of 10 weeks is required for Venus flytraps. Any shorter than that, and they will not grow well throughout the next growing season. Without any dormancy, Venus flytraps will weaken and die over a period of time.
During dormancy, Venus flytraps still require as much light as possible in order to stay healthy. Unless placed in extremely cool conditions (less than 40°F) Venus flytraps should not be placed in a dark or low-light setting. This will almost surely end in death for a Venus flytrap. For growers in the extreme latitudes (zone 7 or lower), there are a couple of commonly-used options for over-wintering Venus flytraps.
More details on Venus flytrap Dormancy
Some growers plant Venus flytraps outside in bog gardens and mulch them in the winter (more on this below). Others choose the Venus flytrap Fridge Dormancy Method. A fridge dormancy requires allowing the plants to enter dormancy naturally before storing them for the winter months.
It is fine to allow your Venus flytrap to experience fairly warm conditions during dormancy. Photoperiod (day length) rather than temperature is the driving force for dormancy in Venus flytraps.
As the days begin shortening in the fall, Venus flytraps will start shedding their summer leaves. As the temperatures drop, their growth will slow. Flytraps will put out smaller, lower, ground-hugging leaves through their dormancy period if the weather isn’t too harsh or too cold.
A dormant Venus flytrap isn’t very pretty. Most people who don’t know that Venus flytraps enter a dormant period would think that the plant is dying.
Many people have thrown out their Venus flytrap as it was entering dormancy, mistakenly thinking that it was dying. During dormancy, most of the leaves turn black and the plant pretty much stops growing, at least to the observer. Click on the photo to the right to see a large image of three Venus flytraps waking up from dormancy. Take note of all of the dead leaves.
Watering Venus flytraps during dormancy
During dormancy, the water needs for the Venus flytrap change slightly. Be very careful not to overwater your Venus flytrap during dormancy. If kept too wet for too long, crown rot and/or root rot can set in. Additionally, mold can develop on dead or dying leaves and traps.
To prevent these potential problems, keep the media damp, not too wet, but absolutely never completely dry.
Lighting for Venus flytraps during dormancy
Venus flytraps always prefer to have as much light as possible year-round. Like all plants with chlorophyll, they are green and need to photosynthesize and create energy from the sun. Given normal temperatures in their natural habitat, Venus flytraps will actually grow, even in dormancy. They collect energy from sunlight and turn it into stored energy with which to grow in the spring.
When put in conditions that are sufficiently cold (40°F or colder), Venus flytraps can go without light completely during dormancy. They enter a state of suspended animation. Obviously, this isn’t ideal. They would much prefer to have sunlight with which to grow throughout the year.
There are basically three ways to approach Venus flytrap dormancy:
- Skip it
Outdoor Venus flytrap Dormancy
This is the easiest and preferred method of taking Venus flytraps through dormancy. If you are one of the lucky people who happen to live in a hardiness zone of 8 or better (see the hardiness map below), then you can just leave your Venus flytraps outside year-round. If they are potted in a small pot, it is advisable to bring them indoors in the case of a rare, extended freeze. But, for the most part, Venus flytraps in zone 8 or better can be left outside all year long.
If you live a hardiness zone between 4 and 7, it is possible to winter your Venus flytraps outdoors provided you take some extra measures to protect them. The plants will need to be planted in the ground in a bog garden or other soil that is good for carnivorous plants. Pots are too susceptible to the surrounding air temperature and will not offer enough protection for the plants throughout the winter.
In addition to being in the ground, plants should either be mulched or covered with leaves to be more protected from the inclement weather. One solution that I have heard is to cover the Venus flytraps with leaves in the fall as temperatures near freezing, then lay a board over them with a heavy stone or bricks on top to keep in place.
Another option that I’ve heard growers in Canada do is cover their plants with pine needles. They lay down a burlap sack or other instrument over their plants prior to putting down the pine needles. The burlap sack will allow them to easily remove the pine needles when winter is over. This method has successfully wintered venus flytraps outdoors in zone 4. Provided that steps are taken to help keep the plants insulated, they should survive the winter. The main goal here is to prevent the rhizome from freezing solid.
Indoor Venus flytrap Dormancy
If you aren’t one of the lucky people, and you live in a place where you have extended freezes (hardiness zone 7 or less) and you don’t have a bog garden or other way of planting your Venus Flytraps in the ground, then you will likely have to bring your Venus flytraps indoors for the winter. Now, there are a couple of options for wintering the plants indoors.
A cool windowsill or unheated porch or garage
This is the best method if you are unable to winter your plants outside. If possible, put the plants in a south-facing window of an unheated porch or garage that doesn’t freeze. Ideally, the night-time temperature should stay between 32 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Daytime highs can get into the 70°F and even 80°F range and flytraps will remain dormant so long as the days are still short.
Venus flytraps that are in dormancy will still grow, however, the growth will be quite slow compared to spring and summer growth and it is unlikely that the plant will start putting up new large leaves until they are ready to come out of dormancy. If the plant is receiving sun during its dormancy, then it can still perform photosynthesis and this will help keep the plant healthy. Also, since the plant is still receiving sun daily, it will know when to come out of dormancy as the photoperiod starts to extend as spring arrives.
The refrigerator method
Be sure to read the Venus flytrap fridge tutorial if you think you might have to do a refrigeration dormancy.
Use this method as a last resort. If you don’t have any other option for a place to winter your plants, or if you happen to live in a place where it doesn’t get cold in the winter, or your days don’t shorten enough, you will likely have to “force” the Venus flytraps into dormancy.
The gentler the forcing, the more likely your plant is to live through the winter. Ideally, the photoperiod would decrease over time along with the temperature. This would provide the proper signals to send the plant into dormancy.
You have 2 options when placing the Venus flytraps into your refrigerator:
- Put your plants into the fridge bare rooted.
- Put your plants into the fridge in their pots.
Bare root plants in the fridge
For this method, gently remove the Venus flytrap from its pot and dip the plant and soil in distilled water (or other pure water) and swirl it around to remove all of the media from its roots. When you have the entire white rhizome exposed and roots that are free of all soil, remove any parts of the plant that appear to be dead. This should be obvious from the color. Dead or dying leaves will be brown or black. Be sure to remove any discolored, dying or dead leaves. This will give the fungus much less to start growing on when the plant is in the fridge.
Once you have removed whatever growth you feel might cause a fungal problem, treat the entire plant with a fungicide solution by either dipping it or misting it. Now, wrap up the Venus flytrap in a damp paper towel or sphagnum peat moss. The paper towel or sphagnum should only be damp, not soaking wet. If water comes out when squeezed, that’s too wet.
Place the plant in a zip-lock plastic bag. Be sure to squeeze out as much air as possible from the bag to limit the risk of fungus and seal the bag tight. If possible, put the bag in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator. Check-in on the plant every week or so throughout the dormancy to ensure that it isn’t rotting or suffering a fungal attack.
Potted plants in the fridge
The Venus flytraps and their pots should be put into plastic bags and placed in the refrigerator for the 3 to 5 months. Obviously, this takes up quite a bit of space in the fridge, so for that reason alone, it may want to be avoided. If your fridge is like most people’s, it is probably already full most of the time.
Also, Venus flytraps that are wintered in the fridge are very susceptible to mold and other diseases. Thus you will want to use a light dusting of fungicide powder to protect the plants from mold. This is a must. Check-in on the plants at least every couple of weeks throughout the 2 to 3-month dormancy. Be sure that they are not growing any mold nor drying out.
Skip Venus flytrap Dormancy
If you want to enjoy your plant year-round and don’t care about killing it, you can just skip dormancy. Venus flytraps can live for perhaps a few years without dormancy, but they will eventually start to decline and die. If you can get another plant and just want to enjoy the plant as much as you can, skipping dormancy is an option, though obviously an eventually fatal one.
Another excellent dormancy guide written by “The Carnivore Girl”:
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