Is My Venus Flytrap Dormant or Dead?

Black Venus FlytrapThe first dormancy for new growers is nerve-wracking for good reason! It’s hard to tell if your Venus flytrap is dormant, sick, or dying. I’ll tell you straight out, there is no 100% sure way to tell unless you dig it up or wait until the following spring. When the weather warms and daylight hours increase, you will see either an explosion of growth, or more of the same decline.

Here are some things to consider, though. If you’ve covered these bases, there’s a good chance your Venus flytrap is simply dormant but healthy!

Before Dormancy

  • Remember black traps are normal! 
  • You watered it with distilled, reverse osmosis, or rain water
  • You kept it potted in non-fertilized peat moss, long-fibered sphagnum moss, and washed perlite or silica sand
  • You gave it plenty of direct sunlight
  • You didn’t overfeed the plants

During Dormancy

  • Make sure you’ve read the dormancy guide and applied it to your situation
  • Don’t try to feed it. The traps will trigger very slowly, if at all. This will make it spend precious energy that it should be saving
  • Don’t over-water. Check the plants once a week and water them only if the soil is dry.
  • Patiently wait until spring!

After Dormancy

FTS Maroon Monster
Bare root plants should have a firm, white rhizome.
  • After freezing temperatures are gone, watch for new growth. If your plants were in a refrigerator or a cold room over winter, bring them outside and slowly acclimate them to direct sunlight.
  • Transplant plants into fresh media. When you dig them up, check out the rhizome, the part between the leaves and the roots that sits just under the soil. If it’s white and firm, your plant is alive and well! If it’s black and mushy, you unfortunately have a dead plant on your hands. 🙁 But hey, it’s okay! We’ve all been there! There’s no reason you shouldn’t try again!

But I just got a Venus Flytrap! Does it have to go dormant?

Basically yes. If you got your first plant within the last 2-3 months, I would still recommend letting it go dormant now. I know it’s hard when you’ve only been able to enjoy it growing for a short time, but it is better for the longevity of the plant. Most likely, the plant has begun Venus Fly Trapdormancy already, and bringing it out will cause it to become seasonally confused, will stress it out, and cause its health to decline. Don’t forget there are many other awesome carnivorous plants that will grow all year long! 

I’m also going to mention a piece of advice you won’t read in any other care guide, but it’s the truth.

The best way to tell when a Venus flytrap is going dormant is through experience. As you grow your plants over several seasons, you’ll become more aware of their growth habits leading up to dormancy. You’ll learn to see the differences between heat stress, pest attacks, dormancy, etc.

Eventually, dormancy won’t even phase you. I’m trying to reassure you, kids! It’ll get easier as time goes on.

Most importantly, don’t worry! These plants have survived for millions of years without our help. They are resilient life forms that can handle quite a bit. A few freezes and low light over winter is not enough to kill a healthy plant.

If you have any further dormancy questions, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll be sure to answer as best I can!

25 comments

  1. Catherine Fritz says:

    Hi! Thank you very much for such a personal resource here. I found you (you liked my daughter’s new Venus Flytrap picture!) on Instagram and came here for help. Our plant, Genie, has been with us about three weeks. Genie has eaten once that we know of, by itself, and then an existing trap has gone black on its “wings” under the trap, and one new trap is going black already without even getting big enough to open. In that time, I have learned that I need to STOP watering with tap water or our fridge-pitcher filtered water, and this may help. Genie is also getting more direct sunlight in the kitchen by the window (south-facing). What else can I do to NOT kill my girl’s early birthday present, please? We luckily have a betta fish and the food; however, I haven’t tried feeding Genie myself yet. Thank you again!

    • Maria says:

      Hi Catherine! Thanks for commenting!

      Plants in new environments just need time to adjust. Give Genie another 4-6 weeks of care and patience before trying to feed it. Eating takes a lot of energy for flytraps too, and just adds more stress when adjusting to a new home. You may see most, if not all of the traps die back before it successfully makes new ones.

      I bought a plant from a hardware store in mid-June. Almost all of the leaves died and it’s just now started putting out new ones.

      Just be patient and you’ll have a happy, healthy plant! I hope that answers your question!

  2. Heidi says:

    Hello! Love your site! I live in Michigan & have a back porch enclosed attached to my house, not heated…the door (with windows) is facing the west & have shelves next to door, gets a bit of sunlight but not a ton. I’ve kept bottled water out there & there have been few times during winter when they’ve froze solid….I have a fly trap & pitcher plant (also have another question about a really small fly trap in same pot right next to almost under the pitcher plant, can I separate w out harm?) in separate pots didn’t get at same time but have had since around spring. I am worried about this winter….was thinking of repotting in like Styrofoam big cup or small bowl something Styrofoam. If it does get below freezing there could they be brought in for bit? They are still outside now & nights are getting in 40’s, last night was 50°F. I have a vine plant that was supposed t attract hummingbirds & butterflies but it has odd flower type things & attracts flys big time & its climbing railing by front door (haha) so have the trap & pitcher pots near & they are constantly full. All the pitchers are filled t top w bugs (mainly flys) & the trap’s traps are almost always full..all new growth is near bottom so far they are both doing great… I dont want t screw them up this winter, ha. Thank you for any input or advice!

    • Maria says:

      Hey Heidi! Styrofoam is great for insulation! You can just put the whole pots in Styrofoam containers, and fill the space between the two containers with mulch (or leaves or pine needles). And yes, bring them in if it gets below freezing.

      Regarding separation, yes! Dormancy is actually the best time to separate plants because they are not actively growing and will not be as stressed out.

      • Heidi says:

        Thank you! So it won’t b too stressful for them t b in the cold then if freezes to b inside? I try not t keep heat over 65° (bill gets t b over $300/month winter months) anyways & could put in window between window & curtain & keep curtain closed & prolly will b colder that way….. I really appreciate all your info, huge help, u r awesome! I’m so nervous bout their survival, haha. Oh ya & its going t drop below freezing tonight so will bring them into that back porch area. Now since its been so cold do u think that in mid Jan I could pull them in & out of dormancy? That would help not chance them freezing & would give over 12 weeks of cold…. Or wait lil longer? Thanks again & I’m sorry t keep bugging u!

  3. charle says:

    Hey there i really appreciate your info! it is very insightful and helpful, i recently bought a venus fly trap this month, and it is in the container it was bought in, but i wanted to plant it i a more proper setting, should i wait until after the dormancy period to do this? or would planting it in the new moss/sand be a good idea still?

    • Maria says:

      Hello! During dormancy is actually the perfect time to re-pot your plant. While it’s sleeping, it won’t be as shocked and stressed as during the growing season. It should always be planted in nutrient-poor, fertilizer-free media such as peat moss and sand. Thanks for the comment and happy growing!

  4. Alex says:

    Hello, I am new to growing Venus flytraps and I have had my own for two weeks. I have been taking care of it accordingly to all the winter care guides I could find[btw, thx for your help in the winter care guide;)]. Everything looks fine and is showing signs of going into dormancy. I’ve just been noticing that practically all the traps are closed and sealed, and the strangest part is that there are no insects inside the traps and have checked each trap with a light several times( I checked by holding a light to the trap to see if there was an insects shadow inside). I am really worried and have not found any help with my problem. I hope you can help me with my situation.

    • Maria says:

      Hi Alex! Glad the winter guides have been helping you!

      There could be a number of reasons why the traps are closed. I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Something could have brushed against them, it could be from transit if they were shipped to you. Or they may be new growth that hasn’t fully formed yet, and is slowed down due to dormancy.

      If they are older traps, they may start dying off. Still, I wouldn’t worry! Even if something triggered all the traps, a healthy flytrap will survive. 🙂

      • Alex says:

        Thank you so much! I’m glad that know that it’s not a big deal at all and that I don’t need to buy a new VFT 🙂 thank you so much

  5. Alex says:

    Oh wait, there is something I forgot to tell you, when I bought them from the store they were all open. I’m sure it’s still no big deal, but I like to be sure:)

  6. Laura Warnick says:

    I need your help. I own a couple of store-bought flytraps that were in small containers. They began to go dormant (which I expected). But my husband decided to repot them a couple of weeks ago and now they just look dead. He used a fertilizer on them. Can they be saved?

    • Maria says:

      Hi Laura!

      Sorry to hear that! Have you checked for the rhizome under the soil? If it’s firm and white, the plants are okay. If it’s dark and mushy, the plants are unfortunately gone. 🙁

      If they are still alive, I would just recommend flushing the pot a few times with distilled water. That should wash a good portion of the fertilizer out.

  7. Amy says:

    I am very new at growing Venus Flytraps so here goes: I live in New Zealand and I purchased a small Flytrap which was growing in a cheap “slushy/iced coffee” cup with a dome. I kept the media, which seems to be just moss, damp and now the entire plant has gone black. I did try to feed it a couple of times and after reading a lot on the net I have figured out my mistakes with watering and feeding! I have taken it out of this small container (it’s just coming into Winter here so I figured it’s dormant, though this happened about half way through Summer) and found the rhizome is still firm and white, however it has split into three pieces. I have repotted into a bigger container in the same moss I know it probably needs better media. I know I should have just left it but curiosity got the better of me! Am I saying goodbye to my VFT? Will that be the end? What would you recommend I do now?

    • Maria says:

      Hi Amy!

      The rhizome being firm is a good sign that your trap is still alive. Since you’re coming into winter, and brought it into a new environment, I’m thinking it went into shock and then an early dormancy to protect itself. Sometimes carnivores don’t grow fantastically until the next season, because they have to adjust. I would keep it in a cool place for dormancy, and water with distilled (or deionized, same thing) water only when the moss is starting to go dry. They don’t need to be very wet when dormant. Also don’t try to feed it while dormant. Their energy is being stored in the rhizome, and the traps won’t respond to stimuli.

      Just keep looking after it over winter, and watch for new growth in the spring when it warms up. Good luck, Amy!

  8. Meagan says:

    Hello I just bought a fly trap from Walmart should I put it into a pot? It is in a plastic container? A few of the leaves are closed and laying flat on the dirt should I cut these off?

  9. Liora says:

    Hi María.
    I am new to the carnivorous plant world and have successfully grown 2 sundews and a nepenthes that I purchased with a local carnivorous plants grower and enthusiast. I have now 2 sarracenia purpureas, 4 sundews, 2 drosera binata and 2 tropical nepenthes. With my last purchase he gave me a super small Venus flytrap as a gift. I live in Colombia so no winter here. The grower recommended me to cut off the flower so that the Venus doesn’t go dormant. I don’t want to kill my mini Venus but am terrified of not knowing what to do about its dormancy or how to help her live the longest and the best.
    Is it actually a good idea to put her in the fridge? There is no way I can get her colder if it’s not in a fridge and I don’t really want to lose her by killing her in the fridge 😭
    Help! I really don’t know what to do with this one

    • Maria says:

      Hi Liora,

      Yes, refrigerator dormancy would probably be best for you. If you clean them off well, spray them with some fungicide, and check on them every few days to see if any mold is growing, they have a very good chance of surviving.

  10. Stacy says:

    We just brought a Venus fly trap home from Lowe’s and I just found your article tonight and have a lot to learn! But instantly I wonder if I made a mistake using pond water ? (a natural pond that is only full when it rains) we tried a terrarium early spring/summer but failed this is try #2 and being in Michigan have a long hard winter to come so this could be a challenge! Thank you!

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