Winter is Coming! A Guide to Venus Flytrap Dormancy

Dying Venus FlytrapThe fall equinox is almost upon us! As temperatures cool and daylight escapes us, we must protect our plants from the imminent harshness of winter. Or for some people, create winter-like conditions in order to induce a dormancy. While I’ll be discussing Venus flytrap dormancy in this post, these methods work equally well for Sarracenia (North American pitcher plants) and temperate sundews.

Why is dormancy necessary? Can I skip it?

Venus flytraps evolved as temperate perennials. In order to continue propagating their species, they had to adapt to the cool winters of their natural habitat. Dormancy is a lot like hibernation in animals. They need to rest and store their energy for the growing season. If they didn’t go dormant, they would be extinct. You can skip it if you are okay with your Venus flytrap dying within 2-3 years.

Okay! So how do I make them go dormant? 

If you don’t already know, you should find out the hardiness zone of where you live. If your region falls anywhere between zone 8 to zone 11, congratulations! You don’t have to do ANYTHING! (and everyone else is jealous!) Hopefully you keep your plants outside already, and you can simply leave them outside all winter. Your winter temperatures are just cool enough to trigger a natural dormancy that will not harm your plants at all.

If you live in Zone 7 or below, or Zone 12 and up, you have just a bit of extra work to do. Here are some options!

Protected Outside Dormancy

Growing vs Dormant Flytraps
Top: Venus flytraps at peak growth. Bottom: Dormant Venus flytraps

If you live between zones 4 and 7, you can still keep your plants outside in the winter as long as they’re properly insulated. You may want to bury your potted plants in the ground like a bog garden, as above-ground pots are very susceptible to the elements and not likely to provide adequate protection. Once temperatures hover around freezing, cover the plants with burlap or shade cloth (you can trim off Sarracenia pitchers). Secure the cloth at the edges with rocks or bricks, then cover the top of the cloth with pine needles, leaves, or straw. This method will keep moisture in, and help prevent the plants from freezing. If you get snow in your climate as well, don’t panic! Snow also makes great insulation.

If making a bog garden is not feasible, consider building or buy a cold frame. This may be a better option if your collection is still on the smaller side. If most of your plants are young and in small pots, a mini greenhouse will do nicely too. Set it up against an outside wall for extra protection and your plants will survive easily.

Cold Inside Dormancy

Sarracenia Winter Dormancy
Sarracenia are quite hardy to cold temperatures as well!

If you live in zone 3 or lower, it would be best to bring your plants inside to a cold room, like a garage, patio, or basement. This room should stay above freezing temperatures, but no warmer than 55 F (12 C). Ideally, plants should be kept by a window so they can still receive natural light during dormancy. Keeping plants inside your house is not recommended, as temperatures comfortable to humans is too warm for a plant’s dormancy. The warmer temperatures inside a house may bring a plant back out of dormancy too soon, and cause it to become seasonally confused.

Refrigerator Dormancy (last resort!)

If you’re from somewhere way too cold for the above methods, or you live in a tropical region where temperatures never go below 55 F (12 C), refrigerator dormancy may be for you. I want to stress though, that this is a last resort option. By having a constant temperature and no light, a refrigerator does not adequately simulate a natural winter dormancy. It’s possible you may lose some plants.  With this in mind, read on…

Ideally, you’ll want to slowly decrease the photoperiod (hours of light) and temperature before putting the plants in the fridge. Your plants have a better chance of surviving if you make the transition as least shocking as possible.

You can either keep your plants in their pots, or uproot them. If keeping them in pots, put the entire pot inside a plastic bag before putting it in the fridge. Thoroughly dust or spray the play with a fungicide like this. Check the plant for mold and fungus every couple of weeks. Give more light dosages of fungicide if necessary. Keep them in the fridge for at least three months.

Refrigerator Dormancy
Image Credit: farmtina.com

If uprooting your plants (more convenient and space-saving),  follow these steps:

  • Gently rinse off the potting media around their roots until they’re completely bare
  • Cut off any dead or dying growth. On Sarracenia, you can even trim green pitchers off. This gives less real estate for fungus to grow on
  • Mist or dip the entire plant in fungicide
  • Wrap the plants in damp (not soaking) paper towels
  • Put the plants in plastic ziplock bags. Squeeze all the air out of the bags before sealing them
  • If space allows, put the plants in the vegetable drawer of your fridge. Check for mold every two weeks
  • You can bring the plants out of dormancy after three months

 Things to remember!

  • If you are inducing dormancy, slowly decrease light and temperature, and slowly increase
    Sarracenia emerging from dormancy
    Sarracenia emerging from dormancy.

    them when bringing the plant out of dormancy.

  • Try to keep temperatures between 32 and 55 F (0 -12 C). Occasional light freezes are no big deal.
  • Do not water as often during dormancy. Allow the plants to dry out slightly before watering again. I’ll water mine maybe every 2 weeks in the winter, sometimes longer. And that’s if they haven’t been rained on.
  • Receiving light is still good! If your plants are outside or in a window, allow them to soak up as much natural light as possible. They can still photosynthesize and store that energy for the growing season.

If this will be your first Venus flytrap dormancy, hopefully this post offered some clarity on the subject! If you still have questions, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll be happy to help!

63 comments

  1. Savannah says:

    I have a question… My VFT grows inside ( not my idea) and I live an area with a hardiness zone of 8. Should I move my plant outside?

    • Maria says:

      Hi Savannah! Yes, for the longevity of the plant, outside would be best. If you do move them outside, the sudden change in and light may shock them, but it will be better for them in the long run. If you expect extended (two weeks or more) low temperatures below freezing, you can protect them by moving them to a cold room like a basement, garage, or screened-in porch. Hope that was helpful! Happy growing!

  2. Heidi says:

    Hi! My first time on your website & love it, definitely b a reg! Ok I love plants but been awhile since I’ve had a Flytrap, just got 1 for $1 csme with a pitcher plant both babies (I think) & both were “dormant” but been inside warm store….anyways i put them together in pot came with (said to) but I thought I have read they shouldn’t b in same pot? Also for next year I live in zone 5 & I have a enclosed area out back door (like have 2 bsck doors to go thru) I was thinking b perfect to store thru winter, gets a bit of sun but only thing is I have couple bags of dirt out there & beem quite a few days where its been like 0°F – 13°F of high & dirt froze but its 15° right now & not completely frozen would it b ok for plant, maybe if i indulated box w straw around them? I’d like to get few more & also a sundew… what do you think? Any input greatly appreciated! You csn e-mail, whatever works best 4 u. Thank you! -Heidi

    • Maria says:

      Hi Heidi! Flytraps and pitcher plants have very similar conditions and many people do plant them together. It’s really up to you. If I were you, I would soon plant them in fresh media while they’re still dormant. I recommend soil similarly used in this post.

      That room sounds like a good dormancy room! Insulating with straw or pine needles would be perfect. You can mulch over the top of the dormant plants too.

      If you get a tropical sundew like a cape sundew, it doesn’t require dormancy and you can keep it growing inside year round.

      Thank you so much for the sweet compliments on my site! I hope I was able to help you! Happy growing, Heidi!

      Cheers,

      Maria

  3. Hayden says:

    Hello! I live in an area in zone 8, and I just recently got a VFT cloned through tissue culture from a VFT awareness event in Wilmington, NC. Very young and healthy looking! Since I do not have any place outside in my current living situation where the plant won’t be pestered by people (at least in the summer) and will be growing the VFT by a very bright south-facing windowsill until fall, how could I safely induce the plant to go into a natural dormancy by bringing it outside if it’s used to being indoors? As well, do you have any advice for growing VFTs by artificial light?

    I loved and studied CPs when I was little; I just didn’t do so well with growing them…now that I’m older I know I can (and want to) set these amazing plants up for a long and healthy life

    • Maria says:

      Hi Hayden! Thanks for the comment!

      When temperatures start cooling down, you can slowly acclimate your plant to the outdoors. Keep it in a shaded area for about a week, so it doesn’t burn from sunlight. Then move it to partial sun for another week, and then finally full sun. The temperatures and light period will trigger the plant into dormancy.

      Regarding artificial lights, you’ll want to look for daylight balanced light. Color temperature should be between 5000 to 6500K. Depending how strong the lights are, you may need to run them for 12-16 hours per day.

      Hope that was helpful! Best of luck in your CP growing adventures! 😀

      • Hayden says:

        Thank you for the quick reply! I forgot to ask; will it be OK outdoors in the current pot it’s in? It is in a small plastic pot which is much bigger than the VFT

  4. Michelle says:

    Hi there,

    I live in AZ and I’m new to carniverous plants. I checked my hardiness zone and I am in 9B. I also live in the Phoenix area where we have a very mild winter. It’s still summer and 105+ degrees daily so I keep my VFT inside in an open window. It’s doing great so far and I have new traps forming, but I’m not sure if I should move it outside when it starts getting cooler or what you might suggest in my climate for stimulating dormancy or when it is best to move it outside?

    Thank you!

    • Maria says:

      Hi Michelle, thanks for commenting!

      You can keep your plant outside year round, I would just give it more shade in the summer. Outside shade will still give lots more light than inside. If possible, let your plant have direct sun in the morning, then shade in the afternoon while it’s that hot.

      I live in Zone 9B too here in California, where we occasionally get 100+ summer days too. My plants are outside year round and I let them go dormant naturally in the winter. During hot summer days, I just make sure to give them extra shade.

      Hope that was helpful! 🙂

      • Michelle says:

        Yes thank you!!

        One last question..when do you recommend repotting? I still have mine in the original small net pot with the New Zealand Moss. I bought the geometric resin pot you recommended off of Amazon : ) I also have some more moss and perlite coming to me as well. I think I read somewhere it is better to wait until dormancy time to repot but I wanted to check and make sure. The plant has quite a few new traps coming in and I don’t want to constrict it in the little pot it’s in.

        Thank you for your help! I love your site : )

        • Maria says:

          Yes, I recommend potting during dormancy. When the plant is in its winter rest, it won’t be as shocked and stressed out during repotting as during the active growth phase. It will start growing faster and be a much smoother transition. 🙂

          Thank you, Michelle!

  5. Hayden says:

    Hi Maria! I just recently moved to central Alabama (zone 7B) and I’ve noticed my venus flytraps and Sarracenia have begun to die back and slow down for dormancy. I have asked numerous people on how the weather gets here and they told me that there are a lot of days in the winter that go below freezing but it’s fairly mild other than that. I don’t have any other place to put my plants so I planned to place all of the pots inside of a large pot together insulated by dry peat and covered with a burlap sack. The large pot would be under a sheltered porch. Do you think this will be sufficient? As well, if they have a burlap sack on them, will they be ok if they can’t photosynthesize? Thank you!

        • Maria says:

          If the burlap isn’t on too thick, they will still get some light through it. Plants that get refrigerator dormancy don’t receive any light, and most recover the following season just fine.

  6. Elyse says:

    Hello! Do you know if dormancy is light-driven or temperature driven? Most books tell me to put my plants into dormancy October through February, but is this schedule based on light or temperature? It’s been abnormally warm this fall, and I’m worried my plants won’t go into dormancy until later,and have trouble growing come spring. Thanks!

    • Maria says:

      Hi Elyse! Dormancy is primarily light-driven, and temperature driven second. Here in California we have quite warm autumn and winter seasons (sometimes 70 F in December!) too, and the plants go dormant just fine. 🙂

  7. Marley says:

    Hello!

    I live in Coastal CT (Zone 7) and I’m worried about my VFT…she looks good now but lives in a Southern facing greenhouse window. She’s happy all spring and summer, but this will be my first winter with her. Do I need to move her somewhere else? During the day with the bright sun shining in it’s quite warm, but at night that window feels COLD. I’m just wondering if these drastic changes in light and temperature will be okay for her. What do you recommend? Thanks so much! Having fun exploring the site.

    • Maria says:

      Hi Marley! Thanks for commenting!

      Have you taken the temperature at that window before? VFTs can briefly withstand light freezes, down to the 20s. If it stays above freezing temperatures, there is nothing to worry about. If it does freeze, you can elevate the temperature with a heat mat like for seedlings, or cover the plant with straw, pine needles or mulch to help insulate it.

      Hope that helps! Good growing!

  8. Vona says:

    Hello there! I had some questions regarding some of my plants and dormancy.

    Last winter I was in the middle of moving so I couldn’t let my plants go dormant. This last spring my plants had produced seed- they’re doing great despite it but I’m sure they’re super exhausted and need a rest- and the seeds have sprouted and have tiny traps if you look closely. From the same plant I also did a tissue culture and have a “clone” growing from it. I live in a zone hardiness of 8.

    Since these traps in particular are so tiny, should I let them hibernate? Will they survive?

    Also, some of my plants are potted in small plastic pots. What can I do to easily insulate them so they don’t die this winter?

    • Maria says:

      Hi Vona! If you can keep the seedlings protected under lights inside, do that. They will grow faster if you skip their first winter.

      And you don’t need to worry about protecting the pots over winter. Zone 8 is the same as their natural habitat, so they will be fine!

  9. Keira says:

    Hi! Just got my first VFT just in time for domancy! Yay! However I’m in a bit of a conundrum about how to do it. I’m in a pretty dark apartment which is west facing, so I have the plant in a windowsill right now and it seems to be getting enough light(although I am worried about that). I was hoping I could just crack the window so it stays cold enough but now I’m worried it will freeze in it’s little cup, even though it’s styrofoam so it’s some kind of insulated.

    My second option would be to keep it in a pot outdoors (we aren’t lower than 4 hardiness zone here). But again, I would think it would get cold through the sides. Maybe I could crowd the other pots around it?

    The third very iffy option is try to build an extreamly cheap greenhouse but I have NO building skills or experience with greenhouses and wouldn’t want my plant to fry during the day.

    Got any good suggestions?

    • Maria says:

      Hi Keira!

      In a Zone 4 area, I think your best bet would be to keep the plant in a windowsill with the window cracked. If your apartment doesn’t reach freezing temps inside, it should be fine. You can supplement the light with a lamp on for about about 8-10 hours.

      Hope that was helpful! Good luck!

  10. Tran says:

    I just bought my VFT today, it’s still young. I live in zone hardiness between 7 and 8, most likely 8. My room is pretty cold, I put it on my windowsill and closed my curtains in case the heat turn on and confused my plant. I don’t know if I should bring it outside and provide it any protection.

    • Maria says:

      Hi Tran! If you have an area outside that gets a lot of light, that would be a good dormancy spot. You can wrap some straw or pine needles around your plant to protect it, and it should be fine with that. If not, your windowsill will do for now. I would move it outside once temperatures get above freezing and slowly acclimate it to full sun. Good luck!

  11. John Ruggieri says:

    Hi Maria, i was just headed out to the grocery store to buy assorted plastic bags to “seal my VRT’s and sarracena’s” for the refrigerator and winter dormancy. I thought I’d check a few more websites to verify the procedure when I stumbled onto your site.
    I live in 34786 zip, zone 9b. I’ve read quite a bit about these plants and was convinced that I needed to “refrigerate” them for the winter. Reading your info has given me strong doubts that is NOT the right move. Why do so many websites recommend refrigeration? This is my first winter with the plants. I’ve read that not allowing a solid dormancy will eventually kill them. I’m leaning towards following your advice but would love additional “assurance.” Any comments would be appreciated.

    • Maria says:

      Hi John!

      You’re correct, you do NOT need to put your plants in fridge dormancy! I’m in Zone 9b here in California and leave my VFTs and Sarrs outside all year round. It will get cold enough naturally without damaging them.

      Fridge dormancy is recommended for areas that get hard freezes in the winter, such as areas in the Midwest and New England. Those winters would kill the plants. It’s also an option for people that live in tropical conditions such as parts of Hawaii and Southeast Asia, where the plants would never go dormant naturally on their own.

      Many people see fridge dormancy as an easy option, but it really should be considered a last resort, as the sudden change in conditions shocks the plant when you take it in or out, plus increases risk of fungal infections.

      I hope that was helpful to you, John! Best of luck for a successful first dormancy!

  12. Laura says:

    Thank your for your blog, it’s the perfect resource! I live in a Zone 8b area (Central Texas). I’ve been keeping my Venus Fly Trap (bought at Wal-mart about a month ago) in an indoor terrarium covered with seran wrap poked with holes and misting them with distilled water every few days (trying to keep in humidity). I planted them in a sphagnum moss soil mixed with one third sand and a gravel bottom. But it sounds like because of the zone I’m in I don’t need to do that, right? I can just put them in a normal pot and set them outside for the winter? Also, it’s been turning black, but I guess that is just part of the dormancy stage, right?

    • Maria says:

      Hi Laura! That’s correct, flytraps aren’t tropical plants so they don’t need terrariums or high humidity. If you put the plant in a sunny place outside, it will continue its natural dormancy cycle.

  13. Rhizanthella says:

    I was wondering. Im pretty sure I live in a hardyness zone of 6 (kansas), but am finding little location for a safe dormancy over the winter. I know it is dangerous to move the Venus Flytrap around inside and outside too much and the burlap idea is unlikely with my apartment. I’ve heard issues involved with the refrigerator method. Im wondering now is if my car would be an okay spot? I live in a small town, so driving is very minimal if at all in a week, but is this a bad or possibly fine idea? I need to travel far in about a week, and Im also wondering how much that movement might be detrimental, or okay?

    • Maria says:

      Hi Rhizanthella!

      I don’t think I’d recommend your car, because a flytrap still need consistent light and environmental conditions during dormancy. You would probably be a good candidate for refrigerator dormancy if you can’t keep it from freezing anywhere else. Just check your plant about once a week for mold, and spray it with a sulfur-based fungicide to keep mold away. Hope that helps!

  14. Colleen says:

    Thanks for the informative information on dormancy. I’m a bit befuddled on what to do with my plants. They began to die back preparing for dormancy, the flytrap has blackened traps and the pitcher plant has brown pitchers and wrinkly leaves. I’m a bit worried about the pitcher plant but it’s at least still alive. I brought them into my basement with my other plants, and unfortunately the grow light is on a 7am-7pm light cycle and the flytrap grew a very large leaf. It’s pretty cool down there but I think the light is too intense and I should have reduced the photoperiod.

    My other option is my shed outside with south facing Windows. I live in zone 7, so I am afraid of freezing temps, but it would be in a window and I’ve thought of insulating the pots to protect them. I don’t know how to make the move without shocking them now, shoukd I slowly transition them to outside… Or leave them in my cool basement and reduce the lighting

    • Maria says:

      Hi Colleen!

      It sounds like your basement is the best bet for dormancy, as long as temps in there don’t go above 60 or below 30. I wouldn’t reduce the light by much, maybe have it on 10 hours, and slowly increase around February/March, until the last frost has passed and you can put it back outside. 🙂 Happy growing!

  15. Ann Christenson says:

    As a newbie, I’m a bit confused. My Venus flytrap and three sundews have been doing well in a kitchen window all summer and fall. (I’m in zone 5.) Now we’re about to leave for seven weeks. We will turn the thermostat down to around 55°. Can the plants stay in the window where they are for light? Do they need watering while we’re gone? How long do they stay in dormancy?

    Also, a couple of other questions: How big do these plants get? How does one know when to repot them? I haven’t been able to find answers to these questions even with the help of a reference librarian. I’m sure glad I stumbled across your website. Thank you.

    • Maria says:

      Hi Ann!

      If you’re going to be gone for that long, I recommend having someone check your plants if possible. They will need to be keep just moist with distilled water while dormant. They should not dry out completely. They’ll stay dormant until early spring, when longer daylight hours and warmer temperatures signal that it’s time to grow again.

      Size is hard to answer because these plants have variable genetics. Some specimens may have genes that express larger growth, some will stay smaller. Unless you know all about the parent plants’ genes, it’s impossible to know.

      Temperate species are best repotted during dormancy. Tropical species can be repotted any time of year.

      Hope that was helpful! Happy growing!

  16. hi! i just got my VFT a few days ago and i’m a very new person to this and i love it. but anyway should i be thinking about dormancy if i’m in zone 6a and it is late winter into early spring?

    • Maria says:

      Hi Austin!

      Congrats on your new plant! It’s okay to skip the first dormancy so it adjusts to your current conditions. Next winter, you can start letting it go dormant.

  17. Adam says:

    how do i make my VFT go dormant? i live in zone 12 should i leave it inside for dormancy? should i feed it during dormancy?And last but not least, How do i skip dormancy?

    • Maria says:

      Hi Adam, I’m in Zone 9 myself. You can follow as this blog post says and just leave your plant outside year round. The seasonal cues will trigger your plant in and out of dormancy.

      Do not feed it during dormancy. If you want to skip dormancy, keep light and temperatures high to around the spring/summer conditions in your area. This usually means keeping it indoors under lights.

  18. Kat says:

    Hello! I recently (like 3-4 weeks ago) got a VFT from Lowe’s (I *needed* to rescue it). I have two questions. It’s currently inside under a lamp and seems to be doing okay. First, do I repot it after dormancy? It’s still in the small plastic pot from Lowe’s. Also I would like to put it outside for dormancy, but it’s so small I’m not sure how to do that. The mini greenhouse looks like an easy way, but I really don’t need something so big. Thanks for the help!

    • Maria says:

      Hi Kat,

      Yes, I would repot after dormancy. Where you keep it depends on how cold your area gets in the winter. If temps don’t go far below freezing, outside will be fine. If it freezes over regularly, a cool room inside would be best.

  19. Maria says:

    Hello! You have amazing sites for beginners.I have one question, if it rains for 1 day or too outside (it’s usually 100+ degrees outside) and I have to take them in, will the sudden change of temperature effect my Venus flytrap? thanks!

  20. Jim(bo) Marcotte says:

    Hi!
    I just bought a beautiful Venus Fly Trap at the grocery store and November is soon approaching. I live in Mammoth Lakes, CA and I don’t know what the hardiness zone is! Is it possible I could put my plant in a refrigerator with a window on the door? Because I could possibly borrow one for the winter…

  21. Arlo says:

    Hello. I have three venus fly trap and this will be my first dormancy. While in dormancy do venus fly traps turn black? If so should i clip them? Im also thinking of getting a cold frame. When i do, should i cover it with a blanket?

    • Maria says:

      Hi Arlo,

      Yes, black traps during dormancy is normal and you can clip them. Depending on your climate, a cold frame may be enough for dormancy. For added protection you can put it in a styrafoam container and fill the space between with packing peanuts or straw.

  22. Jayna says:

    Hey! I’m a newby to owning flytraps and I live in the 10s area of CA, I keep my vft inside and would like to keep it indoors. What do you think I should do for the dormancy? Our house is usually in the 60sF and the coolest room is my own (but not by much) however it doesn’t get much natual lighting as probably necessary

    • Maria says:

      Hi Jayna,

      Your plant will really be happiest outside where it can adapt to seasonal changes in light and temperature. Lots of light is very important and the 60s may not be cool enough to trigger a dormancy.

  23. Laura says:

    I live in Ohio so my plant can’t live outside in the winter. The only cool place we have is our garage but it might get down below freezing in the garage in the winter. Our basement isn’t really that cool. I’m worried about the dormancy. Any suggestions?

  24. Rachel says:

    Hi, I’m getting VFTs for a science project, so I can’t let them go dormant. Can I buy them at any stores while they’re not dormant? Also, how do I make sure they don’t go into dormancy?

  25. kathy says:

    I have a pitcher plant that I grew from a seedling. And VFT from my Lowes. I live in Pennsylvania and would like to keep it healthy for a long time. I’m going to place them in my garage where it’s chilly. I hope this works.

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