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Thread: Dormancy

  1. #1

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    Thanks everyone for this contribution. Pyro recently wrote this up for your viewing pleasure

    Hey all, we seem to have created a huge massive mess out of the old topic so at Ram_Puppyís request I have cleaned and hacked and made this a bit more readable. It is about that time of year again and we expect a lot of first timers coming in and posting questions on dormancy, that's GREAT as that is what these forums are here for! So if you have questions read through here first for answers and if it isnít here then ask [img]http://www.**********.com/iB_html312/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif[/img] Also, this info is a hodge-podge of info taken from the old thread, what I know, what I have read on the boards and what I have learned from others. DO NOT consider it all inclusive, or the 'end all be all.' Take it for what it's worth: a guide to point you in the right direction. Just remember there are as many ways to grow CPs as there are people growing them.

    And if you have not purchased Savage Garden, you might want to get it for some winter reading, it's pretty much considered the Bible of Carnivorous Plants.

    Okay, so if you have a plant that in the wild grows anywhere in the US, Canada, Europe or Northern Asia then your plant will need a dormancy. There are some southern hemisphere plants that can tolerate dormant periods and there are also plants with unique dormancies (tuberous Drosera, petiolaris Drosera and the S. African winter growing Drosera) but they will not be discussed here.

    Dormancy should begin anytime between now (mid-September) and Thanksgiving depending on where you live and how you are growing. How do you know when your plants should go dormant? If you are growing them outside just keep an eye on your plant, they will tell you. If you are an indoor grower keep an eye on your plants as they usually change their growth pattern. If they donít seem to be giving you any indications shoot for the Thanksgiving date.

    Basically there are 3 ways to do dormancy:

    1) Inside
    2) Outside
    3) Skip it

    Let us go over these one at a time.


    If you live in the Northern Hemisphere and you think it is time to put your plants to sleep for the winter your first question is probably ďHow long do I need to do it?Ē The answer: at least THREE (3) months (so if you put them down around Thanks giving, you can take them out around Valentines Day, easy dates to remember.)

    A rapid change in climate is probably not appreciated by your plants at any time of the year, the more gradual the shift into dormancy, probably the better. Forcing a plant into dormancy can result in the loss of the plant, however, just because it can, doesn't mean it will. If you have no other choice but to throw all your flytraps in the fridge at once, then you have no other choice, they will probably come out OK next spring. That being said, if there is any way to slowly prepare your plants for a climate change then utilize it. At the very least, if you can start acclimating the plants towards dormancy by giving them less light, and possibly cooler temps, that is a real plus!

    The main method of indoor dormancy is to use your refrigerator, especially if you live in hot, semi-tropical to tropical environments, where winters are not cold enough, and the days are not short enough to cause dormancy.

    You have two options here:

    1) Put plants in the fridge bare root. To do this, gently remove the plant from its container, with soil around the root ball. Then dip the plant in distilled water and swish it around gently to remove the soil from its roots. When you are done you should have a nice white crispy rhizome and roots (in most cases, some plants may have green and red rhizomes and what not depending on their type.) All should be firm to the touch, squishy material is obviously dead. Now, dip the entirety of the plant in another bowl of prepared fungicide solution (more on this below,) you may also spritz here, but dunking probably gets more of the plant. You may have to clip some leaves here, larger plants like Sarrs are probably too big, and have to much insect material in their gullets, and clipping those pitchers is probably a must. I have heard of people clipping, and not clipping flytraps, it's really your choice... sundews, just dunk and wrap. When all is said and done, wrap the plant up in a damp (NOT SOPPING WET! You should not be able to squeeze any water out of it.) paper towel, sphag or sterilized peat and place it in a zip lock baggie and squeeze out most of the air. Now all that is left is to place it in the fridge, in the vegetable drawer if possible. Check on the plant regularly to ensure it still has enough moisture and is not rotting or suffering fungal attack.

    2) Leave the plant in the pot. This is pretty much the same as above. You will need to clip some leaves probably, and you'll definitely, more than ever, need the fungicide. Dunk the entire pot, including plant in the fungicide solution and let it drain well. Youíre going to eat up more fungicide per plant this way, but if youíre really scared to un-pot them, then I guess it's your only option.

    Fungicide is a must when you are using the fridge and it never hurts to use other times either. Whether your have your plants outside under mulch, in their pots in the fridge, or bare root in the fridge, your exposing them to damp, cold, and stagnant conditions, and those are prime conditions to make your little treasure rot away this winter. This web site sells Banrot and Cleary's fungicide (professional grade! ) at a very affordable price, there is no excuse not to use it!


    If youíre lucky enough to live in the Southeast, costal California, or any of the other regions where these magnificent plants live naturally, then you donít have much to worry about, especially if you are already growing your plants outside. Chances are they have already started snoozing for the winter or are just about to and you probably hardly noticed. All you really have to do here is cut back on watering; the media should never be more than damp. Be careful though, being planted in a pot is lot different than being planted in a ground, and if you get frosts, or hard freezes, youíll need to take other precautions to insulate your pots, such as burying them, mulching around them, covering with a sheet.

    There are those that have a huge outdoor collection, and live in somewhat colder environments, where putting them in the refrigerator are not an option. You might be able to move a few plants to a cool window that gets little sun, such as northern windows, or a basement window that gets a little light. It is important to remember that when a plant is dormant it still requires light. You must still provide a light source for the plants.

    I will also add that a greenhouse or a cold frame is ideal for carnivorous plants. Make sure you take the plants out of their saucers of water and buy some fungicide from a garden centre as damp December days are ideal for mould developing. Dilute it (not with tap water! ) as instructed and give them a thorough spray, especially around the centre of the plant. You can then leave them but make sure they are protected on especially frosty nights - bubble wrap or an upturned fish tank will do this. Check them every week or so and remember to snip off any of the black leaves.

    I am also going to add here a comment made by member Sarraceniaobsessed that I think is very pertinent:

    Quote Originally Posted by [b
    Quote[/b] ]I would like to add my humble but limited experience with temperate CPs (I do have 30 years gardening experience that does translate however.) These plants are not as tender as some people and even books make them out to be. GIVEN that they have had a sufficient 'cooling down' period similar to fall. Take for example the 7 degrees F we had here in Atlanta last weekend (it was 19F in Wilmington, NC, fly trap country.) I had trapcicles. I did protect them with a heavy layer of straw and a tarp. That came off 2 days later when we got back to typical winter temps at night (that can be 28F.) They since have thawed with no visible signs of damage. I even burned the bog off last week and they still look fine if that tells you anything. My bog is a slightly raised large wooden box in the parking lot of my office. It is subjected to the ravages of nature and gets at least 8 hours of sun. It has good air circulation and stays wetter in the winter than in the summer. HOWEVER, an artificial environment is a whole other story (i.e. refrigerators.) I have NO experience with that.

    Listen to the experienced growers about such things as fungicides and air circulation. I am adding my two cents for outside cultivation. The other important thing to understand is the next day after hitting 7F the temp came up to 25F. That does not seem like much but it makes a difference. In Atlanta, the cold does not stay for long. You guys up North are going to have to moderate how low your CPs go and for how long. The extended cold is what kills (excluding S. purp) I hope this has helped in some way. I think over coddling can kill but then again so can ignorance. Good growing to everyone!

    SKIP IT:

    Before I go any further into this let me tell you that dormancy makes your plants grow more vigorously next spring, skipping it can cause deformed leaves, slow and weak growth, and eventually death. Your plant works hard to be pretty all year long for you, all it asks for in return is a nap! So think about that before you decide to forgo dormancy.

    How you do this is really easy, just keep you plants growing where ever they are.

    There are many cases where skipping dormancy is legitimate:

    1) Tropical plants don't need dormancy. This would be your Neps and Drosera from S. America and Africa and the like. Many of these can handle temps down to the high 50s low 60 though and so if you are greenhouse growing you can often leave them and get away with it.
    2) Seedlings. There is some debate as to whether or not plants that are less than 2 years really need a dormancy period. In my experience Sarrs do not need a dormancy period till their third year, that however is just my experience.
    3) Plants you just purchased that you know are fresh out of tissue culture probably do not need dormancy.

    So there are your basics and that should answer most of your questions. What I have following is pretty much a recap of all the questions that get asked and the typical answer. If your question was not answered above then check below, if it isnít there either then feel free to post and ask it

    There are lots of people here experienced in dormancy because they have gone through it before. Guys to especially pay attention to are: Phil, Ram_Puppy, Tony P., PlantAKiss, Alvin Meister, Linda, UnknownClown, FatBoy, Tamlin, Sarracineaobssesed, Sarracenia, Mike King, Vic Brown, Pyro, BigCarnivorousKid and Vertigo (If I forgot anyone, Iím sorry! )

    Some of these people live up north, some down south, and some on tropical islands! They have the breadth of knowledge to tell you all the different ways you can put your carnivorous plants to bed for winter.

    Things you need to tell us when youíre asking a question:

    1) Where you live.
    2) Average indoor and outdoor temperatures for winter.
    3) How and where you keep your plants.
    4) What kind of plants you are concerned with. (Be specific too, there are many kinds of CP's, and ones that seem so close can have different requirements and levels of winter hardiness. A prime example would be S. purpurea ssp. venosa and. S. purpurea ssp. purpurea. Or if you want to get real nitpicky S. purpurea ssp. venosa var. venosa and. S. purpurea ssp. venosa var. montana.)


    Q) How much light do they need?

    A) At the very least a few hours direct light. The thing to keep in mind here is not to give the plant the idea summer is here. If a plant is outside during the winter it gets around 8-10 hours of various intensity light. If you are giving your plant 15 hours of light (even if it is low light) it is going to think it is summer and come out of dormancy

    Q) How often should I water them?

    A) Not very often, remove the tray and only top water enough to keep the media damp. As a rule of thumb you should be able to stick your finger in the media and have it come out with only a few flecks of soil without needing to wipe any wetness off.

    Q) How much fungicide should I spray into the soil?

    A) Enough to wet the plant and the surface of the media

    Q) Do I only need to apply the fungicide once?

    A) Once should be enough but keep an eye on your plants and if you see fungus spray again.

    Q) Should I cut all the growth back on every plant?

    A) On plants going into the fridge this is probably a good idea. Outdoor plants do not need to be clean cut but I do recommend removing all dead material.

    Q) Do I have to cut off all the leaves on my plant to put it in the fridge?

    A) Some people feel that trimming off all growth before putting plants into dormancy keeps the plants from getting mold or decay started on them during dormancy. Others are from the school of thought that if it isnít dead you should leave it on leave it on as it gives them a head start in the spring 'cause they all ready have leaves to start photosynthesizing. As far as I know there is no proof either is better so do what you think best.

    Q) What sounds more suitable, my garage or my basement?

    A) What gets the right amount of light and temps? This is a question that we really canít help with because it is specific to each situation. If your garage has temps in the 30s-40sF and gets 5 hours direct light a day while your basement is at 50F all the time but has no light go with your garage. If it is the other way around do the basement thing.

    Q) I was thinking of either putting my plants down in my basement this year for dormancy, either that or the garage. I'm not sure if the basement is cold enough, it's probably around the mid to lower 50's F in the winter with minimal light. The garage is probably around low 30's - 40F with more light than the basement, but still not very much.

    A) I would go with the garage and see if maybe you can add a shop light on a timer [img]http://www.**********.com/iB_html312/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif[/img] (see the answer above for more info.)

    Q) With the refrigerator method, which month should you put it in? November? December? And until when? February? March?

    A) As a rule of thumb go from Thanksgiving to Valentineís as the dates are easy to remember. However, if you are growing your plants in Maine and it is dropping to the low 40sF by mid-September then consider starting dormancy early. Like wise if the nights are still freezing in March then wait till April.

    Q) When you put it in the baggie, if the paper towel isnít damp, how do you make it damp again?

    A) Take it out and put in a new towel. Just keep an eye on it afterwards as you might have introduced fungal spores.

    Q) How do I re-pot after dormancy?

    A) Very gently [img]http://www.**********.com/iB_html312/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif[/img] Seriously though, re-potting after dormancy is just like any re-potting job.

    Q) Do you have to put it in a baggie and take it out of the pot?

    A) No and no. But (there is always a but) without the baggie the plant is likely to dry out and if the plant stays in the pot there is a greater chance of rot setting in. (Also, most parents donít like to lose fridge space to you CP collection LOL)

    Q) Instead of a paper towel could I use a damp regular towel, like the kind you use to dry your hands with?

    A) I donít see why not.

    Q) Drosera capillaris and capensis don't need a dormancy that I know of, and both my VFT's and my sundews share the terrarium. If I get a cooler fan and send my whole terrarium into dormancy without moving any plants, will it harm the drosera, or should they be ok?

    A) D. capillaries and capensis and many other CPs are actually very tolerant of lower temps and while they do not require dormancy they can actually go dormant. If you can hold the terrarium at a stable 50-60F then all the plants should be okay as long as you meet all the other dormancy requirements

    Q) What temps should I keep my VFT at for dormancy?

    A) For an idea of the best temps for VFT dormancy check this site: < > This site has a ton of information and I highly recommend that every new CPer go over it top to bottom.

    Q) Just wanted to know if it would hurt my VFT's to go straight into the fridge after the gradually reduced photoperiod, and without gradually reduced temps, or if I am supposed to gradually reduce temps as well

    A) If you can do both that would be better but a gradual reduction in photoperiod alone will help a lot. You can probably get away with putting you plant outside in a sheltered place every night to help with the temp drop

    Q) I live in New York City, where we do get snowy/icy winters. I am very leery about refrigerator dormancy; it just doesn't seem like the right thing to do. If I choose not to refrigerate, is there another option? IE: a cool, dim room? Under a box? In a styrofoam cooler on the fire escape? (styrofoam is a great insulator, would it protect from frost?) I understand the plant needs to "REST" but why refrigerate?

    A) There are always other options it just depends on how much work you want to do. A cool dim room would work if it got enough light to allow the plant to photosynthesize. Under a box probably wouldnít work but you could try it if you wanted. I canít say about the styrofoam as I have never tried it, it might work though.

    Q) Dormancy should last for 3 months? What determines when you should begin dormancy? Different states seem to have different requirements-but most of the people who visit this site don't seem to be from this area.

    A) At least 3 months yes. The determining factor is your plants; most plants that need a dormancy period will alter their growth to indicate the time.

    Q) Why a refrigerator

    A) You refrigerate to simulate cold, but not freezing temperatures. Its not the best because the plants don't get a photoperiod, but the extreme (but not freezing) cold puts them to sleep deep enough that their photosynthetic functions essentially shut down, so light is not that much of a problem.

    Q) I was wondering if my 2 year old Sarracenia rubra gulfenis needed a dormancy. I also have a very young purple pitcher plant that I am unsure of the exact age and type but it has about 3" pitchers. I also have a VFT common with about a 1/4" traps. From these vague descriptions do you guys think they need dormancy?

    A) Every Sarracenia needs a dormancy. While it has been said that plants less than 2 years old can go with out it does not mean they always should.

    Q) Can Sarrs take temps in the 20sF?

    A) Many Sarrs will even tolerate lower than 20sF. What Sarracenia hate are dry cold desiccating winds. They like shelter, a moist but not dry potting medium which will help keep the rhizome plus residual vegetation turgid. That way, all Sarracenias (and VFT) will get a decent dormancy

    Q) I've seen in another thread that both cinnamon and cornstarch can be used as a fungicide. Is this true for plants going into dormancy (meaning can I somehow make a cinnamon solution to dip my VFT in) or just to dust onto plants that are still potted (year-round)? If cinnamon or cornstarch isnít appropriate for this situation I can go and pick up some fungicide at a store.

    A) Cinnamon and cornstarch are used to treat a fungus problem (and the jury is still out on their effectiveness for that) not as a preventative. One of the reasons fungicide is recommend for dormancy as a preventative measure, is because the plants are often put in the fridge and forgotten. By the time you remember to check it the fungus may have already killed it. The same goes for outdoor plants they are often covered in mulch for insulation or snow and it's hard to check on them through this cover.

    Q) I live in SoCal and December in LA = July in LA, it's all the same. But, I don't want to get a VFT and eventually have to stick it in the refrigerator. It's a beautiful plant and it seems like sticking a wonderful painting in a vault. I will NEVER put it in the refrigerator. So, I'm going to see whether it's feasible to buy a terrarium where the temp can be adjustable to between 40-85F, even if it means getting creative with accessories. We have a walk-in cold room (40 degrees F) at work that I can always use, as well.

    A) I have heard of people successfully growing VFTs and Sarrs outdoors year round in SoCal and Florida. The plants get enough of a dormancy that way to not suffer. You might want to consider that approach. The terrarium idea is feasible but likely costly and the cool room probably wouldnít be too much different than a refrigerator.

    Q) I saw something that may cause me to rethink the whole refrigerator thing. If I have my VFT in a terrarium sold on this site, can I stick the whole thing in the fridge after just spraying the plant with fungicide?

    A) If you've got the room in the fridge then I don't see why not. Just make sure that any companion plants have the same dormancy requirements. Treat it just like you would a potted plant in the fridge.

    Q) I don't like fridge dormancy. It's what Iíve done for the past two dormancies but I seem to lose an unacceptable amount CPs.

    A) Then maybe consider another technique or see if there is anything you could do different for your fridge treatment.

    Follow-up comment) Maybe Iím doing something wrong. Last year I remove the plants from their pots and dipped them in fungicide. Then I wrapped them in a damp paper towel or LF sphagnum and put them in baggies. After I had finished all of them I put them in one large zip lock bag. I then put this in a container in the fridge.

    A) Sounds about right to me. Things to consider would be that maybe the paper towel/LFS was too wet and did you squeeze the air out of the baggie?

    Q) How cold should the fridge be? Between 32-35 degrees F? What if it gets warmer than that sometimes? Will the plants try to photosynthesis and exhaust themselves from the lack of light?

    A) Whatever a fridge is normally set at is fine. Periodic warming (I assume you mean as in opening the door) should be harmless.
    Phillip J. Crane
    Austin, TX

  2. #2

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    Posting this to the top for the 2004 winter season!
    Phillip J. Crane
    Austin, TX

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