Being native to the coastal Carolinas, Venus flytraps do experience some winter, albeit not a very cold winter by most Americans’ standards. Due to this, flytraps have come to need a mild winter dormancy period each year. Venus flytrap winter dormancy can last from 2-5 months and is characterized by shorter days and colder temperatures. These conditions trigger the Venus flytrap to go into a ‘rest’ mode in which their leaves and traps die back, turning mostly black. Upon the arrival of Spring, they will have rested enough to quickly burst forth with new growth and, shortly thereafter, begin flowering.
Providing Venus flytraps with proper winter dormancy can often be the trickiest part of keeping them in northern states. This is because, while they need winter dormancy, they cannot tolerate it being too cold. They can take a few freezing nights and days in growing zones 8 and 9 in the South or the Northwest. If you live in zone 8 or 9, don’t change a thing during the winter. Leave your plants outside (they can absolutely take a freeze or two!) and keep watering them normally through the winter.
In growing zones north of zone 8, leaving them outside year-round becomes risky. This is especially true if they are in a small pot, which they usually are. If this is your situation, there are several solutions for providing the right conditions for a proper winter dormancy period. The easiest way is to move your plant into an unheated garage or shed or some other area that isn’t directly exposed to the elements. This is the preferred method if you don’t live too far north. Although Venus flytraps do enjoy some sunlight even in dormancy, they can get along without it fine during this time. All you will have to do then is remember to keep the soil moist. Don’t stick your plant in your garage and forget it’s there! It will still die if it dries out completely, even during its dormancy period!
If you don’t have a suitable outdoor space for over-wintering your flytrap (e.g. you live in an apartment), or you live in the frozen tundra, so to speak, of the northern U.S., you can simply put your flytrap in your refrigerator until outdoor temps come to their senses again. A single flytrap won’t take up much more space than a box of baking soda or a forgotten container of sour cream. If this is the route you must take, it is best to let your flytrap enter dormancy naturally outdoors. Then, when the first sustained freeze arrives, trim the dormant/dead traps back and place your plant in a large Ziploc bag and pop it into the refrigerator. A crisper drawer works well… and keeps it crisp, I guess 😉
If you are storing your plant in your refrigerator in this manner, it won’t lose any moisture and you won’t even have to worry about watering it during its dormancy. being cold and wet, though, it will be at risk of growing mold. If this happens, you can buy any number of organic fungicide sprays that are on the market. The only thing you need to ensure when purchasing this is that the only ingredient is sulfur. As long as your fungicide is sulfur-based, your flytrap won’t mind it.
Before moving to southern Louisiana years ago, I lived in Kentucky, a solid growing zone 6. Living there with carnivorous plants, I gained lots of experience using both the garage and refrigerator methods described above and they both work perfectly. It is quite easy to care for a Venus flytrap year-round, no matter where you live. Remember, plants will do everything they possibly can to stay alive! There is a whole range of conditions in which they can do this. You just have to keep them in this range. There is no one exact temperature or one exact time frame. You got this!
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