Pitcher Plant Dormancy: Pitcher Plant Care Over Winter


Sarracenia, or pitcher plants, are native to North America. They are classic carnivorous plants that use trapped insects as part of their nutrient needs. These specimens need moist conditions and are often found near water. Most varieties are not extremely cold hardy, which makes pitcher plant care over winter very important.

During pitcher plant dormancy, some exposure to chilly temperatures is necessary but most are not hardy below USDA zone 7. Over wintering pitcher plants in colder zones will require moving the plants or providing them with protection from the cold weather.

A Word About Pitcher Plants

Pitcher plants are bog plants and are often grown as part of a water garden or at the edge of a water feature. The genus Sarracenia supports 15 different varieties scattered across North America. Most are common in zone 6 and readily survive their areas cold snaps.

Plants that grow in zone 7, such as S. rosea, S. minor, and S. psittacina, need a little help when freezes occur but can usually stay outside in cold temperatures. The most cold hardy species, Sarracenia purpura, can survive zone 5 outside.

Can pitcher plant survive indoors during the winter? Any variety of pitcher plant is suitable for growing in a greenhouse with controlled conditions. Smaller varieties may be brought into the home for winter if you provide air circulation, humidity, and a warm situation.

Caring for Pitcher Plants in the Winter

Plants in USDA zone 6 are acclimated to short freezing periods. Pitcher plant dormancy requires the chilling period and then warm temperatures that signal it to break dormancy. The chilling requirement is important for all species of Sarracenia to signal when it is time to begin growing again.

In extreme cold, apply a thick layer of mulch around the base of the plants to protect the roots. If you have varieties growing in water, break the ice and keep the water trays full. Caring for pitcher plants in winter in colder zones will require you to bring them indoors.

Potted species of S. purpurea can stay outdoors in a sheltered location. All other varieties should be brought in to a cool covered location, such as a garage or unheated basement.

Reduce water and do not fertilize when providing pitcher plant care over winter for the less hardy species.

Can Pitcher Plant Survive Indoors During the Winter?

This is a great question. As with any plant, the key to overwintering pitcher plants is to mimic their natural habitat. This means each species will need different average temperatures, longer or shorter dormancy periods, and slightly different site and growing conditions. Overall, it is safe to say that pitcher plants need warm growing conditions, plenty of moisture, peat or acidic soil, medium light levels, and at least 30 percent humidity.

All these conditions can be difficult to provide in the home environment. However, since the plants are dormant for three to four months, their growing needs have slowed down. Bring potted plants to a low light area where temperatures are below 60 F. (16 C.), reduce the amount of water they have, and wait for three months, then gradually reintroduce the plant to higher light and heat conditions.


Carnivorous Plants forum→Overwintering My Venus Fly Traps

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Can I place them in the garage shelves with lights? But how far away should the lights be.?

I understand they still need light, but not much. But how much?

My garage shelves are 2' apart. I could put a single 40 watt bulb above them or a double, and set by timer any amount per day, I'm thinking a single 3500K bulb set 10 hours per day.

For VFTs, I drain off excess water from the pots, hit them with a sulphur based fungicide and place in zip lock bags and pop them in the fridge for 3-4 months. I occasionally check them (once a month) for fungus and hit with the fungicide if needed. Late winter around February/March I take them out hit them with sulphur based fungicide again and place in a south and west window until night time temps. regularly stay above freezing then slowly acclimate them to full outdoor Sun. I've been using this method for almost 10 years with no losses.

tommyr said: You don't need lights when they are dormant. You can put a light on if you want but it's not needed.

For VFTs, I drain off excess water from the pots, hit them with a sulphur based fungicide and place in zip lock bags and pop them in the fridge for 3-4 months. I occasionally check them (once a month) for fungus and hit with the fungicide if needed. Late winter around February/March I take them out hit them with sulphur based fungicide again and place in a south and west window until night time temps. regularly stay above freezing then slowly acclimate them to full outdoor Sun. I've been using this method for almost 10 years with no losses.

Wow! You mean like Bonide Product 141 Sulfur Plant Fungicide? (just the first one I found at a quick online search)

The lack of any light worries me. "Dormant" isn't "dead". But you mean no leaves like a tulip bulb in Summer?

Wow! You mean like Bonide Product 141 Sulfur Plant Fungicide? (just the first one I found at a quick online search)

The lack of any light worries me. "Dormant" isn't "dead". But you mean no leaves like a tulip bulb in Summer?

Mine live in the fridge from now (almost now, VERY soon!) until mid February - March. I've been doing it for about 10 years with no problems. No, dormant isn't dead but they cease to grow and need no real light.

Sure, if you have never done it before.

I would like to increase my plants. I'm thinking trying to divide one of my 3 pots to see how that works. And thinking that when they are most dormant in January, using 2 forks to gently probe into the root ball to separate bulblets.

I only think of doing that because my pots have 30+ trap leaves showing and I assume crowding is not great.

I can easily make space for the 24" tray they sit in and I have a 1 24" fluorescent bulb fixture to attach 1 a foot above on a timer to match winter sunlight. I can't think of a better fake "natural" situation. I have stored some rainwater in sealed jugs kept in jugs in the dark (to prevent algae growth).

I will snip all the dead leaves. Anything else I should do?

I cleared off a shelf in the garage, set a single fluorescent light over them, and set a timer to give them Winter light (7am to 4pm. I water them slightly 2x a week with pure rainwater I saved.

The garage stays about 45-50 F all Winter.

The traps are dying back, but flower stalks are rising. I assume I should cut them off.



And I would like to multiply them (something I am familiar with with other plants).

So am I understanding correctly to divide them around the flower stalks? Is there something else I need to know? I'm actually feeling rather bonded to these guys. I sure don't want to harm them.

If it matters any, the 6" pots seem filled with 3-4 plants.

I can try a division and see how it goes.

Last year was the first time I had some VFTs do well the whole Summer and Winter, so maybe I am "catching" on. Next step is multiplying them.

Thank you. We had 38F lows a few days ago, but it has suddenly shot up to 90F and looks like the lows will be 50F onward. I will introduce the VFTs an hour tomorrow and one more each day for a week. And I think I will try to carefully divide the one that sent up 4 flower stalks (the other pots only had one each, so I think that one is crowded) to see how that works out.

I kept one untouched as a "control".

Here is a picture of 3 of the divided plants.

They are growing new traps, so that is good.

All of my 'jaws' got bad sunburn earlier in the spring (My fault, forgot to acclimate them properly) but they recovered nicely. My 'DCXL''s produced almost 2" traps.

tommyr said: Nice plants! I bought a few ones for my collection, 'pinnacle', G14 and a B52.

All of my 'jaws' got bad sunburn earlier in the spring (My fault, forgot to acclimate them properly) but they recovered nicely. My 'DCXL''s produced almost 2" traps.

OK, I'm new enough that I didn't know there were types of VFTs. Is there a way I can tell the differences? Yeah my best traps last year were about 3/4".

Mine are the "Walmart" variety, LOL!

I was happy to get them through the Winter healthy, divided, and adjusted to the outside.


Purple Pitcher Plant Features: An Overview

  • The Sarracenia purpurea is native to the humid swap areas of North America.
  • The purple pitcher plant loved cold weather.
  • The Sarracenia purpurea is a native of Southeastern Canada and the East Coast
  • The tops of the purple pitcher plant bend over like a hood.
  • When exposed to the sun, the sarracenia purpurea will develop reddish colored veins.
  • The flowers of the Sarracenia purpurea can get as tall as 30 centimeters.
  • Insects are lured into the mouth of the purple pitcher plant by sweet juices.
  • The juice of the plant’s pitchers digests the insects that fall into its trap.
  • The purple pitcher plant will generate flowers in the summer once matured.
  • The sarracenia purpurea plant needs a generous amount of water to survive.

Carnivorous Plants forum→carnivorous update.

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Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming. "WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org

DaisyI said: Lookin' good! Mine are looking a little Late Summer Sad. What are your plans for wintering over?


I don't know Daisy, I've thought about it for days now, ideas? This is my first year, I was thinking tarp? Or maybe wood chips? I know they still need a bit sunlight so I'm sort of skeptical and paranoid

This is the same bog as the photo above but taken last January.

The bigger problem with your pot is that Venus Flytraps are not frost hardy. They require bright light and reduced water during their winter dormancy.

The Butterworts are or are not winter hardy, depending upon where they came from, Mexico or Canada. Do you know what kind you have? Most of the ones we see are tropical.

The Drosera are iffy, depending upon which you have. I have one that has survived outside for 3 years now. It blooms white, not purple and is forked-leaved. I didn't plant it it must have come with one of the Sarracenia. D. capensis has escaped to the bog but never survived the winter.

That's it in the very forefront of this photo. Its a little hard to see but its blooming and you can see the forked leaves at the base of the Sarracenia its growing with.

I know, I have complicated things even more.

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming. "WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org

lastly, my sarracenia seedlings, will they be okay?

They are about the circumference of my index finger.

They were seed grown last year!

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming. "WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org


When I lived in Zone 8, I had my Sarracenias outside in pots sitting in saucers year 'round with no protection.

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming. "WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org


I leave mine outdoors all winter (zone 8a) along with all my other carnivorous plants and they do just fine.


Pinguicula cyclosecta

Pinguicula cyclosecta – one of the most beautiful species, whose oval leaves with a diameter of only 3 cm are collected in almost flat, rounded rosette, arranged in a spiral and making the plant especially ornamental. During the growing season, each produces up to 30 silver-gray leaves with a beautiful purple-purple edge, which seems to be washed away to the middle of the leaf blade.

Towering on long peduncles fairly large flowers with a diameter of 3 cm adorn the larger lower petals of the Corolla and surprisingly in harmony with the color of the greens due to its bright purple tone. Hunting the leaves of the plant at the same time, unlike other Jiranek, are formed under the ground.



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