Outdoor Dormancy

Outdoor Dormancy

by Wild Bill Matthews

I’ve tried various methods of providing dormancy for my carnivorous plants, some successful and some not. I'm in Connecticut, Zone5, where we get lots of snow and freezing temps in the winter. A deep outdoor dormancy, where I bury the plants under several layers, has worked well for me over the past several years. Last year, I lost only two out of 100 or so plants. Here's my method:

1. Because of the large number of plants I put into dormancy, I built an 8-foot by 4-foot raised garden bed using some scrap lumber to frame the bed. Yours can be smaller. Because I have had problems in the past with rodents, like voles, destroying the plants, I first put down a layer of wire window screen mesh on top of the soil. It’s no fun after waiting several months to uncover the bed only to discover all or most of the plants gone!

2. I start collecting lots of pine needles. A garbage bag or two full of them.

3. Then I fill the raised bed with FREE compost from our local recycling center. You don’t have to do this, but it helps insulate the plants and in the spring after you remove the carnivores you can use the bed for a flower or vegetable garden.

4. A day or two before dormancy, I spray down all the plants with a fungicide (powder you mix with water) using a 2 gallon pump-style garden sprayer. You could also use a mist bottle.

5. I then scoop out little holes and place all the plants (pots and all) in the raised bed, packing the soil around the pots. I place the tenderest plants in the center.

6. On dormancy day, I spray all plants with fungicide once again.

7. I Strew pine needles over all the plants, layering about an inch thick. They help protect the plants and are easy to remove in the spring.

8. Next, a layer of pine boughs goes on top of the pine needles.

9. After that, I place a large sheet of burlap (over the whole bed) on top of the pine needle/boughs. This helps make the next layer easier to remove in the spring.

10. For the next layer, I shovel on a 1 foot deep layer of wood chips on top of the burlap the first week (again = FREE from our recycling center).

11. The following week added another foot of wood chips. Note that one suggestion John Phillip (NECPS Prez) suggests is to use pine boughs instead of wood chips because you just don't know what's in the stuff from your recycling center - stuff that could cause disease or otherwise damage your plants.

When spring rolls around, I’ll remove a few inches of the wood chips at a time as the weather warms up. When I finally uncover the plants they are bright green and healthy – some have already started growing. After I’ve removed the plants we do usually get some CRAZY spring weather with cold snaps, heat snaps and lots of cold rain, so, if there are particularly tender young plants or prized plants - especially Venus Flytraps which can easily rot at this point, I’ll bring them indoors for a few weeks before setting them outside.