Do Sundews Go Dormant?

do sundew plants go through dormancy

Caring for carnivorous plants can be a bit tricky, and not just due to the food you need to feed them. Knowing about the biology of the plants you want to own is crucial to keeping the plants healthy. Dormancy is particularly important to learn about, especially when it comes to more delicate plants like sundews.

Do sundews go dormant? It depends on the type of sundew, and knowing about their dormancy cycles is vital to keeping your sundews alive during difficult months. However, some indeed do.

A little in-depth knowledge about the dormancy cycle of sundews can change your gardening game for the better, keep your plants healthy, and also help your carnivorous little friends live longer lives. Here’s what everyone should know about sundews and their dormancy. 

How do They go Dormant?

Asking whether or not sundews have a dormant cycle is a loaded question. There is not just one sundew species; this is an entire category of plant species with a wide range of different traits. For the most part, you can tell whether or not your sundew has a dormant cycle by its natural region. 

Tropical Sundews

Tropical sundews are generally dormancy-free, which means they bloom year-round while keeping their needs and traits stable. This makes them a great option for people who are new too raising carnivorous plants and want to keep them indoors. 

Some of the more popular tropical sundew species are:

  • Alice Sundew – This darker, starburst-shaped sundew adds a somewhat flowery look to your home thanks to its rounded shape. 
  • Spoon Leaf Sundew – This sundew species is known for having a *lot* of red tendrils and for its spatula-like leaves. 
  • Forked Sundew – This species’ leaves fork into opposite directions, making it a highly recognizable plant. 
  • King Drosera – Towering at almost two feet in height, the King Drosera is one of the rarest and largest tropical sundews to be grown by hobbyists. 

Temperate Sundews

Temperate zones are a lot chillier than tropical regions, and will typically require a dormancy period. However, these should be taken on a plant-by-plant basis. If you have a temperate sundew, read the instructions that came with the plant to know more about dormancy. 

Some of the more popular temperate sundew types include:

  • Cape Sundew – Known for its light green, slender leaves and small size, it’s a perfectly petite companion for your garden. 
  • Round Leaf Sundew – This petite sundew’s small leaves are almost perfectly circular, giving the plant its name. 
  • Thread-Leaved Sundew – These sundews have tall, spindly leaves that splay out from the crowns. Multiple varietals of this sundew exist, with most of them fitting into the temperate category. 

Arctic Sundews

Though rare, some sundew species live and thrive in winter-heavy regions. Arctic sundews, also known as “winter weather sundews,” always go through a dormancy period. Dormancy timings can be different with arctic sundews. If they remain awake during winter, their dormancy period will be in the summer. 

Some of the more popular arctic sundew types include:

  • Drosera Aberrans – These pretty little carnivores grow to a maximum of five centimeters and have beautiful flowers. 
  • Drosera Indumenta – These sundew vines can grow up to six feet in height, and are known for wrapping around walls. 

What Is Dormancy, Anyway?

Most plants are capable of getting all the nutrients they need from sunlight, but carnivorous plants are way different. Unlike the vast majority of plants, this category of floral life both creates its own food and eats prey. 

The majority of carnivorous plants grow and thrive in bright, warm, tropical regions with ample water, light, and food sources. Not all plants in this category do, though. Some are native to temperate regions that have noticeable changes between seasons—some of which aren’t exactly friendly to delicate plants. 

To survive harsher seasons, carnivorous plants will slow down their metabolisms, decrease their need for water, and develop traits that help them adapt. It’s a lot like how bears hibernate during the winter. 

What Should I Expect During Sundew Dormancy?

There’s some good news and some bad news about sundew dormancy you should know. The good news is that it won’t take you by surprise. The bad news is that they stop looking like sundews and require special care during their dormancy period. 

With most dormancy-requiring plants, this phase of its life will start during the fall. When a sundew plant starts to go into dormancy, it will produce a bud called a “hibernacula.” After that, the sundew will have its foliage “die” all the way down to the crown. 

By spring, the sundew will start to leave dormancy and return to its clearly carnivorous initial appearance. 

Caring For Dormant Sundews

If your sundew plant is going into dormancy, you really shouldn’t worry too much. Most sundew plants will simply need minor tweaks to their care routine. These tips will make it easier to keep your plant healthy while it “hibernates:”

  • Keep soil slightly drier if your plants are near room temperature. Most sundews curb their need for water during dormancy. 
  • Colder regions may require extra mulching. The colder the region, the more moisture your dormant plant will need. 
  • Keep arctic and temperate plants in temperatures over 20 degrees Fahrenheit. While sundews can survive cold temperatures, they’ll still die if they’re frozen. 
  • Don’t worry; your plant isn’t dead. It’s normal to panic when you see the sundew fronds start to shrivel up, but don’t panic. This is a normal part of your plant’s life. 
  • Shelter outdoor plants during the winter. Placing a tarp on your plants can help protect it against the elements. 

Is Dormancy Necessary?

The entire concept of dormancy seems like a plant’s last-ditch effort to survive difficult climates—and to a point, that’s correct. However, there’s more to dormancy than just surviving the winter (or summer). 

Sundew plants that live in colder regions evolved in a way that makes dormancy a requirement. It keeps the plants’ metabolism and resources balanced. Trying to make your plant avoid dormancy can seriously harm, or even kill your sundew!

Most arctic and temperate sundews require anywhere from three to six months of dormancy. If you own a sundew plant that’s supposed to go dormant but can’t seem to grow dormancy buds, try to expose it to colder temperatures. It can help kickstart the process.

Is My Sundew Dead Or Dormant?

It can be tricky to figure out if your sundew died when dormancy could be a possibility. After all, both states tend to look pretty lifeless. Dormant sundews normally have “winter blooms” that pop up prior to wilting and will still have lively crowns during dormancy. 

Obviously, if you own a tropical sundew or a temperate plant that doesn’t undergo dormancy, a wilting plant is a sign of death. With temperate and arctic sundews, though, the answer is a little bit more complex. It all has to do with the signs of life your plant’s showing. 

Take a closer look at your sundew, and try to seek out any sign of life. If you notice even a little bit of greenery, chances are that your sundew is probably dormant. When in doubt, asking a local plant expert can offer insight on your plant’s health—and whether it’s possible to nurse your plant back to life. 

If your plant isn’t looking too good, don’t get too discouraged. These things happen, and in most cases, it really isn’t as serious as it looks. Even if your sundew isn’t looking very lively, chances are high that your sundew is totally fine. Sundews have a reputation of being fairly hardy and for “rising from the dead” after particularly rough years.