Is My Venus Flytrap Dead or Just Dormant? How to Tell the Difference

I’ve had my Venus flytrap plant for about a year now and it’s been such a fun and unique houseplant to care for. But every year when winter rolls around I start to get a little worried that my flytrap is dying when its leaves start to turn black and droop.

After doing some research and learning more about the Venus flytrap’s natural cycle, I realized this is actually normal! Flytraps go dormant in the winter just like other plants, so their leaves will die back before growing again in spring.

However, it can be tricky to tell whether your Venus flytrap is truly dead or just going dormant. In this article, I’ll go over the signs of dormancy versus death in Venus flytraps and give tips on how to revive your plant if it starts declining.

How Venus Flytraps Go Dormant

Venus flytraps are native to the bogs and swamps of North and South Carolina where winters are mild but still cool enough for the plants to go dormant. Dormancy is an essential part of the flytrap’s natural cycle that allows it to conserve energy and survive cold weather or drought.

Here’s what happens when a Venus flytrap goes dormant:

  • The traps stop closing – This is because the plant is not actively feeding during dormancy and wants to conserve energy.

  • Leaves turn black and die – Flytraps shed their leaves in winter and regrow new ones in spring. Old leaves turning black is normal dormancy behavior.

  • Growth slows down – The plant focuses its energy on its roots and rhizome rather than leaves during this time.

  • Flowers may bloom – Some flytraps produce flowers before or during dormancy. This is also natural!

Dormancy typically lasts 3-4 months, from late fall through winter. As long as the rhizome (underground stem) remains firm and healthy, your Venus flytrap should come back to life when conditions improve in spring.

Signs Your Venus Flytrap is Dying

While dormancy can look troubling, a Venus flytrap entering true death and decline exhibits some telltale signs. Here are the main things that indicate your flytrap may be dying:

  • Leaves are slimy or mushy – If leaves feel mushy or waterlogged instead of just crispy and dry, that’s a red flag.

  • Rhizome is black, soft, or rotten – A healthy dormant flytrap will have a firm, pale rhizome. Black, mushy rhizomes mean rot and death.

  • Entire plant collapses – If the whole plant turns to mush quickly, leaving nothing intact, it’s likely a goner.

  • No new growth in spring – If your flytrap shows no signs of new leaves after 3-4 months of dormancy, it may have died over winter.

  • Lingering dead leaves from previous season – Flytraps should shed all old leaves before going dormant. Leaves remaining from last year signal a problem.

  • Pale, stretched out new growth – Weak, deformed spring growth can mean the plant is stressed and dying. Healthy new leaves will be short, red, and sturdy.

If you notice any of these warning signs, don’t lose hope! There are still ways you may be able to revive your Venus flytrap.

How to Revive a Declining Venus Flytrap

If you suspect your dormant flytrap is dying or notice signs of ill health in spring, take action right away. Here are some tips to rehabilitate and revive a struggling Venus flytrap:

Cut Away Dead Growth

Prune off any black or mushy leaves and rhizome parts to prevent rot from spreading. Use clean, sterilized shears to remove dead tissue.

Repot in Fresh Soil

Gently wash the roots and repot the flytrap in new sterile potting mix, like a peat and perlite blend. This gives fresh nutrients and prevents further root rot.

Give More Sunlight

Flytraps need at least 4 hours of direct sun daily to thrive. Slowly acclimate to more light if possible, and supplement with a grow light.

Alter Watering Habits

Soak the pot whenever the soil is dry to prevent wilting. Or reduce water if the rhizome feels mushy from overwatering.

Apply a Fertilizer Soak

Soak the plant in distilled water mixed with a 1/4 strength balanced fertilizer to perk it up with nutrients. Rinse after 12 hours.

Be Patient in Spring

Give the flytrap 6 weeks after dormancy before assuming it’s dead. It may just be slow to wake up and produce new growth.

With quick action and adjusted care, you can nurse struggling flytraps back to health. Just stick with it and don’t give up too soon! Venus flytraps are resilient plants when cared for properly.

Ideal Care for a Healthy Venus Flytrap

Prevention is also key to keep your flytrap thriving year-round. Here are some tips for ideal Venus flytrap care:

  • Grow in a pot with drainage holes, in a peaty potting mix.

  • Water with distilled or rain water only – no tap water!

  • Give at least 4 hours of direct sun daily. Slowly increase light in spring to acclimate.

  • Keep humidity around 60% and temperatures between 60-80°F.

  • Let the soil dry out between waterings; water when top inch is dry.

  • Feed traps live insects 1-2 times per month for nutrition.

  • Trigger traps yourself if needed so they don’t close on dead leaves.

  • Allow dormancy in winter with lower light and less frequent watering.

  • Repot every 2-3 years in fresh soil and prune back rhizome and roots.

Follow these Venus flytrap care guidelines, and your plant is much more likely to stay happy and healthy all year round!

FAQs About Venus Flytraps Dying or Going Dormant

Here are answers to some common questions about telling the difference between dormancy and death in Venus flytraps:

How long can Venus flytraps go without food or closing?

During dormancy, flytraps may go 4-5 months without trapping insects or closing their leaves. As long as the rhizome is firm, it’s fine for traps to remain open all winter while dormant.

Should I cut off the dead leaves on my Venus flytrap in winter?

It’s best to leave dead leaves attached through dormancy, unless they become mushy or start rotting. The plant will naturally shed its old leaves once new growth emerges in spring.

Can Venus flytraps survive if all their leaves die back?

Yes, as long as the rhizome stays healthy, the Venus flytrap can regrow all new leaves after dormancy. The rhizome contains stored energy reserves for regrowth.

How do Venus flytraps come out of dormancy in spring?

In spring, Venus flytraps will send up new short, red tooth-edged leaves. Traps will begin closing on insects again as well. Growth and water needs increase.

How long does it take for dormant Venus flytraps to show new growth?

Flytraps should show new leaf growth within 4-6 weeks after the spring equinox. Some may take up to 2 months if conditions are still cool and gloomy.

When should I give up on a Venus flytrap that won’t revive?

It’s best to wait at least 6-8 weeks after dormancy before assuming your flytrap has died. However, if the rhizome is black and rotten, survival is very unlikely.

Knowing what signs to look for can help you determine whether your Venus flytrap is just dormant or in danger of dying. With the right adjustments to its care, most struggling flytraps can bounce back and thrive once again! Just stay observant and attentive to your plant’s needs throughout every season.

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