Carnivorous Plants/VFT bulbs


Hello Christopher!

I have a question regarding two VFT bulbs that I bought on clearance from Lowe's about three weeks ago.  They were part of this kit for growing carnivorous plants that included NA pitcher plants.  To my surprise, the pitchers had already sprouted despite the bulbs being inside sealed, plastic bags.  I moved those two into pots right away, and one of them is showing clear signs of dormancy (a broad leaf is forming).  The VFT bulbs, however, show no sign of sprouting within the sealed bags.  My question is this: should I transfer those VFT bulbs into a pot now, or should I wait until late February when they naturally begin their growth cycle? I'm afraid that planting them now might put the plants in shock if they happen to be dormant.  I would really appreciate your advice!

PS: I live in a part of Southern California that gets plenty of sun during the day, but temperatures fall to 55 F late at night.

Hello Lew,

When plants go dormant, they often keep some of their leaves. What you experienced with the pitcher plants (Sarracenias) was that some of the leaves were left intact by the grower before the plants were placed in dormancy. When I prepare my pitcher plants for dormancy, I often clip most of their leaves down to a few inches of ground level and leave a few of the young pitchers for next year. They slow in growth during dormancy.

Yes, you should pot your plants now and just keep them cold until spring. I place mine in an ice chest with ice water bottles or cold packs and just replace the packs every 12 hours to keep the interior down below 60 degrees. Optimally, you would want the temperature around 40-50 inside the ice chest. Water them enough to keep their soil moist and place some damp paper towels under the pots to ensure some moisture for a few days at least. I find the condensation keeps them moist most of winter, but add some water when necessary. I open the ice chest by day to provide air and light, which reduces mold and varies the temperature a bit. By night I close the ice chest to hold cold air in. Over the last six to seven years since I have placed my plants in dormancy this way I have never encountered mold and the plants do well each year. Refrigerators do not provide light and can dry plants out and breed mold too easily. The temperature outside in your region may be a bit too mild for plants that prefer deeper dormancy like Venus Flytraps and most North American Pitcher Plants (Sarracenias).

Most plants are a bit insensate when dormant. Shock is reduced. Repotting and moving them around is best done when they are dormant. It is best to have them potted through dormancy so that they can be monitored for water use, light, and such. They do not really need much light when dormant, but they do much better with a shot of light on occasion since it reduces mold.

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Christopher Littrell


I am capable of answering questions about the most common carnivorous plants found in cultivation. I have no personal experience with Byblis, Drosophyllum, Aldrovanda, and Heliamphora. I have not cultivated gemmae forming pygmy sundews nor tuberous sundews. For information regarding those aforementioned species, I would suggest contacting other experts. I can answer questions regarding most species of Nepenthes, tropical and temperate Drosera, Mexican Pinguicula, Sarracenias, and Dionaea. I have some limited experience with growing Utricularia, Cephalotus, and Darlingtonia.


I have grown carnivorous plants off and on for about 27 years. I have made the same mistakes and suffered the same mishaps that many growers make as they attempt to separate the myths from the realities of growing these plants. Currently, I am successfully growing a variety of tropical sundews, a Nepenthes, several Venus Flytraps of varying ages, and Sarracenias. I have been successful in stratifying Sarracenia seeds and providing artificial dormancy requirements for my temperate plants when needed.

I hold a Master's degree in Educational Psychology. Over my lifetime, I have constantly read books involving the growing conditions of carnivorous plants. I hope to incorporate the educational aspects involved in psychology with teaching other people how to cultivate carnivorous plants.

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