top of page

Maintaining Temperate Carnivorous Plants in Winter

Its that time of year again where many of our temperate carnivorous plants have died back for winter meaning bare looking growing spaces with little greenery. As we approach the new year, whilst we wait for Spring to come around once more, it is the time to look at carnivorous plant maintenance including cleaning, tidying, repotting, dividing and winter propagation.

My bare looking Sarracenia collection after most being cut back with only the Sarracenia leucophylla left
I often do many of my winter tasks after Christmas and just before the plants wake up once again although you can do most of them throughout the winter period when your plants are fully dormant. In this blog I will be detailing the basic maintenance I do during the winter as well as what to look out for in order to put your mind at ease if you have some winter worries for your plants.

If this is your first time keeping carnivorous plants through the winter time and your first time experiencing dormancy make sure to check out my previous blog on caring for carnivorous plants during dormancy and what to look out for here.

Cutting back

Sarracenia phyllodia
The first task as we approach winter is tidying the brown dying traps from the plants going dormant. By cutting back the dead and dying traps you avoid mold and botrytis forming which can harm or kill your plants, this is especially important in settings with limited ventilation such as a greenhouse if you keep the doors and windows shut during the winter. This die back is completely normal for temperate plants entering dormancy and they will often lose most if not all of their traps. With plants with pitchers such as Sarracenia you simply can cut down to the rhizome, take some secateurs and trip back all the dead traps. You may notice some Sarracenia plants have a flat green leaf, this is known as a phyllodia which is a non carnivorous leaf which is produced in winter in order for the plant to photosynthesize. You can either keep these on the plant or cut them off leaving just the rhizome of the plant. Similarly, if you have one good pitcher left on your plant that is only just starting to brown you can cut this off with the rest if you desire or leave it and cut it off later when it fully dies off.

(From left to right) Sarracenia 'Thomas' before being cut back and then after. Last image shows Sarracenia phyllodia.

My main Sarracenia collection before and after cutting back leaving the leucophylla behind

For plants such as temperate Drosera (sundews) and Dionaea (venus flytraps) and temperate Pinguicula (butterworts) you can tidy any of the dead or dying leaves often leaving behind the hibernacula (temperate Drosera and Pinguicula) or the remaining traps of the plant (Venus flytraps). These dead leaves can either be removed by hand or with some secateurs or small pruning snips due to their fleshy leaves which are easier to remove.

Venus flytraps in my outside bog barrel before and after cutting back

Drosera binata before and after being cut back and Drosera filiformis before and after being cut back


This time of year is a great time to get involved in winter propagation giving you something to look forward to in the next year.

Seed Sowing

Sarracenia seed sowing
Sarracenia seed sowing
First off is seed sowing and this is especially great for sowing Sarracenia and Darlingtonia seed which requires a stratification period. A stratification period is where the seeds need to experience a cold period in order for the waxy coating to be broken down so that the seeds can germinate successfully, there are two methods you use to do this, the fridge method and sowing directly in the greenhouse during the winter. Temperate Drosera and temperate Pinguicula seed also requires stratification but is best recommended sowing straight outside or in a greenhouse due to the how tiny the seed is however the fridge method can be used if this is not possible.

Check out my blog detailing both these methods and how you can sow Sarracenia seed here.

Other seed such as Dionaea and sub-tropical sundews can be sown in early Spring after frosts in order to get your growing season off with a burst of new plants.


Growing from gemmae has to be one of my favourite propagation methods, it is a super quick and easy method which can provide you with multiple plants quickly, what's not to love?

(Left to right) Gemmae on Drosera verrrucata. A selection of sown gemmae in the greenhouse. Gemmae beginning to form a new plant with root and new growth visible.

Gemmae is a small cellular bud which can be sown to make a new plant, it is a type of asexual propagation and is produced by both pygmy sundews and temperate Pinguicula. My favourite sundew group has to be that of pygmy sundews, they are the sparkling gems of plants which stand out in a collection due to their colours, shapes, sizes and stunning flowers during the growing season. I have since made it my mission to collect as many species of pygmy Drosera as possible which has allowed me to build quite a show of these tiny plants. The gemmae is produced later in the year when the temperate drops and there is a shorter photoperiod, the gemmae from these sundews also differs in size and can be super tiny so it is good to have a keen eye. Despite the potential sowing difficulties of these tiny plants it is super rewarding once they grow, if sown indoors then you will often see new plants develop after just a few weeks. Check out how to sow them here.

Temperate Pinguicula gemmae will often take longer on the other hand due to often being sown outside or in an unheated greenhouse, therefore not growing until Spring when the weather warms up. However once they begin growing they grow fast and you can have mature flowering plants in no time.

(Left to right) Old growth of Pinguicula grandiflora dying off revealing hibernacula and gemmae. Hibernacula and gemmae

Repotting and Dividing

Finally, one of the biggest operations which takes place in my greenhouse during the winter is that of repotting and dividing the plants. Temperate plants are best repotted in winter so not to disturb an actively growing plant and also it is often easier as large traps are cut back so not to get in your way.

When deciding to repot I often judge by how big the rhizome is (if the plant has one) or how much the plant has filled the pot. For Sarracenia they can often break or bend pots due to their large strong rhizomes so are often the easiest to tell when they want a repot. With flytrap I often wait until the plant has filled it's current pot or when it needs to be split as many plants have formed, similar to how I also judge my other plants. When repotting I will often select the next size pot from which the plant is currently in, however with large rhizomes I have advanced to a large pot in order to let the plant spread and become a specimen piece.

Misshapen pot where Sarracenia rhizome has outgrown it and different pot selection

Dividing up a clump of venus flytrap seedlings from a pot and looking at a healthy rhizome

Dividing is simply dividing up your adult plant and taking the smaller/ additional plants and potting them up separately allowing you to have multiple of that plant. Some plants divide quickly giving you an endless supply of new plants year on year where some will take several years just to give you one small division but I do find it super exciting when one of the plants you've been waiting to divide finally do so, especially the rare ones.

Dividing a large Sarracenia alata black tube into two and repotting separately

Winter is probably the most maintenance my plants see in a year, as other than watering and cutting back odd die backs and a couple of repots of sub-tropical/tropical pots, most of the action happens in winter. It is just a shame it is cold and often unpleasant to be outside. However if you brave the cold and get your winter jobs done you will be thankful you did when you can see the beautiful displays of your plants in the growing season!

Looking forward to what this growing season brings!

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page