As part of our feature series, Plant Parent Basics, in this article you will learn about the plant process known as dormancy.
What is dormancy?
Nearly all house plants need a dormant or resting period during the year, generally in the winter. Some plants show dormancy more obviously than others by significant leaf fall and their top growth dying down. It is easy to think that your plant is dead, but rest assured (no pun intended), your plant is just taking a much needed vacation.
Simply put, plants go into dormancy because during the winter there is too little natural light to support active growth. You can avoid this by using grow lights, but that is not recommended. Plants really do need a time of rest.
When will my plant go into dormancy?
The vast majority of plants go into dormancy in the winter. This does not mean they are dead. It just requires a little patience and restraint of watering can to get through.
Evergreen house plants have little to no indication that a period of rest is needed. They stay “ever green”. That does not mean they do not need a resting period. We usually let our tropical/foliage house plants rest between Christmas and St. Patrick’s day.
Note: There are several genera of forest cacti that are not dormant in winter, such as the Christmas cactus. They actually bloom in winter and thus need to be feed during that active growth.
How do I take care of my plant during dormancy?
There are 3 essential things you need to do to take care of a plant during dormancy:
Reduce temperature by no more than 7-10 degrees
Reduce watering (once every two weeks for tropicals, once a month for cacti and succulents)
Do not feed your plant during inactive growing