Is your plant entering a dormant stage? How to tell and what to do next


Winter is here, and with the colder weather comes a natural phenomenon known as dormancy. Understanding how plants go dormant and what it means for their growth is essential for all gardeners. Whether you have perennials in your garden or potted plants inside your home, knowing the signs of dormancy and how to properly care for your plants during this period is crucial.

Dormancy is a natural survival mechanism that plants go through when the temperatures drop and the days become shorter. It is a period of rest and conservation of energy for plants, allowing them to endure the harsh winter months. During dormancy, plants slow down their metabolic functions and stop growing. It’s like they are hibernating, waiting for the return of warmer weather and longer days.

There are different types of dormancy that plants can go through, including eco-dormancy and endo-dormancy. Eco-dormancy occurs when the external environmental conditions, such as temperature and light, trigger the plant to go dormant. On the other hand, endo-dormancy is an internal mechanism regulated by the plant’s hormones, regardless of the external conditions.

So, how can you tell if your plant is going dormant? Look out for signs such as leaves turning yellow and dropping, slower growth, and a decrease in water consumption. These are all indications that your plant is preparing for dormancy and conserving energy. It’s important not to force your plant to continue growing during this period but instead, let it naturally go dormant.

While some plants go dormant completely, others may only experience partial dormancy. For example, deciduous trees shed their leaves and enter a period of winter dormancy, while evergreen trees may slow down their growth but still remain green throughout the year. Understanding the specific dormancy patterns of your plants will help you provide the proper care they need during this time.

Once your plant enters dormancy, there are a few things you can do to help it acclimate to the winter conditions. If your plant is potted and will be staying indoors, move it away from drafts and provide it with adequate light. If you’re planting bulbs or corms in your garden, January is often the best time to start. Be sure to water them well before planting, as they may have lost some moisture during dormancy.

Remember, dormancy is a natural and necessary part of a plant’s life cycle. It’s a time for plants to rest and conserve energy so they can grow and thrive when the weather warms up. By understanding the signs and needs of dormancy, you can ensure your plants come back stronger and more vibrant in the spring.

Source: Articles from MSU (Michigan State University)

What To Do With Your Dormant Plants

When your plant goes dormant, it may seem like it has lost all signs of life. However, this is actually a natural process that many plants go through to conserve energy during colder periods of the year.

Dormancy is a period where the plant slows down its growth and enters a resting phase. The leaves may fall off, and the plant may appear lifeless. This is especially common in perennial plants, which go dormant in response to changes in weather and climate.

So, what should you do with your dormant plants? Here are some tips:

  1. Water your dormant plants less frequently. Since they are not actively growing, they require less water. Be careful not to overwater them, as excess moisture can lead to root rot.
  2. Move your potted dormant plants indoors. If temperatures drop below freezing, it’s best to bring your plants inside to protect them from frost. Place them in a cool, dry area with indirect light.
  3. Don’t feed your dormant plants. Since they are not actively growing, they do not require additional nutrients. Save the fertilization for when they start to grow again in the spring.
  4. Give them a good rest. Dormancy allows plants to acclimate to the harsh winter conditions. Avoid moving or disturbing them during this period.
  5. Be patient. Dormancy can last for several weeks or even months, depending on the plant and the climate. Don’t be alarmed if your plant takes longer to start growing again.

In some cases, you may want to provide extra care to help revive your dormant plants. Here are some signs that your plant may need a little extra attention:

  • If the plant has been dormant for an unusually long period of time, it may need assistance in waking up.
  • If the plant has lost all its leaves and shows no signs of new growth, it may benefit from some light pruning or trimming.
  • If the plant looks unhealthy or shows signs of disease or pest infestation, it may need some additional treatment.

Remember, dormancy is a natural part of a plant’s life cycle, and it’s important to respect this period. By providing the right conditions and care, you can help your dormant plants thrive when the warmer seasons arrive.


– “The Science of Dormancy” by Laura Barrera, Extension Blog

Is your plant going dormant

Perennial plants often go dormant in the garden. Dormancy is a natural process that plants go through, especially during the colder months. When a plant goes dormant, it slows down or stops its growth. This is often signaled by the leaves turning brown and falling off.

During dormancy, the plant conserves its energy and prepares for the next growing season. Some plants, like deciduous trees, drop their leaves and go into a deep sleep. Others, like corms and bulbs, retreat underground until the weather warms up.

It’s important to understand that dormancy is a necessary part of a plant’s life cycle. Without this period of rest, the plant may not have enough energy to survive the harsh winter or may not bloom as vigorously in the following seasons.

In most cases, you don’t need to do anything special when your plant goes dormant. Simply water it less frequently and stop feeding it with fertilizer. It’s also a good idea to remove any dead or dying leaves to prevent the spread of diseases.

If you’re unsure whether your plant is going dormant or if it’s experiencing other issues, you can consult gardening articles or contact your local extension office for guidance. They can provide you with more information on the specific needs of your plant during its dormant period.

Understanding dormancy is important because it helps you know what to expect from your plants and how to care for them accordingly. So, if you notice signs of dormancy, don’t panic. It’s just a natural part of your plant’s life cycle.

Now that you know what happens when plants go dormant, you can better prepare for each season and provide the care needed for your garden. Remember, even though your plants may look lifeless, they’re just resting and conserving their energy for the next growing period.

So, put on your gardening gloves and get ready to welcome a new season once your plants rise from dormancy!


Understanding why your plant has lost its leaves can help you identify the underlying issue and take appropriate action. There are several possible reasons for this, including:

1. Dormancy: Many plants, especially those grown outdoors, go through periods of dormancy during colder months. This is a natural process where the plant conserves energy and slows down its growth. Dormancy can be triggered by factors such as shorter daylight hours, colder temperatures, and frost. During this period, the plant may shed its leaves as it prepares for the winter.

2. Eco-dormancy: Some plants, like certain trees and corms, go through a different type of dormancy called eco-dormancy. This is when the plant goes dormant in response to changes in its environment, such as extreme heat or drought. Eco-dormancy is often seen in desert plants or those native to regions with seasonal variations in climate.

3. Lack of light: If your plant is not receiving enough light, it may lose its leaves. Light is essential for photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert sunlight into energy. If there is not enough light available, the plant may not be able to produce enough energy to sustain its leaves.

4. Lack of water: Plants need water to survive, and if they do not receive enough, they may shed their leaves as a way to conserve water. It is important to water your plant regularly, especially during dry periods.

5. Nutritional issues: If your plant is not getting enough nutrients, it may lose its leaves. Proper feeding is important for the overall health of the plant and its ability to sustain leaf growth.

If your plant has lost its leaves, it is important to assess the current conditions and provide the necessary care. Be patient and monitor the plant’s progress. In some cases, the plant may begin to revive as the weather gets warmer or if it receives proper care. If you are unsure about the specific needs of your plant, consult a gardening expert or extension service for guidance.


When your plant is going dormant, there are several signs to look out for. One of the first signs is that the leaves start to turn a darker shade of green and may begin to droop or wilt. This is because the plant is conserving energy and using less water during this period.

In deciduous plants, the leaves may start to change color between the months of September and January. This is a natural process that signals the plant will soon enter dormancy. As the weather gets colder, the leaves will begin to fall off completely.

For potted houseplants, you may notice that the growth of new leaves slows down or stops altogether. This is a clear indication that the plant is going dormant and should not be encouraged to grow with extra water or fertilizer.

Certain plants, such as corms or bulbs, will naturally go dormant after they have finished blooming. This is a normal part of their growth cycle and is necessary for them to conserve energy for the next growing season.

Dormancy is a crucial period for plants, as it allows them to acclimate to the colder weather and survive the harsh conditions of winter. Understanding the signs of dormancy can help gardeners make informed decisions about when to stop watering and fertilizing their plants.

Some plants may enter a period of eco-dormancy, which occurs when the weather becomes too extreme for them to grow. This is commonly seen in regions with hot summers or freezing winters. During this time, the plant may appear dead, but it is actually just conserving energy until the weather becomes milder.

It is important to note that not all plants go dormant in the same way or for the same length of time. Some may only go dormant for a few weeks, while others may remain dormant for several months. Understanding the specific dormancy patterns of your plants is essential for their overall health and longevity.

If you notice any of these signs, it is a good idea to consult related articles or resources from MSU Extension or other trusted sources. They can provide more information on how to care for your plants during their dormant period and when to expect them to start growing again.


Now that your plant has gone dormant, there are a few things you can do to ensure its health during this period.

If you have an annual plant, which is a plant that completes its life cycle in one year, you can simply remove them from your garden and dispose of them. These plants are not meant to survive the winter, so there is no need to try to keep them alive.

For perennial plants, such as trees and corms, which go through a period of dormancy each year, you will need to provide them with the proper care to help them survive the winter. This period of dormancy is a natural part of their life cycle, and it is necessary for the plant’s survival.

One important thing to remember is that during dormancy, plants do not require as much water as they do during the growing seasons. Watering your dormant plants excessively can actually be harmful, as the excess water can cause root rot or other issues. It’s important to only water them when needed and allow the soil to dry out between waterings.

In addition to conserving water, you can also conserve energy by not feeding your dormant plants. As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, plants naturally begin to slow down their growth. Feeding them during this time can actually interrupt their natural cycle and cause issues.

If you have potted houseplants, you may want to acclimate them to the colder temperatures. You can do this by gradually moving them to a cooler location, such as a basement or garage. This will help them adjust to the lower temperatures and prevent shock.

It’s also a good idea to take this time to inspect your plants for any signs of disease or pests. Look for leaves that may be discolored or have spots, and check for any insects or eggs on the stems or leaves. If you find any issues, take the necessary steps to treat them before the plant comes out of dormancy.

Once the winter weather has passed and the days start to get longer, your plants will begin to come out of dormancy. At this point, you can start to slowly increase watering and feeding to support their growth.

Remember that each plant is unique and may have different needs during dormancy. It’s always a good idea to do some research on the specific plant you have to ensure you are providing the proper care.

In summary, understanding dormancy is key to keeping your plants healthy throughout the winter season. By following these tips, you can help your dormant plants conserve energy and water, and ensure they revive and grow come springtime.

Source: MSU Extension

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.