Many tropical and Mexican butterworts experience a succulent phase, or what is often referred to as a dormancy period, hibernation, or winter rosette phase.

One thing to clarify up front is that the succulent phase isn’t a true dormancy or hibernation because the plants are still growing new leaves and many also flower during this time. So for consistency, we will use the term succulent phase, but know that these other terms are all referring to the same ideas below.


Identifying the succulent phase

The succulent phase of tropical and Mexican butterworts is characterized by smaller, thicker leaves compared to the larger, thinner leaves of plants in the carnivorous phase. Often leaves during this phase will have little to no dew.

Pinguicula cyclosecta
Pinguicula cyclosecta - Succulent Phase vs Carnivorous Phase
Succulent phase Carnivorous phase
Pinguicula colimensis
Pinguicula colimensis - Succulent Phase vs Carnivorous Phase
Succulent phase Carnivorous phase
Pinguicula parvifolia
Pinguicula parvifolia - Succulent Phase vs Carnivorous Phase
Succulent phase Carnivorous phase


A butterwort can also present a range of characteristics between the two phases. It may have both leaf types as it transitions from one phase to the other, or enter a semi-succulent phase. In this state, the plant isn’t quite as large as its full carnivorous form, but neither does it fully transition to a compact rosette. 

Pinguicula potosiensis

Pinguicula potosiensis in a semi-succulent phase with dew still on its leaves

Succulent phase timing


The succulent phase typically begins in late fall or early winter and ends in mid to late spring. Sometimes a plant may shift at other times of year too though, or stay in the succulent phase for a longer or shorter period of time. The individual plant, its age, and growing conditions can all have an impact on succulent phase timing.


Growing conditions during the succulent phase

The growing conditions to pay the most attention to when it comes to the succulent phase of tropical and Mexican butterworts are light and water.


Lower light levels are one of the main cues for the succulent phase. In natural sunlight, the shorter days that come with fall and winter will tell the plant it’s time to shift. If the plant grows under artificial lights, setting a grow light timer like this one to a 10-12 hour photoperiod for part of the year will mimic the shorter days of winter.

If you would like more info about lighting for carnivorous plants, you can check out our in depth article series here:


While keeping the soil consistently damp is ok during a butterwort’s carnivorous phase, it is better to keep it drier during the succulent phase. Wetter soil during the succulent phase carries a higher risk of causing crown rot.

Whether using the overhead or tray method, allowing the media to mostly dry out before watering again will help maintain appropriate moisture levels. Feeling the soil itself or weight of the pot are both helpful ways to tell when it’s time to add more water.

For more detailed information on watering butterworts in their carnivorous and succulent phases, watch our video:


Transitioning back to the carnivorous phase

Light again is one of the main ways to cue a butterwort to return to its carnivorous phase. In natural light, the longer days that come with spring and summer will tell the plant it’s time to shift. If growing under artificial lights, setting your grow light timer to a 14-15 hour photoperiod will mimic this change as well.

Once light cues have signaled a transition out of the succulent phase and carnivorous leaves begin to form, it’s ok to increase the amount of water again. 

Pinguicula gypsicola transitioning back to its carnivorous leaves

Pinguicula gypsicola transitioning back to its carnivorous leaves

Why not increase watering first? We usually recommend letting the plant lead when it comes to watering. Increasing watering as the first cue creates a higher risk of crown rot if the butterwort isn’t ready to transition yet. 

What if the light cue isn’t working? If a butterwort has been in the succulent phase for a few months and the light cue by itself doesn’t seem to be working, increasing the water slightly may help the plant shift. However, the soil should be only mildly dampened to reduce the risk of crown rot. 

Additional information

We hope you found this overview of the tropical and Mexican butterwort succulent phase helpful. For more information, check out our list of butterwort care guides too. Thank you for reading!