Last Updated: November 6, 2017

Definition - What does Dormancy mean?

Dormancy refers to a period in a plant’s life cycle when the plant enters a period of rest. Most plants enter dormancy during the cold winter months. The plant must have a period of rest in order to regrow the following year.

Some plant species also enter a state of dormancy during excessive heat or periods of drought. During heat and drought, a plant will start to shed its leaves to conserve valuable water and energy.

Trees, especially fruit trees, are good examples of plants that rely on dormancy periods.

MaximumYield explains Dormancy

Many trees require a period of dormancy and cold exposure before they can resume new growth. Fruit trees such as apples must have specific periods of cold during dormancy in order to produce fruit the following season.

Dormancy naturally occurs when the days start getting shorter. The period of nighttime darkness outweighs the period of daytime daylight. A plant is able to sense the lack of sunlight and this spurs the plant’s system to start entering dormancy. The tree, shrub, or plant will cease producing new growth and start to shed its foliage.

Cooler temperatures further push the plant into dormancy. Although a plant’s top growth is dormant, its roots still continue to survive and even grow.

When the weather begins to warm and the soil temperature rises a plant starts to break dormancy. This also occurs when the days start to get longer and there is a greater period of sunlight.

This definition was written in the context of Horticulture
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