Sundew (Drosera Spp.) Care

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Cape Sundew (Drosera capensis)
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Cape Sundew (Drosera capensis)

Introduction

The Sundews ( Drosera Spp.) have evolved to live within acidic and nutrient poor soil, obtaining nutrients in the form of the insects they capture, using the sticky mucilage present on the leaves, which also contains the digestive fluid used to break down the insect. These plants are often grown by enthusiasts due to the ease of their care and their appearance, and will thrive as long as a basic set of conditions are met. This guide is applicable to the species currently that I currently cultivate and sell, although this may not be suitable for more unusual species, such as the king Sundew ( Drosera regia), and if followed should provide a good basis of care for all of the most commonly kept species.
Cape Sundew (Drosera capensis) in a watering tray
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Cape Sundew (Drosera capensis) in a watering tray

Watering

Water that is under 50ppm of dissolved solids should be used, and this includes both purified water, such as de-ionized and reverse osmosis water that is commonly available, and rainwater. The majority of tap water is unsuitable and will quickly cause the health of the plant to deteriorate, as will liquid fertilisers. The pots should be kept constantly damp, and preferably kept in a water tray with around 1-2 inches of water, to keep the soil similar to the boggy habitat this genus usually grows in, so the soil is constantly wet. An example of a watering tray is shown to the right of this paragraph.

1:1 peat perlite mix used for carnivorous plants
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1:1 peat perlite mix used for carnivorous plants

Soil

The soil requirements of sundews and other carnivorous plants are often counterintuitive, as they require nutrient poor soil, similar to that of their natural habitat. The most commonly used mix, and that preferred for my collection, is a 1:1 mix of peat and perlite by volume, as this mix allows for very damp but also well drained and aerated soil, ensuring good root health. Another commonly used medium is either live or chopped long fibre sphagnum moss, which provides similar conditions to those of the peat perlite mix, although the mix used is based on personal preference and the slightly different growing conditions used by everyone who keeps these plants, although the plants should grow well in either mix. Whichever mix is used should have carefully selected components, as the manufacturers will often add things such as fertilisers that should be avoided.
Carnivorous plants growing under plant lights
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Carnivorous plants growing under plant lights

Light and Temperature

The plants should be put in their pot in a sunny windowsill, and provided with as much light as possible. Supplemental light in the form of either a warm white bulb or dedicated grow bulb may be required if the plant stops producing dew and looks unhealthy. The plants should also be protected from freezing temperature and frost, and will do well at room temperature.
image showing detritus and some small insects in sundew traps
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image showing detritus and some small insects in sundew traps

Feeding

Feeding is often not essential, and if kept in a greenhouse will often catch enough small insects to grow well. Food can be provided in a couple of ways, with the most common being prey provided in the form of insects, which can be bought commercially as fish feed, such as freeze dried bloodworms. These should be combined with the water used on the plant to rehydrate and then placed onto the dewy area of the leaf. Food can also be provided in the form of betta fish pellets, ground into a mash with a small amount of water and placed on the dewy area of the leaf. Feeding should only be done during periods of active growth and on healthy plants, as the plant utilises stored energy to digest the prey, and this may negatively impact weaker plants.

Drosera dielsiana that has budded off asexually with a mature plant producing a flower stalk
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Drosera dielsiana that has budded off asexually with a mature plant producing a flower stalk

Breeding

This genus can either reproduce in a vegetative fashion or a sexual fashion. The vegetative propagation of these plants will occur naturally under good growing conditions, and the plant will naturally produce smaller plants that will grow near the centre of the larger plants, often forming from the root of the larger plant. This means that over time the pot may become crowded and some will need to be placed in separate pots. These plants also produce flowers, allowing for sexual reproduction, and will self-pollinate, forming very small black seeds. 

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