Image by Orin Zebest
By Bonnie L. Grant
Sundews (Drosera spp.) are carnivorous plants with an ingenious way to catch their prey. Carnivorous sundew plants have sticky pads that trap insects. The plants are also attractive, often brightly colored rosettes. Growing sundews is common in terrariums or other warm, moist areas that mimic their natural bog habitat. A few tips on how to care for a sundew will have you on your way to enjoying this fascinating plant.
Sundew Plant Information
There are over 90 species of sundew. The majority are found in Australia and South Africa, but they also grow in hot, humid areas of Georgia, Florida and other similar climates. The plants prefer acidic soils and are usually where there is a bog or marsh and often grow on top of sphagnum moss. Sundews are in the genera Drosera and common varieties are often seen in houseplant stores.
Sundew plant information wouldn’t be complete without explaining the trap mechanism. The plant has tiny arms or stems covered at the tips with sticky filaments. These filaments secrete a substance that will not only catch small prey but will also digest them. The arms fold in to hold the insect for four to six days until it is completely digested.
Whether you grow them indoors or out, carnivorous sundew plants are excellent for controlling gnats and other tiny insects. Sundew plants thrive as potted plants in a mixture of sphagnum moss and vermiculite or perlite. The pot must be kept constantly moist and an atmosphere of humidity is best for maximum growth.
Carnivorous sundew plants need warm temperatures and moist conditions. Outdoor plants do well when planted near a water feature or even in soggy soil. When growing sundews outdoors, till soil completely and mix in sphagnum moss to increase the acidity. Full sun situations suit the plant best, but you can also grow them in dappled light.
How to Care for a Sundew
Potted plants do not need fertilizer but do require either distilled or rainwater, as they are not tolerant of high levels of minerals.
Provide a humidity level of 40 to 60 percent. This is easy to do by setting a saucer filled with small pebbles under the plant and filling it with water. The evaporation will help moisten the ambient air.
Cut off spent stems and leaves as they occur. Transplant them when they outgrow their pots.
There are some varieties of Drosera that are more hardy than others. Check with your extension office for plant recommendations for your area. Follow the instructions on how to care for a sundew and grow a fascinating and useful plant in the garden.