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Sundew (Drosera) Drosera Leaf Thumbnail Drosera Thumbnail Drosera Flower Thumbnail


Sundews are found throughout the world and offer a wide variety of size and shape. Many also have attractive flowers.
The sundews belong to the 'fly-paper' group of carnivorous plants. This group have sticky leaves which catch and digest insects which are unlucky enough to land on them.
The sundews are found in many damp places, peat bogs, swamps or in grassland.

How it works

The leaves of sundews can be long and thin or rounded. Most follow the semi-active rules in that the leaves can move somewhat to fully capture the insect. Movement is usually restricted to the curling up of the leaf to increase the surface area of the leaf against the prey.
An insect landing on a leaf will become stuck on the glands which stick outwards from the leaves. Once caught, the insect will be digested by the digestion glands, situated mainly along the centre of the leaf, over a period of a day or so.
Mainly the prey consists of small flying insects.

The Lifecycle of the Sundew

As with most other carnivorous plants, the sundew needs a time of winter rest, where the soil is allowed to dampen slightly. For the rest of the year, the plant needs to be kept standing in soft water.
Leaf production is slow over the winter period and leaf length is reasonable short.
However, as the temperature starts to rise and spring arrives, the leaves start to grow faster and longer, perhaps reaching 4 inches for Drosera capensis.
The flowers are produced on long stems, like most carnivorous plants, and the small but colourfull flower heads open for a short time before drying out and dying. Not before the next flower head has opened, however.
The outer leaves gradually dry out and can be removed by cutting them off.

How and where to grow them

  • Grow the plant in the normal type of carnivorous plant soil, peat / sphagnum moss / sand.
  • Keep the plant standing in soft water (rain water normally) throughout the year, only letting the soil dry out slightly during the winter.
  • Remove any leaves which turn brown and dry up.
  • Feeding can be achieved by dropping any small insect, alive or dead, straight onto the leaves.
  • Stand the plant in full sun, if possible, to promote active growth.
  • For Drosera capensis which is one of the more common type, the temperature should be kept above 2'C
  • Reproduction can be achieved by simply picking out the small off shoots from the main plant which appear from time to time

What I am growing

I have these types of sundew,

  • D. aliciae. This is a rosette shaped sundew, quite flat - only reaching an inch or so in height. Glands are all over the leaves which unfurl from the centre as the onter leaves die off around the edges. The glands have a slight red tint to them. Flowers are a pink colour and are produced on tall stems throughout the summer. I've had trouble with these plants not surviving the winter dormancy period. Indeed my current plant is the third pot that I've bought (let's hope it will survive this winter).
  • D. capensis 'Alba'. This plant is about 1 1/2 years old now and flowers freely throughout the summer and is still flowering now (September). This version of capensis has a white flower which grows along a tall stem - mine regularly reach 7 or 8 inches in height. The stems are about 3 to 4 inches in length and stand half upright. Only at the end of the stem, say the last inch, is there and sticky glands. These glands are a clear / white colour. You can almost see the tips of the leaves roll over on themselves when an insect has been caught.
  • D. adelae. This is a new plant to me, just a few months old now. It's leaves are a lot thicker than capensis and they are covered in reddish glands all the way down the stem like aliciae but it is not a rousette type plant. I'm unsure of the flower colour, since it has not flowered for me yet.
  • D. binata. Bought during 1999. This plant originates from Australia. At the end of the long thin stems are a set of sticky liaves which form a shape like a letter 'H'. It is quite quick to grow and has done well catching the smaller insects. These were bought late in the summer, so I've no idea about flowers yet.

1998 update

I had a couple of plants flower this year. So I let the flowers dry out and have collected what I think are seeds. These seeds are tiny and liable to blow away at the slightest breeze! I have a terrarium (an old fish tank actually!) that's full of spaghnum moss compost from the garden centre, so I've sprinkled the seeds onto the soil. I'll keep it damp and covered and see what comes up.

1999 update

This year I stumbled upon the Giant forked-leaved Sundew Drosera binata and have had two so far. I find these very easy to grow and grow they certainly do! The small pot of plants are producing lits of leaves that flop over the side of the pot or wave upright into the air. The ends or the stems have a single cross of sticky leaves in the shape of a big letter 'H'.

Written by SteveC