Carnivorous Plants for Beginners: Unkillable Sundews!

I realize carnivorous plants seem daunting and difficult to those who aren’t familiar with them, and some are! I’ve accepted there are are some plants I will only admire from afar, because I don’t want to deal with everything they need. But there are also plants that are ridiculously, and I MEAN RIDICULOUSLY! easy to care for. If you’re afraid of killing everything you touch and want to start with the super-basics, read on to learn all about one of the one of the best carnivorous plants for beginners!

Cape Sundews

Drosera CapensisCape sundews (drosera capensis) are so easy to grow, they are often considered a weed in many collections. In New Zealand, they are even considered an invasive species. These sundews are native to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, and are considered a tropical plant. However, many growers (myself included) have successfully grown cape sundews alongside temperate Venus Flytraps and American pitcher plants outside year round. (Read the difference between tropical and temperate here.)

Where I live, winter lows occasionally get into the 20s F (around -4 C). The Venus Flytraps and Sarracenia can handle this no problem. Any sundews living among them die back completely in the winter, to the point where you’d think they’ve been killed for good. But time and time again, I see tiny points of new growth in early spring and I have a full, lush Cape Sundew plant again in the summer! I’m sure longer, harder freezes will kill a sundew off eventually, but they are definitely hardy to my California winters.

But since Cape Sundews don’t need a dormancy period, you can also keep them inside on a sunny windowsill to enjoy their beauty all year long. This is definitely #1 of the carnivorous plants for beginners in terms of adaptability. I don’t know of any other easy growing plants that equally survive below-freezing temperatures and indoor environments long-term. Where you put them is completely up to you, and they will most likely thrive.

Sundew Drosera Capensis Alba
Albino Cape Sundew. D. capensis “alba”

Cape sundews are available in a few different forms, and all are equally easy to care for. There is the typical D. capensis with green stalks and red dew drops. There is also an “all-red” form, in which the whole plant turns red in bright sunlight, and an “albino” form, which has white dew drops and flowers. Cape sundews are also available in wide-leaf or narrow-leaf form.

You’ll need to water your sundews frequently to keep the soil from drying out. However, it is practically impossible to over-water sundews. They are perfectly happy in wet, waterlogged soil, and you can fill their watering tray once a day or whenever it runs out. That is essentially all the maintenance they need. Remember to use distilled or reverse osmosis water!

Buy a Cape Sundew here! 

Some us also really enjoy growing plants from seeds. Cape sundews are insanely easy to germinate from seed, and they grow quickly! Just sow them over a pot of moist  equal parts peat moss and perlite and set them in a window sill with bright, but indirect light. Spray gently with distilled water to keep the humidity up. Seeds are cheap and plentiful online. The seeds are extremely tiny though, like specks of dust! Just be careful when sprinkling them over your potting media.

Cape sundews are the prime example of carnivorous plants for beginners, but there are many tropical and temperate sundews which are just as easy to care for. Here’s a quick lists of some other types of sundews:

Tropical

  • Spoonleaf Sundew (drosera spatulata)
  • Fork-leafed Sundew (drosera binata) 
  • Lance-leafed Sundew (dosera adelae)

Temperate

  • Thread-leafed Sundew (drosera filiformis)
  • Oblong-leafed Sundew (drosera intermedia)
  • Round-leafed Sundew (drosera rotundifolia)

Sundews are the only genus of carnivorous plant found on every continent except Antarctica, so its no surprise they are extremely adaptable to all sorts of environments! Even if you try to kill them, you may not succeed! I can’t recommend sundews enough for new growers.  I hope this post put some fears at ease! ! Feel free to comment with any further questions or concerns!

29 comments

    • Maria says:

      I don’t have personal experience with either of those species, but they seem simple enough. They are native to the US and require dormancy. Always worth trying and learning!

  1. Paige says:

    Love this care guide, it has helped me a tremendous amount. I have a question though — I have my sundew indoors in a window that it seems to love being in, however it catches a LOT of gnats by itself and I’m afraid it might be overfeeding and using too much energy to break down the bugs. Should I be concerned, and maybe get a few more sundews to help out, or move my plant? I don’t want to be doing it harm.

    • Maria says:

      Hi Paige! If it’s catching gnats on its own, and still looks good (growing new leaves, lots of dew, etc) then it’s probably fine! Just be observant and if it looks like more leaves are dying that growing, then try moving it and see if it does better somewhere else. But sundews LOVE to eat, and they don’t spend as much energy digesting as much as Venus flytraps.

      I hope that was helpful and it continues growing well for you!

  2. robin says:

    if their that easy, if I get a pack of seeds and sprinkle them in my terrarium, should they grow? I use only peat moss and washed perlite in my tank. I really want some drosera capillaris. and typical red capensis.
    thank you.

    • Maria says:

      Yes, Robin they will grow! People joke all the time about accidentally brushing a flower stalk so that seeds scatter, and even accidentally sneezing, and within a few months they have sundew seedlings in tons of pots!

  3. Hayden says:

    Hi Maria! I recently moved to Alabama, and finally settled on planting some d. capillaris and d. tokaiensis. I originally had them in plastic bags with distilled water outside for the first week but I took them out of the bags since it would get pretty hot outside. At the moment I have them on a greenhouse shelf in an area where they get lots of direct sunlight, but I have not seen any germination, and it has been almost two weeks. Does the germination process take a while, or should I start over with new seed? Or should I switch to a fluorescent light setup indoors since winter is coming soon?

    • Maria says:

      Hi Hayden! I have no personal experience germinating either of those from seeds, so I’m not sure how long they take to germinate. D. capillaris is a North American sundew species, so its seed may need stratification before sowing.

      Have you measured the temperature of the soil? It shouldn’t be above 90 degrees, otherwise your seeds may have unfortunately cooked.

      Two weeks is still a short time when it comes to germinating carnivorous plant seeds. You may need to wait at least two more weeks, maybe a month before seeing anything. Patience is key! Good luck!

  4. Charl says:

    The perlite thing is over rated I think. Especially when it comes to the Cape sundew.

    I am from South Africa and have seen the sundew in it’s natural habbitat. They grow in natural mulch formed by mostly rotting leaves and moss. No aerating substances there. We plant them in a mixture of peat moss and silica sand and they grow like weeds. Perlite is really not needed.

    Just a comment on the climate where they occur in nature. It grows in high humidity areas where there is heavy dew fall most mornings keeping the growing medium moist. Temperature often drops to about 5 degrees below freezing during winter, and in summer it is not uncommon for temperatures to reach a high of around 30 degrees Celsius (centigrade) so the plants are well adapted to a wide range of temperatures.

    • Maria says:

      Thank you for the comment, Charl! I often suggest perlite because it’s often much easier found here in the US than silica sand. But yes, I agree with you it’s not completely necessary for cape sundews.

  5. Alex says:

    Hey Maria, I have a drosera capensis alba and I grow it outdoors, should I move it indoors because I heard that D.capensis should be grown indoors if you live in a dry environment ( like the desert I live in called Scottsdale, AZ ). Thank you for reading my question

    • Alex says:

      Also, I know it’s a stupid question, but should I also move my sarracenia ‘Judith hindle’ indoors because the weather is very dry?

      • Maria says:

        Hi Alex! Your Judith Hindle should be fine outside as long as you keep its soil.

        I’ve heard of people keeping sundews outside in Arizona too, so it’s really your judgement call. If it doesn’t make any dew, but still gets enough light and water, consider moving it inside. If it seems happy, you don’t need to change anything. 🙂

        • Alex says:

          Thank you for the information😄.it grows fast and can produce a new leaf in 4-5 days and the new leaves are covered in dew, but as the leaves gets older they start loosing their dew fast, then after a leaf looses its dew the ends of its tentacles become black and look like the leaf caught some dirt, is this normal? And if not how do I fix it? thank you

          • Maria says:

            No problem, Alex! That sounds normal for older leaves. I don’t think you have much to worry about. 🙂

  6. Alex says:

    Also, sorry I keep asking so much, but I forgot to mention the leaves aren’t too old when this happens, they are about a week old when they start to loose dew

    • Maria says:

      My sundews are grown outside in full sun. It gets pretty hot and dry where I am too (Northern California) so on especially hot days (90+) I move them to the shade. In the middle of summer, they never look that great but bounce back when it’s cooler.

      If you’re getting really high temps already, maybe they’re overheated. You can try giving them some shade and see if that helps. If they don’t seem to improve after a month or so, I’d move them inside.

  7. JD says:

    Hey, I am new to the carnivorous plant game and wanted a few pointers. I bought cape and Alice sundews for work because I constantly have knats. I literally got them today and have put them under a fluorescent light at work and have a few questions:

    1. Do I need to limit the amount of time the light shines on them? I was thinking just leave the light on it while at work and turn off when I leave for the day and put on timer through weekends.
    2. I put a water tray underneath each pot with about half an inch of water. Does it matter if the pots have drain holes or does this method water by evaporation?
    3. Is the water tray method recommended for sundews?
    4. I also have them planned in long fiber sphagnum moss instead of half sand, half peat moss. Is this ok?

    Sorry for all the questions. This is my first foray into plants.

    Thanks in advance.

    • Maria says:

      Hi JD, sorry for the delayed reply!

      1. They do need a lot of light, and it does need to be consistent. Ideally, it should be on a timer at all times.
      2. The pots should have drain holes so they soil can wick water up to the roots from the bottom.
      3. Yes! I use this method for 90% of my plants 🙂
      4. Yes, LFS is a good medium that lots of people use as long as it’s high quality. It should be a light tan yellowish color, not dark brown if you’re using it.

      Hope that was helpful!

  8. Adrian says:

    Hi Maria
    Question. I have 2 drosera aliciae and one of them has both D Capensis AND D binata hitchhikers sprouting from beneath the plant. Because you mentioned that D capensis is considered a weed should I bother trying to separate the plants and repot them or just leave them be and enjoy variety? I don’t want to shock them and risk damaging them but I’m also wondering if both the plants root system are gonna fight and choke each other out.

    • Maria says:

      Hi Adrian!

      That’s completely up to you. When the D. capensis is big enough, you might want to separate them to avoid a huge glob of sticky mess. That’s the only thing that’ll happen if you leave them, really. The root systems won’t choke each other out.

  9. Dennis says:

    I was wondering if lets say I put a Capensis in a tray of water and forget it for about a month will it survive a little neglect?

    • Maria says:

      It depends on how much water it has. It can dry out some, but probably shouldn’t get bone dry.

    • Maria says:

      Hi, Itha.

      It’s hard to tell without seeing photos or knowing your growing conditions. If you have Facebook, I recommend posting with photos in one of the carnivorous plant groups, along with details of your growing conditions (water, soil, light, etc.). The group should be able to help you out!

  10. Edward says:

    Hello Maria!
    Thankyou for your great care guide, it’s been helpful and so easy to understand! Recently i just bought a baby vft sawtooth, and then not that long after that i decided to buy a vft redline, i live in tropic country, so you can guest it was really dificult for me (i’m really new into this carnivorous things,but its kind of addictive 😀 ) to take care the dormancy. Soo yes, after read your blog i decided to get some drosera, and had a chance to get a lot of free seeds (d. Intermedia) from my local community!
    Really can wait to grow them. Soo wish me luck and thankyou the good post!

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