Feeding Carnivorous Plants: How to feed sundews

Many people have referred to my Venus flytrap food guide, which is a decent general guide for feeding most of your carnivorous plants. However I’ve gotten several questions about feeding sundews specifically, which is a little different than feeding Venus flytraps.

Don’t worry, though. Feeding sundews is much easier than feeding Venus flytraps. To be honest, I probably should have written a guide about them first!

Cape Sundew: Drosera capensis Red
Drosera capensis “Narrow Red Leaf”

Sundews LOVE to eat. They can eat way more than a Venus flytrap, easily. Just about any sundew will be happily covered in bugs and love you for it.

There are no trigger hairs to trip, no massaging necessary. Food size is not a big deal either. If it can’t get away, it will be eaten. Just take your food of choice and put it on the sticky stuff.

Fun (nerdy) fact: The technical term for their “dew” is mucilage.

Below are the three most common methods of feeding sundews.

  • Maxsea spraying

Spraying with Maxsea plant food (aka foliar fertilizing) is the easiest and quickest way to feed your sundews. Simply spray your Maxsea solution once directly onto the sundew leaves. Just one quick spritz is plenty. You’ll see the tentacles curl in like they were wrapping around live prey.

Drosera venusta, carnivorous sundew.
Drosera venusta leaf after a Maxsea spray

I feed Maxsea to all of my plants every two weeks. With how much sundews love to eat, you can probably spray them once a week without any issues.

Quick note: I  recommend reading my post: Can fertilizer be used on carnivorous plants? to learn more about Maxsea and feeding other plants like Sarracenia and Nepenthes!

  • Betta fish flakes or pellets

Betta fish food in flake form is the second easiest method of feeding your sundews. Just pinch some flakes between your fingers and sprinkle them onto a leaf or two.

Betta fish pellets are a bit more of a process. Because they’re more dense than flakes, the plant’s mucilage may not break it all down and digest it. Lots of people mix pellets with water to break them down and make a soft paste. Take a glob of this paste with a toothpick or your tool of choice, and smear it onto a sundew leaf.

Drosera macrantha, tuberous sundew
Drosera macrantha munching on betta fish pellets!

A single pellet goes a long way. Adding water will make it expand too, so you can break off small chunks of pellet paste with your toothpick and hand-feed small plants this way.

Either form of betta fish food is ridiculously cheap, and will probably last you forever. You don’t need to feed your sundews more than once a week if they’re also catching their own food.

  • Insects (dead or alive)

And of course, there’s always buying  or catching insects to feed your plants. Unlike with flytraps, the bugs don’t have to “act” alive to stimulate digestion. Dead ones work just as well.

Some growers who keep live insect food for reptiles also feed their plants with these. I don’t recommend buying live insects just for feeding plants. You’ll get way too many insects and feed your plants so infrequently, most of them will likely die and become a nasty, smelly mess before you can use all of them as food.

Sundews will eat essentially anything that will stick to them without getting away. Essentially, if it will stick to sundew, the sundew can eat it. Generally speaking, you don’t have to worry about the size of their food as much.

Remember when my pygmy sundews brought down a crane fly?

Tiny but powerful! Pygmy sundews feast on a Crane Fly !

 

I’d like to personally recommend not feeding the following insects to sundews. In fact, save them if you see them stuck in the mucilage, before it’s too late!

  • Bees. They’re pollinators, man. We need them. Plus, honey is fantastic and delicious.
  • Ladybugs and mantids. These guys eat pests like aphids, which helps to keep our plants healthy. Plus, mantids are badasses. If you see them hanging around your Sarracenia, don’t worry! They’re keeping pests away, and probably trying to snag a fly before it falls into the pitcher.

Cute baby mantis hanging out on a Sarracenia flava!

 

Feel free to hand feed and let your sundews gorge on the following insects:

  • Wasps. They’re mean and sting for no reason.
  • Ants. They’re just my least favorite insects and creep me out with their swarming and uniformity.
  • House flies, and other varieties of flies, for the simple reason of being gross insects and an excellent food source for carnivorous plants.

And there you have it! It’s really worth it to feed your sundews on a somewhat regular basis. You’ll definitely see changes in color, vigor, and size. Some sundews have also been noticed to flower more often if fed regularly.

Thanks for reading! Please share this post if you found it useful, or leave a comment with any questions you may have. Catch you next time!

8 comments

  1. Lulu says:

    That crane fly in the pygmy is CRAZY! love that shot haha. Thanks for the article, really great feeding info 🙂 I should spray my drosera with maxsea more often!

  2. Sean says:

    Thanks for the post! I’ve read some nonspecific posts on forums about using maxsea, but this was more helpful. I tried it yesterday and the test plants that I used it on seem to have liked it 🙂 I’m looking forward to trying it on seedlings where crushed betta pellets tend to mold due to being covered.

  3. Don Schiller says:

    How about Orchid fertilizer? I have a nice selection of orchids that get fertilized ‘weakly weekly’ as we call it. Could a weak solution be used to feed some of the CPs, sundews and pitcher plans specifically?

    • Maria says:

      I’ve never used orchid fertilizer, Don. I imagine a weak solution would work similarly to Maxsea, which I talked about in a post here:

      If you used it, I would like to hear your results!

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