Sundews! Facts, Photos, and Their Hypnotizing Beauty

Drosera Capensis
My drosera capensis (cape sundew) typical.

When creating my grow list page, I realized I hadn’t posted many photos or done much writing about sundews, aside from the cape sundew and briefly in my carnivorous house plants article. Today that will change! I’m really loving on my ‘dews lately since most other plants are in dormancy. I’ll share some facts, plus some of my favorite recent photos I’ve taken of them!

Sundews are often hitchhikers!

The sundews I currently have are among the easiest to grow. In fact, I think my cape sundew (pictured above) is the only one I’ve bought intentionally. The two others, the fork-leaf sundew (drosera binata) and the spoon-leaf sundew (drosera spatulata) hitched a ride in the pots of other plants I was buying at the time! Drosera spatulata is notoriously known for doing this. This year, I’ve found many baby sundew plants in my Venus flytrap and Sarracenia pots.

Drosera Spatulata
Drosera spatulata peeking from the base of a Sarracenia
Sundew Seedling
Hard to tell what species it is now, but it’s definitely a baby sundew!

Can you say thigmonasty? Thig. Mo. Nasty.

I’m too amused by this word, so it deserves its own section. Thigmonasty is the term for a plant’s reaction to being touched. Venus flytraps experience this too, obviously. When sundews feel prey getting caught in their sticky dew, their thigmonasty is to wrap around  the prey, until it dies from exhaustion or asphyxiation. The response is faster in some species than others. Cape sundews look very dramatic and full of flair, but they take up to 30 minutes to completely engulf their prey. Drosera glanduligera and drosera burmannii have “snap tentacles” which will wrap around their food within seconds!

Drosera Capensis Curled Leaf
Drosera capensis feeling fancy.

Sundews LOVE to eat! Feed them! 

For my outdoor plants, I am pretty hands-off with feeding. In the fall, I move my sundews into a mini greenhouse for some protection from the cold until spring. Coverage + cooler temperature = less bugs to eat, so I’m having lots of fun hand-feeding them! Their hours of light are decreasing, but they look so bright and happy right now!

I’m using my tried-and-trusted betta fish pellets. I only use 2-3 pellets for all of my plants. Before feeding, I wet the pellets with a few drops of water and mush them up with a toothpick. Then I take a small (like half the size of a dry pellet) chunk of food onto the toothpick and rub it onto the dew until it sticks. It’s very important to not overfeed! Too much food may cause some leaves to die. I will only feed 1-2 leaves per plant, once a week. Read my feeding guide here for more details! If you are keeping tropical or subtropical sundews indoors, feel free to feed them all year long!

Drosera Binata and Capensis
Happy ‘dews!

Pygmy sundews got it all backwards (maybe because they’re Australian)

Pygmy sundews are a group that certainly live up to their name. They’re tiny, and thus, completely adorable. Also, their growing season is in the winter, and their dormancy is during the summer. Crazy! Pygmies also have an interesting way of propagating themselves. Rather than making divisions of themselves, they produce gemmae, tiny reproductive bodies at the crown of the plant. Gemmae are almost like seeds but they’re clones of the plant. Pygmies do make seeds as well, but they are SO tiny, they’re basically dust. Gemmae are the easiest  way to propagate them. They can be planted exactly like seeds, but have a short lifespan once separated from the mother plant.

Droser nitidula gemmae
Drosera nitidula and gemmae

Some sundews actually are difficult to grow!

Because the easy-growing sundew species are so prolific, the entire genera has this reputation of being easy to grow, which is not true. With nearly 200 species, some of them are definitely more suited for advanced growers, and are rare in cultivation. Most of these are native to Brazil and a few other parts of South America. Ideal growing conditions for these plants include cool temperatures (60s to 70s F), high humidity (70-100%), and lots of light. It can be hard to replicate those conditions in captivity! These species include drosera graomogolensis, drosera graminifolia, and drosera villosa.

Drosera graomogolensis
Drosera graomogolensis

Just about every carnivorous plant grower, from beginner to advanced, likely has a sundew in their collection. They are so readily available, sometimes we forget to appreciate them! I hope you enjoyed reading about sundews and learned some new facts from this post. Now give your pretty little ‘dew some love and a fish pellet from me! 🙂

9 comments

  1. Isobel says:

    Just read your amazing website from start to finish- I’ve got my first carnivorous plants arriving soon, two pygmy sundews!

    • Maria says:

      Awww thank you, Isobel! You seriously made my day. 😀 Congratulations on your first carnivores, and enjoy them! I’ve yet to own pygmy sundews but they seem so wonderful. One day I will. 😀

  2. Isobel says:

    I’m sure I’ll love them- ended up getting a Nepenthes hybrid as well last minute and some free Cephalotus seeds (this is what happens when the postage price stays the same regardless of order size!) I’ll report back about them once they’ve had a chance to settle in properly.

  3. philp says:

    Hi love the website just got 3 venus flytraps other week and I have notice 2 little sprouts of sundews growing beside my B52 what should I do repot them in a different pot or leave them for a while?

    • Maria says:

      Hi Philip!

      How fun! Hitchhikers are always exciting. You can leave them until they get bigger if you want to. Will probably be safer for them to wait!

  4. Kat says:

    Hi Maria,

    I recently obtained my first set of carnivorous plants for my office after doing an amount of research (which lead me to your lovely site), and have been showing them off to anyone who I can hold down long enough to listen.
    One of the plants is a cape sundew that’s not looking very dew-y. I was wondering what I should do to help it out.
    And also, as hands-off I’ve been about feeding and with a lack of dew, he’s managed to catch dozens of gnats- could over-feeding be a problem here? And if so, what should I do? Thanks muchly!

    • Maria says:

      Hi Kat! Congrats on your first carnivores! No dew production is usually due to low light. Office lights usually aren’t bright enough for carnivores, but maybe you can supplement light with a desk lamp for the plant. You can put a single CFL daylight balanced bulb in there and that should help. Keep it pretty close to the plant (6-8 inches) and leave it on all day if possible.

      I don’ t think overfeeding is an issue. Cape sundews do eat a lot and LOVE to eat!

      Hope that helps!

  5. Anthony YOUNG says:

    Hi, love your site, I’m just starting with 3 plants, sent through the post. From Amazon, I received , a Venus fly trap, a butterwort & of course a cape Sundew. I got them about 5 weeks ago, they were all coming on in leaps & bounds. As I live in the UK , I thought I’d buy some plant grow lights for when the sun fails us. But over the last week my cape Sundew is looking very sorry it’s self. First the ends of the leaves were turning brown & now the whole middle has died back. It has no dews on the leaves. I’m wondering, after what I just read what you say about the cape, perhaps it doesn’t need to go under the lights I put the other under. Any ideas ? I do use distilled water etc. . , ,?

    • Maria says:

      Hi Anthony! If the light is hot, it may be overheating the plant or drying out the humidity. Capes are very adaptable, so it will likely bounce back with an adjustment period.

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