Winter-growing Carnivorous Plants to Keep You Sane

Welcome to my first blog post of 2016! Winter is a slow period for many of us outdoor growers, especially with temperate plants like Venus flytraps and Sarracenia. But there’s plenty of winter-growing plants to enjoy, and I got a lot more into them this season!

#1: Tuberous Sundews!

Drosera macrantha. A winter-gr.owing carnivorous plant

Drosera macrantha is my first tuberous sundew, and I’m enjoying the crap out of it this winter! Tuberous sundews totally intimidated me at first, but I’m pleasantly surprised at how easy this one is! Other easy tuberous species include Drosera ramellosa, Drosera petalta, and Drosera stolonifera.

I’ve always loved vining plants, so their scrambling, climbing nature really appeals to me. I really want to give it something to climb, but the best lighted area doesn’t really allow for that. So I’m just seeing where it goes!

They’re also hardier than I expected! My pot came with two separate stems, one of which looked like it died. But a little branch grew from the dead stem! How cool is that?

It's alive!
It’s alive!

What you have to keep in mind is these plants have a growing season that is opposite of plants you’re probably used to.

Keep their soil moist and give them plenty of sun in the winter. Winter is their growing season.

Keep them dry and shaded in the summer. They will look dead in the summer, but are actually dormant. Start watering them and exposing them to more direct sunlight as fall approaches into summer.

Remember that food is harder to come by in the winter, and almost all sundews LOVE to eat! Feed the individual carnivorous leaves with betta fish pellets or spray them every two weeks with Maxsea fertilizer. 

Drosera macrantha munching on betta fish pellets!
Drosera macrantha munching on betta fish pellets!

Tuberous sundew flowers are lovely, but I’ve read stories about how hard it is to germinate them from seed! I’m not sure if I’ll ever attempt it. The easiest way to propagate is to search for their tubers (basically, bulbs) under the soil after they’ve gone dormant. You won’t find out until you dig if they made a separate tuber, called a daughter (isn’t that a sweet name?).

I’ve yet to do this, so check back with me this summer!

#2: Pygmy sundews

On the opposite end of the spectrum from the long, vining tuberous species are the tiny, precious pygmy sundew species! Everyone should have at least a few pygmy sundew varieties because they are just so freaking adorable and tiny!

Pygmy sundews are tiny carnivorous plants! Adorable, yet deadly! Click to learn more!

Pygmy Drosera are technically winter-growing plants, but many species will stay happy throughout spring and summer if you keep their soil wet and don’t let them get too hot. It’s generally acceptable to skip their summer dormancy. You don’t have to let them dry out like with tuberous Drosera.

In autumn and winter, pygmy sundews will produce gemmae. These are tiny, modified leaves meant for reproduction. Sow them like seeds in a moist peat and sand mix with high humidity and they will germinate usually within two weeks!

Pygmy sundew Drosera nitidula, producing gemmae to clone itself.
Drosera nitidula with gemmae in the center.
Drosera omissa x pulchella. Pygmy sundews are easiest to propagate through gemmae, which act like seeds but are reproductive bodies that create clones of the plant.
Drosera omissa x pulchella gemmae. My first pygmy drosera!

I recommend topping your peat and sand mix with a thin layer of sand. This not only looks nicer, but will keep moss, algae and mold from overtaking your tiny plantlets as they grow. Devon over at Sundews Etc. does this really nicely with his pygmies!

Unlike seeds though, gemmae produce clones of the mother plant. Because they are living plant tissue, their shelf life is extremely short! You’ll want to sow them immediately after harvesting them from the mother plant.

Drosera omissa x pulchella. A carnivorous plant called a pygmy sundew, producing gemmae to make more plants.
Drosera omissa x pulchella make SO MANY GEMMAE!

If you can’t sow them right away, you can store them in a moist paper towel or small container of distilled water in the refrigerator for about 2-3 weeks.

#3: Basically, sundews

Seriously, ’tis the season for sundews! If you have any of the easy, commonly available South African sundews such as Drosera capensis, D. binata, D. venusta, and so on, they can look FANTASTIC in the winter!

Just make sure they’re getting enough light and keep them in an area where they won’t freeze. If you have a well-lit area that dips to about 50 F (10 C), they will love you for it!

Here are some of my subtropical ‘dews shot in recent months. They are probably the dewy-est and happiest looking they’ve been all year. Mine are kept outdoors under a greenhouse cover in Northern California, Zone 9b.

Albino Droser venusta (also called Droser coccicaulis "Alba".
Albino Droser venusta (also called Droser coccicaulis “Alba”.
Drosera venusta, an easy carnivorous sundew.
Drosera venusta.
Drosera capensis "Narrow Red Leaf"
Drosera capensis “Narrow Red Leaf”
Drosera capensis typical and Drosera venusta.
Drosera capensis typical and Drosera venusta giving each other a high-five.

So what are your favorite types of sundews?

If you’ve fallen for pygmy Drosera as much as I have, I’m excited to share I’ll have my first batch of potted Drosera omissa x pulchella available in the next month or so. These will be potted in unique, ceramic containers hand-picked and drilled by me, and of course, in doll heads!

Pygmy sundew carnivorous plants potted in doll head planters.
One of the adorable doll head planters that will be available!

Planters will be available in limited quantities, so sign up for emails below to ensure you don’t miss out on these!

Thanks for reading! I hope this post has inspired you to check out some winter-growing carnivorous plants of your own! Catch you next time!

4 comments

  1. David L Southwell says:

    North Carolina “swamped” with stubborn fungus and root rot.
    We have had an excessive amount of rainwater this grrowing season that has raised the water table and flooded much of our coastal regions. While the city of Wilmington itself, (the home of the Venus Flytrap) escaped damage. The surrounding forest did not. All my once thriving two dozen VFTs are either dead or brought indoors. I visited the forest in September to have a look at the wild plants. Sadly there weren’t any. The plants that were there in June were all deceased. It was easy to see why. A purplish colored blemish is on all the plants in the area. (fungus) Including the tough to kill boxwoods. My fear is that the VFTs will not return next spring (2017). I am going to start a club of local plant growers and plant loving amateurs to help return the species to the forest if the plant does not return. I came across your sight while gathering VFT planting data that I’ll need.

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