Sundew Cultivation


Sundews, of the genera Drosera, are colorful carnivorous plants that capture and digest insects by trapping them on hairs tipped with tiny balls of sticky liquid. Sundews use nutrients from trapped insects to supplement what they obtain from poor soil. They are perennials and there are climbing and dwarf varieties among the 188 species. They are considered easy to grow. The name sundew comes from the viscous droplets the plants use to trap insects.

Container Growing

Sundews grow all over the world except Antarctica. Those native to the U.S. are best grown outdoors in pots or containers. Unless you have a bog garden, do not plant them in the ground. Sundews don't do well indoors. They grow best outside where there are insects and there is a full range of seasons, summer sun followed by shorter days and a drop in winter temperatures.


During the spring and summer growing season sundews need to be outside in full sunlight for at least six hours. Sundews native to the U.S. can tolerate summer heat, but they are native to habitats where the slow seepage of spring water moderates the soil temperature. Pay attention to your plants when the temperature goes over 100 degrees F. When the temperature of the soil in your containers goes above 110 degrees F, the roots may overheat; in that case water your plants daily.


Sundews are carnivorous plants. They get their nutrition from bugs, not the soil. They grow naturally in poor soil. Compost, potting soil or fertilizer will kill them. Mix 1 part peat moss and 1 part perlite to assure good aeration and drainage or 3 parts of sphagnum moss to 1 part silica sand.


Pots containing sundews should sit in standing water so the soil never dries out completely. Make sure there are holes in the bottoms of your pots. If the pot is in a pond or fountain, don't let the water level get more than halfway up the pot. Never submerse the crown, or top, of the plant.


Insects will naturally find sundews. There is no need to feed them bugs. If you feel compelled to feed your sundews--because carnivorous plants are a curiosity--do not give them meat, only recently killed insects. Put the insects on the sticky beads but don't overdo it or the plants will rot. Not feeding them is better than over-feeding them. Do not feed sundews in the winter when they are dormant.


Sundews slowly cease growing in the fall and go dormant in the winter when they drop their leaves. Remove any remaining dead leaves from dormant plants and let them sit in a small amount of water so the soil does not dry out. If the temperature threatens to drop below 20 degrees F, cover your plants with black plastic and move them into an unheated garage or other protected area. Prolonged freezing weather can give sundew frost burn.

Keywords: sundew cultivation, growing sundews, sundew care

About this Author

Richard Hoyt, the author of 26 mysteries, thrillers and other novels, is a former reporter for Honolulu dailies and writer for "Newsweek" magazine. He taught nonfiction writing and journalism at the university level for 10 years. He holds a Ph.D. in American studies.