Temperate Sundews

Basic Cultivation of Temperate Sundews


Written by Michael Stiffler – mstiffler.necps@gmail.com


New England Carnivorous Plant Society – www.NECPS.us


General information

The Drosera are given the common name of sundews, as their glandular leaves glisten in the sun. There are approximately 140 sundew species in the world, with seven native to North America. Several species, namely D. rotundifolia, D. intermedia, and D. filiformis can be found growing wild in New England. Temperate sundews grow in climates which experience cold weather in winter, dying down to buds (called hibernacula). Most North American species are temperate sundews; the forked-leafed sundew D. binata is native to Australia. The surfaces of sundew leaves are covered in stalked glands, or tentacles. At the end of each tentacle is a small, typically reddish gland that produces a tiny drop of dew – a clear and sticky mucilaginous substance. Perhaps attracted by the red color of the glandular tips, or by mistaking the glistening droplets for nectar, an insect lands on a leaf and quickly becomes mired in the sticky dew. Digestion then begins as the stalked glands also produce digestive juices containing enzymes and bacteria. Most temperate sundews are relatively easy to grow outdoors in New England if they are given plenty of sunlight, proper soil, are always kept wet with mineral-free water, and are protected from extremely cold temperatures and drying winds during the winter dormancy period.           


Species: D. rotundifolia, D. intermedia, D. filiformis, D. anglica, D. linearis, D. capillaris, D. brevifolia, D. binata; hybrid species of North American sundews occur frequently in the wild.



Soil: An easily obtainable mix is one part each of peat and perlite. Inert sand (e.g. pool filter sand) can be used instead of perlite, though this makes large pots heavy. Long-fibered sphagnum can also be used.


Containers: Plastic pots with drainage holes are best.


Watering: Use only chlorine free water with low mineral content such as distilled, reverse osmosis or rain water. Use the tray method keeping the pot in ½ inch or more of standing water – the soil should never dry out. Use mosquito dunks to prevent mosquitos breeding in water trays. 


Light: Temperate Drosera thrive outdoors in full sunlight, best grown outdoors where they can get full sunlight 6+ hours per day during the growing season (April through October in New England).


Growing conditions: Do best outdoors in pots or in bog gardens. Okay for very well-lighted terrariums if accommodations are made for satisfying cold winter dormancy requirement; mature D. filiformis and D. binata may however get too large for terrariums.


Dormancy: All species require three to four months of winter dormancy (November through March in New England). For details, see care sheet “Overwintering Temperate Carnivorous Plants in New England” written by Mike Stiffler.


Feeding: Outdoors they will feed themselves on small flies, ants, etc. Indoor plants may be fed small pieces of fish food. 


Propagation: Propagation by seed is the easiest method. Flowers of all North American species will self-pollinate upon closing and produce copious amounts of seed, often spreading sundews to adjacent pots.     


New England Carnivorous Plant Society – www.NECPS.us