Cape sundews (Drosera capensis) are likely the best carnivorous plants for people who have never grown them before. They are big, brightly coloured, and easy to take care of. All they need is bright light, soft water, and a balance between hot summers and cool winters.
Sundews catch small animals, like insects, with sticky spots on their leaves. As the prey animal tries to get away, it runs into more sticky blobs and gets stuck even more. Cape sundews protect their food even more by slowly curling up their leaves around the animal before they start to eat it.
Most Cape sundews have leaves that are between 4 and 6 inches long when they are fully grown. Long and skinny, these leaves can be green, red, or a colour in between. Each plant will have a stem that is a little bit woody and a whorl of leaves. There are many different cultivars, which vary in size, colour, and leaf shape.
Only rain water
Cape sundews, like almost all other plants that eat other plants, grow in soft-watered, acidic bogs. It is very important to water them with very soft water that doesn’t have any minerals in it. Rainwater is the cheapest and easiest way to meet this requirement, but if you don’t have any, you can also use deionized or distilled water.
Note that you can’t use mineral water, water from a bottle, or water from a home water softener.
Cape sundews that are grown in pots will come in small pots with a mix of peat and sand. It’s important that the peat stays wet all the time. To do this, put the pot in a planter and keep at least an inch of rainwater in the planter. Make sure to add water more often in dry climates, where water will be lost the fastest.
A happy, well-watered Cape sundew will have a lot of big, shiny blobs all over it. If your Cape sundew doesn’t look as sticky as it should, make sure it’s getting enough water.
Cape sundews must have a lot of light. Even if your climate doesn’t allow it, putting Cape sundews outside for the summer will make a huge difference in their colour and strength.
Summers are hot, and winters are cold.
Cape sundews are native to South Africa, and their ideal climate would be the same as what they have in the wild. People can handle hot summers well as long as they stay wet.
They can handle frost and even snow for a short time, but if it stays cold for more than a few days, it’s best to bring Cape sundews inside for the winter. The best temperature in the winter is around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Since they don’t grow much in the winter, they should be fine on any bright windowsill in a room that isn’t heated.
You can grow Cape sundews.
The fact that Cape sundews are easy to grow from seed is one of their best qualities. After 3–4 years, the plants are fully grown and send up several long stalks with purple flowers all spring and summer long.
The plants can make their own seeds, which means that the seeds they make can be used to make more plants. In fact, some people who collect carnivorous plants think Cape sundews are a pest because their seeds fall into the pots of other plants. This lets Cape sundews take over a collection like a weed.
To grow from a seed, you just need to let the petals die and dry out. Put a piece of paper under the flower and give it a little shake every day. When the seeds are ready, they will fall out onto the paper. They look like brown hooks that are very small. You can also buy seeds for Cape sundews for a very low price.
No matter how you get the seeds, all you have to do is put them in a pot with a mix of peat and silver (silica) sand that is half wet and half dry. Keep the soil wet, and the seeds should start to grow after a while. Depending on the temperature, this can take anywhere from a few weeks to three months.
By the standards of plants that eat other plants, Cape sundew seedlings grow very quickly. The leaves should be about an inch long after a year, and they should be three times that size after a second year. Like most carnivorous plants, Cape sundews live for a long time. If you take care of them, you’ll have happy plants for at least 10 years.