Since I was young the carnivorous plant world has been rather appealing to me. As a child I had a Dionae (Fly trap) about 2-3 times failing to care for it properly every time...
As I grew older and with the available information with the internet I had come to learn that I had been doing it all wrong.
- Tap water
- Messing with the leaves
- No dormancy period
Common mistakes (poor plants)
2 years back I decided to try again, this time by sowing them myself, I chose Drosera capensis. This species does not require dormancy, is rather large compared to some other species and not too finnicky about its growing conditions.
When cared for properly it's a lovely plant to have, it requires little care and the best part, it appears to be quite adept catching gnats.
Step 1: Aquiring Your Plant & Substrate
Drosera capensis is commonly sold at gardening centers. Usually in small pots filled with dozens of small plants these are usually Drosera capensis 'alba' which are solid light green and don't posess the red hue that the regular Drosera capensis has.
Alternatively you can buy seeds from several vendors, I bought my seeds at a local vendor as Drosera capensis 'giant form' but since cultivars are hardly ever true from seeds I regard my plants as the regular Drosera capensis. That said, plants from gardening centers are usually tissue culture grown plants (all identical clones).
Drosera capensis isn't too particular about it's growing conditions, this leaves you with ample opportunity to pick something that is in good supply near where you live. I have listed the substrates which work below:
Not to be confused with regular moss, Peat moss (or Spaghnum moss, which is the latin name and is also commonly used) can be found wild (don't pick it from the wild though) or at the better gardening centers. Peat moss has great water retaining qualities and grows in poor environments (just like our carnivorous plants). Usually peat moss grows above groundwater and receives moisture solely from rain. When using peatmoss as a substrate you can fill up a pot with it, use it in a mixture or top a pot with a different substrate off. When using peat moss as a top layer it is important to water from above to alow the moss to soak up more water.
Bought from gardening centers in blocks (these are pure peat, usually dried) or as bags of ground up peat (usually moist). Be aware some gardening centers will sell peat mix with added nutrients, these will not suffice. When buying peat make sure that it is in fact pure peat with nothing addes. Added nutrients can kill your plants.
When using a block you have to grind it up yourself and moisten it with Rain or demiwater (Reverse osmosis water). Some supermarkets have demiwater in stock, though I prefer using rainwater myself.
Sand is, as most people know inert. Which means when sand comes in contact with water or anything else it will not release/break apart/etc. Which makes it ideal for carnivorous plants, provided it's pure sand and not mixed with organic components like your gardensoil is (pure sand has a white-ish to yellow-ish colour).
Using sand can be tricky, since the sand itself can hold minerals from the location it has been retreived from. Make sure to flush it with some demi or rain water to remove some of the minerals.
Perlite is commonly used by growers to mix in with the potting soil, to make the soil less dense. Because the product is actually a volcanic glass and like sand inert it's also suitable for carnivorous plants. The structure of the glass also allows moisture to remain in the substrate (an important thing when growing most carnivous plants)
When looking for perlite, the material is clear white, really light when dry, easy to crush and individual parts are usually not bigger then 2mm.
A lot of growers will suggest you use a mix to grow Drosera, this can be true for some species but is not neccesary for D. capensis. It will grow on pure Peat and pure Spahgnum. I am not too sure about pure sand or pure perlite, I guess it depends on the different size grains that are present.
Step 2: Sowing/multiplying
Drosera capenis is easy to sow once you know how.
First of all, Drosera seeds usually need light to germinate. This means you sprinkle the seeds on the substrate and don't cover them up. Make sure they get their light.
D. capensis also requires (or at least germinates better) cold stratification. So after sprinkling the seeds on the substrate you subject them to a period of cold before placing them in a warmer environment. 2 to 4 weeks in the refrigerator will suffice.
When cared for properly the Drosera will in return reward you with a flower stalk with dark pink flowers, these require no pollination and will produce seed.
Another great quality of many carivorous plants is that they can be cloned throught leaf cuttings. This means that a cut leaf, when placed in the right conditions will sprout new growth that can develop in new plants (genetically identical to the parent plant).
I've cloned mine by placing a healthy leaf (older leaves might work but are less vigorous, a healthy leaf will work best) in a jar of demiwater. Rain water will work too but with the risk of algea forming in the jar. A leaf can also be placed in mois substrate like peat or peat moss with the same result (several plants sprouting from 1 leaf)
Drosera can also be cloned from root cuttings. The long roots may potrude from the bottom of the jar. These can but cut off, put in a new substrate and might sprout new growth.
Step 3: Caring for Your Drosera
Drosera don't ask much. Some soil, some water (actually a lot of water if the weather is warm). All you have to do is make sure that the substrate stays moist, this is done by place a dish beneath the pot with some rain/demiwater in it. I usually refill the dish when almost all the water is gone. Drosera will tolerate some drought but I like to keep it happy all the time.
If you don't like algea forming in the dish I recommend using demiwater or using a pot instead of a dish.
Place your plant in a bright spot, preferably with direct sun, if you are not sure about the amount of light your plant is receiving, the plant will show you if you know how to look for the signs:
- Drosera capensis gets a red hue when growing in sunny conditions (Make sure you don't have the 'alba' which doesn't turn red)
- Drosera capensis becomes a creeper when it receives less light then it would like, this is however, not a disaster, as it creeps it grows a stem and will make a new root when touching the substrate, when it's rooted inbetween you can cut it, allowing new growth from the severed stem without killing your plant (since the plant already had a new established root)
- No dew forming on the leaves - the dew on the leaves is actually a sticky compount made up out of digestive fluids. Is your plant happy the new leaves should all be covered in dew, older leaves might not have it but is to be expected.
Drosera capensis, just like most carnivorous plants does in fact NOT require feeding. Tampering too much with leaves might result in poor plant health (Everyone likes the trap moving on dionae for example, but those only close about 2-3 times before the leaves die, the more you know)
Feeding D. capensis however can result in more vigorous plants. Ground mealworms will work, living (small) insects even some types of fish feed. I've just started testing fish feed, For more info on this visit this youtube channel, it has tons of info: https://www.youtube.com/user/sundewman
Even though they are carnivorous there is a small chance that bugs will in fact feed off of your drosera. In the worst case these are lice (Black or green). This will result in stunted growth. In this case remove the lice manually as much as you can, then spray the plant with an insecticide. Please note however that some insecticides contain ingredients your plant really doesn't like. So before you start spraying take a close look to the ingredients (no metals/minerals) and test spray one of your plants first (if you have more then one) and don't spray more then absolutely neccesary
Step 4: Do's and Dont's
- keep your plant in a sunny place
- Keep your substrate moist 1cm of rain/demiwater in a dish beneath the plant will do.
- Use only rain or demiwater (reverse osmosis water) Depending on where you live, tap water once or twice might not kill it, but it's not recommended unless your plants are in danger of drying out.
- Put your plants in an area with small bugs, if you are lucky some will stick
- Trim dead leaves when they get moldy, trimming is not necesary but when mold forms I'd rather get rid of those parts.
- Suggest positive changes to this instructable, I appreciate positive feedback.
- Whatever you do, don't actually try to feed meat to your plants, they eat bugs, not meat like the name sometimes suggests.
- Don't water with tapwater unless you have no other choice and your plant is in danger of drying out.
- Don't feed your plant fertilizer, this WILL kill your plant.
- Don't spray your plant with pesticides containing minerals/metals etc.
- Be a smartass, there are a lot of opinions and growing methods, you could write a book about it and there'd still be people that disagree, deal with it.
Step 5: Stick It to Them
Drosera are not the only plants I grow. And I, as most gardeners among us have encountered annoying bugs called Fungus gnats (Sciaridae). These little gnats, annoying as they are swarming above your potting soil have an annoying habbit of laying eggs in the soil, their larvea eating roots from plants, seedling and in worse cases heavilly damaging these or even killing them.
These gnats are usually introduced with new plants or present in pottig soil as eggs or larvea. There are a few ways to get rid of these actively (pesticide, nematodes, sticky strips) but as I found out the Drosera is a great way to get rid of them passively.
Since I'm growing several Drosera I haven't had an infestation of these gnats. Sure theres the occasional 1 or 2 flying around, especially when I have repotted a plot with new soil (cba to microwave/cook the soil).
The worst case I had was a large plant I repotted, with dozens of gnats emerging from the pot in a week. In no time my drosera were covered and the outbreak was controlled with no new swarm emerging.
I have no idea why the gnats are drawn to the Drosera but I really don't mind.