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Sundews might be able to survive on light, water, soil and air alone, but feeding regularly accelerates their growth. Sundews need nutrients to reach their maximum size, so it is important that they eat consistently especially during their growing phase.
Outdoor sundews do not need to be fed as long as they can catch and eat insects regularly. Indoor sundews may be given live or dead insects, beta fish pellets or freeze dried mealworms and bloodworms up to four times a month.
What Should I Feed Sundews?
Sundews eat a variety of insects including mosquitos, flies, ants, spiders, crickets etc. If your plant is outdoors it probably catches other types of bugs as well. As long as it gets trapped, the sundews will try to eat it.
You can give living or dead bugs to sundews or other foods that contain the nutrients they need. Freeze dried mealworms, fungus gnats and any small insect. Beta fish pellets are a favorite among sundew growers as well as South Shore Tropical Fish Flakes, which are nutritious.
Some things to remember when giving food to sundews:
You can stick with just one food type or mix them up. There are people who have successfully grown sundews while feeding them beta fish pellets exclusively. You can do the same with frozen, living, dead or freeze dried food.
Or you can concoct a soup mix for your plant. The soup may consist of an insect, mealworms, fish food etc. mixed in water. Remember that sundews only need small amounts of food, so do not prepare an entire bowl. Unless of course you have several plants to feed.
A note about bugs: sundews will eat any bug that gets stuck in their dew, but a large insect might eat the leaf and cause severe damage.
To be safe, kill the insect and crush it into small bits. If you feed worms to your plant, cut of its head and chop it into tiny pieces. Doing this makes it easier for sundews to digest them.
Lastly, never give processed meat to sundews. Burgers, bacon, chocolate etc. are not good for carnivorous plants. In spite of what you see in sci-fi movies, these plants do not consume everything.
Do not use fertilizers and never fertilize the soil. That stuff can literally kill your sundew. Use only nutrition free soil for carnivorous plants.
How to Feed Sundews Step by Step
Compared to Venus flytraps, sundews are easier to feed. If you really want to keep it simple, just drop the food into the sticky stuff and let the sundews tentacles do the rest.
If you are going to use the method above, give small food bits. Most sundews have a difficult time digesting large amounts of food.
Second, you may add a drop or two of water to soften the food up. Just like Venus flytraps, sundews use digestive enzymes to dissolve its prey. These enzymes cannot process large food bits, so it helps to liquefy them with water.
The steps are as follows:
- Crush the insect into bits. Do the same for any food you want to feed your sundew. If you want to give the plant some Amzey Store Dried Mealworms, only small amounts are needed.
- Adding water via sygine is optional. Do this if your sundew has difficulty digesting food or the bug has a hard shell like a cockroach or beetle.
- Put the food into the dew.
If you are going to use frozen or freeze dried food, follow the thawing instructions. Fish flakes are already powdery so it is not necessary to grind them. However it might be best to add some water so it does not spill over.
Try not to let any food bits fall into the soil. The nutrients in the food might spread and negatively affect the plant. As pointed out, sundews only grow in poor soil so bits of nutrients might cause harm.
How Much Food Should I Give Sundews?
Sundews take about a week to digest food, so four feedings a month will be enough. Some variants may handle more food or less, but 1-4 times is the average.
If your sundews are outdoors, there is no need to give it any food as there are plenty of insects at its disposal. The only exception is if the plant looks sluggish and weak. Those are signs the sundews are not catching enough insects.
In that case it is necessary to feed it. Use any of the food options give here and use the same methods. You might also want to move the plant somewhere it can catch more bugs.
For indoor sundews, the 1-4 frequency works for most variants. Once a drosera has reached maturity, you can reduce feeding times to twice a month.
Some sundews will do fine with once a month feeding. But as always, follow the instructions that came with the sundews you bought. With proper food, soil, water and light, the plant will continue its growth.
The important thing is that your sundews eat so they stay healthy. This is crucial in case your pet eats your sundews. A healthy drosera means it will not be vulnerable to fungal or bacterial infection that could afflict an animal.
How Long Do Sundews Take to Digest Food?
Once the food is in the dew, your task is done. You just have to wait for the sundews to digest. How long that takes depends on the variant and the food.
What usually happens is that after a few minutes, the tentacle wraps itself around the food and pulls it into the leaves. The food is placed on the leaves where digestive enzymes are released. Some sundews tentacles will curl over the food in seconds, but others might take several minutes or hours.
The leaves will only move if the food is substantial. Otherwise it will just be the tentacles. Some drosera variants take an entire day to move their leaves, and some species do not do so at all.
This is why it is important that you know what type of sundews you have. If you know your sundews take a long time to digest food, you do not have to worry if it takes a while. Note also that overfed sundews will not eat food. You can drop it into the dew but the tentacle will not move.
A lot of potential problems with sundews can be avoided by knowing its variant. If you own one of those sundews that go dormant, you will not panic if the plant starts to discard its leaves during the fall. This is not a sign of a dying drosera, but one that is going into dormancy.
What Happens if Sundews Do Not Eat?
Sundews use photosynthesis to create food, so technically they do not need nutrients to live. However, depriving them weakens the plant and shortens their lifespan. Lack of nutrients makes sundews vulnerable to diseases, slows growth and makes them look sickly.
Sundews cannot grow in rich soil, so the plant has to get its nutrients from other sources like insects. Without these, sundews will be in a weakened state.
It is true that sundews get their food from the sun via photosynthesis. But that food – glucose- is used to keep the plant alive and perform everyday functions.
The nutrients found in insects, fish food, mealworms etc. are used to help the plant grow. The more nutrients a carnivorous plant receives, the stronger it gets. Of course you should take steps to not overfeed the plant. Doing so could render it sluggish and unresponsive to food.
If sundews do not eat, they will conserve their available resources to stay alive. Other functions will be put aside. While the sundews may live, it will not grow. Some species will actually shrink due to the lack of food. So: if you want the best looking, the healthiest sundews possible, feed it on a regular basis.
Sundews are not picky about food, but feeding does require patience. If you want your sundews to reach its maximum potential, you have to make certain that it receives proper nourishment.
My fascination with carnivorous plants began many, many years ago with Venus Fly Traps. Now I am more than happy to impart what I know with other enthusiasts and those who are curious about meat eating plants.