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Sundews are among the most interesting carnivorous plants in the world, with more than 200 variants that you can grow. Once you get one you will want to do everything possible to keep the plant alive. And this brings up the question: how long can sundew plants live?
Healthy sundews can live up to 50 years, but this also depends on humidity, light, water, soil and available food. A humid environment with plenty of sunlight and water are needed to keep sundews alive.
Which Sundews Live the Longest?
There are many types of sundews and some are easier to maintain than others. The easiest to grow is Cape Sundew, but other tropical sundews are good choices as well. Tropical sundews do not enter dormancy so caring is easier.
Most temperate sundews do not require dormancy either so they are good for beginners. Pygmy and tuberous sundews go dormant in the summer and can be difficult to keep alive.
While sundews can live for several years, it all comes down to the environment. Even a healthy sundew will not last in a hot, dry place with no food or nutrients. Conversely, a sick sundew can recover if nourished with food, nutrients, water, light and the proper soil.
Bottom line: if you want to grow a sundew, your best option is Cape Sundew or any variant that does not go dormant. You can opt for other types but bear in mind that when sundews go into dormancy, it will last for months. They will shed leaves, shrink and look really sick so do not panic.
How to Keep Sundews Alive For a Long Time
If you want your sundew to live for several years, proper caring is a must. You can buy a full grown plant or seeds, regardless you have to learn as much as you can about the variant.
The following is a general guide for growing sundews and how to keep them alive as long as possible. There might be some additional things you need to do depending on the variant, so research is of paramount importance.
Use the Right Soil and Container
Everything starts with the container and the soil. Sundews can only survive in poor soil, which is why they developed traps to catch bugs. What nutrients the soil lacks sundews get in the insects, so rich soil will be fatal to sundews.
The standard soil mix combination is 1:1 peat moss and perlite. An alternative is 1:1 long sphagnum moss and silica sand. You can try other mixing ratios later, but for beginners 1:1 is enough.
Mix the soil according to the package instructions. Add as much water as required to achieve the needed consistency. Tuberous sundews benefit from a combination of perlite and silica sand, but for Cape Sundews, peat moss and perlite or silica sand and long sphagnum is going to work.
As for the pot, plastic containers with holes will be sufficient. Large, mature sundews need a 7 to 10 inch pot, while a 5 inch pot is good for smaller sundews.
The benefit of using a large container is the sundew will not outgrow it. If you opt for a 5 inch container and the sundew grows fast, you will need to repot it. Otherwise the roots will not be able to expand and stunt its growth.
The Best Way to Water Sundews
Sundews love a humid, watery environment. There is not much you can do about the humidity unless you install a humidifier, but the water you can control.
The best way to water a sundew pot is to place it in a tray. Pour an inch of water in a container and place your sundew in it. The water will go through the holes in the container and into the plant.
The plant will absorb the water, so you just need to refill it. Depending on the weather you might have to do this every couple of days or every few hours.
The biggest benefit of the tray method is it reduces the chance of overwatering your sundew. You can simply refill the tray as needed without counting how often you have watered the plant.
Sundews need a lot of water to grow and live. As long as you do not use hard water your plant will be fine. Young, growing sundews in particular need to be kept in a very moist soil and humid environment.
Natural vs. Artificial Light
Sundews need light to grow fast, and without it the plant will die. Sundews may survive without insect nutrients but deprive them of sunlight and the plant will perish.
Sundews exposed to 12 hours or more of light can live for many years. Natural, direct light is the best but you can augment it with artificial light fixtures.
Place your sundew on a window sill for maximum sunlight exposure. 12 hours or even 16 will be great. You can install a fluorescent light during overcast days. If your sundew is always indoors and nowhere near a window, keep the light on for 16 hours a day.
You also have to keep the atmosphere humid, so this can be a challenge. Sundews need sunlight but they prefer watery conditions with high humidity.
The best way to approach this is to utilize the tray method. First, make sure the tray is taller than the plant container. When you have poured water in it and placed the pot, place it on the windowsill or another sunny location. The water will keep the sundew moistened.
Under this setup you can be sure the plant receives light while remaining in a humid environment. Remove the pot when you clean the tray.
Tips For Making Sundews Live Longer
Ensure the plant eats insects regularly. By regular that is once a week. One of its tentacles will fold up when it catches a prey so that tells you if the plant is eating or not. Without nourishment, sundew plants will weaken.
Keep the plant safe from animals. A lot of animals love to eat sundews so bear that in mind if you have pets at home.
Provide access to natural light. If your sundew is outside, it has access to light and all the bugs it needs, plus rain showers. You do not need to do anything else except move the plant under shade if it gets too hot. And if the plant does not seem to be eating, feed it with dead insects or freeze dried worms.
Keep pests away. Aphids and fungus can wreck havoc on sundews. An insect repellant can be helpful here so have one handy. If you have several sundews and one is infested, move it away from the other plants to prevent the infection from spreading.
Letting sundews flower is okay. Venus flytraps lose a lot of energy when they flower, so it is almost always a good idea to cut their stalks. Sundews on the other hand, are not weakened by it. You can cut the flower talks off, but letting flowers bloom will not reduce its ability to produce dew.
Top water once a month. If you use the tray method, water from the top once a month. This will remove any minerals that might have built up in the soil.
Let the tray dry every month. This can prevent fungus or other bacteria from building up in the water. Once the tray has dried you can fill it again. Remember to keep the soil moist at all times.
Do not panic if leaves start falling. If you have sundew that goes dormant, this is normal. As fall arrives, the plant prepares for dormancy and will look like it is dying. But it is not, so do not worry.
Caring for sundews is not as difficult compared to other plants. Some variants live longer than others but it all comes down to how well you take care of them. Even if you are a beginner, it really does not take a lot to keep your sundew alive for years, even decades.
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.