As an Amazon Associate, this site earns commissions from qualifying purchases. For more details, click here.
Sundews are among the most beautiful carnivorous plants and their ways of capturing and eating insects are fascinating. They are relatively easy to care for, but what do you do when its leaves turn brown and there is no dew? Is your sundew dying? Is there anything you can do?
Signs of a dying sundew include deformed, brownish leaves, lack of dew and curled up tentacles. A dying sundew may recover by exposing it to at least 12 hours of sunlight, plenty of water and placing it in a humid environment with a temperature between 45-85 F.
Let us look at the most common signs of a dying sundew and how to fix it.
Sundew is Not Sticky
Sundew leaves and tentacles are usually covered with mucilage, the sticky stuff that resembles morning dew. The plant uses this to lure insects and once they are stuck on the dew, are trapped by the tentacles and eaten.
There are three reasons why sundews may lack dew: not enough light, low humidity and high temperature. Any one or a combination of these leads to a lower dew production and even kill the plant. Here is a guide on why your sundew has no dew.
Sundews do not necessarily need insects to survive, but their nutrients provide sustenance and extra energy for growth and development. Sundews cannot eat insects or any food without dew, so this will weaken them.
Move your sundew so it can get as much sunlight as possible. A dying sundew with little to no mucilage needs at least 12 hours of light every day.
Too much light might cause the leaves to dry and affect dew production however. So make sure the plant gets plenty of water. The tray method works great here, but use only rainwater, reverse osmosis or distilled water.
Sundews benefit from light, not necessarily heat. In fact these plants prefer high humidity as it keeps the soil moist.
Sundews prefer a 50% humidity rate and temperature around 45 to 85 F (7 to 29C). This is not exact of course, as some variants can grow in higher or lower temperature. But for most sundews this is what you will want.
The lack of dew is a sign the plant is not getting enough food and light. By following this simple setup, you are giving your sundew a chance to recover.
Once the plant starts producing dew, feed it some nutritious stuff like BNYEE Freeze Dried Bloodworms. When it is fully back to normal, you can bring it outside so it can catch insects. If you will keep the plant indoors, make sure it has access to insects or you can do manual feeding.
Leaves are Deformed
There are many reasons why sundew leaves get deformed, but the most likely cause are heat and insect infestation.
It is normal for some sundews to produce deformed leaves every now and then. Humidity, light and temperature affect how plants produce leaves, so a deformed leaf here and there is not a cause for concern.
You should take action if three or more leaves are deformed consecutively. use the following methods depending on whether the cause is too much light or an infestation.
Too Much Sunlight
Sundews need sunlight like other plants, but too much is not a good thing. There is a lot of debate on whether direct or indirect sunlight is ideal or not, but the problem is the heat and not necessarily the light.
Direct sunlight is not bad for sundews, except if it gets too hot. In that case the heat will evaporate the dew and force the plant to produce more. This puts the sundew under a great deal of stress and could even kill it.
Moving the plant under shade. If the plant is indoors on a windowsill, move it to another location. Keep the plant away from direct light but do not keep it in the dark.
Once your plant is shaded, observe it for a couple of weeks. If too much sun was the problem, the sundew should recover. This might take a few days or weeks depending on how healthy the sundew is.
Insect infestation is another cause and the culprits are usually aphids. Sundews actually eat aphids, but these bugs can cause problems and turn sundew leaves black. For more about sundews turning black, check out this guide why sundews turn black.
First you have to be certain there are insects in the sundew. Inspect the plant carefully and if there are aphids, you should be able to see them as they are green. Once you are certain the bugs are there, you can take the following steps.
If aphids are all over your sundew, separate it from the rest of your plants, Use a repellent to kill the bugs. We recommend Earth’s Ally Pesticide because it is 100% safe for plants and eliminates not just aphids but other pests too.
If there are only a few, submerge the plant in water for a few minutes. That should remove the bugs.
How to Prevent Insects From Infesting Sundews
- Provide more light. Aphids and other bugs prefer plants and pots with little light.
- Improve the air flow around the plants.
- Do not let water stagnate. If you are using the tray method, dry the tray at least once a month.
- Do not drench the soil. Keeping it moist is enough.
Tentacles Curled Up and Leaves Wilting
Sundew tentacles curl up when the plant is digesting food, so it is nothing to worry about. But if several tentacles are curled without food there is something wrong.
There are many possible reasons why this happens, but root rot is the most likely cause. Root rot also causes sundew leaves to turn brown and lose their dew.
The only way to know for sure if your sundew has root rot is to dig up the plant. However if it displays any of the symptoms above, there is a good chance it is infected. Fortunately there are solutions available.
Once root rot has set in, the only option is to cut off the rotting parts and repot the healthy sundew remnants. You cannot save the plant if the entire root has rotted away. Otherwise, trim the rotted areas and try to save the rest by potting in a new container with new soil.
To prevent root rot:
- Do not use too much water. Yes, sundews need lots of water, but overwatering is possible and can cause roots to decay. In the tray method, pour only 1/2 to 1 inch of water for a 5-6 inch container.
- Try to keep the light intensity constant. Low intensity light plus high humidity makes the soil vulnerable to fungal infection and root decay.
- A sudden drop in temperature could turn a moist sol into a damp one. The excess moisture could make its way into the roots.
- Dry the tray completely at least once a month.
- Poor soil drainage. This is a result of poor soil mixture. If you are going to buy soil for sundew, follow the instructions on the package. And use lots of water to attain the right consistency.
- Space your sundews. This will discouage fungal growth.
Dead or Dormant Sundew?
Tropical sundews do not go dormant but some temperate variants do. If you own one of these, it is easy to mistake dormancy for symptoms of death.
So the first thing to do is check what variant you have. If it is the type that enters dormancy, find out when this happens. Usually these plants start at fall and go into full hibernation in the winter. A few rare breeds bloom in winter and are dormant in summer.
If you know your sundew goes dormant in the fall, there is no need to panic if the stems shrivel, the leaves wither and fall, and the plant refuses to eat. But if you have a tropical variant and the plant withers, curls or turns brown, you know there is a problem.
It is often said that prevention is better than cure. And that certainly applies to sundews. With proper care for sundews, a lot of these potentially fatal problems can be avoided. But if these symptoms arise, these tips should be able to help.
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.