Cape Sundew

Cape Sundew

Cape Sundew (Drosera capensis) is a fascinating carnivorous plant with glistening, sticky tentacles that trap and digest insects.

This remarkable plant has become a popular addition to home gardens and terrariums, not only for its unique insect-catching abilities but also for its striking appearance. Also, here is a detailed article on how to propagate Cape Sundew

In this article, we will take an in-depth look at the Cape Sundew, its characteristics, and how to care for it in your own home or garden. Also, here is a detailed article on how to care for Cape Sundew

Plant Overview

Botanical NameDrosera capensis
Common NameCape Sundew
Plant TypeCarnivorous plant, perennial
Average Size3-6 inches (7.6-15.2 cm) in height
SunlightBright, indirect light
Soil TypeSphagnum moss or a mix of peat and perlite
Soil pH4.5-6.5 (acidic)
Bloom TimeLate spring to summer
Flower ColorPink, white or pale purple

Plant Description

Cape Sundew is native to the Cape region of South Africa and belongs to the Droseraceae family. It is a perennial plant that can grow up to 3-6 inches (7.6-15.2 cm) in height.

The leaves are long and slender, covered with sticky, glandular hairs called “tentacles.” These tentacles secrete a dew-like substance called “mucilage,” which is responsible for trapping insects.

The plant’s main source of nutrition comes from these trapped insects, as it grows in nutrient-poor soil.The Cape Sundew has a rosette growth pattern, with the leaves forming a circle around the central stem.

In its natural habitat, the plant thrives in wet, marshy areas with acidic soil. It produces flowers that are pink, white, or pale purple in color, blooming from late spring to summer.

The flowers grow on long, slender stalks that extend from the center of the rosette.

History and Natural Habitat

Cape Sundew has a rich history, with its first recorded discovery dating back to the 17th century by Dutch explorers in South Africa.

The plant’s scientific name, Drosera capensis, pays homage to its native region, the Cape of Good Hope.

Cape Sundew (2)

In the wild, Cape Sundew is commonly found in marshy areas and along the banks of streams. It thrives in nutrient-poor, acidic soil and is well-adapted to its environment.

Its carnivorous nature allows it to extract essential nutrients from insects, compensating for the lack of nutrients in the soil.

Growth Patterns

Cape Sundew is a relatively slow-growing plant, taking several months to reach maturity. Once established, it can live for many years if given the proper care.

The plant’s growth is primarily focused on its leaves, with new leaves continuously emerging from the center of the rosette.

As the plant grows, older leaves on the outer edges of the rosette will begin to wither and die off, making way for new growth.

Identification of Plant

The Cape Sundew is a small plant, reaching a height of 3-6 inches (7.6-15.2 cm) and sporting a rosette growth pattern. The leaves are long and slender, covered with sticky, glandular hairs called tentacles.

These tentacles secrete a dew-like substance, mucilage, which is used to trap insects. The color of the leaves can range from bright green to reddish-purple, depending on the amount of sunlight received.

The flowers of the Cape Sundew are small and delicate, with colors ranging from pink, white, or pale purple. They bloom from late spring to summer and grow on long, slender stalks that extend from the center of the rosette.

The flowers are self-pollinating, and once pollinated, they produce small, black seeds.

Cape Sundew (1)

Types and Varieties

There are several types and varieties of Cape Sundew, each with its unique characteristics. Some of the most popular ones include:

  • Drosera capensis ‘Alba’: This variety features pure white flowers and light green leaves. It is also known for having slightly longer leaves than the typical Cape Sundew.
  • Drosera capensis ‘Broad Leaf’: As the name suggests, this variety has broader leaves compared to the standard Cape Sundew. The leaves can be either green or red, depending on the amount of sunlight received.
  • Drosera capensis ‘Narrow Leaf’: This variety has narrower leaves and a more compact growth habit. The leaves are typically green with a reddish tint.
  • Drosera capensis ‘Red’: This striking variety has deep red leaves and produces pink or white flowers. It requires more sunlight than other varieties to maintain its vibrant color.
  • Drosera capensis ‘Bainskloof’: Endemic to the Bainskloof Pass in South Africa, this variety has long, slender leaves with a reddish-purple hue.

Facts about the Plant

  • Cape Sundew is one of the easiest carnivorous plants to grow, making it an excellent choice for beginners.
  • The plant relies on insects for nutrients due to the nutrient-poor soil it naturally grows in. Its tentacles secrete a sweet-smelling, sticky substance that attracts insects, which then become trapped and digested.
  • Cape Sundew can self-pollinate, meaning it doesn’t need another plant for successful reproduction.
  • In its natural habitat, the plant can survive fires as its seeds can lay dormant in the soil for years, germinating when conditions are favorable.
  • The name “Drosera” comes from the Greek word “droseros,” meaning “dewy,” which describes the dew-like substance on the plant’s tentacles.
  • Cape Sundew is considered non-toxic to humans and pets. However, it is not advisable to consume any part of the plant.

Tips to Grow This Plant

  • Choose the right soil: Use sphagnum moss or a mix of peat and perlite for optimal growth. The soil should be well-draining and acidic, with a pH of 4.5-6.5.
  • Provide bright, indirect light: Cape Sundew thrives in bright, indirect light. Avoid placing the plant in direct sunlight, as this can scorch the leaves.
  • Maintain high humidity: Cape Sundew prefers high humidity levels, around 60-70%. You can achieve this by placing the plant on a tray filled with water and pebbles or by using a humidifier.
  • Water with distilled or rainwater: Tap water often contains minerals that can be harmful to Cape Sundew. Use distilled water, rainwater, or reverse osmosis water for best results.
  • Don’t fertilize: Cape Sundew obtains its nutrients from the insects it captures. Fertilization is unnecessary and can harm the plant.
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Major Problems

  • Pests: Aphids and spider mites can infest Cape Sundew plants. Remove them manually or use insecticidal soap to control the infestation.
  • Rot: Overwatering or poor drainage can cause root rot. Ensure the plant is in well-draining soil and avoid letting it sit in standing water.
  • Insufficient light: If the plant doesn’t receive enough light, it may lose its color and become leggy. Move the plant to a brighter location or use artificial lighting to supplement the light it receives.

Care and Maintenance

  • Prune dead leaves: Remove dead leaves as they wither to encourage new growth and maintain the plant’s appearance.
  • Monitor humidity levels: Regularly check the humidity around the plant and adjust as needed to maintain optimal levels.
  • Re-pot when necessary: Cape Sundew typically requires repotting every 1-2 years. Use a slightly larger container and fresh soil when repotting to ensure healthy growth.
  • Keep the plant clean: Gently clean the leaves with a soft brush or cotton swab to remove dust and debris.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I grow Cape Sundew indoors?

Yes, Cape Sundew can be grown indoors as long as it receives bright, indirect light and maintains high humidity levels. A sunny windowsill or a terrarium with artificial lighting can provide the necessary conditions for healthy growth.

How often should I water Cape Sundew?

Cape Sundew prefers consistently moist soil. It is crucial not to let the soil dry out completely. Water the plant with distilled or rainwater when the top layer of soil begins to feel dry.

Do I need to feed insects to my Cape Sundew?

While it’s not necessary to feed insects to your Cape Sundew, providing occasional insects can help supplement the plant’s nutrition, especially if it is grown indoors where insects are less abundant.

Why are my Cape Sundew’s leaves turning black?

Leaves turning black may be a sign of overwatering or poor drainage, which can lead to root rot. Ensure the plant is in well-draining soil and avoid letting it sit in standing water.

How can I propagate Cape Sundew?

Cape Sundew can be propagated through seeds, leaf cuttings, or root divisions. Sow seeds on the surface of moist sphagnum moss or peat, and keep the growing medium consistently moist until germination. For leaf cuttings, place a healthy leaf on moist soil, and new plantlets will begin to form at the base of the leaf.

Is Cape Sundew toxic to pets?

Cape Sundew is considered non-toxic to pets. However, it is still best to keep the plant out of reach of curious pets to avoid any potential issues.

How long does Cape Sundew live?

With proper care, Cape Sundew can live for many years. It is a perennial plant, meaning it will continue to grow and thrive if given the appropriate conditions and care.

About Christopher Evans

Hello, I'm Chris, the green-thumbed Founder of I'm passionate about bringing the beauty of nature indoors through houseplants and indoor gardening. Let's create healthier and more beautiful living spaces, one plant at a time!

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