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Drosera spatulata propagation – cuttings

Drosera spatulata propagation – cuttings

The easiest and fastest option to multiply your Drosera spatulata (or many other Drosera plants) is making leaf cuttings. They can easily grow tiny plants which take a lot less time than growing seedlings. Let’s see how you can easily make cuttings of your Drosera spatulata.

Drosera-spatulata
Drosera spatulata ‘Fraser island’

What do you need?

Like mentioned earlier, Drosera spatulata easily grows small plantlets from leaf cuttings. They don’t need any help using rooting hormones or growth regulators, the only thing they need is water. Speaking of water, it needs to have low TDS value (total dissolved solids). That means the water doesn’t have much salts in it, which are usually present in ground or tap water. The best option is if you can collect rain water. I usually wait for a while and discard the first couple of hours of rain, so the atmosphere and the roof cleans up a bit. I measured TDS and it can make quite a difference. If collected rain is not an option, you can use RO (reverse osmosis) water or distilled water.

How do you make the cuttings?

Making leaf cuttings is easy, you need small scissors and forceps. I make a cut as close to the base of the plant as possible and discard old and damaged leaves. Using forceps I pick out the leaves I just cut and place them into petri dish, filled half-way with distilled water. You can also use a glass or any kind of container that holds water. In an experiment with Drosera capensis a few years ago, I used zip-lock bags, which also worked.

How long does it take?

It can take quite some time before you see the first signs of life. Young, healthy and large leaves will take faster and grow more small plants, while smaller, older or damaged leaves usually take longer and produces only a couple of plants, some even fail. It usually takes around a month to get them started, but it often takes longer, up to two months. Beside health of the cuttings, there are other key factors that can also affect the speed of propagation – light and temperature. Keep them in light place but not directly exposed to sun. They grow well under artificial lights, I have set the lights to 16 hour day length. I try to keep temperature between 20°C and 30°C.

Well fed Drosera spatulata. It single handedly eradicated fungus gnats infestation.

PROS / CONS compared to growing seedlings?

First there are pros:
Cuttings take off a lot faster than seedlings which can stay in their super tiny phase for quite some time.
When they first emerge, they can already start “hunting” small insects. Seedlings are usually too small to catch even the smallest springtails.
All the seedlings are identical to their parent plant – they are clones. That comes especially handy with Drosera hybrids that are not fertile.

Smaller leaves don’t give as many plantlets

Cons of taking cuttings are:
They are clones. There is no biodiversity in that, all the plants you get are identical, they have the same vigor, same shape, color,… As it is a good thing, it can be a bad thing as well. I like diversity!
By generative (sexual) reproduction, you can get hybrids and selectively breed your plants, trying to get their best characteristics and create a superior seedling. That alone makes it worth playing with the seeds, it’s just not to make a lot of plants in a shortest time possible.

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Drosera sp. Pretty Rosette from seeds

Drosera sp. Pretty Rosette from seeds

Drosera dielsiana

Drosera sp. Pretty Rosette seeds
Drosera sp. Pretty Rosette seeds

I have been growing Drosera capensis sundews for quite some time and decided to add a few more to my list. The first one is Drosera sp. Pretty Rosette. According to carnivorous plants communities around the internet, Pretty Rosette is supposed to be an unique form of Drosera dielsiana. Like many sundews, it originates from South Africa. It’s rosette forming Drosera and it grows up to 4 cm in diameter. It’s one of the sundews that are fairly easy to handle.

Germination

Seeds are very small, just as all Drosera seeds. First sprouts appeared in 14 days, which was a bit faster than other Drosera seeds I’ve grown, except for the fresh D. capensis seeds I have collected myself. It is almost impossible to distribute the seeds evenly over the surface, so the majority of seeds started growing on a small patch of peat. In time, I’ll transplant the plantlets and give them more space to grow, Drosera  Pretty Rosette is supposed to be small, which means I have some time before they grow that much.

Early growth

In the beginning, the seedlings were growing quite fast. It took less than a week for them to start growing their first true leaves with their sticky traps. The first leaf actually managed to catch a small springtail as soon as the tentacles got dewy.

Seedlings 5 days after germination
Seedlings 5 days after germination

6 days old seedlings opening first traps
6 days old seedlings opening first traps

7 days old seedlings
One of 7 days old seedlings already caught a springtail

3 weeks old seedlings
3 weeks old seedlings

Seedlings responded well to strong grow light and showed red tentacle coloration from the very beginning. The ones that managed to catch a springtail speeded up growth and remained green, seedlings that were not so lucky, turned red and developed much slower. So far it seems that Drosera Pretty Rosette seedlings are even more effective when it comes to capturing small springtails. At one point, almost all the seedlings have caught something, some of them used two or more traps at the same time.

Carnage in the dense forest of sundews
Carnage in the dense forest of sundews

It will be fun to see how fast I can get them to adult size. They don’t cross pollinate with any of my current sundews, so I’ll have to wait for my other seeds to finally germinate. I want to successfully cross pollinate Drosera capensis with a rosette forming sundew, Drosera spatulata. First seeds have just started sprouting so perhaps by mid summer I will be able to get at least some of them to flower. As soon as the traps get large enough, I’ll start feeding them fish food. I think they should all be ready to find their own food by the end of spring. Insects, beware!

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Drosera capensis and Spiders

Drosera capensis and Spiders

Aphid infestation

Aphids roaming around the flower stalk
Aphids roaming around the flower stalk

Drosera capensis is a carnivorous plant that can effectively fight fungus gnat flies, but can have a lot of problems, when infested with aphids. Aphids are usually moving over the parts of plant without traps, which makes them safe from Drosera’s sticky mucilage. Drosera can tolerate some aphids, but will start declining as the aphid population grows. At first, leaves can get stunted, wilted and show signs of damage. When there are too many aphids, D. capensis can no longer support sucking pest and all it’s leaves, which makes it start loosing leaves. First, old leaves dry out, then it spreads towards the newer parts of the plant. Eventually, if not treated with insecticide, the plant dies.

Aphids and Overwintering

Each year when I bring my plants in for the winter, there are all kinds of insects I bring inside with my plants. As soon as I accommodate my plants, I see an ‘explosion’ of  fungus gnats population. It can easily be suppressed with careful watering and  an army of carnivorous plants. Then comes aphid outbreak. My carnivores can’t help much about that issue and are usually the source of aphids in the first place. Aphids are more resilient to insecticides, because they live in various life cycles. Aphid eggs often stay hidden and protected, hatching when the insecticide fades out.

Spiders!

Competing for food with carnivorous plant
Competing for food with carnivorous plant

Together with all the plant eating insects, overwintered plants often bring in less annoying creatures like small spiders, worms, centipedes or springtails.
This year, I’ve ‘imported’ several spiders in my large Drosera capensis container. Most of the time, they remain hidden among Drosera leaves. It’s interesting, how they can place their spiderweb around the sticky Drosera traps without being caught. They compete for food with Drosera capensis, but can’t really compete when it comes to efficiency. The thing I have noticed, however, is that the spiders seem to be hunting for aphids. I have been bottom watering for a while, and I noticed a bunch of aphid corpses under their web.

Aphid graveyard under the spider web
Aphid graveyard under the spider web

They bring all their prey to the same spot in the center of the spiderweb. When the spider eats them, tiny carcasses are dumped down onto the soil. Watering removes these piles of dead insects and it took bottom watering to observe them piling up.

I am overwintering a lot of Drosera capensis plants this winter and I have almost lost a few because of aphids. Strangely, the large pot remained quite healthy, despite the fact that there were aphids on them, as well as in all the other pots. Seems to me, that the spiders are doing quite a nice job, keeping aphid population in check. I hope that these little spiders spawn at least a couple (hundred) more. I intend to leave them on my carnivores and probably introduce them to my other plants as well. The nicest thing about them is – they stay at the same spot as long as they have food. None of them left their pot.

Drosera capensis can't catch small spider
Drosera capensis can’t catch small spider

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Feeding Sundews Fish Food

Feeding Sundews Fish Food

Each winter, when I keep my sundews inside during the cold part of the year, I try to keep them as strong as possible for the following summer. They are more than capable of catching it’s own meal outside, but when I bring them inside, they don’t get much more than occasional fungus gnat.

Why do I even bother?

Feeding Drosera capensis
Feeding Drosera capensis

Carnivore plants usually require only small amount of nutrients and can easily withstand periods without captured food. They slow down their growth and refuse to start flowering until they get enough nutrients. My goal is, to make them grow as much as possible before the following season, possibly inducing flowering at the time when they come out in the spring. I keep them under grow light, which enables them to start flowering in late winter. They are in their full health when fungus gnats strike in the spring, when I start sowing my vegetables.

Healthy diet

Fish food I use
Fish food I use

In the past, I tried feeding them different kind of food, but I soon realised that giving them fish food is the easiest option by far. I have given my plants live springtails, while they were seedlings. They multiply vigorously and are excellent source of food for tiny Sundews, but they soon outgrow their tiny food. At one point, I have fed the carnivores aphids. In the spring time, they suck on tender cherry tree leaves. I have picked the infested leaves and placed them into a bag and thrown them into a freezer. I ended up with almost unlimited supply of dead aphids which lasted until the next spring. I could not feed them as much as I wanted to, because it was really time consuming. And as I later realized, giving them fish food really makes a difference. They just love it!
The food consists 50% of common water fleas (daphnia), a bit of vegetable proteins and fish derivatives. I was afraid the food would be too much for them to handle, but it seems to be perfect for the job. I usually mix it with some distilled water, to make it thinner.

Feeding plants

Time to rock and roll
Time to rock and roll

To apply the fish food paste onto the carnivorous leaf, I use a toothpick or a screwdriver. I dip it into the paste and apply it onto the trap. In a couple of hours, leaves usually start folding and start the digestion. When the process of digestion is finished, traps usually die off. Tentacles that were used are damaged and cease mucilage production. Dew appears only on unused tentacles. That’s the reason, why I usually apply the food all over the leaf and I leave some leaves intact. I feed those later. 🙂

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