Pygmy sundews are the smallest kind of sundew found mainly in southwestern Australia. These plants are an extra small oddity in a genus of oddities that can survive through hot dry spells in the summer and cold wet spells in the winter. They usually reside around edges of seasonal creeks and lakes, and sometimes around small shrubs in open woodland. When it gets really hot, pygmy sundew produce protective dense white stipules to keep them from frying in the sun, and have a very long root that goes deep into the soil, so that when things are dry, they can still retain water. Pygmy sundew are one of the only plants to produce what are called “gemmae,” along with some ferns, which is a reproductive body used to create more plants. Most pygmy sundew don’t grow larger than a nickel and don’t grow tall, but are still just as captivating as a large colorful nepenthes. They’re easy to grow given the right conditions and are a really good plant for beginner growers getting into carnivorous plants.
Anatomy and Physiology of Pygmy Sundew:
Gemmae: With the approach of each cold season comes the formation of gemmae. Gemmae are produced through asexual propagation, they are modified leafs that look like buds and are considered live plant, but they work like seeds. They form at the crown of the plant and in nature are dispersed through rain drops falling and hitting the crown, causing the gemmae to fly off and germinate somewhere nearby.
Different species produce different shaped and sized gemmae. That can sometimes be a good way to identify different pygmy sundew. Gemmae are perfect clones of the mother plant, and consist of two different parts. The outer part serves as a food reservoir while the inside acts like the seed that sprouts and will produce a tiny red root once it germinates.
Gemmae are the best and easiest way to propagate more plants. You can learn how to do that in my post about how I collect and propagate gemmae! Gemmae can live on the mother plant for up to a few months, so they don’t need to be collected right away, but if they are collected, they do need to be sown fairly quickly, otherwise they will die.
Roots: The roots of Pygmy Sundew are very long and thin, sometimes even exceeding 8 inches! A lot of Pygmy Sundew have a single root, and because it is so thin, it is damaged easily. The thin roots can snap with little interruption to the plant, and happens often trying to transplant or ship a mature plant. Root cuttings do not produce plantlets in pygmy Drosera, and I suggest not transplanting mature plants.
Flowers: Pygmy Sundew flowers are very small but can be very pretty. A lot of Pygmy Sundew flower seeds are viable, but pollinating them and collecting the seeds can be very difficult since the flowers are so small and the seeds are practically black dust. A few species produce larger seeds, if you choose to try to grow Pygmy Sundew from seed, you would grow them just like you would any other Drosera seeds. Flowers normally come out during spring and summer.
How to Grow Pygmy Sundew:
Soil: I normally use half peat moss half silica sand when potting Pygmy Sundews. It can be difficult to find large grained silica sand, so horticultural sand sold at garden nurseries works well too. I put a very thin layer of sand on the top where the peat moss still peeks through but not too much, just enough to make sure the plants don’t get completely dry. What I do is sprinkle sand on with my fingers and rub it in to the peat moss softly. Some people like to add perlite or pumice to the mix as well, I don’t think it is necessary but I occasionally do it.
Water: Like all carnivorous plants, Pygmy Sundew need good quality water, such as reverse osmosis water, distilled water, or rain water. Tap water with a ppm of over 50 will harm your plants and likely kill them over time.I find that watering via tray method is always the best for any kind of Drosera. Top watering can get on the tentacles and wash away the sticky digestive enzymes (which isn’t necessarily bad since it will come back given lots of sun) but I feel top watering just disturbs the plants more. As you know, Pygmy Drosera will go dormant in dry conditions, I usually keep the tray filled with water all through Spring and halfway through summer, when I decide it’s time for them to sleep, I let the tray dry and wait a day or two before filling it with water. I keep up this routine until Spring comes around again. Keeping them watered will prevent them from going into dormancy!
Humidity: Pygmy Sundew DON’T need high humidity. They can grow in very low humidity levels and do just fine. The only time I ever have my Pygmies in high humidity is just after they’ve matured from gemmae stages, and by that point I am acclimating them down to outdoor humidity.
Pots: I always suggest that people grow Pygmy Sundew in a pot that is at least 4 inches deep. Like I mentioned earlier, Pygmy Sundew roots get very long, and growing in a small pot can lead to root rot.
Temperature: Pygmy Drosera can handle a wide range of temperatures, but you really don’t want to put them through 90+ degree Fahrenheit weather for more than a few days. If they are in really high temperatures, they will likely go dormant, even with keeping them watered, and can die.
Lighting: You can grow Pygmy Sundew in sun or under artificial lights. I live in San Diego where we have very sunny days, so I give them part sun where they receive 4-5 hours of direct sun and the rest of the day get a lot of indirect light. I’ve noticed they color up the best when grown outdoors. If growing under artificial lights like T5s, T5-HOs, or LEDs, you will want to put them on a minimum of a 12-13 hour cycle during the day. I would suggest 16 hours during the spring and summer, and slowly dropping it down to an 11-12 hour cycle in the fall and winter so they will produce gemmae.
Propagation: The best way to propagate Pygmy Sundew is via gemmae, if you’re interested in learning how to do this, click here for my guide on collecting and germinating Pygmy Sundews! Like I mentioned before, if you are the type of person who’s up for a challenge, getting seeds from flower and germinating the seeds is a method of propagation, but it is a lot slower than growing from gemmae. The time it takes to get mature plants is a lot longer and a more difficult process. The last way of propagation which I don’t recommend except in extreme situations, is leaf pullings. An extreme situation would consist of a mature Pygmy Drosera that has been severed from the root and has no chance at survival. Other than that, trying to do leaf pulling can put the Pygmy Sundew into shock or tear it from its thin root. Pull down on the leaf so that the petiole comes with it and it peels off the center of the plant, then place it on the surface of water in a partly sunny spot or under lights, and you’ll see a plantlet form within a few weeks. Once you see the plantlet coming out, pot it into very wet medium with high humidity until it develops into maturity.
(PS: I don’t have my Pygmy Sundew Gemmae Propagation Guide up yet, but that is the next thing I am working on! So stay tuned!!!)