Carnivorous plants in general make fascinating captives. Having seemingly forsaken their plant heritage and ancestral role at the bottom trophic level, carnivorous plants depend on protein for at least part of their diet - in short, they eat animals! Sundews, which belong to the genus Drosera, have small, stalked mucilaginous glands on their leaves. These often brightly colored Sirens produce a sticky substance that lures, entangles, and eventually digests insect prey. Follow the 7 simple steps below, and watch this unusual food chain reveal itself on your desk or counter top!
Step 1: Gather Your Materials
Before you start putting together your container garden for carnivorous plants, make sure to gather the materials together that you'll need to complete the task. Fortunately, not much is needed to create a small masterpiece.
1 - Glass container. The container you choose will vary a lot based on personal taste. Make sure the container is large enough (at least 8" across), but will still fit in the space you have planned for it. The container will need to seal well, both to hold in humidity, and prevent the escape of any insects that are fed to your sundews. I personally prefer glass over plastic containers, due to their weight (less likely to be knocked off a surface), clarity, and resistance to scratches.
2 - False Bottom. This layer will provide a place for excess water to go, so that it does not overly saturate the soil and drown your plants! Keeping this layer about half full of water will also help maintain the humid environment needed to successfully keep sundews. I prefer Josh's Frogs False Bottom, an American made material created from recycled glass.
3 - Soil. There are many different substrate mixes out there that are appropriate for different types of plants. For container gardens containing sundews, I prefer a 50/50 mix of perlite and peat, both of which should be available at your local gardening center or nursery.
4 - Moss. Sphagnum moss will suit your needs, but I prefer the live, green appearance of Josh's Frogs Sheet Moss. Moss will prevent the soil from compacting down into the false bottom layer, hide the soil from the sides of the container (increasing your container garden's visual appeal), and cover the top of the soil, helping it to retain moisture. Plus, it looks great!
5 - Wood/rocks/decor. A bit of non-living material will mesh nicely with the live moss and plants you'll be using. Manzanita Wood works well, as it is a rot-resistant hard wood. Rocks work well too.
6 - Sundews or other live plants. Josh's Frogs carries a wide variety of live terrarium plants that will do well in a container garden, including some popular carnivorous plants.
Step 2: Install False Bottom
The bottom layer of the container, the False Bottom will provide a place for excess water to go so that it does not overly saturate the soil and drown your plants. Place about 1-2 inches of this at the bottom of your glass container.
Step 3: Layer Moss on Top of False Bottom
Next, place a layer of moss on top of the False Bottom. This layer will simply prevent any soil above from sinking into the False Bottom over time and clogging it. You can use long fiber sphagnum moss as shown in the picture or Josh's Frogs Sheet Moss - either will do the job!
Step 4: Place Sheet Moss around edges of Container
Cut some Josh's Frogs Sheet Moss into 1-2" thick strips, then place the strips around the edge of the container, facing outward. This moss will hide the soil that you'll be introducing during the next step. This step is strictly cosmetic, and can be skipped if you desire.
Step 5: Place Soil in Container
Place a 1-2" thick layer of 50% perlite, 50% peat sphagnum in the container. This will be the soil in your container garden.
Step 6: Place wood/rock/decor in Container Garden, Plant your Carnivorous Sundews
Place your wood/rock/decor on top of the soil in an appealing fashion. Next, carefully remove excess soil from the rootball of your plants, and plant them in the soil. Make sure that the plant sits at the same level in the soil as it did in the pot. Try to keep soil off of your sundew's leaves, as particles will stick to them freely. Gently spray the leaves with water to remove any debris.
Step 7: Cover Soil with Sheet Moss
Rip up some of the remaining Josh's Frogs Sheet Moss, and use it to cover up any visible soil. This layer of moss will help the soil remain humid after watering, and greatly add to your container garden's visual appeal.
Finally, add water and enjoy! Pour distilled, spring, or reverse osmosis water into the container garden until all of the moss and substrate is saturated, and the False Bottom level is about half full of water. Place the container garden in a place that will get bright light from either the sun or an artificial light source, and enjoy! Spray/add water to the container garden every week or so. Sundews will thrive when fed flightless fruit flies.