Can You Overfeed a Sundew?

overfeeding a sundew

Carnivorous plants can be both beautiful and deadly, to the right creature. It all depends on your perspective, and to a bug in your home, a sundew can be a deadly predator simply by being attractive. Feeding a sundew isn’t always necessary. If your home provides the occasional fruit fly, then you may need to do very little supplementing.

But can you overfeed a sundew? You absolutely can overfeed a sundew. Sundew plants only need a couple of small bugs a month to survive. There is a delicate balance between feeding to enhance growth and overfeeding one. If you feed a sundew too much, it is possible to drain what little energy it has, especially if it is sick. 

Feeding carnivorous plants can be fun, but it can also be overdone. Every insect that the plant catches or feeds on requires energy, and if your plant is not in peak health, too much can kill it. With a sundew, it is best to feed it only one bug at a time and wait until it has digested that one before you feed it another one. One tiny bug a week is more than sufficient.

How Can I Tell if My Sundew was Overfed?

A sundew that was overfed will be sluggish even for a sundew. While it may not let go of bugs that it has caught, it won’t make any attempts to try to digest it either. Oftentimes what happens is that the tentacle will partially curl and stop. The bug will still be stuck, but it won’t make any attempts to eat it, just hold it. Eventually the leaf or tentacle will blacken and die.

There is a risk, since it is the full undigested bug, not the empty exoskeleton, that the bug and potentially the dead leaf will rot and mold. This is very dangerous to the plant as this rot and mold could lead to killing the plant in the long run. If you notice any rotting or blackened leaves, they need to be removed along with any rotting bugs.

This could lead to a cascading effect that could kill your plant if you do not fix the situation. At this point, treat the plant as if it is sick and don’t feed for at least a month. Give it time to heal and build up some energy. Give it water and plenty of light, but hold off on feeding until your plant looks healthy again and is putting out more sticky dew on its tentacles.

How Do I Know if my Plant is Healthy Enough to Eat?

There are a few things to look out for when considering if your plant is healthy enough to be able to digest the bugs that it catches or your feed to it.

  • Discolored leaves. If the leaves look lighter than usual, such as yellow instead of green, then your plant may not be getting enough sunlight. This, in turn, will result in a lower amount of energy reserves since it will not have been able to photosynthesize the energy it needs to be able to digest a bug. 
  •  Wilted leaves. If the leaves look wilted or look limp, your plant may not be getting enough water. THis can easily be checked by checking the soil. A sundew should NEVER have dry soil, unless it is in its dormancy period, in which case you would not be trying to feed it anyway. 
  • No sticky dew. If you do not see any dew on its tentacles, don’t try to feed it, you could make it worse. The lack of attractant, which is what the dew on it is partly for, means that the plant is not trying to catch anything. This could be for a number of reasons, including being sick, lacking in energy or entering its dormancy phase. 

How to Ensure that Your Sundew Has the Energy to Feed

If your sundew is not in peak health, feeding in general may kill it. Carnivorous plants require energy to be able to digest the bugs that it catches. Sundew plants use photosynthesis to be able to create the energy that they need to digest anything that it traps. If a sundew does not have the required amount of sunlight everyday it will not have the energy to digest food.

Before attempting to feed your sundew plant, make sure that it has everything it needs in the proper proportions.

Does it have enough light exposure? Making sure that a sundew is exposed to the proper amount of sunlight every day is just one part of the requirements needed to ensure it is in peak health. If its needs are not properly met, your plant could become sick or weak and trying to digest something could cause a leaf to die or sap the energy from the plant entirely. 

Does it have enough water? Its soil should be moist if not wet to the touch. If you have the pot sitting in a saucer, it should have at least ½ to 1 inch of water in the saucer at all times, unless it is in its dormancy phase. A sundew plant in their growing phase should also have moist to wet soil as this is how it lives in its natural habitat. Use only rainwater or distilled water. 

Does it have the right soil? Sundew plants need more sandy type of soil. Potting soil is not made for carnivorous plants and can actually lead to them getting sick. The nutrients in potting soil is too dense for carnivorous plants and can burn the roots which can make the plants very sick. If you bought the plant live, it is best to leave it in the soil it came in, if possible. 

Is the temperature right in your home? Some sundew plants need a higher temperature because some of them are tropical plants. They would thrive better in higher temperatures around 75 degrees plus. 

Does it need higher humidity? Due to where they grow in nature, some sundew plants do require a higher humidity level than is typically found in our homes, even in the hotter southern states. If everything else seems to check out, then your sundew plant may need to be housed in a terrarium to be able to provide the higher level of humidity that it needs. 

Should I Feed My Sundew During a Dormancy Phase?

The dormancy phase in any plant means that the plant needs time to rest. Unlike humans and animals, plants don’t actually sleep. They are constantly doing something, and whether it is growing, performing photosynthesis, or digesting food (in the case of carnivorous plants), it is always busy. Most plants that last more than a single season need a dormant phase to rest.

While not all species of sundew plants need a dormancy period, some do. When it comes to a dormancy state with sundews, you have three different types of sundew.

  1. The species that only grow for a few months. These do not need a dormancy period because they don’t live long enough to. They survive long enough to produce seeds, then die. 
  2. The species that just grow all year round without a dormancy period. You will notice that their tentacles always have dew on them, making them ready to catch some bugs. 
  3. The species that will grow fast and hard for most of the year then needs to take a break for a couple of months. During dormancy, they will require less water and do not require any feeding. They will still require you to provide light as they are still photosynthesizing at that time.

So, if you’re sundew goes dormant, you should not feed it at that time as it will use energy that the plant doesn’t necessarily have. Make sure you know which kind of sundew you have to avoid making this mistake!