The Drosera Expert
an interview with Sundew Matt
1. How did you get started being the Drosera expert? When did all this start?
I started growing CP when I was around 12 or 13 years old. The New York Botanical Gardens was very close by and I visited there often. I was considered their library's "resident CP expert" since the NYBG never had a serious CP collection (and still doesn't, despite my attempts to get them more interested). I feel I was definitely no expert then (about 16 years ago) and even now don't consider myself that much of an expert - there are still a few plants which I have a hard time growing.
2. Why Drosera? What lead you to select them as your area of expertise.
I always grew a lot of Drosera, primarily because they are such beautiful plants and they are easy for an apartment dweller like me to grow under artificial lights. After a 7 year long break from growing CP, I discovered the CP listserv and started acquiring plants again. I was very surprised to find many Drosera I had wanted in the 80s had finally entered cultivation but was also disappointed to see that these rare plants were only in several collections - Drosera growers were a lot less common than they were years ago. These 2 factors as well as 2 other factors - a shortage of space and available growing conditions - resulted in my decision to focus on growing South American, African and petiolaris complex Drosera. Thanks to a few friends, I've ended up with a decent number of pygmy Drosera as well but these and some of the South African plants can be tricky under lights, especially when you do not pay much attention to their fluctuating photoperiod.
3. What are the growing conditions, are they grower friendly?
Most of my plants are very easy to grow provided they are given the right conditions. I find this generally works:
light: 4 bulbs per level, 5-10" above plants, depending on species/group. 2 cool white, 1 warm white and 1 plant and aquarium bulb (this is what my friend Phill Mann suggested but I am not so sure the P&A bulb is necessary).
water: distilled water - I typically sit plants in 1/4" water and let things dry out between waterings. There are some exceptions to this. Plants like Drosera intermedia prefer a waterlogged medium.
soil: I prefer to use long fiber sphagnum moss from New Zealand or, when not available, Chilean sphagnum is also good (but weedier). This stuff is expensive but much, much better quality than American sphagnum. I have had terrible results using straight American / Canadian peat moss and now use it only for pygmy Drosera. I also use "No Damp Off", on which I typically sow seed. This is dead milled sphagnum.
humidity: My plants grow in terraria covered with glass or plexiglass. I have found that most of them grow best with close to 100% humidity. I believe that certain Australian tuberous and South African Drosera prefer lower humidity.
temperature: I feel that most CP prefer cool temperatures. Some of the South American highland plants I grow would probably die if temperatures stayed above 80F for an extended period of time. For this reason, most of my plants sit on a stand next to an air conditioner. My electric bills can get pretty expensive! If you have a house with a cool basement, you will be much better off. Most plants appreciate a drop in temperature at night. Temperatures here are typically 60F at night and 70-85 during the day (when tanks are heated by the lights). Nighttime temperatures usually drop to 50F during the winter. I have one of the coolest living rooms around. Literally.
feeding: I rarely feed my plants. When I do, I typically use Tetra