Drosera prolifera

Drosera prolifera is a member of the "3 Sisters of Queensland," a group of closely-related sundews endemic to Queensland's tropical rainforests (Lowrie 132). Drosera prolifera is able to grow well in brighter locations and lower humidity than the more difficult D. schizandra (another member of the 3 Sisters of Queensland). I recommend starting with Drosera adelae since D. prolifera is a bit harder to obtain and it is usually more expensive. While a successful attempt with D. adelae doesn't guarantee that D. prolifera will grow vigorously in the same conditions, it can still provide a good indication that this species should do well for you. See my video on this species here!

Drosera proliferaAn orange plant of Drosera prolifera
Above left: a leaf of Drosera prolifera, grown in lower light intensity. Above right: The same D. prolifera, as in the left picture, but grown closer to my lights.  Click here to view the full-size image of the above-right picture.

Habitat: In nature, Drosera prolifera can be found growing "on moist rock ledges and creek banks in rainforest" (Lowrie 132). These plants are found in a very small distribution, growing in sheltered areas "near the summit of Thornton Park" of Northeastern Queensland (Rica 50). “Crowded colonies of plants are formed because D. prolifera produces additional plants on every flowering scape. The name of this species is very apt as it describes this unique, strange mode of asexual reproduction" (Lowrie 220).

: 100% living Long-Fibered Sphagnum (LFS) seems to be the best option for Drosera prolifera, but other mixes have worked just as well for other growers, depending on their conditions. I've seen plants that have great success in a peat: sand mixture (a perlite mix may also work well), or a mix of dead LFS with some sand. Drosera prolifera is generally not picky as long as all the other factors are accounted for (such as temperature and humidity). The plants pictured above are growing in mostly living sphagnum with a mix of some dead sphagnum, peat, and sand.

Media moisture: very moist to slightly moist. Usually very adaptable considering the plant is healthy and growing conditions are favorable.

Humidity: thrives if given elevated humidity during warmer conditions, but during the cooler months (near or around 70 F), it is able to grow well in very little humidity (<25%). I especially recommend higher humidity levels if you have recently transplanted your D. prolifera, since this plant (and even D. capensis) can be sensitive to heat and low humidity and  for a certain period, especially if the roots have been disturbed or broken. While growers tend to have very differing opinions about humidity, it mainly depends on the the conditions that the plants are growing in (ie lighting, temperature, etc), which can vary considerably.  I always recommend experimenting until you find what works best in your condiitons.

Feeding: Drosera prolifera grows best (and largest) when fed at least once a month or more frequently. See large leaf below. If growing in a high humidity environment (ie in a terrarium or sealed container), try not to overfeed the leaves or mold may develop. A "paste" of freeze-dried bloodworms (mixed with some water) reportedly does not produce mold growth, even in high humidity environments. Visit the feeding page for more info.

                Drosera prolifera large leaf

Above: a large leaf of Drosera prolifera measuring over an inch across. This plant was fed very frequently for a long period of time before this picture was taken. Click here to view the full size.

Trap speed: medium. The leaves of Drosera prolifera can curl over prey if it is large enough. According to Peter D'Amato, "The dime-sized leaves will fold around prey like a sandwich” (D'Amato 144). With smaller food, usually only the tentacles move. The tentacles are quite active and will begin to visibly curl around prey within 20 minutes.

Pot height: D. prolifera does not seem to be picky about pot height, but many growers prefer shorter pots with this species. I've been able to grow most of mine in a 6-inch-tall pot with great success as long as the media remains moist. Avoid using clear pots, since the roots frequently develop new plantlets whenever they are exposed to light- this wastes a lot of energy from the mother plant.

Plant Dimensions:
- "oval
to kidney-shaped leaves...held semierect on long, thin petioles" (D'Amato 143). I once received a very well-fed plant (picture above) that had leaves well over an inch across. Without feeding, my D. prolifera have remained 2 inches in diameter, (from leaf-to-leaf)Structure/Height- According to Allen Lowrie, D. prolifera is “a fleshy-rooted, green perennial plant with a small number of erect to semi-erect active leaves, together forming an open basal rosette of leaves up to 6 cm in diameter" (Lowrie 220).

Outdoor Growing: To be safe, when acclimating D. prolifera outdoors,  I'd recommend growing your plant in full shade to start with. If it does well here, you can leave it or gradually move it to a location that receives more light. If not given time to adjust (acclimate), the plant will often become fried in the sun. For more information about growing sundews outdoors, click here.

Dormancy requirements: Drosera prolifera does not require dormancy, since it is a tropical sundew. It should be given tropical or subtropical conditions year-round. 

Light intensity & Photoperiod:  D. prolifera does quite well in stronger lighting.
This species can develop many different leaf colors including green, yellow, orange, red, and purple. During the cooler months is when the leaves develop this unique coloration. In the summer, growth remains pale yellow green under lights, depending on the conditions. Drosera prolifera is photoperiod-independent and is influenced, instead, by the temperature (read below).  

    Drosera proliera red clumpA purple plant of Drosera prolifera

Above left: Drosera prolifera growing amidst a bush of D. adelae. Click here to view the full size image.
Above right: D. prolifera developing purple coloration, growing in cooler temperatures (60-70 degrees F).

Temperature: As a tropical sundew, D. prolifera does well in warmer temperatures as long as there is sufficient humidity. After looking up the local temperature ranges, I found that the climate D. prolifera grows in is tropical all year with maximum temp of 32° C (90°F) in the summer and 25° C (77°F) in the winter. Make sure  the soil is never allowed to dry out during times of higher heat. My plants seem to thrive in 80-85° F, even when grown indoors next to a dehumidifier. This success is likely do to the live sphagnum in the media, after comparing results with other growers. When temperatures cool during the winter in my basement (daytime 70°F, night 60°F, Drosera prolifera continues to do very well and grows a bit more slowly during this time. This allows the leaves to develop nice red coloration in my conditions. Since D. prolifera does not require a dormant period, keep the temperature above 50° F encourage normal growth.

Flowers and Seeds: In warmer temperatures, D. prolifera flowers frequently, even if not fed (see pictures below). According to Allen Lowrie, this species flowers all year-round in nature. D. prolifera has small reddish-pink flowers. Rica Erickson writes that the sepals are 4-mm long and lance-shaped. The stamens are much shorter than the sepals. The carpel contains 3 forked styles (Erickson 50). The flower scapes are long, and eventually grow laterally. “Inflorescence scapes 1-4 up to 20 cm long" which are are "similar to strawberry plant runners in that they produce additional plantlets at their tips after flowering" (Lowrie 220). Peter D'Amato reports that occasionally, fertile seed is produced. My plants have not produced viable seeds yet (but I have not tried assisting pollination before). 

Genetics: "Cytological studies showed that each of [the 3 sisters of Queensland] is 2n=30. D. prolifera, D. schizandra and D. prolifera appear to have evolved from a common ancestor" (Lowrie 132). "Although these three species differ morphologically, especially in leaf growth, they do share similar floral and seedling characteristics that indicate a close relationship" (Lowrie 220).

Drosera prolifera floweringDrosera prolifera floweringDrosera prolifera flowering
Above left and middle: Drosera prolifera flowering during the warmer summer months. Above right: A Drosera prolifera plantlet forming from a flower on a scape. Each flower stalk usually forms at least one plantlet.

Propagation techniques: see the sundew propagation page
Starting from seed
- I have never seen seed of this species available before...
work extremely well (see picture from ICPS)- D. prolifera is one of the easiest plants to take leaf cuttings from. You can obtain several plantlets from a single small leaf- even older leaves will work well. The water floating method works well, or you can place cuttings on peat moss or dead/living sphagnum moss.
Root cuttings-
 easy, but I prefer leaf cuttings, since they are incredibly easy, and I like to avoid uprooting my plants whenever I can.
Flower stalk cuttings-
very easy. This species generates plantlets on its flower stalks on its own very frequently, so often, you can just let the plant do its thing without even having to take cuttings from it.
work well. the plants tend to clump a lot since they continually spread. Just be very gentle with the roots, or your plant may struggle a bit after transplanting it.

                           Drosera prolifera in a clump

Works Cited

D’Amato, Peter. The Savage Garden. California Ten Speed Press, 1998. 143-144.

Erickson, Rica. Plants of Prey in Australia.  Lamb Publications, 1968. 50.

Lowrie, Allen. Carnivorous Plants of Australia. Volume 3. University of Western Australia Press, 1998. 132-135.

Additional Questions or Suggestions?

Contact me at: sundewman(at)yahoo.com