Growing Pygmy Sundews

Pygmy sundews originate from Australia. These charming Drosera species are known for their small size, beautiful and unique flowers, and reproduction by the formation of gemmae. Although most pygmies only reach the diameter of a nickel, and not very tall, there are a few species that grow considerably larger. These include D. scorpioides and D. pulchella x omissa among others.
Most species of pygmy Drosera are very easy to grow if given the right conditions and can be great for beginners. 

The majority of the most easily-grown pygmy sundews are hybrids, but as long as you respect the following requirements, you shouldn't have any trouble growing a majority of pygmy Drosera species:

A 1:1 mix of peat: silica sand works best for most pygmy Drosera, but a few species prefer either sandier or peatier soils. Check out the article here for more specific soil descriptions. I have only had success using perlite with D. x "Lake Badgerup". Most growers don’t have any problems, but in my conditions, it has caused root rot issues and algae growth. Using silica sand allows  for better drainage in my conditions, but it can work quite well outdoors, in greenhouses, or in places with good airflow.

Use tall pots
Avoid using small pots for pygmy sundews! I recommend using pots above 4 inches. I use 8-inch pots, and the pygmies growing in those pots are the fastest-growing, largest specimens in my collection.  The thin, branching roots of pygmy Drosera grow deep into the soil and even pop out from the bottom of my tallest pots! 

Keep the soil sufficiently moist
Most pygmies will go through a dormancy stage if you let the media dry out.  Avoid overwatering, although pygmies can handle very wet conditions quite well.

Provide cooler temperatures, if possible
High temperatures (85-90
+0F) may trigger a dormancy period. For the best success, keep the temps between 50-80 degrees.

Provide plenty of light
I had mine only a few inches from my T-12 growlights. With my T-8s, I have them  about 4-inches away from my plants and I will be moving them closer soon, They will redden up  nicely if given enough light. There is no variety o

Photoperiod (if growing indoors): Keep above 11-12 hours a day, at minimum to encourage active growth and prevent gemmae formation.

General Info about  pygmy Drosera

There are many varieties that produce fertile seed, but most varieties of pygmy Drosera produce extemely tiny, viable seed. It looks like black dust. Varieties, such as D. omissa or D. scorpioides produce larger seeds, which are easier to handle. You can germinate them just like normal Drosera seeds (they don’t need cold-stratification).

The roots of pygmy Drosera are long and thin. It is suprising how such a small plant can produce roots that can extend over 8-inches long. The roots are also very delicate and are easily damaged if you try transplanting them. Root cuttings will not work with this species.

Gemmae are reproductive bodies that are produced at the crown of the plant. You can treat them just like seeds. However, they only last a short while once removed from the plant. The smaller pygmies produce gemmae that are about the size of the tip of a ball-point pen. Other species produce larger gemmae that are the size of very small peas (sorry for the crappy analogies). One misconseption about gemmae production is that you need to harvest them from your plants right away. You can leave them on your plants for up to a few months, as long as they don’t start budding in the crown.


The easiest way to propagate pygmy sundews is via gemmae. Seed also works, but is more difficult to germinate and takes much longer to grow mature plants than from gemmae. However, if you are daring you can also attempt leaf pullings. The main trick is not disturbing the plant when doing this. I only recommend leaf pullings for plants that you've accidentally uprooted, or that are too crowded. All you have to do is pull downward on the leaf blade, making sure that you have some of the petiole attached. Then, place the leaf pullings in the surface of water, making sure the petiole of the pulling is submerged. In a few weeks you should see a bud popping out at the base of the leaf blade (petiole). Transfer to waterlogged media until roots are established. Works with prett much any pygmy, but I’d only recommend this technique for the larger/more robust pygmy varieties.

Planting gemmae

Planting gemmae is easy as long as you plant them on top of the appropriate media, keep them very moist,  give them plenty of light, and keep them in very humid conditions. Warmth also helps speed up the gemmae budding process. As long as you don’t let them dry out or scorch them, you should have a good shot at getting them to grow. They will normally start budding a small root and leaf out from the gemmae after 4 or more days. They will then take off from there. If you have them in the conditions I recommended for growing pygmies, you can expect the plant to flower  from gemmae after only 2-3 months. I got really lucky with my first gemmae- D. ‘Lake Badgerup’. It flowered after only a month and a half. I think the key to this is giving them as large a pot as possible. 

Gemmae are small reproductive bodies only produced by pygmy sundews, from Australia (gemma is singular). Gemmae are also referred to as "brood bodies" since they are modified leaves, made only for the purpose of creating a new sundew, which is genetically identical to the parent.  Gemmae are produced in the crown of the rosette. Gemmae production is triggered by primarily by a shorter photoperiod. Sundew growers that raise pygmy sundews indoors often gradually reduce the photoperiod to below 10 hours to trigger gemmae production. For some species, you may find that cooler temperatures (around 70-73 F or below) are required before gemmae will be produced.
While pygmy sundews can be propagated via leaf pullings, there is a risk of uprooting the plant while you are trying to tear off part of the stipule along with the stem and leaf of your pygmy.

Drosera occidentalis gemmae and liverwort gemmae
Drosera occidentalis produced gemmae for me in a greenhouse in early winter, when the natural photoperiod was 10 hours. Notice the liverwort gemmae as well.

Storing gemmae
After experimentation, I have found that gemmae can be stored in the refrigerator if it is kept submerged or floating in water. Since water tends to evaporate from larger cups, I have found that medium test tubes work the best. Simply collect your gemmae in the tube and then fill the test tub 3/4 of the way up with water. Seal the top off with tape or a non-adhesive if you are worried about gemmae sticking to it. Then find a way to keep the test tube upright in the refrigerator. It helps if you have a lot of test tubes in a small cup or container to support each other. The refrigerator should be at about 37-40 degrees Farenheit. You don't want your gemmae to freeze and warmer temps cause the gemmae to sprout more quickly. You can also store gemmae on a moist paper towel, but when the roots sprout after a month, they will get entangled in the towel. In water, they do not get tangled.

Media preparation
To grow pygmy sundews from gemmae, you will want to use a sand:peat mix most of the time. Pygmy sundews prefer tall pots since their roots are extremely long and thin. Pot size is up to you, but I normally use a 8 inch pot. If no pots are available to you, use a 2 Liter Pop bottle, and cut off the top curving part to get a tall pot.

After trial and error, I now normally use a 1 inch layer of silica sand on the surface of my media for pygmies. This is not required, but it can reduce algae and moss growth. You can use a 1 peat: 1 sand mix for most pygmy sundews, and you can add perlite to your discretion.

Getting your Gemmae to bud (or sprout)

I normally wrap the top of my gemmae-sprouting pot with saran to raise humidity and warmth as much as possible. I then place the surface of the pot as close to fluorescent lights as possible. I also try to  keep a water level that is higher than normal for this individual pot, to make sure the gemmae doesn't dry out (especially if you use a layer of sand at the media surface. For example, I might use a water level of 3 inches for a pot that is 8 inches tall.

The sprouting process should take about a week or more. Once the gemmae forms 3 or 4 leaves and the baby pygmy sundews are established, you can lower the water level back to an inch or less.

Some pygmy sundews are harder to grow from gemmae than others, so for individualized species preferences, check out these links:


Leaf Cuttings & Pullings:
"Propagation by leaf cuttings is not always successful, but works sporadically" (85). I would only recommend this method if you accidently uproot one of your plants or have an a lot of pygmy sundews in the same pot. The method described below can potentially harm your plants even if you try to be very careful.

Best approach: Include the base of the petiole (called the stipule) when removing the leaf from the plant. [The stipule can be seen to the far right side of the leaves in this picture.]  

1. Hold the pygmy sundew firmly in place while gently pulling at the base of the petiole (away from the stem of the plant). The plant may not be secured well in the soil, and can become uprooted in this process, so proceed at your own risk ;). 

If this process is completed successfully, you should have the entire petiole with the white or hairy stipule still attached. Otherwise, the cuttings will normally not work.

The plantlet will form at the stipule after 3-8 weeks. If you were keeping the leaf pullings in water, you can transfer them to the soupy peat/sand mix  once they've developed one or two leaves. Alternatively, you can strike the cuttings in a humid, sealed container on moist or waterlogged soil, at 70-80 degrees F as another option. For more info, check out the propagation page.

Drosera x "Lake Badgerup" leaf pulling successful strike with pygmy sundew leaf cutting

Additional Questions or Suggestions?

Contact me at: sundewman(at)