Most Drosera can be easily and quickly propagated by leaf cutting, root cuttings, and flower scape cuttings. (A flower scape is just another words for the developing unfurling flower stalk as it emerges from your plant.) This will give you a mature plant faster than raising one from seed. Propagating a plant from a cutting gives you a perfect cloned copy of your original plant. For cultivars, like Dionaea muscipula "Akai Ryu" or Drosera binata "Marston's Dragon", this is the only way to preserve all of their characteristics in reproducing them (Unless you have a Tissue Culture laboratory in your basement). Plants produced from seed are are not genetically the same as their parent plant.
Some Drosera , particularly Sundews with an annual growth pattern like Drosera burmannii, D. indica (and close relatives), and D. glanduligera cannot be propagated this way, at least not easily or reliably. Some, like Drosera regia propagate easily from root cuttings, not so easily from leaf cuttings. This posting will demonstrate material and technique for leaf and root cuttings from seed-grown Drosera aliciae (leaf cutting only), Drosera binata "Multifida Extrema" (root and leaf cuttings), and seed-grown Drosera burmannii (Flower scape cutting). Yes, yes, I know D. burmannii is reputed to be incapable of asexual reproduction through leaf and root cuttings, but nowhere in my Google searches did I find any mention of successful or unsuccessful attempts at propagation of this species through flower scape cutting. Sounds like it's time for an experiment eh, Mr Wizard? Let's do some real science. Can Drosera burmannii be reproduced by a flower stalk cutting?
I'm using a variety of top dressing materials to show some available choices. I'm using a top covering of Saran Wrap rubber-banded tightly to hold the propagule (material being propagated - That's our new vocabulary word of the day.) down and force it into solid tight contact with the top dressing material. I'm using cuttings from one leaf of one plant so we can make a valid comparison between methods a month or two in the future when our new little plantlets pop into being. The plant is a Drosera binata "Multifida Extrema" purchased from California Carnivores. This species and variety is famous for being easy to propagate from cuttings.
Lets get started.
Gather your material first.
Upper row is top dressings for top 1/4 inch of pot.
Left to right: Sifted Peat moss, Live Sphagnum Moss, "No Damp Off" Milled Sphagnum Moss.
Bottom row is main growing mix.
Left to right: Peat moss, Silica sand, Long fiber Sphagnum moss.
Use Peat moss with no additives or fertilizer in it. Break up any big clumps, pull out any weeds or debris. Mix 1:1 by volume with sand. I recommend soaking and rinsing your growing mix in distilled water a few times to remove any chemicals and minimize minerals leaching into the water. Not necessary but it's a good idea.
Use silica sand. I got this from a pet store, sold as fresh water aquarium substrate. Swimming Pool filter sand is also a good sand to use. Rinsing it before using is a good idea.
Long fiber Sphagnum moss is excellent for plugging up drainage holes in the bottom of your pot. Pull out the grasses and debris, get it wet, wring it out and put in a half inch layer in the bottom of your pot. Or you could cut a piece of landscape fabric and line the bottom with that. This layer keeps your growing mix from leaking out of the pot's drainage holes.
The next few photos are top dressing. You use about a 1/4 inch thick layer of one of these on top of your regular growing mix.
This is finely ground "Milled Sphagnum Moss". It is sold branded as "No Damp Off". It minimizes fungus, mold, and damp-off creepy crawlies, and provides a nice environment for your cutting. It is commercially available from Mosser Lee or you can grind your own.
This is living Sphagnum Moss. It is, in my opinion, the best top dressing to provide a healthy atmosphere for your cuttings to live in.
The next option is to borrow your Grandmother's flour sifter and sift some Peat moss into a fine powder, removing all lumps, twigs, and debris.
Put your sifted Peat moss powder in a Zip-lock baggie, add some distilled water and squeeze the baggie until you have a nice fine textured mud. Dry Peat moss doesn't readily absorb water until you squeeze it in.
Now mix up your growing medium. Mix your Peat moss and sand together in a large baggie, add distilled water and squeeze until mixed and hydrated. For most carnivorous plant species, a 1:1 ratio of Peat to sand is good. Google is your friend. Use it to research whatever species you are working with. Here is a plate full of a nice wet, but not sopping wet, growing mix.
Get your pots ready. I use 2 1/2 inch square pots that are 3 1/2 inches deep. Put a half inch of long fiber Sphagnum moss in the bottom of your pot to prevent growing mix leakage.
Next put in your growing mix. Fill the pot up to the top and 1/2 inch above. Pack it down so it's even with the top.
Now choose which top dressing you want to use. Put enough top dressing on so it is 1/4 over the top of the pot.
Here are 5 examples. Left to right we have:
Finely sifted Peat moss top dressing 1/4 inch above top of pot.
"No Damp Off" Milled Sphagnum moss top dressing 1/4 inch above top of pot.
Live Sphagnum moss top dressing 1/4 inch above top of pot.
Live Sphagnum moss top dressing 1/4 inch above top of pot.
No top dressing, 1:1 Peat:sand grow mix filled to 1/4 inch above top of pot.
Yes #3 and #4 are the same, just checking to see if you're still awake.
Once the pots are ready, NOW YOU CAN TAKE YOUR LEAF CUTTINGS, ROOT CUTTING, AND SCAPE CUTTING. Don't cut until the pots and everything are ready. Cut a reasonably new leaf, not one that's old and dried up. If there are any dead prey or food on the leaf, rinse the leaf clean and remove any bugs or food. Cut the flower scape (Flower stalk) when it is between 1 and 2 inches long, cut as close to the plant as you can. A root was sticking out from the bottom of my D. binata pot so I cut off a 1 inch section of root to add to the project.
In the following picture you can see a root cutting in the bottom, a Drosera burmannii flower scape cutting above it, a Drosera aliciae leaf cutting above that. Drosera binata cuttings are arranged around them. The Drosera binata "Multifida Extrema" leaf cutting was subdivided into 5 pieces. Some of those were too big for the pot so I cut them in half. I ended up with 7 cuttings from one leaf, and I only cut off 1/4 of one leaf on the original plant. For Sundews with small leaves, use the whole leaf for your cutting. For larger leaves, cut the leaf into pieces. 1 inch long is the shortest length I would cut. The longest would be a length that barely fits in the pot.
The picture doesn't show it clearly but there are tentacles on the top flat side of the leaf, no tentacles on the bottom side of the leaf.
Lay the leaf cutting TENTACLE SIDE FACING UP on top of your pots in the middle.
Lay the root cutting horizontally on the surface of one of your pots.
Lay the scape cutting horizontally on the surface of one of your pots.
Here are the cuttings resting on their various types of top dressings. Write down what goes where and where it came from and when it happened. Keeping records is important. So if things don't work, you can look at your records and change something for next time. If things do work, you can inform people of your technique and they can reproduce it.For the record, here's what we got:
Pot #1 - Finely sifted Peat moss top dressing with 2 D. binata leaf cuttings.
Pot #2 - "No Damp Off" Milled Sphagnum moss top dressing with 2 D. binata leaf cuttings and 1 D. binata root cutting.
Pot #3 - Live Sphagnum moss top dressing with 1 D. binata leaf cutting and 1 D. aliciae leaf cutting.
Pot #4 - Live Sphagnum moss top dressing with 1 D. binata leaf cutting and 1 D. burmannii flower scape cutting.
Pot #5 - No top dressing with 1 D. binata leaf cutting.
Here are the plant markers with the who, what, when, where, why, and how many.
Cut a piece of Saran Wrap and cover the pot with it. Use a rubber band to hold it in place. Gently stretch and tension the plastic film until it is reasonably tight and pushing the leaf cutting into tight and intimate contact with the top dressing. That is why you have the medium or top dressing extending above the top of the pot. Use the rubber band to attach the plant name tag for now. Put the pots under bright light (but not full direct sunlight, they will cook). Mine sit within 8 inches of Four 48 inch T-8 Fluorescent lamps. Photoperiod is controlled by an astronomical timer set to my longitude and latitude. If you're not an equipment geek, turn your lights ON at sunrise and OFF at sunset.Sit the pots in a tray. You may not need to water them at all, they're sealed up pretty good and won't lose much moisture, but I suggest you maintain a 1/4 inch of distilled water in the tray to make sure the pots don't dry out. Now walk away from them and we'll come back in a month for a progress report. If you can't stay away for a month you might see a dot of color appear in the middle of a leaf blade after a week or two. This dot will turn into a tiny bud that will grow into a new plant. Every day it will get bigger and push against the plastic wrap holding it down. Don't do anything until you read Part #2 of this guide.(If you see something else growing in the pot like a weed, don't worry about it, leave it, you can get it later.) It will take 4 to 5 weeks to get to this point. At least that has been my experience so far. If mine grow quicker than that, you will see the next installment in less than the promised 4 or 5 weeks.
Now this is the way I propagate leaf cuttings, root cuttings, and scape cuttings. It works but there may be better ways to do this. I am NOT an expert in anything botanical or horticultural. If any of the Drosera binata "Multifida Extrema " cuttings successfully propagate into new plants, I plan to donate them for next year's N.A.S.C. auction. If the Drosera aliciae or D. burmannii propagate successfully, I'll keep one for a souvenir and give the other away. Sorry about the mediocre quality of some of the photos.
Thanks for reading this, see you in a month or so with a follow up and progress report. I'll let you know if anything happened and when it happened. We can compare the results within the different pots with different top dressing materials. Thanks to forum member Kaila for proofing this article and looking at it from the standpoint of a beginning grower.