Enticing Drosera hamiltonii To Flower
Keywords: cultivation: Drosera hamiltonii
I am a connoisseur of mucilage. Why, I do not know, but
those glistening jewel-like beads on Drosera mesmerize me. I have
high standards for mucus---the gooey balls on D. regia are too
large for my tastes, those on D. petiolaris too small. D. binata
var. dichotoma puts on a fine show, but its variously-sized droplets
alarm me. But when you are talking about the glittering adhesive dew drops
on D. prolifera, D. burmanni, or D. rotundifolia--thats
the right track!
The problem with Drosera hamiltonii is in its
glands! Most of the year its glandular tentacles are ratty and miserable,
like a mangy dog fresh from an ocean bath. Still, I love to grow it. It
has those flowers....
This sundew is fairly sturdy, and can be grown a number
of ways. It does not care too much about soil mix, there are no secret
formulae---it grows well in sand and peat combinations, pure milled Sphagnum
(my favorite), or live Sphagnum. It has long ropy roots but I do
not accommodate them with a deep container. Instead I use a shallow pot
only 6 cm (2.5 inches) deep and let its roots coil in the bottom. I give
it full sun in a greenhouse or a bright position in a terrarium (my brightest
terraria have six fluorescent bulbs over them). I use purified water,
and keep the plant continuously moist. I have tried fertilizing them with
Miracid (foliar application, once per week following the concentration
instructions given on the label), but the plants neither benefited nor
suffered from this treatment.
A mature rosette of D. hamiltonii is approximately
6 cm (2.5 inches) in diameter. Its leaves hug the ground closely and are
remarkable for how, as they grow, they unfurl like a carpet being rolled
out (for example, see the photograph in Allen Lowries Carnivorous
Plants of Australia, Volume 2).
Drosera growers know that the way to look into
a sundews health is through its mucous glands (ah yes, the mucilage---my
favorite part). Transplant even an indestructible D. spatulata
too violently and it complains with leaves bereft of viscous slime. What
grower of D. prolifera does not stop dead in his tracks at the
sight of undewy leaves? But with Drosera hamiltonii, you must squelch
your anxieties and press ahead with your horticulture bravely---those
discouraging ungooey leaves will offer no encouragement. Yes, there are
infrequent times the plant looks like a normal sundew, but those are rare
days to live for.
I have only been able to propagate this plant vegetatively.
I do not bother with leaf cuttings, instead I use root cuttings laid horizontally
just beneath the soil surface. I must rarely do this because my plants
are always producing plantlets for me. These volunteers spring from the
roots winding around the bottom of the root-bound container. This is one
reason I prefer to use such shallow containers---I think it encourages
the roots to make such plantlets (sometimes the winding roots become so
large that over time the entire soil ball is pushed upwards out of the
So the good news is the plant is easy to grow, even if
it lacks those beloved shimmering ooky orbs. The bad news is that if you
want it to flower, you must grow it outdoors. The key is in giving the
plant seasonal variations; such annual changes are usually lacking in
terrarium cultivation. During the winter I grow my plants with my tuberous
and pygmy Drosera. Under these conditions the plant rarely suffers
a frost, but they do have a chilly winter. During these months they stop
growing and often acquire a dull maroon flush throughout the rosette.
By early March tall hairy scapes form (Figure 1). These uncoil until they
are about 40 cm (16 inches) tall. Each scape may produce a dozen or more
flowers, one per day. The first flower of each scape is always the largest
and worth racing home during lunch time to see (Figure 2).
Oh, those flowers! They will take your breath away! Approximately
3--4 cm in diameter and pink to magenta, they will remind you why you
love these plants. They even make up for the forlorn leaves so sadly bereft
of viscid satisfaction.
Figure 1: Drosera hamiltonii. Notice all the scapes
are at the same degree of maturity, synchronized by seasonal stimuli.
Photograph by B. Rice.
Figure 2: Drosera hamiltonii. Photograph by L.