Carnivorous Nepenthes "Pitcher Pot Plants"
Nepenthes are found growing wild in areas of south east Asia. Contrary to popular belief, these plants grow in a variety of temperature conditions, from cold to hot. They all share one need in common, water and lots of it. Whether cold or hot, they all grown in rain forest areas, next to streams and water falls. They are terrestrial plants, but they grow in extremely low nutrient conditions. This lack of nutrient in their substrate is the reason for their production of pitchers - as they needed a way to absorb proteins and minerals needed for life. In general, nepenthes or pitcher pot plants, are separated into two groups, lowland and highland. Lowland plants prefer warmer climates. Highland plants prefer cool to cold conditions - similar to the carnivorous plants of north west America.
We sell four types of nepenthes here at Morningwood Growers. All are hybrids (not found in nature) bred for easy care. The largest nepenthes we sell is nepenthes "Miranda", a beautiful plant that produces large pitchers reaching 12" or more. Next down in size is the nepenthes "Alata". Also a beautiful plant (they all are!) it produces pitchers reaching up to 8". Our two smaller nepenthes are known as nepenthes "Lady luck" and nepenthes "Suki". Both produce pitchers up to 2-3".
All our nepenthes will do very well indoors next to a sunny window or outdoors in the right climate (warm and humid). All are easy to take care of and all four need the same basic care - water and light - and lots of both.
If grown outdoors, our nepenthes require day time temperatures above 60 and nigh time temperatures above 50. Morningwood Growers is located in FL, about 3/4 of the way down the state. We do have some neps that stay outdoors all year long. When we expect one of our very few frost evenings, we cover our plants to protect them. If you plan on leaving your plant out, it is important you understand microclimates and understand you risk plant health if it gets too cold. Outdoor plants can always be brought indoors during the winter.
Nepenthes need to have their substrate kept moist but never let them sit in water, as their roots can rot. You will want to water the entire plant every day to every other day depending on the conditions in your home. A few three day intervals probably won’t hurt these plants too - but not often. It’s best to spray the entire plant (think rain) when watering so the pitchers get a bit of water in them. Do not fill the pitchers purposely! If you fill each pitcher to the top with water they will die off.
Nepenthes, Pitcher Pot Plants, will loose and generate pitchers throughout their life. You can leave dead pitchers alone, or clip them off as you see fit. New pitchers form from long stems just before the end of the leaf. They start off very tiny - don’t confuse them for bits of dead pitcher and clip them off!
Nepenthes Pitcher Pot Plant Health Tips
If your plant does not produce pitchers for a long time, and has very dark green leaves, it most likely needs more light.
If your plant gets plenty of light, has lime green healthy leaves and still does not produce pitchers, try spraying it with a good quality orchid fertilizer used at 1/3 strength 2x a month. So, if the fertilizer calls for one teaspoon per gallon of water, use 1/3 of a teaspoon per gallon instead. Be sure to continue to water as normal.
If your plant’s leaves turn red and then start to show dead spots, it is getting burned (not likely indoors).
If your plant starts to wilt, it is not getting enough water or it has become dislodged from its substrate.
To check to see if your nepenthes is still properly rooted, GENTLY tug on the plant base. If it is firmly planted, increase your watering schedule. If it comes out easily, you will need to repot it immediately. If it looks very ill, best to re-pot it in a good quality long fiber sphagnum moss (labeled Orchid Moss at box stores). Just moisten the moss, wrap it around the plant base and put it in a smallish (3”-4”) pot. Keep the moss moist until the plant becomes healthy again and has enough roots to be potted again (could be a month or several). When ready to re-pot, prepare a larger pot with a few inches of moist peat and perlite mix. Both are available online, from me, or at box stores. Next, take the entire moss ball out of the old pot without disturbing the plant roots and put it in the larger prepared pot. Now the moss ball is sitting on top of peat and perlite with space around it in the new pot. GENTLY pack more peat and perlite mix all around the moss ball to keep it snugly in place. If there is room on top of the moss, you can add a layer of the peat / sphagnum moss on top.
It is a good idea to re-pot nepenthes once a year. Repotting is easy and is a good way to check on your plants root system. Nepenthes do have some fragile roots, so a gentle touch is necessary during repotting. When repotting, use the same pot or a new, larger pot. For substrate, we use a blend of ground peat with some perlite for drainage. Some folks also add fine grade orchid bark and even sand. Potting mixes are like cooking - everyone has their own recipe. Generally speaking though, avoid all commercial "potting mixes" as they all contain some sort of fertilizer. Nepenthes like their substrate free of all nutritional value.
Last, some folks like to feed their plants. It’s generally not necessary. But, if you like to feed your nep, live or fresh killed bugs are best. Just drop it in a pitcher - that’s it! It’s best to do this sparingly and only one bug per pitcher. Just like us, eating too much can make your nep sick. It is generally accepted that feeding your nep raw meat is a bad idea. I’ve never done it, but some clients say they have without harming the plant. I suggest if you just need to do it, use only tiny amounts so the digestive enzymes can do their magic before the meat rots.
Any questions - just let me know!