Cephalotus ( The Western or Albany Pitcher Plant ) Introduction:
Found in less than a 250 mile stretch of Southern Australia, these plants are as attractive as they are desirable. For many, these plants are hard to keep. There are some key requirements needed for the success of Cephalotus. Understanding its growing environment in Australia is one, and knowing you need a nice deep pot is two ( for starters ).
The climate can be called Mediterranean ( like the Drosophyllum ). In the summer Cephalotus will receive dry conditions where in the winter it is wet.
The soil though stays wet ( constantly ), as this Albany Pitcher Plant lives by swamps. It has even been recorded the plant can take a light frosting in the winter.
What is more interesting is the plant will produce two sets of leaves. In the spring, there will be the presence of small green leaves ( semi-round ). And in the summer, that is when we will find the carnivorous nature of the plant kick into high gear. Only the pitchers of the plant are carnivorous. Some believe the small green spring leaves are the start of the growing period and help with producing energy ( photosynthesis ).
If you are able to obtain and care for the Cephalotus plant, it will be a true treasure!
Water Requirements for Cephalotus :
As with all Carnivorous Plants, it is recommended that you water with ONLY Distilled, Rain, or Reverse Osmosis Water. Tap, Drinking, Bottled, Purified, Mineral Water may contain salts ( sometimes not listed on the label ), chemicals, and minerals that could be harmful for you plant.
The plant should remain moist at all times. You can use the tray method for the plant, but do not over water. Allow the soil to dry slightly before adding more water.
This plant relies on high humidity ( greater than 60% ). In nature these plants live around swampy environments, so the humidity will be quite high. Low humidity could result in pitchers not forming correctly or the lids of the pitchers to close.
Light Requirements for Cephalotus plants:
Like Sundews, Cephalotus will turn a deep red color with lots of light. This will however make the plant smaller.
On the other hand, with less lighting. the plant will stay green and will be slightly larger.
So the choice is yours on what means the most.
Cephalotus enjoy warm days and summers and cool winters. These plants are more tolerant of cool nights than they are of hot days. It is not recommended that you subject Cephalotus to hot summer days. Rather mild/warm days and cool nights. Equally, cool winters are welcome and they will thank you for it!
Anything that is brave enough to go for the nectar that the plant produces will be food. Crickets, flies, in the wild Cephalotus dine on ants.
As with most Carnivorous plants, Miracid ® or an Epiphytic Fertilizer can be applied monthly to Cephalotus in very small amounts. (Though most growers refuse to use any fertilizer – and people experience mixed results with fertilizer often killing their plants)
Soil Composition for Cephalotus:
The soil composition for this plant is similar to all Australian CP’s. Something sandy, yet acidic. So that means:
50% peat moss
50% sand ( Silica )
You can substitute perlite or do 1 part each ( sand, peat perlite ). This will allow for an open, not so compact soil that will benefit the plant greatly.
The plant will not go dormant per se, but rather cease growth. Dormancy as we think about it in the CP world means, shut down, underground. Cephalotus will stop producing new pitchers and will kind of be in a state suspended animation. In the spring the non-carnivorous leaves will start to grow and then in the summer the pitcher and flower. You should not allow the plant to freeze. The plant is tolerant of light frosts, but not much beyond that.
Reproduction & Cultivation:
Although growing these plants is possible by cuttings, seeds and tissue culturing, Cephalotus is just a slow grower. Here is a breakdown of ways to make more:
Leaf Cuttings: In the same way as you would make VFT’s. Gently pull a non-carnivorous leaf or pitcher. The white part is also important to get. The more the better. Place this in a soil mixture of long fibered moss. ( You can also use peat moss and perlite ) Cover and give good lighting but not bright light. High humidity, good light, and warm but not hot temperatures are keys to getting the cutting to take. This process will take many weeks. Once you see plants forming, it will take longer before separation can happen. You want to make sure that there is a substantial root system to they can live on their own.
Seed: Stratifying the seed is important to this plant. Place seed in the refrigerator for 2-3 months. Then plant in peat moss/perlite or long fibered moss. The seeds should start to sprout within a few weeks. Be patient! That is the key with seeds and CP’s!!
Division: Many people will admit difficulties with method. The process involves the splitting of the crowns. After a period of time, the plant will produce many growth points. From these points, you will want to separate one. Be sure that you take enough of the leaves and roots ( but not too much, so the other part has none ). I think this is where the problem lies. Once separated, provide good lighting and humidity for the plant.
- Tissue Culture is possible with these plants, but it is done with seed and not tissue. Growers have admitted difficulties hardening off* the plants.
- One key to the success of this plant is that need for a deep pot. Cephalotus will be very thankful for the root space. It is often mentioned the failures are do to this ( with other conditions are right )
- It is not uncommon for the sudden death of the plant. But upon further inspection, it could be the dormancy period. After a brief rest, the plant will start to grow with producing the non-carnivorous leaves.
- This is a slow growing plant. Much pertinence should be exercised when adding this plant to your collection.
Links of interest for Cephalotus: