Nepenthes – Tropical Pitcher Plants Introduction:
If you are ever in the jungle, around the mountains, look out for this awesome plant. Nepenthes ( also known as Tropical Pitcher Plant, or Monkey Cups ) are scattered throughout Southeast Asia, India, Africa, and Australia. The plant itself is rather plain looking, the pitchers though range from around an inch to well over a foot long.
Basically the plant species have been broken down into 3 types. Each type receiving special care due to its location. They are:
- Ultrahigh land
These terms are related to the altitude where the plant can be found. There is general care for each type of plant. Specific care will be provided later if needed.
All plants should only be watered with DISTILLED Water, rain water, or water from a reverse osmosis filter. Tap water, spring water, drinking water, mineral water, all contain salts ( sometimes not listed on the bottle ), minerals and other chemicals that are harmful to the plants root system. The plant cannot and will survive from if given something different.
The pots your Nepenthes are in should be well drained. Do not allow for standing water. The chance for rotting of the roots is great. Nepenthes should be watered and then allowed to drain. Some plants even like the soil to dry slightly before watered again.
Lowland plants are more tolerant of wetter conditions, where as the highlands are not.
Humidity and Air Circulation:
All species will do their best if the humidity is above 60% ( and some more than that ). This will allow for proper pitchering and to keep the air from becoming stale. The plant needs to have air flow to prevent fungus. Keeping these plants in a terrarium will be fine if you allow the lid to be opened slightly.
Lowland plants will enjoy slight shading, not direct sunlight. Highland plants will de best with more lighting, but preferably morning light, the afternoon light can sometimes be harsh on the plant. Make sure not to expose the plant to too much sun. There is a chance that the leaves can be burned. This will be an indication that there is too much light for the plant. The best thing to do is to start off with low lighting, then work towards more. The pitchers will not get the color they need in low light, but will do so with more light. Just make sure to do it in steps and do not rush into the sun.
This along with the correct water for the plants is vital to the survival of your plants. General rule:
- Lowland plants: These plants will do best when the temperatures are constant. Mid 70’s – low 90’s day and Mid 70’s – 80’s at night. Very little fluctuation in the temperature is important to keeping these plants healthy. Temperatures should not below 60’s. The plant can take temperatures into the 50’s but that isn’t recommended.
- Highland plants: With these plants it is more important to have day and night temperatures. Many will not grow well and others will die if they are not given the correct temperature. Temperatures for the plants should not exceed 80 degrees Farenhiet during the day and must drop at night 10-20 degrees ( 50 – 65 nighttime temperatures ). It is not recommended to go below 45 degrees for long periods of time.
- Ultra Highland plants: These plants are just entering cultivation with success. The key to many of these are temperatures in the 40-50 at night. This is a must and the plant will not survive if this is not met. Many people have placed their plants in a refridgerator at night or have a setup that will allow for that type of cooling year round. Some of these plants will withstand a light frosting in the wild.
How Do Nepenthes Eat?:
Nepenthes are capable of taking small amounts of fertilizer ( Like Miracid or an Orchid fertilizer. Only use ¼ the strength and only use once a month ). Some people have also expiremented with Superthrive and have had mixed results. Same rule though, ¼ strength, once a month. Either one is applied to the pitchers and not the soil. People have reported great success with the Miracid. It is not required to feed your plants at all, but you will possibly notice faster growth with feeding.
Note: Feed the older pitchers, not the new ones. Even though the older pitchers are brown or dying, they can still absorb the nutrients. You do not want to take a chance on overfeeding the new pitcher and losing them.
Never give your plant food made for people or pets.
Fertilizing carnivorous plants is risky and could kill your plant. It’s a much debated topic – and generally not advisable!
This is something that is up to great debate. Generally speaking, these plants like a soil that is well drained and not compact. With that said, it is possible to only use Peat Moss, you must make sure you repot yearly or at the sign of the soil compacting. The roots will rot if the soil is too compact.
For the non-risk takers, a good soil mix would be:
50% Peat Moss
50% orchid bark
If you wanted to add something else you can do 25% orchid bark and 25% long fiber moss.
Notes when buying online or from a mail order nursery:
- It is not uncommon to receive a plant with a dead or dying pitcher.
- If the liquid is missing from the pitcher (Which it probably will be), you can fill it ½ with distilled water.
- Remove all coverings and provide your plant with immediate water and high humidity.
Links of Interest:
Common Nepenthes / Pitcher Plants found at online nurseries or in stores:
N. ampullaria – lowland
N. raffleisana – lowland
N. merrilliana – lowland
N. ventricosa (red) – highland
N. mirabilis – lowland
N. thorelli – lowland
N. sanguinea – highland
N. Judith Finn highland
N. madagascariensis – highland
N. alata – highland/lowland
N. gracilis – lowland
N. hamata – highland
N. bicalcarata – lowland
N. albomarginata – lowland
N. truncata – lowland
N. hirsuta – lowland