Nepenthes Care Instructions
Beginner Care Instructions for Nepenthes
Nepenthes are tropical pitcher plants found predominantly in Southeast Asia.
Soil and Potting
Nepenthes enjoy soils with low mineral content that stay moist yet have good drainage. There are a wide range of media that work well. The simplest is a mix of equal parts perlite and long fibered sphagnum moss (both should be available at the local home improvement store). We use 2 different general Nepenthes soil mixes at our nursery. The first mix consists of equal parts perlite, pumice, long fibered sphagnum moss and orchid bark. Alternatively, we also grow our plants in a mix of equal parts coconut coir to coconut fiber. Note that coconut products sold for horticulture in the USA are often very salty since it is harvested from beaches so it must be soaked in RO water a few times to remove the salt buildup. You can also purchase Nepenthes soil and hanging pots from our website or select the potting kit option for selected plants such as Lady Luck, Suki, hookeriana, Bill Bailey and Diana.
Most small and medium sized plants would grow well in a 3”-4” diameter pot. Larger plants are best in pots 6”-8” in diameter. Repotting is only required every 2-3 years but it depends on the plant size and soil quality. The use of hard water tends to cause soils to break down faster and turn mushy.
It is best to use rainwater, distilled water or reverse osmosis water. However, Nepenthes are more tolerant of salts in their water than other carnivores. You can check with your water provider for a free water quality report for your area. If the total dissolved solids (TDS) are under 200 parts per million then you are likely fine using tap water.
Nepenthes like to remain moist but not flooded. This is best accomplished by top watering them 2-3 times per week. The shallow tray method can be used when going out of town. Fill the tray with about 1” of water and then allow the tray to dry out for a couple days before refilling.
Nepenthes are best grown with at least a few hours of sun and the rest of the day in bright, indirect light. A sunny south, east or west facing window would be perfect for most. Shade cloth from 50%-75% is best for greenhouses. Nepenthes thrive under grow lights. There are a lot of LED options on the market right now but our preference in terms of cost vs. value is still for T5 and T8 fluorescents. We recommend a 12-14 hour photoperiod with 2 of the T5 or T8 lights suspended 1.5 feet above the plant.
In general, most hardy species and hybrids can be grown with day temps from 70F-90F degrees and night temps from 50F-70F.
Nepenthes are divided into different groups based on their elevation range in their natural environment. Each species has its own intricacies and some are much more tolerant in their ranges than others. Here’s the breakdown of the altitude range: highland species occur above 1400 meters elevation. They want day temps in the 70s and night temp drops into the 50s. Intermediates are from 800-1400 meters and prefer day temps 75F-85F and night temps in the 60s. Lowland species grow from sea level to 800 meters and prefer temperatures from 70F-90F constantly with high humidity.
Nepenthes are tropical plants and grow in areas of generally high relative humidity. However, many can be adapted to room humidity in cultivation. In general, species with thicker leaves (like ventricosa or maxima) are more tolerant of humidity fluctuations. The parents often pass on these traits to their hybrids which make even more robust plants. If your plants are reluctant to pitcher, it’s often a symptom of low humidity. Under these circumstances, you might try misting your plant a couple times a day to bring up local humidity levels or placing your plant in a tray of water filled with gravel so that the local humidity will rise as the water evaporates. It’s also important to keep in mind that stagnant, saturated air can lead to fungal diseases so it’s best to have some air movement for most plants.
Fertilizer and Feeding
The safest (and most fun!) way to provide nutrients to your plant is to feed it through its pitchers. Pitchers will accept most insects that fit inside. Avoid slugs and non-insect items because they can cause the pitchers to die prematurely. Dried crickets can be purchased and make an excellent food source. It’s also possible to place a small amount of fertilizer in the pitcher, such as a single osmocote pellet.
If plants are getting fed, they won’t require fertilizer. If needed, you can supplement them with a ¼ strength orchid fertilize applied monthly as a foliar feed and as a soil drench. Alternatively, a pinch of osmocote extended release formula can produce good results. Note that if plants are overfertilized they may be reluctant to pitcher or the pitchers they do produce will be very small. If you think about plant energetics, this makes sense. If the plant has all the minerals and nutrients it needs then it doesn’t need to waste energy making traps.
Post-shipping Acclimation Tips
Nepenthes are typically very tolerant of bare-root shipping in moss (our preferred method). We have found that transit times of less than a week produce very minimal transplant shock. Plants should be re-acclimated under normal growing conditions suitable for the species or hybrid. However, particular care should be made to ensure that the plants are not exposed to light or temperature extremes and humidity drops. An easy method that I have found to work well is placing a large ziplock bag or humidity dome over the plant in its otherwise normal growing environment. The bag or dome can be slowly opened over a 1-2 week period as the plant begins to put out new root growth. I also try to avoid placing the plant in direct sunlight such that humidity around the plant drops below 50% during the first couple weeks. Avoid keeping the plant in stagnant air for longer than 1-2 weeks since this often leads to fungal and other rot issues.
Now grow those carnivores!
If you follow the above tips, you'll be well on your way to growing healthy and happy Nepenthes! Visit us at www.carnivero.com for more carnivorous plant selections and advanced care topics.