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Nepenthes Pitcher Plant Care

How do you care for pitcher plants?

Tropical pitcher plants, or Nepenthes, are surprisingly easy to care for. By ensuring proper light, humidity, temperature, watering, and soil, these carnivorous plants can thrive as houseplants or outdoor plants in suitable environments.


What kind of Nepenthes pitcher plants are there?
Nepenthes pitcher plants can be categorized into highland, intermediate, and lowland varieties. These categories correspond to the different altitudes where the carnivorous plants are found, each with unique growing requirements.


Pitcher Plant Light Requirements

Nepenthes pitcher plants need a photoperiod of 12-14 hours with bright, indirect light. Ideal locations include sunny windowsills or under grow lights.


What is a photoperiod?
A photoperiod is the duration of time that a plant or animal is exposed to light within a 24-hour period.


Pitcher Plant Temperature

Generally, daytime temperatures of 70-90°F and nighttime temperatures of 50-70°F are safe for Nepenthes. Temperature needs vary by species/hybrid:

  • Highland Nepenthes: Day temperatures in the 70s with a drop to the 50s at night.
  • Intermediate Nepenthes: Day temperatures of 75-85°F, dropping to the 60s at night.
  • Lowland Nepenthes: Temperatures between 70-90°F with very high humidity.

Pitcher Plant Humidity

While high humidity is ideal, Nepenthes can adapt to household conditions. However, increased humidity promotes better growth. You can use a humidifier, but ensure there's adequate airflow. For most intermediate Nepenthes, ambient room humidity suffices, especially after bag acclimation. Check our bag acclimation guide for details.


How to Water Pitcher Plants

Nepenthes require pure water from distilled, rain, or reverse osmosis water. We recommend top watering Nepenthes. Important: Avoid watering Nepenthes during bag acclimation to prevent rot.

 

What is top watering?

Top watering involves pouring water directly onto the soil surface around the base of the plant, allowing it to seep down to the roots. It's important to fully saturate the soil until water drains from the bottom of the pot.


Can I bottom water pitcher plants?

Though not recommended, Nepenthes can be bottom watered by placing the plant pot in a tray or saucer filled with water. Dump any water that remains in the tray after an hour. They like to stay slightly moist but not wet.


Pitcher Plant Soil

A chunky potting mix is recommended to allow the roots to dry out enough to remain healthy. We recommend a mix of 1:1 sphagnum moss and perlite.  Make sure that all ingredients lack added fertilizers or nutrients, and that coco chips are leached below 40 ppm. See our soil mixing guide for more information.


When to Repot Pitcher Plants

Nepenthes plants generally dislike repotting and can thrive in the same pot for several years. However, consider repotting if the plant becomes unstable, roots protrude from the bottom, soil dries out too quickly after watering, or the media deteriorates into a mushy texture.


How to Feed a Pitcher Plant

Nepenthes plants require occasional feeding to sustain growth. You can feed them biweekly with cricket powder, bugs (live or dead), or fish food. Alternatively, foliar feeding with Maxsea at 300 ppm once a month is effective. Another option is placing one pellet of osmocote in the pitchers monthly.


What is foliar feeding?

Foliar feeding is a method of applying fertilizer by mixing water-soluble fertilizer with water before spraying the plant with the solution. Not recommended for beginners.


Do pitcher plants go dormant?

Nepenthes do not experience dormancy.


Can pitcher plants be grown outside?

In the right environment, Nepenthes pitcher plants can be grown outside. Some of the most successful outdoor carnivorous plant growers in the US are located in California and Florida.


Pitcher Plant Roots

If your Nepenthes arrives with black roots, there is no cause for concern. Nepenthes roots tend to look different than typical roots. Black, stringy, fragile roots are completely normal and healthy for a pitcher plant.


Why do pitcher plants eat insects?

Nepenthes come from nutrient-poor soils. Their carnivorous nature is an evolutionary strategy to compensate for the lack of nutrients in their environment. The insects and leaf litter captured in their pitchers act as fertilizer for the plant.


Pitcher Plant Pitchers Turning Black

Producing and maintaining pitchers consumes significant energy, so once they fulfill their role, the plant will naturally shed them. Pitchers may also die off during periods of stress, such as during transit or bag acclimation, which is normal and not a cause for concern.


Should I leave the black pitchers on the pitcher plant?

If the pitcher is entirely brown or black, it can be trimmed off. If there is still some color to the pitcher, it may be left on as it continues to benefit the plant.


Pitcher Plant Leaves Turning Yellow

Nepenthes are really good at recycling their nutrients. Older leaves (towards the bottom) turning yellow is no cause for concern. It is a natural part of their life cycle.


Pitcher Plant Not Growing Pitchers

A pitcher plant not producing pitchers is often due to insufficient light, although low humidity can also play a role. Consider a foliar feed to encourage pitcher growth, and once they develop, continue with pitcher feeding.


What is a good beginner pitcher plant?
See our selection of beginner plants perfect for any new grower.

 

Need more information? See our growing tips and care guides.


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