Q/A #14 - Nepenthes truncata with Weird Pitchers

January 10, 2023

Q/A #14 - Nepenthes truncata with Weird Pitchers

I purchased a Nepenthes truncata from you somewhere between 2005 and 2007 at a reptile show. The last two pitchers that have grown on it, have not been typical, and it looks like the newest one is going the same way. Instead of growing tall and straight and open at the top, they are growing into a bulb shape with a very narrow opening at the top. That narrow opening dies very quickly.

This plant has only been transplanted once since I got it, and it's been at least eight years since it was last transplanted. It has always hung in the south kitchen window, over the sink. In the summer, I keep the blinds in that window closed during daylight because I have no air conditioning. When the sun goes down, I open the blinds, and when it's cool enough, I open the window. At this time the year in winter, the blinds are always open to let the sun shine in. I got the soil from you, but somewhere in the two moves I've done, it has gotten misplaced. I cut the dead pitchers off when they are brown, and leave the leaves until they too turn brown.

This plant has thrived in this location, all year long for many years. But a few months ago, It grew one of the inefficient pitchers. Thinking it was a fluke, I let it go. Then a second one did it. And now, I think the third one is growing like that, too. There is also a new little baby one starting. I'd like to figure this out before it too is affected.
(Submitted in December 2018.)

From your photo, I see that the plant is getting sufficient light. One leaf in the photo has lots of yellow, which means the plant is getting lots of sunlight. I also don't see any burn marks or deformity in the leaves, so the problem is localized to the pitchers and is occurring as the pitcher is developing on the tendril.

Two things might be happening. The first might be salt buildup in the soil. Since you got the plant from us at a reptile show, I'm assuming you live in Portland. The water is relatively pure out of the tap, about 20 ppm. However, over time, minerals can still build up, especially when the water isn't allowed to drain through completely. Given the type of hanging pot you have, I'm assuming this might be the case. After eight years, it's possible enough minerals accumulated in the media.

When minerals buildup to significant levels, it'll get absorbed by the plant and affect pitchers as they develop. In this case the very tip of the young tendril is getting "burned" by mineral deposits. The remedy for this is to change the soil, so repot the plant into fresh media.

When you remove the root mass from the pot, soak it in a large bin of water to gently remove the old soil. Also rinse out the pot to remove any mineral deposits. After that, pot up the plant using equal parts sphagnum moss and perlite.

The second thing that might be happening is a pest issue. Thrips can damage new growth and developing pitchers. However, I'm not seeing much evidence of thrips from the photo. Usually you'll see misshapen leaves in addition to misshapen pitchers. I'm only seeing misshapen pitchers.

With that said, it won't hurt the plant to spray your plant with neem oil as a precaution. You can find read-to-use formulations at your local garden center. Spray the plant generously. It's safe to use on Nepenthes. Follow the directions provided by the manufacturer.

So, repot into fresh soil and spray your plant. The next pitcher that develops may or may not be misshapen, depending on the time of when it started to develop. After that, you should start seeing normal pitchers.

Submitted in December 2018. The original question and response have been edited for publication.
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