Get the straight facts from guys who grow and propagate thousands of carnivorous plants every year.
Nepenthes, commonly known as the Hanging or Asian Pitcher Plants, doubtless are the most ostentatious carnivorous plants next to the Venus flytrap. Among the most flamboyant and colorful of all plants, they are also extremes in carnivory, for Nepenthes are the only plants in the world that can be said to somewhat regularly eat vertebrates in the wild - small lizards, mice, and even rats have been found digesting in their orchid-like traps.
The genus occupies a vast natural range, spanning from Madagascar and the Seychelles, India and Indochina, throughout the innumerable islands of Southeast Asia and through the northeastern cape of Australia. Such a gigantic distribution has shown that Nepenthes, all 170+ species of them, have adopted countless forms, from the squat, ground-hugging detritivores, to tall arcing vines, some with tiny speckled traps like miniature wine glasses, others grown beastly, with sharp hook-lined gullets that drown rodents, and some remarkable species even bear pitchers which serve as roosts for bats!
Fortunately, the vast majority of
Nepenthes are easily grown as houseplants. In fact, some of our most common houseplants originate from similar places that Nepenthes do. Only a small handful of Nepenthes require a carefully-controlled environment, like a grow chamber or ventilated terrarium. But those are expensive to keep and cultivate, so if you are new to growing Nepenthes, start off with one of the many easier species that grow well as a houseplant.
Below are some of the common species and hybrids you might find in cultivation:
Where to Grow
Nepenthes grow spectacularly on sunny windowsills. Always protect your plant from draft, extreme heat, and freezing temperatures. Windowsills that have Southerly, Easterly, or Westerly orientations are adequate, the main concern being ample sunlight. Humidity is a negligible factor, with ambient household humidity being more than adequate for most varieties. You may be able to grow Nepenthes outside if you live in a subtropical climate, like much of Florida or the Gulf Coast. As they are tropical plants, take care never to expose your Nepenthes to freezing temperatures, especially snow or frost. Many can take chills down through the low 40s F (4 deg. C), but this is best avoided.
Provide partial sunlight, several hours of direct sun with bright filtered light during the rest of the day. Avoid full shade. Sun is the key element in getting your plant to grow pitchers. The energy provided by photosynthesis is what grows the traps, and the light from the sun is essential to producing good color.
If a sunny window is not possible, use strong fluorescent lights (a minimum of 40 watts in actual output). Start with the lights approximately 12 inches above the plant. Monitor your plant and adjust the height of the light source if you are not satisfied with its growth. Use an electrical timer to maintain a photoperiod (consistent daylight hours, 14 hours is sufficient throughout the year).
If you are comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt, your Nepenthes are comfortable naked. Daytime temperatures should be about 75°F. Nighttime temperatures may drop into the 60s but not necessary with most Nepenthes. Some highland species appreciate a drop into the 50s or lower at night, with a rise in temperature back up to the 70s F.
Unlike other carnivorous plants, Nepenthes will tolerate hard water (up to 200 parts per million) with almost no adverse effect. Make sure the water drains through the soil completely, hefting the pot to make sure it's heavy and saturated. Avoid standing water, as this can cause root rot in Nepenthes, and can make them susceptible to pests.
Use a mix of 1 part dried sphagnum moss and 1 part perlite. Avoid using potting soil and compost, as their nutrient and mineral ingredients can kill carnivorous plants.
THE ULTIMATE CARNIVOROUS PLANT GUIDE FOR BEGINNERS
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- how sunlight and water affect plant growth.
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