This carnivorous plant impresses with its wild looking pitchers hanging from its bright green foliage. Depending on the variety and environment the pitcher size, color and shape could be different.
When you search "Pitcher Plant" online or in books, two different botanical names will come up Nepenthes and Sarracenia. Nepenthes is known as the Tropical Pitcher Plant while Sarracenia is the American Pitcher Plant. You may also hear Monkey Plant as another common name used for either plant or Trumpet Pitcher for Sarracenia. Typically, you will be growing Nepenthes in your home.
Both plants have bright green leaves and pitchers hanging or growing up out of the plant. Usually the pitchers are reddish/pink with green and depending on the cultivar, the colors and patterns could be different.
Sarracenia blooms in early spring usually with somewhat larger, beautiful green and pink flowers. Nepenthes' form spikes with small yellow, green or red flowers on it. You can see an example of the flower spike in one of the images above!
Both thrive in bright indirect light but some sources differ in opinion when it comes to placing Nepenthes in more light. Nepenthes can tolerate a few hours of direct sun and the pitchers can benefit from the direct sun. Keep in mind, direct sun outside is much more harsh then a south window inside your home.
Watering guidelines were also very inconsistent when doing research but most of the reliable resources listed high moisture needed for both. Many say you can grow Sarracenia in water since they are natively from bog environments. Nepenthes need medium to high moisture so consistent watering is needed. You don't want your Nepenthes to completely dry out.
High humidity will allow these plants to thrive and grow to their fullest potential. Misting the pitchers and leaves can prove great benefit along with placing it near a humidifier.
Pitcher Plants do not need fertilizer since they are usually getting their nutrients from the insects they consume. They are very sensitive to fertilizers so the websites that offer fertilizer as a recommendation warn to dilute the mixture more than normal but this still isn't recommended. You do not want to over fertilize them. Some websites suggested if you are not seeing insects around the pitchers you can purchase dried crickets and feed the pitchers a small portion of the cricket. The plant has adapted to attract its prey on its own so I believe giving it the correct conditions in MOST important and then if you are really having issues, you can consider fertilizer options I listed above.
Practical Houseplant Book (about Sarracenia): "Do not use a fertilizer on this plant; stand it outside or on a windowsill in summer, which will provide it with plenty of insect prey."
For almost all other plants (in case you are curious), I currently use Fox Farm's Grow Big Liquid Fertilizer and I normally fertilize every 2 weeks when I water most of my plants, starting around the end of February through October. I only fertilize once or twice in winter because the plant isn't as active!
According to Plantopedia you can propagate by seed or by stem cutting. Stem cuttings would be much easier and that is what I would recommend doing! You want to keep these cutting in a very humid environment and it should start forming roots within about a month. Pitchers may start forming in about six months if the conditions are right.
Nepenthes is apart of Nepenthaceae family and Sarracenia is apart of Sarraceniaceae.
Nepenthes are native tropical regions in Southeast Asia and Australia. Sarracenia can be found throughout North America natively including southern Canada to southern Texas depending on the cultivar.
Nepenthes natively grow in temperatures ranging 45°F-80°F. Sarracenia natively grow in temperatures ranging 23°F-77°F.
According to the San Diego Zoo, "Of 104 Nepenthes on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List, 63 are listed as Vulnerable or Endangered, with 9 of those Critically Endangered." For Sarracenia the zoo states "One species and two subspecies of American pitcher plants are on the US Endangered Species List, and at least one other has been assessed is vulnerable."
I asked followers if they had any specific plant questions I could address in this podcast and blog. Here are the questions and answers for the Pitcher Plant:
"Does it have to go dormant like a Venus fly trap? If so what's the best way to do that? Does it require peat? Or can some other medium be used? I have seen the shift (especially in the UK) to peat free things and I wonder how that will effect plants requiring it in maintaining health. How do you feed it if you don't have a lot of bugs inside?"
The Sarracenia DOES need 3-5 months of winter dormancy which requires a drop in light, temperature and moisture. This makes sense since this is called the American Pitcher Plant and can be found natively throughout North America and southern Canada. The Nepenthes does NOT need winter dormancy. This is the pitcher plant you will normally see sold in garden centers or houseplant shops since they are considered a tropical plant.
I plan to review soil and mediums in the next season so I will address the peat shift question then! These plants do not require peat for planting but if you wanted an alternative to peat, you could use coco coir. This is known to be the more sustainable option but we can go into more detail on this when I go over "Mediums Explained" next season!
Practical Houseplant Book: "Grow in...carnivorous potting mix or a 3:1:1 mix of silica sand, sphagnum moss, and perlite (never use potting mix).
The healing power of plants: "For the best results they should be planted in a 50/50 mix of sphagnum moss and course sand."
For feeding your Pitcher Plant, fertilizer would not be my recommendation. Most resources said this plant is very sensitive and it could be fatal if fertilized. Pitcher Plants have adapted to attract its own prey so the plant may be getting more prey then you think it is! Keeping the environment consistent with light, humidity and moisture is most important. In several online sources (including New York Botanical Garden), it suggests feeding the pitchers dries crickets to supplement the nutrients it would normally get outside.
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Love, Holly (Owner & Creator of Houseplant Homebody LLC)