Sunbelle Exotics, Inc.
Specializing in Nepenthes and Sarracenia
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Water: We recommend pure water, such as rain-water, distilled, or reverse osmosis water. However, they will tolerate tap water, without chlorine, as long as they are leached out occasionally with one of the above mineral free waters.
Humidity is really the key to growing beautiful and vigorous pitcher plants. They love to have their leaves misted daily (or more), and humidity should be kept above 60 percent for success.
Never allow the mix to become bone dry, water as needed. You will find that some plants are thirstier than others, so watering schedules will vary. Water more in the summer and less in the winter. Watering frequency depends on your conditions and plant needs. Soggy is bad, too. Water only when the plant needs it, nepenthes would rather be humid than over-watered.
A good way to test the water content in the mix is to stick a finger an inch or so down into the mix. Realize that as you get deeper into the pot, the mix will hold more moisture. Another way to evaluate water in the mix is to learn the weight of your pots at various stages in watering. If the top mix looks dry, and you don't want to get your fingers dirty, simply lift the pot enough to gage the weight. After a while, you will learn how light the plant feels when it's dry compared to how heavy it feels just after you water it.
Light: Nepenthes like bright filtered light. The plant should never be exposed to direct mid-day sun, though early morning sunlight and afternoon sunsets will be enjoyed by your pitcher plant. Pitcher coloration will be more intense with higher levels of sun. If your pitcher plant does not get enough light, it may stop producing traps.
Potting Mix: There are many different mediums that are acceptable. The mix we find most suitable is sphagnum peat moss mixed with Corbitt NO FLOAT pure Cypress mulch (we don't use other brands of Cypress mulch because they may contain pressure treated woods and be poisonous to Neps), sponge rock, clean coconut husk chips, and sometimes add Aliflor, orchid bark, fine grade pumice, and dried long fiber sphagnum moss. Nepenthes love to be over-potted. Repot when the mix begins to break down, or when the plant outgrows its home. Again, the time period will vary depending on the type of plant and growing conditions, but this should be every two or three years. When repotting, try not to disturb the delicate roots. After repotting, the plant may need to be misted more often to help it re-establish.
Temperature: Nepenthes like warm days 70 - 90 degrees depending on the variety, and will tolerate higher temperatures provided there is adequate humidity. Temperatures below 50 degrees can be damaging to some varieties, and Nepenthes are most sensitive to drops in humidity associated with a cold front or the onset of winter conditions.
Nepenthes grow in several recognized habitats. For the horticulturist, successful culture is creating this habitat environment. Some Nepenthes grow at sea level, others are found at different altitudes in the hills and mountains. These different habitats have a wide range of temperatures, therefore some grow under the cooler conditions of the mountains while others grow in sweltering heat at sea level. All Nepenthes grow with constant high humidity. Nepenthes growers have divided the species into two groups: highland and lowland species.
Highland Nepenthes, from high altitudes, need cooler night time temperatures to metabolize sugars. Here in South Florida, we have ideal winter temps for highland Nepenthes, but our summer is brutal! Hot days and hot nights will make those poor highland babies suffer. They will just grow slower and slower, eventually the plant will die. There are some highland species that adapt to the heat of South Florida's summer nights (the same could be said for most areas of the Southeast United States). Two thirds of nepenthes are considered highland species. Ideal Temperature Range: Night 50-60 degrees F, Day 75-85 degrees F.
Lowland Nepenthes, from altitudes less than 1000 meters, need hot days and warm nights. They are happiest with muggy, almost unpleasantly warm conditions. We have found they will tolerate night time temperature drops as long as the days are hot and humid. Our lowlanders often experience night temperatures into the low 50's F, but the following day will typically reach a high in the low 90's F, with humidity at eighty percent. Some of the lowland species are the giants of the genus, producing leaves four feet long with gigantic pitchers. The main problem for growers in temperate climates is providing enough warmth for these brutes during the winter. Ideal Temperature Range: Night 70-80 degrees F, Day 85-95 degrees F.
Pests: Like all cultivated plants, Nepenthes have their insect pests too. Common pests are scale, whitefly, mealy bugs, and spider mites. The same snails that attack your other plants will just as easily chow down on your Nepenthes. For the insects, we rotate different pesticides using non petroleum based wettable powder Orthene as our main choice because it is a systemic (the plant absorbs it and is inoculated for several months). We have never noticed any ill effects caused by Orthene and Malathion 50 wettable powder when used at the recommended application rates.
In Florida, a common problem is whitefly. They look like little white elongated spots clustered on the leaf or stem, sometimes hiding on the undersides. These are the egg cases of a tiny fly that is white in color. They will rapidly multiply and eventually kill the plant. In addition to regular applications of insecticides, the clusters of white egg cases should be removed. A dilute mix of rubbing alcohol and water (cut by half 50:50) with a few drops of liquid soap added can do the job. Simply swipe the infected leaves with this mix soaked into a paper towel or cotton ball.
We are currently experimenting with Neem Oil, an all natural insecticide/fungicide, and we will report the results in the future.