Sunbelle Exotics, Inc.      

Specializing in Nepenthes and Sarracenia


Secrets of a Nepenthes Grower

Michelle's Fertilizer  Formula

First, I would like to give you some words of caution.  You can hurt your Nepenthes with fertilizer.  If you use more than the plant needs, it will stop producing traps, and depending on how much you over-do it, the plant will go into decline and eventually die. 

That said, giving them a tiny taste of fertilizer can really produce huge traps.  My schedule for fertilizing Nepenthes changes through the year.  In summer, I do it twice a month, but in winter I cut it way back to once a month or skip it completely. 

If you want to try this formula, I suggest starting with a well established plant.  Do not fertilize Nepenthes that were just repotted or recovering.  [If you have certain species, like N. northiana, it has been found that fungus likes the fertilizer, too, and in which case it is not beneficial to fertilize.]  Hybrids and hardy species respond wonderfully.

I use a quarter (1/4) of a teaspoon per gallon, the water doesn't even turn the blue color of the fertilizer.  Accurate measurement is crucial, don't try to guess or estimate the amount of fertilizer you are using. 

For the Nepenthes I use a high nitrogen orchid food, Better Grow Orchid Plus, 20-14-13.  This is a good choice because it contains essential minor elements and it's Urea Free.  You won't need a giant tub, a 16oz. packet will last a very long time.

I mix 1/4 of a teaspoon into a one gallon plastic water jug filled with reverse osmosis water.  Nepenthes benefit from foliar feeding, but I have found it faster to apply directly into the pot, and the plant can absorb it through the roots.  I drench the plant, so some of the leaves and pitchers get a splash of food. 

Many growers feed their plants through the traps and rave about fantastic results.  If you have a large collection, this can be time consuming.  Insects are the best Nepenthes food, and despite a regular insecticide spray schedule, our plants catch huge meals all by themselves -and reap the benefits!  Not everyone is as lucky as we are and to simulate the natural process, some growers actually hand- feed their carnivores baby crickets, mealy worms, and other delicious and appealing meals because of the marvelous results in the growth/health of the plant.  The only down side to this is the time element (and, if your sensitive to the "yuck factor").

The most important part of chemical fertilizing occurs later, on the next few times you water.  To avoid any build-up of salts or minerals, you must thoroughly "wash" the roots and potting mix.  This is when you can be excessive!  Don't hold back, really, really, really, flush the whole pot with pure water.  I  now do this nearly every time I water, and have seen great improvements in overall health.  In nature, most Nepenthes grow where they get frequent torrential rain preventing stagnant conditions.

Summary:  1/4 teaspoon of Better Grow Orchid Plus 20-14-13 per One Gallon of Water

                     Use twice a month in the summer, once a month or none in winter

                     Between Fertilizing:  Regular removal of salt & mineral build-up by thoroughly flushing copious amounts of pure water through the potting mix is essential.