Mike Fallen: Growing Nepenthes Indoors
A chat with Mike Fallen about growing Nepenthes indoors
Mike fallen has been growing Nepenthes indoors for years and we love marveling at his collection on Instagram. He clearly knows what he’s doing and we wanted to ask him a few questions in hopes of helping those of you who currently grow indoors or might be thinking about it. Be sure to subscribe at the bottom of our home page for our latest blog posts, and to be notified when we add new plants to our online shop. Check out our Instagram and youtube channel for the latest images and videos of our collection!
Can you introduce yourself and tell us why you love growing Nepenthes?
My name is Mike Fallen and I’ve been into growing plants for basically my entire life. I’ve grown all types of plants from cacti to orchids, and most recently Nepenthes. Carnivorous plants, Nepenthes, in particular, are fascinating just because of the absolutely beautiful and fascinating colors, shapes and textures these plants have evolved to trap insect (and occasionally vertebrate) prey.
How did you get into growing carnivorous plants and how long have you been growing Nepenthes indoors?
I remember having a few Ventrata and Miranda when I was like 10, but I first really got the Nepenthes bug when I was about 14. My plants were kept in basically household conditions (to varying degrees of success…) until some of my other hobbies at the time forced me to sell off my collection. I did hold onto a few non-CP plants and a maxima and robcantleyi that I still have to this day, but I was pretty much completely out of the hobby for most of high school. After I graduated, I got seriously involved in the hobby again and have been addicted ever since.
You grow completely indoors. Could you tell us about your setup in detail?
The current setup is the 3rd one I’ve used since I got back into the hobby. My first setup was a fairly basic terrarium, then a 4’×4’x6′ grow tent, both of which quickly filled up, which is when I went to the current custom-built chamber I’m using today.
The chamber is made of plywood and 2×4’s, coated with a white, paint-on pond liner and has sliding glass panels on the front to access and view the plants. Lighting is accomplished by four 2 bulb, 4 foot long T5HO fixtures on each shelf, I’ve considered switching to LED’s but I’ve had great results with the fluorescents and can’t stand those purple/red/pink LED’s.
Humidity is controlled by both a Mist King misting system and an ultrasonic fogger that’s built into the rest of my ventilation system, the fogger is controlled by a humidity monitor and the mister is on a timer to come on 8 times a day.
The ventilation and cooling is a custom design, it uses a window AC unit converted to cool a reservoir of coolant which is then pumped through a heat exchanger. Hot, dry air from the chamber is pushed through the exchanger using a powerful 8″ inline fan, the cooled air then passes through a chamber with the large ultrasonic fogger before finally the cool, humid air is blown back in the chamber. I also added a few small PC fans and a box fan to make sure there are no dead spots in the chamber itself. The setup limits daytime highs at about 80° and then cools the chamber to just under 60° at night.
Clearly, your Nepenthes are very healthy and robust! Do you feed them?
Yes! I fertilize my Nepenthes with MSU orchid fertilizer at strength of 1/4 tsp. per gallon of water. It’s poured through the soil and I try and splash some in the pitchers.
Are there any challenges you face growing Nepenthes indoors? What’s your favorite thing about indoor growing? How about your least favorite?
Growing indoors has advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage for me is being able to view/enjoy your collection basically whenever you want. It’s so nice to just walk downstairs and have basically a display case with all your prized plants in it. The biggest disadvantage, obviously, is space or lack thereof.
It appears you clean your indoor enclosure now and then. Can you tell us a little bit about why you do this and any other reason beside cleaning it up?
Cleanliness is a very important part of indoor growing IMO. Aside from purely aesthetic reasons, allowing your plants to become too overgrown can cause issues like lack of light and airflow, which can also cause fungal/bacterial rots and very unhappy plants (ask me how I know lol). I like to clean out my setup at least twice a year, and when I say clean out I mean CLEAN OUT! I take the plants out, vacuum out any debris, scrub the sides and bottom with hydrogen peroxide, prune any dead or dying leaves and pitchers from all the plants and take cuttings if need be. It’s a long process but the end result of happy, healthy plants is very much worth the effort.
Have you ever had any pest issues? If so, any advice on dealing with them?
I’ve had a few individual plants have issues but no full infestations. The best advice I can give is, act quickly if you notice any potential pest/issues and nip it in the bud. It’s a lot easier to treat one plant than you’re entire carnivorous plant collection!
We know you specifically love Nepenthes! Do you have a favorite? And, do you prefer to grow species or hybrids?
VEITCHII!!! Yes, I’m a full-on veitchii addict. It’s always been one of my favorite species and now makes up a decent percentage of my collection. I particularly like the squat, Bario Highlands form and individuals with striped peristomes. Other than veitchii, I collect mainly species. I do have some EP hybrids but I’m a species guy at heart.
For more information on Nepenthes veitchii take a look HERE!
Finally: What advice would you give to someone wanting to grow Nepenthes indoors?
Don’t waste your money and time on a terrarium or little grow tent. It’s always better to have extra space for your plants to grow or room to expand your collection down the road. I’d say a 2’x4’x6′ grow tent should be the BARE minimum if you plan on growing Nepenthes indoors. Also, get your setup ready BEFORE you buy that expensive, touchy plant. You don’t want to find out your setup isn’t adequate after you purchased a $300 ultra-highland plant.