The Ultimate Nepenthes Care Guide
From windowsills to greenhouses, we have close to 20 years of experience with Nepenthes care. The information we provide here is just a guide and every grower has to experiment to find out what works best in their grow conditions. We have put together the most important Nepenthes care tips to get you and your plants off to a great start.
Nepenthes are predominantly native to tropical Southeast Asia and surrounding areas. They can be found in hot, humid jungles or high up in cool mountain forests. Neps appreciate bright, indirect light, air movement and high humidity. Many species are much less demanding in cultivation, but they do require a certain amount of attention to thrive.
This group of plants compromise most of genus and can be found growing in at high altitudes in the mountains. They appreciate day temperatures between 75-83 Fahrenheit and require a 15-20 degree temperature drop at night, usually at 55-60F. Although this group of Nepenthes can handle a few months of warmer temperatures, consistent nighttime drops around 60 and lower are beneficial for robust growth and overall health. Humidity levels should be above 75% in the day with nights being 100%.
These plants can be found growing in warm, humid jungles where temperatures rarely fall below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Day temperatures between 84-88F are preferred. Lowlanders are understory plants and prefer less light than the highland species. They are great candidates for terrariums, shaded porches in humid tropical climates and steamy greenhouse. Lowlanders grow best with very high humidity in the 80% range.
Some species and most hybrids are considered intermediate growers. These plants are cozy right between lowland and highland temperatures. Day time temps between 80-85 F and nights in the 60’s seem to work well for this group. We find that most Nepenthes can be successfully grown in these conditions. Many hybrids are considered intermediate growers and they can handle lower humidity and a wider range of temperatures. These plants are great for beginners.
This is the most important factor for Nepenthes care. Although they can be acclimated to lower humidity levels, they really do their best in the 70-80% range. Most homes have less than ideal humidity growing Nepenthes.
If your humidity too low your plants will stop producing pitchers. Hydroponic grow tents and large terrariums are a great way to grow Nepenthes indoors. If you’re only growing a couple plants, you can add a personal humidifier next to them. If you’re seriously addicted and can’t stop collecting, a hyrdofogger works wonders in larger enclosures and greenhouses.
Nepenthes can be acclimated to the 50-65% range. This is called ‘hard growing’. If all other cultivation requirements are met, these plants are usually stronger and more resilient to fluctuations in there environment.
This is the second most important Nepenthes care factor. Neps love bright, indirect light. They can usually handle early morning sun, but too much can severely burn them. In the wild, they grow in dappled light and on mountain ridges that experience frequent fog. They love 12-14 hours of strong light daily.
We highly suggest grow lights to indoor growers. T5 and LED fixtures work best. Some lights give off a lot of heat so be careful not to keep them too close or you can burn your plants. Try and keep them 15 inches or more above your grow space.
GREENHOUSE GROWING AND OUTDOORS
Nepenthes usually do best under 70% shade cloth in warmer climates. If your climate is cool, you can give the plants more light. Plants exposed to strong light levels can develop red pigmentation or burning in severe cases. In winter, we don’t use any shade cloth and our plants get full sun. The days are shorter and more gray, so we supplement our plants with lights as mentioned above. Nepenthes produce very colorful pitchers with ideal amounts of light. In tropical climates we suggest growing them under trees or under shade cloth. Lowlanders prefer less light than highlanders. We describe this light preference as bright shade.
Nepenthes like being kept moist, not wet. Think of a moist sponge. They appreciate a well draining potting mix and dislike standing in water constantly. They should never be allowed to completely dry out. You can keep them in saucers of water indoors, but they must be allowed to evaporate in between waterings.
One of the most important factors of Nepenthes care is water quality. Unlike most other carnivorous plants, Nepenthes can handle less than ideal water quality. Many plants can grow fine with tap water, depending on where you live. We highly suggest checking your water if your serious about growing Neps. Although the plants can still grow nice, they will grow their absolute best with distilled or Reverse osmosis water. You can buy distilled water at a store or use an RO unit for larger collections.
TESTING YOUR WATER
The TDS or total dissolved solids is the measurement of minerals, salts, and metals in water. It is measured by the parts per million or PPM. It’s good idea to purchase a cheap TDS reader to check your water quality. Nepenthes love a PPM between 0-10, but can handle much higher. The lower the better in our opinion! If you have very good water you can even grow sphagnum moss, which is a must have if you grow Nepenthes. They love growing in it and it’s so beautiful!
The better you treat your Neps, the happier they will be with many colorful pitchers! 🙂
SOIL AND POTTING
Nepenthes like to grow in potting mixtures similar to orchids. Many growers use ingredients such as coconut coir, bark, sphagnum moss, perlite and lava rock. Our favorite potting mixture is 50/50 long fiber sphagnum moss and perlite. We only use this and our plants thrive! Make sure the sphagnum is a good quality and the perlite is free of any fertilizer additives. The better-gro orchid moss that’s found at Lowes or Home depot is perfect. Neps love a well draining mixture that stays moist, not waterlogged. unlike most other carnivores, peat moss isn’t preferred by Neps. It’s too muddy and can deprive the roots of oxygen. Avoid regular garden soils or ‘dirt’ this will surely kill your plants.
POT TYPES AND SIZE
Nepenthes do best in plastic pots and net baskets. Small plants between 2-3 inches can be kept in 3-4 inch pots. Medium size plants from 4-6 inches can grow well in 5-6 inch pots and larger plants do best in 8+ inch pots. We suggest keeping them in the smallest pot possible, without them drying out to much. If your plant is drying out fast, increase the pot size. Net baskets are used in hydroponics and Nepenthes love them. We suggest these for moist greenhouse environments where the plants would appreciate a little more oxygen at the roots.
Nepenthes are carnivorous and they do require live insects or mild fertilizer to survive.
For smaller plants, small insects such as gnats, flies, and crickets work well. One insect per pitcher is more than enough. We don’t suggest stuffing the pitchers with bugs or they will quickly rot. Less is more! Some growers suggest using dried insects or fish pellets with good results. We haven’t used either. Larger plants, prefer larger insects like large crickets and grasshoppers. If your plants are outdoors or in a greenhouse, they will catch more than enough insects. Avoid human food or raw meat!
Neps thrive with the use of fertilizer, but we only suggest this for advanced growers. We aren’t kidding when we say this can easily be over done and kill your plants. They are extremely sensitive to fertilizer! Start out with a very diluted dose and see how the plant responds. Always test it on one before treating your entire collection. Maxsea seems to be the go to for Nepenthes. It does work well when done properly and we suggest using it as a foliar feed every two-three weeks, while the plants are actively growing. During winter, we completely stop.
We measure our fertilizer by PPM, not volume. It’s added to our water until the PPM reads 60-80. We use a pump sprayer and spray the plants leaves and pitchers. It’s best to do it early in the morning before the light is too strong. Most plants seem to respond well. If you’re growing indoors with lights, they should handle it well. If your leaves grow large and no pitchers you may be using too much. Hold off, until the plant recovers.
When you first receive your plant inspect it for pests and make sure the potting medium is good. Usually the pitchers loose their fluid, so make sure to add a little water to keep the plant well hydrated. Once it’s settled it will produce it’s own fluid and adding water won’t be necessary. Mist the plant often to keep the humidity high. Make sure to keep your new plant out of strong light until it adapts to its new home. It’s normal for pitchers and lower leaves to yellow and die, so keep your eye on the growth tip. It should be firm and green. As the new leaves start to form, you can gradually move it to brighter light and treat it like the rest.
TIME AND PATIENCE
Nepenthes care really isn’t too difficult! It takes a few months for them to settle in and they will. Just like a pet, they will require a certain amount of attention and some basic needs. Once you get the swing of it, well then you become addicted and start selling off the orchids and clearing out the bedroom for more grow space! 🙂
If you have any questions please reach out to us. Make sure to check out our catalog for our latest inventory.