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Friday, October 22, 2010

How to Grow Pitcher Plants - wikiHow

How to Grow Pitcher Plants

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit
Pitcher plants are carnivorous plants able to use their tube-shaped leaves to trap and digest insects.[1] The insects are drawn in by a sweet nectar and visual lures. The inside of the tube is often too slippery for the insect to climb out. When the insects fall into the pool of water on the inside, the insects are digested by enzymes or bacteria. The reason these plants formed this method of seeking nutrition is because their native soils lack minerals or are very acidic, and this method enables the plants to compensate by getting nutrients from insects. It's possible to grow these fascinating plants at home, just follow the steps.


  1. Research the requirements of each species. Carnivorous pitcher plants can be found all over the world, so the requirements to grow them vary according to the region they are sourced from. Read a few quality books on the subject to give you a solid understanding of the plants and their needs. A brief overview of the different types of pitcher plants follows:
    • Nepenthes, tropical pitcher plants, monkey cups - There are about 120 species in the Nepenthes genus and they grow in the Old World tropics (mostly in the Malay archipelago). Most of these species will require high humidity, lots of water, and moderate to high light levels (similar to orchids).[2] These are not ideal "beginner" plants.[3]
    • Sarraceniaceae - This family of pitcher plants grow in the New World and can be broken down into three genera (groups of species):
      • Sarracenia - All of these species grow in North America. They require require a distinct summer and winter, strong, direct sunlight, and lots of water.
      • Darlingtonia - These species are limited to Oregon and northern California and are difficult to grow. The roots need to be kept cooler than the rest of the plant because they grow in environments with cold running water.
      • Heliamphora - All of these species are native to South America. They are also difficult to cultivate.
    • Cephalotus - There's only one species in this genus (Cephalotus follicularis) and it can be grown like any subtropical plant.
    • Bromeliaceae - This is the same family that contains pineapples. One or two species in this family are believed to be carnivorous. They don't form the characteristic pitcher shape.
  2. Obtain the plants. Once you've decided which species you're best prepared to grow, start looking for a source. Your best bet is to find a reputable greenhouse and purchase a healthy pitcher plant from there. Ask the assistants for additional tips on growing that particular species.
    • It's also possible to order pitcher plants online, but they can get damaged and die during shipping.
    • Although it's possible to grow pitcher plants from seeds or cuttings, this is not advised for beginners.
  3. Place the plant in a sunny location receiving at least six hours of direct sunlight. Ideal temperatures range between 60ºF to 85ºF (15.5ºC to 29.6ºC). The beautiful coloring of the pitcher plant will be much more intense if the plant receives at least a couple hours of bright, full sunlight each day, but will also grow reasonably well in partial shade. Most people grow pitcher plants in a greenhouse environment or in a terrarium.[4] You can make an inexpensive version using a saucer and a soda bottle; cut off the top of the bottle and place upside down over the plant on a saucer.[5] The garden will only be suitable where it replicates the exact environment where pitcher plants grow naturally.
    • Inadequate lighting is a common cause of killing pitcher plants in the homegrown environment. If you don't have a greenhouse or humid, sunny space for the plants, consider using artificial lighting. Illuminating with several cool or warm white fluorescent bulbs placed 12" (30 cm) from the plant will assist.[6]
    • Only place hardier pitcher plants in a window sill, and even then, only if you have adequate sunshine and humidity. While bathrooms are wonderfully humid, their windows are usually too dark to provide the amount of light required by the pitcher plant.[7] Hardier pitcher plants include sundews, bladderworts, and butterworts. A Venus flytrap probably won't like being situated on a windowsill.[8]
    • Air-conditioning makes the room too dry for pitcher plants.
  4. After situating the plant appropriately, fill the cups about 1/2- 3/4 inch (1.2 cm to 1.9 cm) full of water to keep the inside moist. During travel, the fluid already present in the cups sometimes falls out, and if the cups dry out, the plant could die.
  5. Provide good drainage soil. A good soil is one composed of a one to one mixture of peat moss and perlite or combine Sphagnum moss, charcoal and orchid bark. The type of soil and the ratios, however, should be researched very carefully for the type of pitcher plant you have. If your pitcher plant doesn't like the soil, it won't thrive and will die. Don't use potting mix or fertilizers – pitcher plants are primed for poor soil and rich soil will be an overload.
  6. Keep the soil very wet during the growing season, from May through October. A drained pot should sit in 1 inch (2.5 cm) of standing water. Don't let the plants dry out completely. Make sure the water you use is either rainwater or distilled, with low levels of salts. Aerating the water before watering the plant can help the plant grow. To aerate the water, fill a container half full with water, seal it, and shake it vigorously.
  7. Keep the habitat humid. Pitcher plants can tolerate low humidity, but they usually stop making pitchers if the humidity is inadequate. About 35 percent humidity is fine for the plants. Greenhouses and terrariums can provide the needed humidity, but be sure to provide the proper ventilation so the air does not overheat or become stagnant.
  8. Feed the plant. If the pitcher plants are growing somewhere without access to insects for an extended period of time, you can add a few small insects, such as a fly, or a cockroach, to a mature plant. However, this is usually not needed. Many types benefit from 1/8 teaspoon of Miracid fertilizer per quart of water, but this solution should be added only to the pitchers until they are 3/4 filled.[9]
  9. Maintain the pitcher plant's well-being. Besides watering, humidity, and feeding, keeping the pitcher plant in good shape requires that you ensure it has room to grow and is protected:
    • Clip off all the dead leaves with scissors when the winter dormant period begins. Their dormant period varies by species, but is normally about 3-5 months during the winter. During this time, they should be kept cool and drier than normal.
    • Protect outdoor pitcher plants. Leave any developing pitchers in the pot or provide thick mulch of leaves and cover with plastic or a container in hardiness zones six to eight during the winter months when left outside.
    • Divide and re-pot the plant when the pitcher comes out of dormancy before rapid growth for new plants and begin the cycle over again. Pitcher plants can live for several years if cared for properly.


Although the first minute talks about a dying pitcher plant (a common occurrence for home growing), this video goes on to tell you what you should do to raise pitcher plants.


  • Buy only nursery-grown plants for best results. Contact your local nursery for availability or order online through carnivorous plant suppliers.
  • Move the potted plant to the basement or other cool area during the months of dormancy in frigid areas and keep the soil moist. Best temperatures range around 40 degrees during this period of three to four months.
  • Pitcher plants can be divided and repotted as the plant is coming out of dormancy, but this must be done before vigorous new growth begins.
  • When growing inside place the plant in a southern exposure window or provide 12 to 14 hours of artificial light.
  • Tropical pitcher plants, such as the Nepenthes or monkey cups need a greenhouse to grow properly. A greenhouse that successfully grows orchids produces the right environment for the Nepenthes.


  • Pitcher plants range in height from 4" (10 cm) long (parrot pitcher plant) to more than 3' (1 m) tall (yellow pitcher plant). Be careful to choose a variety that suits your requirements.
  • Don't use potting garden soil - it will kill the plant.
  • Never fertilize a pitcher plant; the plant gets its nutrients from the bugs it catches. If feeding any insects, keep this to a minimum because too many insects can cause the plant to wither and die.
  • Never let the pitcher plant's soil dry out, even during dormancy keep water in the drain saucer.
  • Only rain water or distilled water should be used for watering carnivorous plants.
  • Potted pitcher plants can be grown outdoors during the growing season. They go dormant during the winter. Tropical pitcher plants can't take freezing temperatures. North American pitcher plants can be left outside according to the growth USDA zone.

Things You'll Need

  • A nursery - grown pitcher plant(preferred but seeds will also do)
  • A garden
  • A greenhouse (optional)
  • A nice sunny place (optional)

Related wikiHows

Sources and Citations

  1. Wisegeek, What are Pitcher Plants?,
  3. The International Carnivorous Plant Society, Nepenthes,
  4. The International Carnivorous Plant Society, Do I need a terrarium?,
  5. The International Carnivorous Plant Society, Will a bottle terrarium work?,
  6. The International Carnivorous Plant Society, The Carnivorous Plant FAQ, and
  7. The International Carnivorous Plant Society, What can I grow on my windowsill?,
  8. The International Carnivorous Plant Society, What can I grow on my windowsill?,

Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Grow Pitcher Plants. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

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Zombie Preparedness Kits


20 Plant Points

The threat of zombie attacks increase significantly in October. You will need to prepare for any attack because zombies will eat your brain. Brain-eating plants, also known as carnivorous plants, can offer some protection against zombie attacks.

Throughout the years researching and growing carnivorous plants, we've observed zombies avoid areas where carnivorous plants grow. We suspect that plants that eat insect brains emit a pheromone that repels zombies. The pheromone is completely odorless to living humans and animals, but zombies can smell it quite strongly. We are currently researching this pheromone, and we hope to isolate and synthesize it in a few years. Until then, we strongly recommend including carnivorous plants as part of your zombie attack preparedness.

Choose from two Zombie Preparedness Kits,
depending on your growing conditions.



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