Sunday, 1 September 2013

Pitcher Plant Care Guide

Pitcher Plant Care Guide

Pitcher plants enjoy sunlight and if they are being kept indoors, a south facing window is ideal. These plants are typically winter hardy (UK) and can be kept outdoors (though I would recommend bringing them in during the winter). If you keep them outdoors, place them in a position that gets plenty of sunlight but is protected from the wind.

Do NOT use tap water, use rainwater
Tap water contains chemicals which will harm the plant. You can use distilled water, reverse osmosis water, but the best water to use is rain water. Stand them in 1 - 2 cm of rain water but during the winter months, its best to just keep them damp (such as using a mist spray) rather than fill the tray up with water.

Insects are attracted to the colour of the plant and the rim of the pitcher which is covered in sweet nectar. While the insects are walking around, the rim, things get slippery. It is also believed that the nectar is poisoned and can make insect’s ‘drunk’. All these things combined and the prey will fall down into the trap. Downward pointing hairs prevent the prey from escaping. 

Pitcher plants only need a person to feed them if they are being kept in a place which doesn’t typically get flies. In which case, feel free to feed it houseflies or hoverflies.
If they are in a greenhouse or outdoors, they will catch plenty of food themselves. Sometimes they catch so much food that they get indigestion, and their traps go brown and can fall over – though this is a good sign.
Winter dormancy
Pitcher plants like to be cool in the winter. An unheated greenhouse or conservatory is ideal but they are also ok outside, as long as they are in a fairly sheltered position. Prune the brown traps over winter. Keep damp during the winter.

Pitcher plants only need to be repotted every year or two. It’s usually best to buy compost mixes specifically for carnivorous plants from online retailers, but failing that, get ‘nutrient free’ peat from your local garden centre. It is important that the peat be nutrient free, otherwise the plant will likely die. 

Given ideal conditions and good care, pitcher plants can grow up to be just over 1 metre tall. New traps will be produced from the centre of the plant fairly regularly and after a while, the current traps will start to go brown in parts. Typically, brown markings on the traps are an indicator of indigestion, this is a good sign. After a while, these traps will weaken and eventually flop over. 

Personally, if a trap does this but still has good colour in it, I leave it for a while (figuring it’s probably still digesting its food), but when much of the trap starts turning brown, then it can be pruned.

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