Nepenthes Hookeriana

~ 5 yrs

~ 4 years
~ 3 years

These started in test tubes I ordered on eBay. They have been extremely easy to grow.

They are named after Joseph Dalton Hooker who discovered them. The first mention of them seems to be around 1848

Originally thought to be a species they are a natural hybrid between N. ampullaria and N. rafflesiana. They are found deeper in the jungles climbing up the trees. Early descriptions disagree on everything from the leaves to the pitchers to the growth habit. The wings and roundness of the pitcher seem to be all anyone agreed about.

I haven’t seen upper pitchers on mine yet, but read that they are longer and without wings.

Common to lowlands of Borneo, Malaysia, Sumatra where they grow in bogs.

High humidity, 60’F-90’F, easier to pitcher than some other Neps. I find they do best in open orchid baskets filled with sphagnum which are placed in a dish in which I maintain 1/2″-1″ of distilled water.

Nepenthes Alata or Ventricosa

I purchased this as a Nepenthes Alata, yet everyone tells me it’s a ventricosa. Which is it? Most likely it’s a cross between them, ventricosa x alata x alata is very commonly found in shops

Nepenthes Vetricosa

– distinct line between colors on pitchers
– lip at top of pitchers has distinct ridges
– no ridges running up pitcher

Nepenthes Alata

– ridges run up pitcher with hairs (aka fringed wings)

…. And does it matter?
Both plants grow in mountain forests and grow well as windowsill intermediate plants.

I have found my Nepenthes are happiest in open orchid baskets filled with sphagnum moss, which is still in dish containing about 1″ of water. Use distilled water, no fertilizer. A bright window that doesn’t receive direct afternoon sun is best.

This has been the easiest of my Nepenthes to grow from cuttings.
– cut a 6″-8″ stem
– remove bottom leaves leaving only one at the top
– plant in sphagnum and keep in a closed terrarium
– slightly shade it
When new leaves appear
– slowly increase light
– slowly adapt it to grow outside terrarium

Nepenthes Aristolochioides

This is an intermediate Nepenthes from Sumatra, most note worthy for its unusually shaped pitchers. Willem Meijer first found them in 1956, on a mountain about 6000′ above sea level where they grown in sphagnum moss along ridges in the forest, occasionally found in pockets of moss on trees.

It’s a climber, stems may branch.

Upper and lower pitchers are similar, reaching ~ 2.5″ in length when full size. Lower pitchers grow in the moss leaving only the opening visible.

It is unusual among Nepenthes in that it uses light through the back top like many US pitcher plants. Inner walls of the pitcher are sticky, acting like fly paper to trap insects.

This is a critically endangered plant due to poaching. You can find clones at reputable plant sellers. Getting endangered plants into the hands of as many gardeners as possible may be our best hope for saving them.

I’ve found it prefers bright fluorescent light to sunlight and high humidity.

It prefers cooler temperatures (50’F-75F’).

I grow it in an orchid basket filled with sphagnum in a dish with about an inch of distilled water I refill when dry.

Nepenthes Ampullaria

This is my most unusual plant. It is a lowland, swamp loving Nepenthes that was a carnivore and has switched to a detritivore diet. Though they don’t mind an occasional bug. The pitchers have enzymes and bacteria to break down and digest leaves, insects and insect larvea. The pitcher fluid is more basic than is found in other Nepenthes. Many insects will make homes for themselves in the pitchers.

I started with a batch of seeds I purchased on eBay. The first couple years growth is very slow, they make up for it the third year.

They are native to the rainforests of Malaysia and Indonesia. You’ll often see them at food stands, the pitchers stuffed with rice. I’ve also seen them called ‘monkey cups’.

In Malaysia a tea made from the roots is used to treat dysentery.

Keep them warm 60’F-80’F humid, wet and out of direct sunlight. I’ve done best growing them in orchid baskets full of sphagnum moss. I seat the baskets in a clear pot and keep an inch or so of water in there. Only use distilled water, they are sensitive to chemicals in drinking water.

I found started Nepenthes seeds in terrariums on top of peat moss works best.

Nepenthes ampullaria are most strongly related to Bicalcarata. Ampullarias are most easily identified by the tiny, narrow lid on the pitcher. There is a large variation in pitcher size, colors are solid green or green speckled with red.

Some leaves do not have pitchers, but instead grow tendrils.

The fluids of Nepenthes pitcher plants are habitats to many specialized animals known as inquilines, which facilitate the conversion of prey protein into pitcher-absorbable nitrogen forms such as ammonium. Xenoplatyura beaveri (Diptera: Mycetophilidae) is a predatory dipteran inquiline that inhabits the pitchers of Nepenthes ampullaria. Larvae of X. beaveri construct sticky webs over the fluid surface of N. ampullaria to ensnare emerging adult dipteran inquilines.

Our results show that a terrestrial, inquiline predator can contribute significantly to nutrient sequestration in the phytotelma it inhabits, and suggest that this interaction has a net mutualistic outcome for both species.


I loved my Nepenthenes Miranda so much that when I started rebuilding my carnivorous plant collection I put them at the top of the list.

Right now there are 10 small Nepenthenes scattered about the house and just as many jars of seeds I’m hoping to germinate.

I ordered seeds on eBay from several different sellers, eBay has the best offerings for the price and a jar of the ampullaria just germinated today. The apullaria seeds took about a month to germinate, some N. Madagascarier took only a week. The seeds are on a south west facing windowsill. The temperature varies from about 100’F-70’F. I spray them in the morning and evening with distilled water to keep them damp. The seeds are on peat moss that has sphagnum moss on top.

While digging for information on Nepenthenes I ran across Growing Nepenethes Around the House which has more information than any other site I’ve found on these plants so far. My seeds are germinating in 60-70 days.

Terraforums has lots of information on growing them from seed.

My nepenthes addiction has superseded my orchid addiction. The house is now full of them. I’m growing all lowland nepenthes. They are divided into lowland, intermediate and highland. Depending on where you live you’ll want to chose some that like your growing conditions.

Lowlands prefer light shade, or dappled light, and warm temeratures 60’F+
Intermediates fall between the two and make good house plants for most climates.
Highlands wants lots of light and cool temperatures 40’F-70′
All of them prefer very high humidity.

Both do well on windowsills where humidity tends to be high and there’s difference in day and night temperatures.

The lowland ones mostly grow in swamps, keep them pretty damp. The highland ones like it slightly drier but don’t let them dry out.

Nepenthes have black, thread like roots and not a lot of them. Keep them in small pots.

I’ve done well with them planted in net pots ( like you use for aquarium plants ) and sphagnum mosss. I also have some in plastic wine glasses and peat moss. Some I have planted in clay pellets like the orchids. The clay pellet semi hydro is a bit tricky for the nepenthes. A few were lost when I switched them over.

Venus Flytraps ( Droseraceae Dionaea muscipula )

Of all the carnivorous plants I grow these are some of the more challenging. For easy carnivorous plants, try a pitcher plant.

Flytraps do very well in terrariums. Any clear covered glass container will work. If you grow them on a windowsill be careful not to cook them in bright sunlight. I take the covers off the terrariums in the summer months.

Fill the bottom with soil that does not have any fertilizer and sphagnum peat moss. A 50/50 combination of sand/peat works well. Soak the soil and wring it out. It should be damp not soaking. Place your flytraps in there, put the cover on, put them under a bright light. They will thrive.

The only other way I have been successful with flytraps is to put them in a clay pot with a soil and peat moss mixture. Put the clay pot in a dish with about an 1″ of water. Water from the bottom, just top off the water every morning.

Fly traps grow slowly. You’ll need to be patient. When they are happy and large enough they will give you really cool flowers in the late spring. They rarely get beyond 8″ in height, most will max out at 5″. The flowers are white and will grow on long stems far above the height of the leaves.

A drafty window is best. Flytraps usually hibernate over the winter. I’ve found the the temperature change near the window is enough to send them into dormancy and wake them each spring. During the winter, keep the flytraps a bit drier.

I’ve found the most important thing for success is high humidity, it is more important than the amount of sun ( which should be as high as you can get)

Deadhead the old traps to encourage new growth. If a trap turns black, remove that leaf.

Do not feed your plants fertilized water or hard water. They will turn black and will die. I use distilled water.

I do not feed mine, I find they fend quite well for themselves.

They hate to be transplanted. (them and every other plant you ever read about) Since there is no danger of over watering them go ahead and put them in a decent sized pot to start with.

There are usually three trigger hairs on each side of the trap, sometimes more. You will have to look closely and catch the light just right to see them. There are also digestive glands on the traps inner surface which release enzymes to dissolve the bugs and to take up the nutrients. These are the red area of the trap. In the outer green edges of the trap are glands that release nectar to attract insects. This part of the trap reflects ultraviolet light that most insects can see.

The trap closes when two or more of the trigger hairs is bent over by an insect in less than a half minute or so. At the base of each trigger hair is a cell that allows the trigger to bend over, it acts like a spring. The upper part of the trigger hair is stiff and unbendable.

The trap rapidly closes when triggered, but leaves small air gaps. Smaller insects escape through these gaps. If a larger insect is inside and it can not escape through the gaps, the trap slowly closes the rest of the way. This is triggered by continuing movement of the trigger hairs or if the prey insect urinates or defecates.

The fully closed trap fills with acidic liquid released by digestive glands. Digestion takes time depending on the size of the insect. Digestion could take as long as a month. The trap reopens once all nutrients have been absorbed. The exoskeleton of the insect remains, waiting to be blown off by wind or washed off by rain. During this time the trap will not re-trigger.

These plants are native to bogs in North and South Carolina which is the only place they are known to grow in the wild. Temperatures there range from ~20’F to 100’F. I tried some outdoors but they couldn’t handle the summers of Houston or the winters of Boston.

Do not buy wild plants. They are endangered. Buy from reputable dealers. A lack of fires to clean out surrounding vegetation, and increased fertilizer runoff has damaged most of the remaining habitats of these plants.

These plants were a favorite of Charles Darwin who considered them to be one of the most wonderful plants in the world. Carl Linnaeus spoke of them as a miracle of nature. John Ellis was the first to describe the flytrap during his travels to the new world. Upon his arrival home there were lines of people waiting to obtain this plant, much like the iPhone lines of recent.

Aphids, mealy bugs, scale and thrips can all be a problem for fly traps. Orthene or some other systematic insecticide is best. Follow the directions on the label. Do not use soap based insecticides.

Black spot and other fungus can also be trouble. Captan is the favorite fungicide right now. You should be able to find it at any plant supply store.

Propagation by seed: I purchased seeds on eBay, get the freshest ones you can. I started mine on peat moss, don’t bury the seeds. They are on a southwest facing windowsill. The room varies from about 100’F in the afternoon to a low of about 70’F at night. I spray them twice a day with distilled water, or cover the container to keep them moist but not wet.

One month old seedlings

1 year old seedlings

Propagation by division: Take an outer leaf and gently pull down, you want to get as much of the white area at the bottom of the leaf as you can, that’s where it’ll root. Place the leaf in a terrarium, morning sun, moss, lots of distilled water and you’ll see roots in about a week. You want enough water to keep the terrarium walls clouded up but no water sitting at the bottom. I’ve not yet succeeded at this.

See also:
FlyTrapCare Blog

Cephalotus Follicularis

I’ve been lusting after an Australian carnivorous pitcher plant for a long time and today my first one arrived. This post will likely change as I gain experience with Cephalotus (aka, Albany pitcher plant, Western Australian pitcher plant, fly catcher plant, moccasin plant).

Spring brings non-carnivorous leaves, followed by the pitcher leaves in the fall.

In bright light pitchers turn red but will be smaller, pitchers will remain green under lower light but grow larger. This plant is growing in a south west facing window in Houston which still doesn’t give it enough light to redden up. So it can take a great deal of light.

The plant grows the pitchers in a rosette. Each loop around the circle giving larger pitchers until full size is obtained ~2″ but can reach 3″. Best pitcher size is reached with high humidity and light, but not water logged peat.

The spikes on the mouth of the pitcher allow insects in but not out, as does the slippery surface of the inside of the pitcher. The nectar glands near the mouth attract insects.

There is a digestive enzyme in the pitcher which the lids keep rain from diluting. The digestive juices are released into the pitcher through glands along the bottom of the pitcher.

The lid of the pitcher plant does not move to trap prey but does move to maintain humidity in the pitcher, closing over the pitcher on drier days, pulling back on humid days.

Like many carnivorous plants, they go dormant during the winter months, and prefer to grow in wet peat moss.

Botanist Robert Brown first collected them in 1801.


Terrariums are excellent for growing these at home, they need high humidity (65%-90%).

They grow along with grasses in the swamp so they are a bit sheltered from direct sunlight. Light should be bright, too much red on the pitchers means too much light.

Unlike other carnivorous plants these ones can be over watered and will die from root rot. The crowns also need to be protected from rot.

If grown outside they can handle an occasional light frost. Preferred temperatures are 38’F-95’F

Once the plants begin to maintain fluid in their pitchers a light dose of high nitrogen fertilizer a few times a year can be beneficial, put the diluted fertilizer in the pitchers, do not apply it to the roots.

Things to watch for:
Subject to sudden death from root rot or high heat

See also:
Cephalotus follicularis