One of the most common issues in growing nepenthes is when it doesn’t grow pitchers. So if you’re facing this, don’t feel too bad! It can be frustrating after you’ve bought a new nepenthes but don’t worry. This guide will help you understand all the potential causes and what you can do to fix or prevent them!
The main reasons why nepenthes will not grow pitchers are 1) low humidity, 2) low light, 3) excessive light, 4) improper water, 5) insufficient moisture, 6) unsuitable temperatures, 7) plant stress and 8) use of fertilizer. To promote pitcher growth it is necessary to 1) provide adequate sunlight, 2) use mineral-free water, and 3) grow it in a controlled environment.
Whether you’re a novice nepenthes owner or a saged carnivorous plant collector, you’ve probably dealt with this issue before. Nepenthes can be fussy, so this happens from time to time. Aside from helping you learn the reasons behind it, I’ll share effective solutions with you as well. Let’s go!
Regular leaf growth with a lack of pitcher development in nepenthes can be a sign of low humidity. To promote pitcher growth, grow nepenthes in 40–60% humidity.
Ultimately, this is the biggest reason why nepenthes do not grow any pitchers. As a tropical plant, nepenthes need high humidity to fully grow and develop pitcher traps.
Even the easiest nepenthes, the Nepenthes alata, need at least 40% humidity. Any lower than this and the chances of it developing pitchers will be significantly affected.
It can still be healthy and grow leaves in dry environments. But it does need higher humidity to grow the unique pitchers we all admire.
Younger nepenthes plants are impacted the most, as they’re not mature enough to handle such unsuitable conditions.
Hygrometers will tell you exactly how humid it is. So if you don’t have any yet, I suggest you get at least 2 reliable hygrometers—one for backup.
Some like to mist their plants multiple times a day, but this only raises humidity for a few minutes.
Nepenthes are less likely to form pitchers when grown in low-light conditions. If the plant receives less than 10 hours of filtered sun, it will have less energy and be unable to produce new pitchers.
Aside from humidity, another important factor behind pitcher development in nepenthes is lighting.
The pitchers of nepenthes have little to no photosynthetic activity, which makes sense. The main purpose of the pitchers is to gather additional nutrients rather than photosynthesize.
Nepenthes growing in low-light environments will not sacrifice its limited energy to form pitchers. Instead, the plant will focus on gathering as much light as possible just to stay alive.
Don’t worry though! You can easily prevent or solve this problem.
Give your nepenthes at least 10–12 hours of filtered sun to promote pitcher growth.
Although the nepenthes is a sun-loving plant, it cannot tolerate prolonged direct sun exposure and will not grow pitchers. Blotchy red leaves are a common indicator of sunburn. Move the nepenthes out of direct sunlight to prevent burning.
Too much of anything can be dangerous, including sunlight. If your nepenthes leaves are turning red and curling, it is likely sun stressed.
While some plant owners intentionally stress their plants to coax these attractive red hues out, this harsh sun exposure could prevent nepenthes from growing pitchers.
Sure, they prefer generous amounts of sun. But they can still burn when placed under direct sunlight for too long.
Luckily, this is easy to solve. Simply reduce its light exposure and place it in a shadier spot to ensure it is not constantly exposed.
The use of tap water can stunt growth and lead to the absence of pitchers in nepenthes. Eventually, the mineral buildup can be fatal. Give nepenthes rainwater or distilled water to encourage pitcher growth.
Many carnivorous plants can be found in harsh environments with soil that contains very few nutrients. As a result, the nepenthes evolved to grow traps and pitchers to digest insects for nutrition.
Once it receives tap water with high amounts of salts and minerals, it will struggle to stay alive. In the best-case scenario, this will stunt its growth. But over time, this mineral-rich water can kill the nepenthes.
Nepenthes reacts very poorly to high amounts of minerals. It will struggle growing pitcher traps when regularly watered with hard tap water.
When growing nepenthes, be sure to only use distilled water or clean rainwater. I’ll go more in-depth on how to use mineral-free water later, so keep reading.
If nepenthes isn’t watered consistently, it won’t develop new pitchers. Keep the nepenthes in evenly moist soil, and never let them dry out.
Nepenthes are not suited to drought. At no time should this carnivorous plant be allowed to become bone dry.
They enjoy quite a bit of moisture and need to grow in consistently damp substrates to form new growth, especially pitchers.
You don’t want this plant to be waterlogged, but it must be kept moist. Thin and floppy leaves will indicate that the plant needs more water.
An inconsistent watering schedule can be more than problematic for nepenthes. So be sure to monitor its watering needs regularly. Keep track of it on your calendar if necessary.
Highlander nepenthes will not form pitchers when grown at temperatures below 50°F and above 80°F. In contrast, lowlander nepenthes will not develop any picture at temperatures below 68°F and above 86°F. Identify its variety to be able to provide its ideal growing temperatures.
Temperature is key to forming pitchers. Some nepenthes species are more finicky with their temperature requirements than others.
Generally, if the nepenthes is a highlander or grows above 3,000 feet in the wild, it will appreciate 68–77°F during the day and 50–59°F at night. Lowlanders will thrive in average day temperatures of 86°F and 68°F at night.
Additionally, since they grow in tropical environments, many nepenthes tend to grow much slower in the winter. They will also produce fewer pitchers during those colder months.
This will vary depending on the species of your nepenthes. Be sure to identify what nepenthes you have so you know its specific growing needs.
Plant stress, caused by repotting or relocation, can temporarily prevent nepenthes from growing new pitchers. Provided that it is properly cared for, the nepenthes will eventually readjust and develop more pitcher traps.
Pitchers require high amounts of energy to grow and sustain. Some species of nepenthes even go the extra mile and grow claws at the rim of their pitchers to deter larger animals from stealing their food!
After bringing it home from the nursery, watch your nepenthes closely and give it extra care. This new location can be difficult for them to adjust to and cause plant stress, which will sap their overall energy.
During this time, the plant will focus the most on acclimating to its new home rather than forming new pitchers. If it does have any pitchers, be certain not to feed them. Doing so can be too overwhelming.
Simply continue with your usual care and over time, the nepenthes will bounce back and grow new pitchers.
One contributing factor to the limited pitcher production in Nepenthes plants is the use of fertilizer. This plant normally does not need fertilizer.
Nepenthes plants are awesome because they develop these cool pitchers that help them catch prey and get the essential nutrients they need. It’s their way of making up for the fact that the soil they grow in naturally lacks nourishment. But here’s the thing: if your Nepenthes isn’t producing pitchers, it might be because you’re giving it too much fertilizer.
Usually, Nepenthes plants don’t need a lot of fertilizer unless there’s a special reason. For example, if your plant can’t catch enough bugs on its own or if you want bug-free pitchers for a show or display, then it could be a good idea to fertilize it. But remember, you’ve got to be careful. Use a diluted foliage fertilizer, never directly on the soil, and do it only once a month during the growing season. This advice is especially important if you’re growing your Nepenthes indoors or in a greenhouse, where some extra nutrition can be helpful. So go easy on the fertilizer and let your Nepenthes thrive!
Nepenthes can be encouraged to grow pitchers by 1) providing adequate sunlight, 2) using mineral-free water, and 3) growing them in controlled environments.
Aside from taking proper care of your nepenthes, there are a few ways to help promote them to grow more pitchers faster. Here are the 3 best ways to get more pitchers on your nepenthes.
For optimum pitcher growth, keep nepenthes in east or south-facing windows for 12 hours of bright, indirect light. Grow lights are useful and can promote pitchers when used for at least 10–12 hours.
Lighting is essential when caring for nepenthes. Ideally, they should get 12 hours of diffused or indirect sunlight for good growth. Southern or eastern windows with curtains are a great place to keep them.
Their leaves should be well saturated with light, but should not be directly put under harsh sunlight. Since pitchers are essentially just modified extensions of the leaves, you’ll want to keep the foliage as healthy as possible.
If natural light is unavailable, artificial light is an excellent alternative. Many commercial growers and plant stores use LED grow lights for their nepenthes.
Nepenthes can be slow growing. But if you leave them under some grow lights for about 10 hours every day, you can promote rapid pitcher growth even when you keep them indoors.
Learn which is better in Grow Lights vs Sunlight.
It is critical to give nepenthes mineral-free water of less than 100 PPM. Tap water often has too many impurities and sodium. Use clean rainwater or distilled water to help nepenthes grow pitchers.
Although some nepenthes owners use tap water, most agree that it isn’t the best choice. Using it has led to nepenthes producing fewer pitchers or even dying.
Generally, whatever water you use has to be below 100 PPM or parts per million. This refers to one part of impurity to one million parts of water. If you’re lucky, your tap water may be under 100.
Oftentimes, however, this isn’t the case. A TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) reader will help you test your water to see which is the purest.
Distilled water and rainwater have fewer impurities and minerals than tap water, and a lower PPM (Parts Per Million). Clean, low PPM water is a must for growing healthy nepenthes and plenty of pitchers.
Pro Tip: Avoid bottom watering nepenthes. Instead, pour water from the top of the soil until it escapes from the drainage. Doing so will help flush out any mineral buildup and keep your nepenthes healthy.
For more control over light, humidity, and moisture, grow nepenthes in controlled environments like grow tents or terrariums. This will ensure the plant is kept in ideal conditions, encouraging pitcher growth.
Rather than let your monkey cup plant suffer and fall victim to every minor change, consider growing it in a controlled environment—especially if it’s a rare or high-maintenance species.
Some folks even buy old freezers or refrigerators to turn into dedicated chambers to keep up with these gorgeous exotic plants.
This isn’t a quick and easy hack, by all means. It can require time and money to set up completely. But it is one of the best ways to ensure your nepenthes grow pitchers.
For an easy terrarium, you can also keep your nepenthes in a 10-gallon fish tank or plastic box with some water on the bottom for moisture and humidity. Then secure a grow light above for lighting.
You could even slip a plastic bag over your nepenthes to create a small growing environment with high humidity!
The idea is to create a stable space for your pitcher plant where you can easily maintain its needed temperatures, humidity, and light. This can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish, so do what works best for you and your nepenthes!
How long do nepenthes pitchers take to grow?
Nepenthes pitchers often take an average of several months to form pitchers. As long as it is properly cared for, the tendrils and pitchers will slowly but continuously develop until the pitcher traps are ready to be used.
Do nepenthes pitchers grow back?
Nepenthes pitchers do not grow back. The leaf will remain, but it will not form another pitcher. Instead, the nepenthes plant will grow a new leaf to develop a new pitcher.
When grown with low humidity, low light, excessive sunlight, given improper water, insufficient moisture, and unsuitable temperatures, nepenthes are less likely to develop pitchers. Plant stress can also temporarily delay pitcher growth.
To promote nepenthes to grow more pitchers, give them at least 10 hours of filtered sunlight, provide mineral-free water that is under 100 PPM, and/or grow them in controlled environments like tents or terrariums.
- “Nepenthales” by n/a in University of California Museum of Paleontology
- “Nepenthes species” by n/a in Indiana University
- “Nepenthes × ventrata Transcriptome Profiling Reveals a Similarity Between the Evolutionary Origins of Carnivorous Traps and Floral Organs” by Anna V. Shchennikova, Alexey V. Beletsky, Mikhail A. Filyushin, Maria A. Slugina, Eugeny V. Gruzdev, Andrey V. Mardanov, Elena Z. Kochieva and Nikolay V. Ravin in The Russian Academy of Sciences
- “Water Quality: pH and Alkalinity” by Douglas Cox in University of Massachusetts