This plant is more commonly known as the pitcher plant and is a carnivorous plant, meaning it feeds on living creatures for nutrients. Nepenthes’ name (pronounced ne-PEN_thayz) is derived from the legend of a magical potion which is said to make people forget all their suffering.
Nepenthes live in tree branches without being parasites and they feed themselves by catching insects in their pitches, which are small funnels filled with water that contains digestive enzymes. They are recognised by their pitcher ‘lids’, which prevent rainwater from falling inside the pods and diluting their valuable enzymes.
They grow as climbing vines and their leaves are long and develop in a rosette fashion, which ends with a tendril. This tendril supports the plant and the trap which grows underneath. These traps are highly elaborate and eye-catching.
Their natural habitat is north Australia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.
They come in two types, the highland and lowland. The lowland types tend to have more colourful pitchers than the highland types, but they require greater cultivation. They can be propagated with cuttings, seed and tissue culture.
The plants are part of the Nepenthaceae family and the genus contains around seventy different species. These aren’t easy plants for beginners to grow, so are usually favoured by more experienced gardeners with a specific interest in carnivorous plants.
This is a challenging plant to grow due to its high heat and humidity requirements, although it can thrive in a warm and humid conservatory or greenhouse. Be sure to use pots which have good drainage, or opt for a basket. Keep wet with room-temperature, softened water and spray the plant daily to keep it moist.
Growers find that hanging baskets can be used successfully. They need to be fed often with a full-strength fertiliser which is suitable for orchids. Feed as a foliar, applying liquid fertilizer directly to their leaves, once a month for the best results.
Did You Know?
The Nepenthes plant attracts its prey by producing attractive colours, sweet scents and sugary nectars. Small insects and ants are frequently found on their menu.