Miniature monsters–the tropical pitchers

Well, I finally succumbed and purchased a few more miniature growing nepenthes commonly known as  tropical pitcher plants . Some of the species can get to be monsters in the wild, big enough to capture a hapless frog or small monkey! But if your’re growing under lights indoors, then the miniatures are your friends–and kitty is safe (meow of relief).

These hybrids came for Predatory Plants in California. They took a while to get to me as the first shipment was lost, but another was dispatched from their cosy greenhouse–as soon as there was a break in the weather (33-45 degrees F)–to my deluxe apartment in the sky. Well not quite.




The babies arrived with pitchers fully formed , tightly bundled in sphagnum moss like new born babes in zip-loc bags. Below is a close up of a small-growing cultivar of a delicate species with tendril like leaves called Nepenthese glabrata.

 

The  grower included pots and long-fibred sphagnum moss so I could immediately pot these up with minimum trauma. I went ahead and added some peat moss and perlite, mostly sprinkling this on top of the moss as its hard to get the two to mix together very well. I gave them a  good soaking with some collected snow-water, that I warmed up first. I also added a few drops to the pitchers as per the instructions. Here is a photo of the trio of plants potted up.

 

Young pitcher plants potted up.

 

The last step was to drop them into a decorative jar then i got from one of the home decor shops a while back. I added some lava rocks at the bottom to capture any drainage water as Nepenthes like to be wet, but NOT sit in water. This also provides added humidity to the jar terrarium. The lid totally encloses the pants into a  little stove-like greenhouse but they seem to love this. The plants were set under my grow lights. In winter the temperatures are ideal(mid 70s day–low 60s at night)  but in summer I may have to move them to a bright spot that does not get as hot. By then, I hope they are well established and growing strongly!

 

 

tropical pitcher plants--at home in assorted vase and jar terrariums!
tropical pitcher plants–at home in assorted vase and jar terrariums!




mini tropical pitcher plants

nepenthes pitcher close-up

Nepenthes, the tropical pitcher plants can get to be large plants and are best suited to a greenhouse or large terrarium where they thrive in high humidity. However, there are a few hybrids (if you search for them) that are on the smaller side and these can make good houseplants (‘dwarf peacock’ is one that comes to mind).

These smaller plants can be grown in a tapered glass vase or glass jar(see photo below) , but make sure you have some sort of lid to trap in the humidity which they need. Contrary to what you might think, not all nepenthee are from steamy jungles. Many are found higher up on  cooler  mountain-tops where it gets downright chilly at night. Unless you live far north,you may fare better with warmer growing ‘lowland ‘ species or hybrids than the cooler growing upland’ ones.


Either way, be sure to grow them in a peat-based mixed with good drainage, and fertilizer occasionally with dilute orchid fertilizer to get good results. And yes, you can feed them tiny bugs or insects as well.  One thing we’ve found is that if nepenthes are unhappy, or the air too dry, they will stop making pitchers. It can take months to get restarted making pitchers, but once they settle in they should be fine. Vines can be clipped if the plants get too tall and leggy, at which point they should start producing basal rosettes. They need bright light, though not necessarily direct sun.The Nepenthes below is growing in a 2.5″ rose pot that is hidden by decorator moss. The crypanthus (bromeliad family) adds a dash of bright color and contrast to the reddish-green colors of the Nepenthes plant and pitchers.

Nepenthes growing in 6 inch glass vase.


Sundews sparkle from Cape Town to Cape Cod

Sundews(droseras) are among the most beguiling of the carnivorous plants. Unlike the toothed Venus Flytraps, or or the open-mouthed pitcher plants they seduce softly with sparkling pinkish-red globules that suggest pleasure, rather than pain. What’s amazing is that these tiny treasures have adapted to a wide range of environments and can be found in many countries and habitats around the world.

While I haven’t had much experience cultivating sundews, its always thrilling to look for them in the wild. Here I share pictures from two very different habitats, that nevertheless have something in common..both are capes and among the most beautiful spots in the world. Nevertheless, both are harsh austere environments with wide temperature swings, where only the most tenacious plants can thrive.

An escarpment of Table Mountain, South Africa
An escarpment of Table Mountain, South Africa

Table Mountain is simply majestic and inspiring…there are few words that can describe it. Proteas and other southern Africa flora, most endemic to this region, and some to Table Mountain itself, can be found here. One sunny afternoon in November,2008 as I explored the mountain top, I came across several patches of wet soil that sparkled with a soft greenish rosettes,tinged along the edges in deep pink–sundews!

Sundews on Table Mountain
Sundews on Table Mountain

Beautiful wide leave rosettes
Beautiful wide leave rosettes

Next, we travel to the furthermost point of Cape Cod, the ‘far lands’ of Provincetown, Massachusetts. These photos were taken in early fall, where sundews grow along the edges of the wild cranberry bogs in acidic peaty soil. In the photos, the tiny dark specks you see on some of the leaves are the remains of insects! You can see how the growth habit and leaf shape is remarkably different from their Table Mountain cousins. In this habitat, the sundews go dormant over the winter.

Almost at the tip of Cape Cod-sundews grow less than a mile from the ocean
Almost at the tip of Cape Cod-sundews grow less than a mile from the ocean

Cape Cod Sundew
Cape Cod Sundew

A colony of Sundews ready to flower
A colony of Sundews ready to flower