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.


Tropical ‘Houseplants’ in Bangkok

Freshly cut water lillies
Freshly cut water lillies

The weekend Chatchuk Market in Bangkok is famous, attracting locals and tourists alike. There are thousands of stalls selling virtually anything you could want, from antiques, to t-shirts; musical instruments to…tropical garden plants and orchids! So on a recent trip to Bangkok, I made the trek to the market. ‘Trek’ is an overstatement-all you have to do is hop on the sleek modern skytrain and it delivers you right to the market! This is the first of a few posts where I’ll share photos of all things green that I enjoyed seeing at Chatachuk. Among the most impressive were the nepenthes, caladiums, and orchids!

sprouting seeds
sprouting seeds

These are the ‘sprouting seeds’ of a tropical tree that grows in Thailand. Leaves on more mature growths look like avocado leaf. If anyone know what this plant is please let me know. I’ve looked for seed pods like this in the US, but have only seen the fibrous seed in dry decorative arrangements. Of course I was unable to bring any of these back to the US.


colorful bromeliads
colorful bromeliads

(left) I loved all the compact growing bromeliads, mostly neoregalias, showing perfect color. There are also some Thai caladiums in this photo, that are garnering attention by horticulturists in other parts of the world. We’ll post more photos of these in a later post.

(Below) buckets of water lillies for sale–both flowers and plants were available.

bucket of water plants and flowers
bucket of water plants and flowers

hoyas, with their waxy flowers
hoyas, with their waxy flowers

a gorgeous display of hibiscus
a gorgeous display of hibiscus


Tacca-also known as the bat flower
Tacca-also known as the bat flower

Exotic and unsual whiskered blooms on handsome plants! I’ve seen different types of tacca for sale in US garden catalogs but suspect they would do best in more humid southern climates, or a conservatory/greenhouse up north.