Garden Keeper: How to grow more traps on pitcher plants (2023)

I bought this plant past summer. It is healthy and growing nicely; note new light green growth toward light. However, no new traps grew. You can notice the stringy end of leaves but no growth. The traps on it were on when purchased. The photo of tag is all that came with it. Garden shop had no suggestions how to stimulate trap growth. Have you any suggestion? I recently started fertilizing with miracle grow all purpose. by the way, I saw two traps closed for a few days past summer. Thanks — Al Molchan.

It appears that Al has a tropical pitcher plant. I’ve never grown one but I have grown other carnivorous plants and I think I see a few things that Al can check to provide more optimal growing conditions. I found several sources concerning growing this plant and found on a website called Gardener’s Path. See How to Grow Tropical Nepenthes Pitcher Plants Indoors (, By meeting the basic needs of the pitcher plants, you will increase the chances of increasing the number of traps.


Garden Keeper: How to grow more traps on pitcher plants (1)

Container: Use glazed ceramic instead of clay to avoid potential problems with natural salts. If you use plastic, take care not to overwater as evaporation can be slow.

Soil: The ideal soil would be a home nut of sphagnum moss, perlite and orchid bark in equal amounts. Soil mixes specifically for nepenthes may be available but is difficult to locate. Soil for carnivorous plants is a bit too heavy and retains too much moisture. You would have to lighten soil and be very careful with watering.

Light: Indirect but bright light is best so place near a sunny window but not directly in the sunlight. Eight to 12 hours of indirect natural light or supplement with artificial light. Keep lights a foot to a foot and a half away from the plant.

Water: These plants are very particular about water. Do not use bottled or tap water because of the potential for dissolved nutrients and minerals. Use distilled water.

Humidity: Supplement humidity with a tray filled with rocks and water or use a humidifier. Fine misting is an option but do not drench the plant.

Temperature: Keep warm, between 75 and 90 F. Avoid letting the temperature drop below 60 F or you may experience die-off.

Air circulation: Good airflow is essential as the roots need the air to prevent root rot and fungal diseases.

(Video) CARNIVOROUS PLANT CHORES: propagating + repotting nepenthes pitcher plant, venus flytrap in a tube

Feeding: The pitcher plant eats small insects (mealworm or small crickets) in traps that are at least an inch wide put one or two per week but do not overfeed. Do not fertilize unless you are very familiar with growing pitcher plants.

So, if Al is satisfied that his conditions meet the plant’s requirements, I would mention that this plant is considered a slow grower. Additionally, I would flush the plant container to clear out any fertilizer remnants and avoid adding more. Note that the fertilizer Al used is noted for having a high nitrogen content; this generally stimulates leafy growth so the new leaves are not surprising. However, this plant prefers low nutrient soil with little organic material.

Al, stop feeding the plant and be patient.

In Our Garden

(Video) Why this Bat Chooses to Snooze in a Meat-Eating Home

After a few weeks of shopping, I believe I have found a raised planter that meets my needs. If you are shopping for one and, like me, want to limit bending and kneeling, be sure to check the height of the planter. I found several I liked but they were 25 inches and lower — too short for my taste.

Another consideration that limited my selection was the depth of the planting box. While I recognize that potting mix is heavy, I was not willing to trade weight for planting depth. Most of the planters I looked at had a soil depth of about five inches. Too shallow for many plants. I found a few with eight to nine inches and picked my favorite from among them.

Drainage is also a concern but depending on the composition of the planter, can be remedied after purchase. Wood or plastic containers can be drilled to allow proper drainage.

I am not thrilled with the quality of the wood often used in such containers but plan to treat the planter with a sealer safe for food crops.

The container I settled on is about four feet long and I plan to purchase two. One for herbs and the other for plants with great scents. They are destined for the deck outside the kitchen — a few steps to cut fresh herbs and a location where the sweet scents will perfume the deck and also drift into the house.


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Sue Kittek is a freelance garden columnist, writer, and lecturer. Send questions to Garden Keeper at or mail: Garden Keeper, The Morning Call, PO Box 1260, Allentown, PA 18105.

Week in the Garden

Planting: Start seed for broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, petunias and Chinese cabbage. Finish sowing: Endive, escarole and kale. Next week: start seeds for start: Snapdragon, statice, strawflowers and tobacco. Take cuttings of African violets and geraniums. Sow seeds that require a cold period for germination.

Seasonal: Check for heaved plants, particularly when soil temperatures are fluctuating between freezing and thawing. Order catalogs or mark online sites for January browsing. Check germination rate for all stored seeds and replace those that perform badly with fresh seed this year. Get seeds for plants you intend to grow from seed. Keep pathways, driveways and guttering clear of dead plants and leaves. Cut the flower stalks of amaryllis plants after the flowers fade but keep the greens warm and watered in a sunny area if you plan on keeping them until next year.

Chores: Place deicing materials, shovels, scrapers and other winter tools in a convenient space. Maintain winter equipment. Use fresh gas and check for damage before or after each use. Clean and store seed starting containers and other pots. Check supplies for next spring and note or purchase as needed Use a humidifier, humidity trays or misting to increase the humidity around your houseplants. Mark off beds, new plantings, plants that are late to break dormancy in the spring and delicate plants. Stay off them when dealing with snow removal. Apply winter mulch. Drain and store garden hoses. Provide deer, rabbit and groundhog protection for vulnerable plants. Reapply taste or scent deterrents. Clean and fill bird feeders regularly. Clean up spilled seed and empty hulls. Dump, scrub and refill birdbaths at least once a week. Consider a heater to provide water during cold weather. Clear gutters and direct rainwater runoff away from house foundations.

Tools, equipment, and supplies: Inventory, clean, disinfect, restock, and store seed starting and potting supplies. Clean and repair spring/summer tools. Replace or send for service now.


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Safety: Photograph storm damage before clearing or repairing for insurance claims and file promptly. Avoid tick and mosquito bites: Ticks are active any time temperatures are about 50°F or warmer. Use an insect repellent containing Deet on the skin. Apply a permethrin product to clothing. Wear light-colored clothing, long sleeves, hats and long pants when working in the garden. Stay hydrated. Drink water or other non-caffeinated, nonalcoholic beverages. Apply sunscreen, wear hats and limit exposure to sun. Wear closed-toe shoes and gloves; use eye protection; and use ear protection when using any loud power tools.

Sue Kittek is a freelance garden columnist, writer, and lecturer.


How do you grow new pitchers on a pitcher plant? ›

Humidity – Although requirements vary depending on the species, most types of pitcher plants prefer relatively high humidity; excessively dry air can cause the plant not to develop pitchers. Mist the plant regularly or increase the humidity in your home with a humidifier.

Why is my pitcher plant not producing pitchers? ›

If a nepenthes is getting too little water, or too much water it will not produce pitchers. Too little water is often the culprit for lack of pitchers (or pitchers drying up), but too much water and/or a non-well-draining media will cause root rot, or fungus growth.

How does the pitcher plant trap its food Short answer? ›

Carnivorous pitcher plants of the genus Nepenthes capture prey with a pitfall trap that relies on a micro-structured, slippery surface. The upper pitcher rim (peristome) is fully wettable and causes insects to slip by aquaplaning on a thin water film.

Are you supposed to fill pitcher plants with water? ›

Remember that the pitchers should always have some water in them, so it is good to get some water in them while you're showering your plant, just make sure they are no more than 50% full of water.

Should I cut the dry pitchers off my pitcher plant? ›

As pitchers and leaves die back naturally, trim them off to keep the plant vigorous. Prune back the green vine stems to encourage side shoots to grow.

How do you make a pitcher plant thrive? ›

How to Grow a Pitcher Plant
  1. Plant pitcher plants in the spring. If planting outdoors, make sure the ground is thawed before planting.
  2. Use nutritious soil. The soil should be a mix of organic material, sand, and peat moss. ...
  3. Place your pitcher plant in direct light. ...
  4. Keep the soil moist.
Jun 21, 2021

Do pitcher plants need misting? ›

Although pitcher plants (and other carnivorous plants) tolerate dry air, they frequently stop producing pitchers when the humidity drops below 50 percent. If the environment is dry, mist regularly or place the plant near a room humidifier.

Do you feed every pitcher in the pitcher plant? ›

If you'd like to boost your plant's growth you can feed each pitcher roughly once every two to three weeks. Carnivorous plants come from low nutrient environments and don't want additional nutrients added to their soil.

How often should I water my pitcher plant? ›

Nepenthes like to remain moist but not flooded. This is best accomplished by top watering them 2-3 times per week. The shallow tray method can be used when going out of town. Fill the tray with about 1” of water and then allow the tray to dry out for a couple days before refilling.

What attracts insects to the pitcher plant? ›

Insects and other prey are attracted to the mouth of the pitcher by a trail of nectar-secreting glands that extend downward along the lip to the interior of the pitcher.

Do pitcher plants close their lids? ›

As the pitcher matures, the walls get firmer and the inside gets filled with fluid secreted by the plants. When the pitcher is fully charged, the lid opens, there is a popular belief that the lid closes upon its prey. This is not so. The lid is a multi purpose device although it cannot move.

Why does the pitcher plant feed on insects Though it is green short answer? ›

Pitcher plants grow in a place where the soil has a deficiency of nitrogen compounds so to fulfil the need of nitrogen they feed on insects.

Can you overfeed a pitcher plant? ›

Don't overfeed, and don't be tempted to give your plants chunks of meat. Remember that carnivorous plants have very low nutrient requirements and too much food or fertilizer can be deadly.

Can a pitcher plant be overfed? ›

First off, remember you must only feed them bugs and not meat from cows, horses, goats, etc. But even if you restrict yourselves to bugs and insects, you may overfeed your plants. The bugs should not be too large. Meals much bigger than about 1/3 the length of a trap can be too big, causing the trap to blacken and die.

How many hours of light do pitcher plants need? ›

Growing Tips

Provide 8 to 12 hours of indirect sunlight per day, or use a grow light. Choose a warm, humid location. Always use distilled water, avoid municipal water. Feed your plants year-round with mealworms or small crickets.

What if I put my finger in a pitcher plant? ›

And it turns out that if you stick your finger into a trap, nothing's really going to happen. If you move your finger around a little bit to trigger those trigger hairs then the trap will start to close.

Can you root a pitcher plant from a cutting? ›

Pitcher plant cuttings can be rooted in water or in a soilless medium. Use rain or distilled water and immerse the end of the cutting and the first growth node in the liquid. Place the glass in a bright area where temperatures are moderately warm. Change the water at least once per week.

How do you winterize a pitcher plant? ›

You can keep them cool for 3 to 6 months, depending upon their native area. This can be done by placing them in the basement, garage or on a frost-free porch. A refrigerator is fine; just be careful not to freeze them. Carnivorous plants do not require light during dormancy and darkness will not harm them.

When should I fertilize my pitcher plant? ›

Pitcher Plants (Nepenthes, Sarracenia, & Cephalotus)

During their active growing season, drop bugs, fish food, or fertilizer pellets in a few of the pitchers every 2-3 weeks. If the pitchers are dry, squirt water in them with a pipette or eyedropper after feeding, otherwise they won't be able to absorb the nutrients.

How do you multiply a pitcher plant? ›

A faster way to propagate them is by rooting pitcher plant cuttings. Cut pieces of stem that have two or three leaves on them, and clip off half of each leaf. Cut the bottom end of the stem on a diagonal and cover it with rooting hormone powder. Fill a planter with sphagnum moss and wet it.

How long does it take for a pitcher plant to grow new pitchers? ›

There are two primary methods of propagating pitcher plants: growing from seed, and from rhizome division. However, note that starting from seed means you'll have to wait four to six weeks for the seeds to germinate, and another three to four years before they mature enough to bloom.

Can pitcher plants survive without insects? ›

Your plant only needs bugs if all its other horticultural requirements are being met. You should be worrying about the light, humidity, and water your plant is getting.

Do pitcher plants like cold? ›

Temperature: These are warm-temperate plants meaning that they need warm summers and chilly winters. They should be grown outdoors year-round in areas with mild winters. They can thrive in temperatures ranging from 20 degrees - 80 degrees and can even take freezes and temperatures up to 100 degrees for brief periods.

How long do pitcher plants live? ›

The plants grow new pitchers throughout the summer, and one plant can have as many as 10 pitchers. The pitchers only last a year or two, but the plant itself can live for 50 years.

How long do pitchers last on a pitcher plant? ›

Ensure that the soil is always kept moist. Withered or completely brown pitchers: Depending on the type, individual pitchers may last anywhere from 1-8 months. Pitchers that are deteriorating due to age will usually brown in their top half first and they can remain in this half withered state for several months.

Do pitcher plants need a lot of light? ›

The plants need boggy, moist soil and will perform well at the margins of a pond or bog garden. Pitcher plants thrive in full sun to light shade.

Do pitcher plants regrow pitchers? ›

A plant grown in a low humidity environment will often continue growing new leaves, but the tips or 'buds' of the leaves will not inflate into new pitchers: A pitcher 'bud' that should inflate into a new pitcher. Low humidity can cause them to stay this way.

How often should I feed my pitcher plant? ›

Pitcher Plants (Nepenthes, Sarracenia, & Cephalotus)

During their active growing season, drop bugs, fish food, or fertilizer pellets in a few of the pitchers every 2-3 weeks. If the pitchers are dry, squirt water in them with a pipette or eyedropper after feeding, otherwise they won't be able to absorb the nutrients.

When should I split my pitcher plant? ›

Dividing and repotting Sarracenia is an important and rewarding process for any grower. It is best done in late winter or early spring, when the plants are either completely dormant, or just beginning to show signs of life.

How do you revive a dying pitcher plant? ›

Try moving your plant into a sunny area; pitcher plants need full sun to do their best. However, if you place them in a window with bright, direct sunlight, they may burn, so choose your location carefully. Humidity should be high, around 60 percent when possible.


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