What kind of plant is Nepenthes

Pitcher plants, Nepenthes - keeping and care

Open profile and care informationclose
Growth habit
Subshrub, climber, overhanging
Soil type
stony, sandy, gravelly
Soil moisture
moderately moist, very moist
PH value
neutral, slightly acidic
Limescale tolerance
Calcium intolerant
rich in humus
Plant families
Pitcher family, Nepenthaceae

The pitcher plants, Nepenthes, are probably the most spectacular and splendid carnivorous plants of all. The term pitcher plants therefore refers to their fascinating ground or air pitchers, also known as pit traps.

With these pitchers, these plants also attract insects, which they feed on in the wild. With the clearing of the rainforests, many species are now on the list of endangered species, which makes them all the more worth preserving.


  • Family: Pitcher plants (Nepenthaceae), carnivorous plants
  • Class: Covering
  • Order: clove-like
  • Origin: tropical rainforests of Asia and Australia
  • Differentiation between highland and lowland Nepenthes
  • Around 100 species and numerous cultural hybrids
  • Liana-like or subshrub growth
  • The cans are passive pit traps with a fixed lid
  • Pit traps are formed into a kind of funnel, leaves
  • Jugs have different shapes and colors
  • Flowers: compound panicles or racemose inflorescences
  • Seeds: three-compartment seed pods with up to 500 seeds

Pitcher plants, Nepenthes grow depending on the species as evergreen and perennial subshrubs or lianas. Nepenthes species originally come from the East Asian islands. Some species also have a rather compact growth and form rosettes.

With around 100 species, a distinction is made between lowland and highland Nepenthes, although not every species is suitable for domestic keeping.

Almost all Nepenthes species also have two different pitcher shapes. While young plants produce rounded pitchers arranged in a rosette, older specimens develop tendrils and grow as climbing lianas in their home.


These impressive pitcher plants, Nepenthes, are real divas when it comes to care, they are very picky. The demands on temperature and humidity are particularly high. Hybrid varieties are said to be the easiest to care for and are therefore particularly suitable for beginners. These hybrids are much more robust and less demanding than pure species. Nevertheless, the right location and optimal environmental conditions determine whether the plant will thrive or die.


Pitcher plants, Nepenthes also love bright locations without drafts, warm temperatures all year round and very high humidity. Direct sunlight should be avoided, as it could burn the mostly thin-walled jugs or at least seriously damage them.

These plants find optimal conditions in a heated greenhouse or terrarium, provided they are adequately ventilated. Lowland Nepenthes are particularly difficult to keep. You need a constant humidity of at least 70% there. The situation is different with hybrids, they can also cope with a lower level of humidity.

Due to the high light requirement, additional lighting may be necessary when keeping it in a terrarium. In addition, the expected size of the plant must be taken into account, because these beauties can take on considerable proportions with age.

The temperatures should therefore be between 20 and 25 degrees all year round for highland species and drop to 10 degrees during the night in the winter months. These temperature fluctuations between day and night, the so-called night cool, are vital for these bizarre plants. In contrast, the lowland species need constant temperatures of 25-30 degrees at all times of the year and day.


Commercially available potting soil is unsuitable for these pitcher plants, so Nepenthes is unsuitable, as is fertilized substrates. Basically, the substrate should be well permeable to water and air and, if possible, be a natural product. Special canivore soil is available in stores. If you mix this soil with different additions, you can put together the optimal substrate for the Nepenthes, pitcher plants yourself.

You can mix in coconut fiber, pine bark, activated carbon and quartz gravel or perlite, sand, white peat and expanded clay. Commercially available orchid substrate is also often recommended as the best substrate.


The planter should be rather flat. Due to the climbing growth and the different heights, a hanging position in a traffic light vessel or on a pedestal is advantageous. If the existing planter is well rooted, it is time to repot.

This should therefore only be done in the growth phase in summer, because this is the time when the plant is easiest to get used to. The old substrate does not necessarily have to be removed or replaced. It should even be beneficial if you leave it on the plant.

to water

Due to their warm, humid tropical origins, moisture is the most important factor in keeping these plants. Heating air and air conditioning systems dry out the room very quickly, especially during the cold season, so that both the pouring behavior and the humidity must be adjusted accordingly.

  • Water regularly as it grows, at least twice a week
  • Always pour into the coaster and not on the substrate
  • Do not pour in until the water is completely used up
  • Alternatively, dip the root ball briefly in room temperature water
  • Pour exclusively with lime-free water, ideally with rainwater
  • Avoid waterlogging at all costs
  • Plants should never be left dry
  • Remove completely dried out jugs
  • For optimal humidity, spray regularly with lime-free water that is not too cold


In their natural habitat, these carnivorous plants feed on insects. These prey animals are attracted by the sweet nectar that is found on the edge of the pitcher or pit traps. They don't find a hold on the smooth inside and then fall into the cans. Downward-facing bristles prevent them from crawling out again. In the so-called pit traps there is a liquid that contains numerous enzymes, which in turn break down the insects and thus feed this plant.

As a rule, there are not countless insects buzzing around in living spaces. But the pitcher plant still needs nutrients to survive and develop well. There are different views on this. Some generally reject fertilizers of any kind, while others recommend that you apply a very diluted orchid fertilizer about every 2 weeks from spring to autumn.

So it does not have to be additionally fed with insects. It is also not necessary to put water directly into the pitcher, Nepenthes, pitcher plants form sufficient digestive fluid by themselves.

To cut

Pitcher plants, Nepenthes can, depending on the species, reach considerable heights and grow heavily. The tips can be shortened a little to contain the growth in height. As a result, the plant forms more side shoots and grows more bushy. Instead of shooting upwards, it mainly grows in width after the cut. The pitchers don't get very old and eventually dry up. Then they should be cut off, as well as other withered parts of the plant.


The pitcher plants need a separate wintering, therefore Nepenthes does not. As in the rest of the year, she wants it to be warm, bright and humid in winter too. In winter, therefore, the lack of light is a problem, especially when it is kept in a terrarium. Then additional lighting in the form of artificial light is also indispensable. Otherwise, a little less should be poured now.


Pitcher plants, Nepenthes can be propagated via head or leaf cuttings as well as by seeds. However, propagation by sowing is extremely difficult and very time-consuming. In addition, you always need two plants for generative propagation via seeds, since all Nepenthes are dioecious.

Propagating cuttings, on the other hand, is relatively unproblematic and much more promising. Their offspring have the same characteristics as the mother plant. If the plant is to be shortened anyway, the clippings can be used for cuttings.

  • The best time for this is late spring
  • Always cut head cuttings from a healthy plant
  • Mother plant should have at least one long high shoot and one side shoot
  • Cut 15-20 cm long cuttings with 2-3 eyes from the shoot
  • Side shoots should remain untouched
  • The trunk is cut between two leaves
  • Then put the cuttings in the moist substrate
  • The optimal floor temperature is 35 degrees
  • A translucent film placed over it ensures sufficient humidity
  • Regularly remove the film briefly for ventilation
  • Rooting is also possible in a water glass
  • If roots 1-2 cm long have formed, the cutting can be planted
  • It takes about 3-4 weeks from the cut to the roots


Diseases or an infestation with pests can almost always be traced back to incorrect care and can usually be avoided through optimal conditions. Despite everything, they are not uncommon, especially in these plants.

Gray mold / root rot

If the culture conditions are not optimal, if it is too moist, too dark and too warm, this can lead to an infestation with gray mold. Damming moisture, on the other hand, can cause rot. Most of the time the water cannot drain properly or it stands too long in the coaster.

This can be remedied by repotting in fresh substrate as quickly as possible, optimizing the environmental conditions and watering as needed in the future. When repotting, decaying, diseased and dead parts of plants and roots should be removed.

Wilting pitchers

Wilted pitchers are usually an indication of too little water and insufficient humidity. Accordingly, you should water regularly and spray the plants more often. Dry air and lack of water can result in the loss of the plant in question within a very short time.

If the humidity and water supply are correct and the plant is otherwise healthy, the withering is probably due to natural causes. The pitchers only get a few weeks or months old and die off after a while, which has absolutely nothing to do with a disease. However, you should only cut off the pitchers when they are completely withered.

Discolored, blotchy leaves

Atypical discoloration or speckles on the leaves can indicate excessive exposure to the sun. Then it is best to choose a lighter but not sunny location. Then the plant should recover soon.

Missing jugs

If the plant does not receive enough light, it can happen that it does not form any pitchers. Accordingly, a corresponding change of location is recommended.


Aphids / Thrips

Carnivorous plants are also attacked by aphids. If you notice an infestation, you should first isolate the infested plant. To combat this, commercially available spraying agents against aphids, but also living beneficial insects from the beneficial insects dispatch, are available. An infestation with thrips can be controlled in a similar way. Special combination sticks are also available in stores that are simply inserted into the substrate.

Spider mites / mealy bugs / mealy bugs

An infestation with spider mites, woolly lice or mealybugs on pitcher plants is rather rare. These pests can also be effectively combated with commercially available crop protection sprays or suitable beneficial insects.


Nice varieties of pitcher plants, Nepenthes

Nepenthes X 'Hookeriana'

This variety from the lowlands of Malaysia forms light green, rather bulbous pitchers with reddish speckles and an elliptical opening. It is suitable for both greenhouse and window sill cultivation.

Nepenthes X Ventrata

This strain is also relatively easy to keep. It needs a higher level of humidity and is a beautiful hanging plant. Can also be kept on the windowsill.

Nepenthes X 'Linda'

The hybrid Nepenthes X 'Linda' impresses with up to 29 cm large reddish pitchers. It works well for an east or west window.

Nepenthes X 'Rebecca Soper'

Nepenthes X 'Rebecca Soper' stands out because of its long, dark burgundy colored jugs, which can reach a size of approx. 20 cm. The upper edge is almost black. It can also be kept in the greenhouse and on the windowsill.


According to the Washington Convention on Endangered Species, all Nepenthes species are also protected, which should therefore be taken into account before buying. Accordingly, you should only buy plants that have been grown in special nurseries. And if you avoid the biggest care mistakes, you can enjoy these fascinating exotic species for a very long time.

  • Do not use commercially available potting soil for this
  • Never allow the substrate of pitcher plants to dry out
  • Pour exclusively with lime-free water
  • Water supply only in the coaster
  • Avoid direct sunlight
  • Pay attention to optimal temperatures and humidity at all times