The care of a particular Nepenthes depends in part on whether it is a lowland or highland species. It is important to familiarize yourself with the natural habitat and particular requirements of your specific plant and try to recreate it as much as is possible.
Most species of Nepenthes are able to grow in daytime temperatures ranging somewhere between 12°C and 35°C. The lowlanders prefer night temperatures that are above 20°C and day temperatures between 29°C and 35°C. They are sensitive to cold temperatures. The highlanders prefer a cooler environment. They like night temperatures between 7°C and 18°C and day temperatures between 18°C and 29°C. They can be sensitive to higher temperatures.
The amount of light required by a particular plant varies significantly from species to species. As a general rule Nepenthes plants like bright, dappled, diffuse light without too much direct sun. About four hours of direct sunlight with indirect sunlight for the rest of the day usually works well.
Alternatively dappled, diffuse sunlight throughout the day also works well. Too much direct sun causes the plant to burn. Yellow leaves and sometimes red spots indicate that the plant is getting too much sunlight. When this occurs, reduce light exposure and check for burned leaves on the areas of the plant that face the sun. New, normal-coloured leaves begin to grow soon after light exposure has been reduced. Never place your Nepenthes in full shade irrespective of the species. They won’t thrive and the plant will start to look thin and scrawny with poor coloration and will probably not grow pitchers. Increase light exposure in order to help the plant thrive again.
Nepenthes come from tropical climates so some humidity is required for them to grow well. While they enjoy humidity at a level of 60% or more they do tolerate lower humidity levels although they may stop producing pitchers if the humidity is much too low. Highlanders will tolerate lower humidity levels during the day but they need to get higher humidity during the night. Lowlander species prefer a steady humidity level.
Humid environments provided by greenhouses and terrariums can work well. Ensure that there is adequate ventilation to prevent overheating and an accumulation of stagnant air. Nepenthes also do well outdoors during warm, humid weather in a position with some shade. They should be brought indoors when temperatures drop below 10°C. If your plant fails to make pitchers try increasing the level of humidity.
Nepenthes prefer mineral-free water. Collect rainwater or use reverse-osmosis or distilled water to ensure the long-term health of your plant. In general, lowlanders tend to need more water than highlander species. The precise amount of water required by your plant will depend on several factors including the type of potting material used and the prevailing humidity level.
Make sure your plant remains in moist media at all times and never allow the potting material to dry out completely. Water from the top and allow the excess water to drain. The plant should never be left standing in water as this can cause their fine roots to rot. Occasional flooding of the potting medium is useful to wash away any accumulated salts. In summer, water the plant from the top about every second day. In winter, water the plant from the top about twice a week.
It is not necessary to feed your Nepenthes. Insects will be naturally attracted to your plant and it has adapted over time to survive on a very small amount of nutrients. An adult plant needs only one or two insects every month to thrive. If you choose to feed your plant, insert a small insect such as a fly or cockroach that fits comfortably into a mature pitcher. Use live wriggling insects or ones that have been recently killed. Do not feed your plant meat. Avoid putting too many insects in the pitchers as the leaves will rot. Chemical fertilizers will kill your plant quickly.
After bringing your plant home fill about a third of each pitcher with mineral-free water to replace any fluid normally present that may have been lost during transportation. This refilling helps prevent the pitchers from drying out and dying, Pitchers and leaves die naturally as the plant grows and these should be trimmed back. Tropical pitcher plants can be trained up a stake or left to hang low in an elevated container such as a hanging basket. Allowing the vines to descend often encourages the plant to put up new basal shoots resulting in a prettier plant.
Tropical pitcher plants do not generally go through a definitive dormancy period particularly in their native environments. As winter approaches plant growth may slow as well as pitcher production. It is also normal for leaves and pitchers to start dying back around autumn or winter. The pitchers only last a couple of months typically about the length of one season before they age, turn brown and die. You can prune dying pitchers off your plant by cutting them off at the end of their tendrils. Avoid pruning off more than 30% of your plant’s foliage at one time. Tropical pitcher plants will start growing strongly in spring and producing new pitchers.
Nepenthes grow well in nutrient-free, porous potting materials that allow for plenty of aeration and good drainage. Popular potting material include coconut husk, sphagnum peat and silica sand blends available from jozicarnivores.co.za or certain nurseries. Changing the potting material helps to improve soil aeration and can be done at any time of the year.
Repotting is required if the media breaks down, the plant dries out too quickly or plant size indicates the need for a bigger pot. Do not use clay pots as salts tend to build up in them. The roots of Nepenthes are typically blackish and fine. Vibrating the container is a good way to settle the media around the roots as pushing the media down too firmly can damage these fine roots. Water well after repotting as this will also help settle the mix around the roots. Never use ordinary potting soil, compost or fertilizer. These ingredients will kill your plant.