Cultivating 101- The Basics Of Growing Nepenthes
This is required reading for anyone who is new to growing Nepenthes, or anyone who has tried unsuccessfully. This section will not tell you how to grow Nepenthes, it is meant to get you into the proper mindset to grow them.
Growing any plant is easy if you can duplicate the environment it grows in naturally. Since it is impossible for us to recreate Mt. Kinabalu in our back yard, recreating the environment in some sort of growing area must be done. Understanding what conditions each species grows well in is what we shoot for, so that we know what we need to recreate. Understanding that different Nepenthes species can be found growing very different environmental conditions from each other is your first step to understanding that each one has specific needs. Many of these plants have similar needs, so you'll be able to grow them side by side. Som especies can not be grown side by side, and doing so will find that one species thrives while the other declines and finally dies.
You'll hear me group Nepenthes together as "lowland", "intermediate", "highland", and "ultra-highland." These are the basic groupings for temperature requirements. Although there are a few species that do not like cool temperatures below 50 degrees, most species will tolerate them. Even the lowland species. The reason I don't have an ultra-lowlander category is because it is not difficult to keep the temperatures above 50 degrees for most people, but it can be very difficult to keep daytime temperatures in the 70-80 degree range, and nighttime temps down to 50 degrees. That's why there is an ultra-highlander classification. The plants in the ultra-highlander class are very unforgiving if they dont receive a substantial night time temperature drop, or if the day temps become hot.
And now, from the home office somewhere in the unexplored sections of Borneo, we bring you the top 12 list. This is the list of DO NOTS; things you should not do when attempting to grow Nepenthes, especially as you start out. By following the ideas in this list, you will get off to a better start in growing Nepenthes.
This list isn't meant to keep you from growing any plant. I just want you to have realistic expectations. The good news is that many of the Nepenthes species are some of the easiest CP in the word to grow, and since they dont need a winter dormancy, they can look good all year long.
But dont start off with species that are difficult for the new grower. Trying to grow an N. rajah if you haven't mastered the very easy species will just frustrate you to where you might give up on all species. Don't think that you have to have a rajah. Most Nepenthes produce pitchers that can be very large, and some easier species can possibly get larger than rajah. N. rajah is a rather slow grower as well. If you can take an easy species like truncata or rafflesiana, and grow a pitcher to 14", you will be hooked on Nepenthes for some time to come. By the way, it is quite easy to grow a N. truncata pitcher to 14" under the right conditions.
Let's try your hand at a pop quiz to see if you have the mindset yet to attempt to grow Nepenthes:
1. Nepenthes grow naturally
a. in a lowland swamp where parts of the plant can be submerged under water
b. in a hot steamy jungle
c. on a mountanside where the nightly temperatures can plummet significantly
Ok, now think of the answer.
Ready? The answer is, all of them, and in even more conditions than I list. Some Nepenthes species grow submerged in swamps, others grow in dark steamy jungles, others grow on a mountains at elevations so great that the temperatures can drop to near freezing at night. You can't rely upon a multiple choice question to give you the answer. You need to know that there are many types of conditions they grow under. Classifying Nepenthes as jungle plants is wrong. Classifying them as mountain plants is wrong. Certain species are tropical jungle plants, and some are ultrahighland mountain plants. You can not apply the natural conditions of one plant to that of another. Two different species can grow in conditions as different as night and day. Each species has its own growing requirements. Fortunately, all can basically be grown within four temperature categories.
2. You can grow Nepenthes using the tray method, in
which pots of nepenthes are placed on top of a tray of water or on a bed of wet sphagnum
For those of you who said False, congratulations. You have been doing some reading. But unfortunately, you'd be wrong. The answer is True. I have grown Nepenthes using the tray method for years, and I have read where other growers like Andreas Wistuba has used a similar setup. Now before you go killing your nepenthes plants by keeping them overly wet, you must first understand how it is done and why it works. We'll get to that in following cultivating sections. Right now, I just want to change your mindset.
3. Lowland Nepenthes can be killed if the
temperatures drop below 50 degrees farenheit.
Ok, I threw this question in here to see if you would group all lowlanders together. Some, like ampullaria, will not be as happy as they would if they were much warmer. Plants like truncata will grow slower, but have proved to be unaffected by the cold. Some, such as reinwardtiana, grow naturally from the always warm sea level, to 2100 meters which is in the elevation range of N. rajah. Some lowland species must be warm all the time, whereas others grow naturally in highland conditions as well. Species like bicalcarata and danseri can be killed with temperatures drops down to 50, but most species can tolerate it.
4. Nepenthes mirabilis can be found growing submerged
in a swamp naturally, so I can also grow it like this in cultivation.
As long as the type of N. mirabilis you are growing comes from a swamp, then you could grow them in this manner . Duplicating how it grows in this condition isn't easy, and it may only grow submerged for a period of time. The biggest issue to realize is that there are many different types, forms, and varieties of N. mirabilis. Indeed, it has the largest natural distribution of any other Nepenthes species. But you will not succeed in growing a form that has an elevation restricted in the highlands in a lowland swamp condition. Some forms of N. mirabilis grow in a rather dry condition naturally. Just because we have grouped similar plants under the same species name does not mean the different forms will "conform" to similar growing conditions.
5. Plants in cultivation do not grow as large as they
do in the wild.
If you furnish the right growing environment, these plants can probably grow larger than they do in the wild, where they face competition from other plants and some pests. In the wild, they are usually growing in ideal conditions, but with competition. The closer you can match these conditions, the larger they will get.
Alright, enough of the quiz. It wasn't meant to be scored, only to change your mindset about how to grow Nepenthes. Each Nepenthes species, even down to the form, type, and subspecies level, can be very different in what they require to grow well. After all, who's to say that we as mere mortals have classified them correctly in the first place? The next step is to get the fundamentals down. Then we will have to examine each species of Nepenthes and determine the best way to grow them.