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How To Care For A Tropical Pitcher Plant

Updated on September 21, 2014

Growing a pitcher plant indoors is much easier than it may sound. If you are a compulsive plant person like myself, you may have already purchased your plant and are now looking for information on how to keep it alive.

The first thing you must establish- and this is very important- is whether you have purchased yourself a temperate pitcher plant or a tropical pitcher plant. Most places you buy these little guys at will have a tag attached that might say Nepenthe (tropical) or Sarracenia (temperate). The importance of knowing the difference is going to be life or death for your little guy. Nepenthes don't need a winter rest. They keep growing (slowly) through the colder darker months. Sarracenia do need a winter rest. As far as I know it's similar to wintering a venus fly trap. Very carefully.

I have never owned Sarracenia, so there won't be a lot of information here for them. I do have great success with the tropical variety, so read on if this is your pitcher of tea. Haha.

A pitcher plant with a brand new pitcher.
A pitcher plant with a brand new pitcher. | Source

Size and Flowers

When I bought my first two pitcher plants they were small, only about three inches tall with about three small traps each. They've doubled in size over the year, and instead of having pitchers about an inch tall (deep?) I have massive pitchers about three inches deep and I'm pretty confident I could feed it cockroaches if we had them in this part of the world.

Tropical pitcher plants grow large enough to eat rats. True story. Google it if you don't believe me.


Of course, the key components to successful insectivores are the same as with any plant; food, medium, light, water.

Pitcher plants are found in mossy bogs where there is not much nutrients to be found in the soil itself, therefore, they like to be in moss. Never ever did I think I would say this but I prefer to use styrofoam cups because they have an insulating quality to them. Styrofoam is one of the worst things for our environment, yet you can plunk a plant in it and it will live happily ever after. I purchased my moss because I have a large variety of plants and like to keep pests to a minimum. I believe it was called Fat Bog Moss. And yes, you can grow it yourself to keep replenishing as you need. I find it breaks down after about a year and it's time to redo it. Be sure to cut drainage holes in the bottom of the cups. Nobody likes wet feet. This is true for the plant world as well.


I am hardcore so I grow under a T5 growing light. If you do not have a fancy full spectrum light, growing it in full sun is just fine. The more sun the better. Just watch for sunburn on the leaves. They'll show up as brown patches.

A little side note on sunburn; I've sunburned many plants. They've all survived. Just take them down to less intense sun. The brown patch may stay, the leaf may fall off, but you have not permanently injured your plant.


The natural habitat of the Pitcher Plant does not have a lot of dissolved minerals in the water, so do avoid tap water. I use rain water. Did I mention I live in an apartment and have a rain barrel? Crazy I know.

Keep the moss moist but not soaked. Water from a tray on the bottom. Mist daily. They need the mist to create the burning poison in the bottom of the pitchers.


And now the fun part: Food.

Do NOT FOR ANY REASON EVER fertilize. DO NOT FOR ANY REASON EVER feed your plant raw meat. Fertilizers will burn the roots thus killing your plant and raw meat for human consumption (beef, pork, etc.) is much too fatty and will kill your plant.

DO BECAUSE IT'S FUN throw spiders, beetles, moths, centipedes, ants, flies and other such household pests into the pitchers. Put a light behind the pitcher and watch the show.


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