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Tropical Pitcher Plants, Nepenthes ssp.

Nepenthes Judith Finn hybridIntroduction: Nepenthes have captured the attention and imagination of many people due to the fact that they consume insects. To catch their prey, they develop pitchers at the end of their leaves. The walls of the pitcher are very smooth. For the insect that slips and falls into the pitcher, they will find a digestive liquid at the bottom of the pitcher. Some pitchers get large enough and have been known to trap small vertebrates such as lizards, frogs, rodents and birds.

Nepenthes occur throughout much of Southeastern Asia. They can be found in the tropical countries of Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and New Guinea. Their habitats vary from warm foothills to montane rain forests. Nepenthes Judith Finn is a hybrid of Nepenthes, N. Spathulata X N. Veitchii. Both are highland species. Since they are a montane species, they will do well with normal house temperatures and slightly cooler nights, making them an ideal "starter" Nepenthes.

Light: Nepenthes ssp. should receive at least 5-6 hours of indirect, natural sunlight and 12-14 hours of light daily. Exposure to indirect sun allows the plant to produce large strong stems, leaves and pitchers. Inadequate light will produce spindly, weak plants. They will do well in a window that receives a good amount of sun.

Water: Your Nepenthes substrate should always be wet. Never allow the substrate to dry out. Unlike other carnivorous plants, Nepenthes should not be kept in standing water as this will lead to root rot in this genus. Most Nepenthes are more tolerant to tap water than other carnivorous plants, but rain water or filtered water should still be used. Chemicals in tap water may burn the roots of the plant.

Soil: Potting soil should never be used with carnivorous plants. We recommend plain sphagnum peat moss. Or, a 3:1 mixture of peat moss and sand/perlite. Using potting soil will not allow the plant's roots to receive the proper oxygen that they need. Most potting soils are also enriched with nutrients that will kill carnivorous plants

Fertilizer/Food: Most Nepenthes are more tolerant of the dissolved salts found in fertilizers. You can mist your plant with a solution of Miracle grow that is mixed at a 25% strength of the recommended ratio. Another method is to use 1/8 teaspoon of Miracid fertilizer per quart of water. Add this solution directly to the pitcher until they are 3/4 full. Aside from the option of fertilization, there is the obvious. Bugs! Small insects may be periodically placed in the pitchers if the pitcher is not catching them on their own. Fruit flies, ants and other small field plankton are all acceptable. Be sure the insect is not too large, as this may cause the pitcher to decay. If live food is not an option, you may try dehydrated insects such as flies or crickets that can often be purchased at locations that cater to reptiles.

Temperature/Winter Care: Nepenthes do not require a dormancy period. Nepenthes will do best with temperatures in the low to mid 80s. Humidity should be 30-40%, but brief periods above or below will be tolerated.

Terrarium Suitability: Nepenthes grow too large for most terrariums. For larger terrariums however, they would fare well if provided a broad spectrum plant light or two. Also, beware of stagnant air as this, combined with excess moisture will promote the growth of molds and fungus. Nepenthes will do best in an open environment.