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Advice needed on pitcher plants please

LilyWLilyW Posts: 41
I was given a pitcher plant by a friend in November  and it has survived the winter in a cold greenhouse but is definitely looking worse for wear. I just don’t know anything about these plants so the first question is is it okay to prune everything back down to base now as the pitchers are more brown than green.

the second question is what are the fresh thin green growths, I can’t tell if they’re gonna be leaves or pitcher stems, but I won’t cut those off. 

And finally does this need specific watering? my friend said never water from the top at the bottom so could I sit in wet gravel?

Thanks in advance!


  • Hi, these are a bit different to other plants so it's probably easier to read a specialist guide for them. I quickly scanned this one and it's gives a good general overview

    The important bit for you is part 5 which explains winter dormancy. I do think that from the picture you may have a rush growing in the pot as well which are the grass type stiff leaves but it's hard to tell.

    The biggest thing with sarracenia is water with rain water. They are very happy with wet feet so people tend to have them sitting in an inch or so of water, or even in the margins of a pond. I can't tell from the picture if it is in specialist carnivorous soil (you can make your own but it's the mix that is important) or normal potting soil, if it's the latter then that may be a problem for you.
  • We grow Sarracenias. We cut back the old growth and at the moment they are showing new flower buds developing. We have them sitting in rain water in an unheated conservatory. The leaves in the winter are often flat with the pitchers developing later in the Spring. I agree with @thevictorian it looks as though there is a reed/rush growing in the pot. Not a problem really but it will take up space and water that the pitcher needs. We have a Darlingtonia californica (Cobra Lily pitcher) also growing in the conservatory. But we planted a piece outside next to the pond in a boggy area. It has continued to spread and survived the cold weather of 2010 when we had -14 degrees.
    In the summer your plant will need a lot of rain water as the pitchers fully develop.
    We buy our compost from a carnivorous nursery in Somerset.
    Enjoy. They are great plants.
  • KeenOnGreenKeenOnGreen Posts: 1,831
    Until recently we had been growing them for 20 years.  Your plant looks perfectly normal for this time of year.

    It's OK to cut them back hard every year, we used to do it in early Spring. The leaves are thin and quite hard and solid to the touch. The pitchers are more round and hollow, and less solid to press between the fingers. We usually found that all of the pitchers needed to be completely cut back every Spring, and that won't damage the plant. You can cut all of the leaves too, the plant will regenerate, however if any of the leaves look very green and healthy, then it's better to leave them as they are. Only cut the damaged and diseased looking leaves.

    For watering, the advice is usually to have them sitting in water, rather than watering from the top. We mostly watered from the top, and never found any problems with this. We grew ours in containers with no drainage holes at all, and which were completely drowning in water, and never lost any plants as a result. We also grew them in pots with drainage holes, and had a saucer of water at the bottom, and this also worked perfectly well. You could have them in a tray filled with gravel, but the gravel wouldn't really serve any purpose.

    In my experience, the only really important thing with watering, is to only ever use rain water, and to keep the plants as wet as possible. Don't let the growing medium dry out. We experimented with leaving them outdoors all year and putting in the unheated greenhouse over the Winter, and it honestly made no difference. They survived snows and frost when kept outdoors. You should never keep them indoors, as our houses are too dry for their needs. They do best in full sun.

    They are prone to infestation with aphids/greenfly and this can deform/distort the pitchers. You can buy a spray for this, but we don't use chemicals, so we just accepted this. As long as you use rainwater, keep them in full sun, give them the right growing medium (Spaghnum or wood moss), and don't give them any kind of fertiliser, they are actually one of the easiest and low maintenance of plants that you could ever grow.  Sorry about such a long reply! Enjoy them, they are a marvel to watch at work, if not a little creepy.
  • LilyWLilyW Posts: 41
    Thank you @KeenOnGreen, that is so useful. I will remove the rush and repot. Sounds like I need to get the special soil than as my friend definitely used potting soil.
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