Carnivorous Plant Problems: Why A Pitcher Plant Has No Pitchers

Carnivorous Plant Problems: Why A Pitcher Plant Has No Pitchers

By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Some indoor plant enthusiasts think pitcher plants are easy to grow, while others believe the carnivorous plants are headaches waiting to happen. The truth is somewhere in the middle, and for the most part, pitcher plants are happy if you can meet their needs for water, light, and humidity. If you’re having carnivorous plant problems, such as a pitcher plant not making pitchers, it may require some troubleshooting to determine the problem. Read on for helpful tips.

My Pitcher Plant Has No Pitchers!

How to get pitchers on pitcher plants? Be patient, as pitcher plants take time to develop the first pitcher. Oftentimes, if the plant looks healthy and the tendrils are developing, a little time is all it needs. You’ll probably notice pitchers before you know it!

How to Get Pitchers on Pitcher Plants

If your plant doesn’t seem to be thriving in addition to not developing pitchers, the following tips will help with fixing pitcher plant problems:

  • Light – Most pitcher plant varieties need at least three to four hours of bright sunlight per day. Failure to produce pitchers is an indication that the plant isn’t receiving adequate light. However, although the light should be bright, it should be indirect and not too intense. If the leaves are turning yellow, the plant may be getting a little too much light. Experimentation will help you determine the right amount of light for your plant.
  • Water and potting mix – Pitcher plants don’t appreciate the minerals and additives in tap water. If possible, give them only filtered or distilled water. Better yet, collect rainwater and use it to water your pitcher plant. Water the pitcher plant whenever the top of the potting mix feels dry. The potting mix should never be bone dry, nor should it be soggy or waterlogged. Use a well-drained, low-nutrient potting mix such as a mix consisting of half sphagnum moss and half perlite, vermiculite, or lava rock.
  • Humidity – Although requirements vary depending on the species, most types of pitcher plants prefer relatively high humidity; excessively dry air can cause the plant not to develop pitchers. Mist the plant regularly or increase the humidity in your home with a humidifier. An easy way to increase the humidity around the plant is to place the pot on a humidity tray. Just place a layer of pebbles on a tray, then set the pot on the pebbles. Add just enough water to keep the pebbles wet, but be sure the pot is sitting on the pebbles but not standing in water. The plant will rot if water seeps up through the drainage hole.
  • Feeding – Pitcher plants require very little supplemental fertilizer, but they do benefit from a light feeding of an acidic fertilizer. Mix 1/8 teaspoon (0.5 mL.) of acid fertilizer with 1 quart (1 L.) of water, or use a fertilizer formulated for orchids. Avoid over-feeding. Too much fertilizer can create a lush plant with no pitchers.

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Pitcher plants are carnivorous plants able to use their tube-shaped leaves to trap and digest insects. [1] X Research source The insects are drawn in by a sweet nectar and visual lures. The inside of the tube is often too slippery for the insect to climb out. When the insects fall into the pool of water on the inside, the insects are digested by enzymes or bacteria. The reason these plants formed this method of seeking nutrition is because their native soils lack minerals or are very acidic, and this method enables the plants to compensate by getting nutrients from insects. It's possible to grow these fascinating plants at home, just follow the steps.

Carnivorous Plants forum→Pitcher plant Leaves! but no pitchers.

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Just wondering if any could help me out. Since i got it, its grown alot! but like i mentioned the pitchers don't develop.? What am i not doing.

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming. "WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada

Their leaves grow so big too during winter, as it tries to absorb as much light they can get. As long as your plant is making leaves, just be patient, it will grow those pitchers eventually, but must be kept moist as much as you can.

8 Answers 8

It sounds like humidity is the problem.

If I understand correctly, you are growing it in a pot in a window sill? In non-tropical climates, I have only ever seen Nepenthes growing in tropical greenhouses (I find they are common plants in public tropical greenhouses in both the US and UK).

In the days when I grew CPs (Carnivorous Plants) myself, I never tried Nepenthes because the books said I would need a terrarium. The only time I have seen them not in a terrarium or greenhouse, was in Costa Rica where I saw one growing in a hanging basket as a 'pot plant'. They are actually native to SE Asia tropical rainforest, and not Costa Rica - but the tropical conditions were sufficient.

As they like rainforest conditions, keeping it out of strong sun (as you are doing) sounds like a good idea. However I bet you are missing the warm humid conditions. I would try a terrarium or give up.

If you want to grow pitcher plants in temperate conditions, then Sarracenia ("Trumpet Pitcher Plant") are worth a try. I managed to grow them from seed on UK window sills. The other common one in cultivation (Darlingtonia) is considered difficult to grow, although it has a striking pitcher. It is sensitive to conditions but is native to Oregon,US - so you might need an unheated terrarium!

Never let a nepenthes sit in water it will kill the plant I use a small terrarium for my nepenthes with a sphagnum moss and foam mix although many other pourous draining soils with lots of air spaces works great. This soil type has helped has kept my ventricosa x Mira hybrid alive for years and if yours is a highland species it needs a nightly tempurature drop which I supply to mine by bringing it downstairs every night where it is about fifty five to sixty degrees then back up to my room which is about eighty degrees. Also you should allow it to dry out somewhat but always remain moist. Give it almost direct slightly shaded light and if it sits in water it is doomed to root rot so never do that. I hope I helped and good luck

First of all, you have a nice Nepenthes! Its a mythic plant :)

  • Your plant needs rain or demineralized water
    Water the plant when the surface of the soil is a LITTLE BIT dry.
  • Your plant needs relative humidity of 70% or more.
  • Your plant needs a 4-5°C temperature drop each night.

Your plant needs very airy soil, like orchid mix (you can find this at Lowe's or Home Depot, or any gardening center in your area).

Your plant does NOT need a fertilizer. If you are not experienced, you will kill your plant. The only fertilizer I use is insects. You can drop a little insect in a pitcher each week. If your plant lost all their pitchers, just wait for new ones.

A terrarium is an easy way to cultivate your Nepenthes. You can grow the plant as a normal plant, outside a terrarium, but you need to maintain a minimum RH% (40-50%+), so you would have to mist the leaves 5-6 times a day.

Not all Nepenthes will work as house plants. I have tried N. alata with no luck.

N. miranda is a hybrid that I have had good luck with. I bought it at Lowest as an adult larger plant 5 years ago. It is a fussy plant as far as repotting. Taking several months to start growing well. Despite this it gets used to normal New England conditions. I grow it in a bay window and water it when the top of the bark mix gets dry. It sees winter humidity of 20 percent and strong summer sun. At most I mist once a week and under these conditions this Nepenthes has about 10 traps and 5 growths. The longest vine is about 5 feet long and has 4, and counting, upper pitchers. It has flowered twice.

So some nepenthes can be like a big bug eating house plant with no extra care. This plant has solved an ant problem in the house also. In my green house I have around 20 more Nepenthes. Not sure if any would do well in the house.

Most of my plants are hybrids crosses with truncata/merrilanna/maximal etc. So these plants get very large and will someday have two foot pitchers. As of now only 12 inch on some.

All these plants will have to go to my basement for the winter. It is too costly to heat the greenhouse but rather than going into wood boxes with lights they will go into a 6 x 8 greenhouse in the basement With lights.

I have rooted N. alata and grown it for a year in wet sand. In other words some things work for some and not for others. A plant that pitchers is happy having the light, humidity and soil mix/ water that it needs. N. miranda for me is a house plant and very easy to care for.

Reason #4: Inappropriate Soil Composition

Choosing the right soil composition will also directly dictate the efficiency with which moisture will be retained. If you are choosing to grow outdoors, checking your USDA Hardiness Zone to know whether or not your plant will thrive in your area.

It also helps to know where your particular species is native to, as this will help you decide on the soil composition and whether or not it’s safe to grow outdoors.

Remember that pitcher plants are native to areas that typically have nutrient-poor soil. Peat and sand make up the majority of the composite of this soil, so you will want to replicate that as best you can.

The best way to do this is by mixing sphagnum peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, and either horticultural or sandbox sand. Whatever you do, stay away from “contractor’s sand!”

The composition of “contractor’s sand” will not work well for your plant, as it contains silt, clay and is highly concentrated in other minerals. This composition will not only overwhelm your pitcher plant in minerals but will also provide little ventilation to the roots and effectively suffocate the plant once it is weighted down by the water.

Additionally, never use beach sand or sand, which is limestone-based, as, again, the mineral content is much too high for your pitcher plant to endure. This is the same reason why you must avoid fertilizing as well. Avoid standard gardening soil as well!

For the soil mixes, you can generally use a 1:1 mixture. Be conscious of the fact that too much aeration in the soil (e.g., more peat moss than sand) will lead to far too much drainage and, ultimately, no water retention.


Each tropical pitcher plants consists of three different leaf forms. At first glance, the “normal” long, green, partly reddish colored, and slightly fleshy leaves develop from a more or less pronounced basal rosette. The vine-like long shoots or tendrils, which grow upwards and can reach considerable lengths, are actually leaves. The pitchers are also leaves, namely a modified leaf lamina. They sit at the end of the long stems. The color palette of the pitchers ranges from green and yellow to red. Some species also have multicolored or speckled pitchers.

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