Carnivorous plants

Caring for a Nepenthes

There is a genus of carnivorous plants that attract millions of people from all over the world, they are the Nepenthes. Plants whose traps have a «lid» like a hat to prevent excessive water from entering.

But how do you take care of them? Its maintenance is not always simple, so below we offer you a series of tips that we hope will be useful for you so that you can enjoy your carnivore.

Origin and characteristics of Nepenthes

Image – Wikimedia/ Thomas Gronemeyer

Nepentáceas are native to the tropical and humid forests of the Old World, specifically China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Madagascar, Seychelles, Australia, New Caledonia, India and Sri Lanka. The genus to which they belong, Nepenthes, is made up of about 116 species, and they are known as pitcher plants or monkey cups, which refers to the fact that monkeys usually approach them to drink water from their traps.

They develop as climbing or prostrate plants, with a root system that is generally superficial and can be up to 15 meters long. The leaves are alternate, lanceolate, green in color and up to 30 centimeters long. The tendril emerges from the tip of the leaf, which is used for climbing, and which is also where the trap arises. This trap contains a watery fluid, which is where insects fall after being attracted by the smell produced by the nepenthes’ nectar glands. Once they fall, they die and their bodies are digested.

General ranking

When purchasing one, it is interesting to know that they are classified according to their altitude:

  • Lowlands or Lowland: are those that live at low altitudes, up to about 1000 meters above sea level. The climate is warm, with stable temperatures, and the humidity is very high.
  • Highlands or Highland: they are those that we will find at altitudes between 1000 and 3000 meters. The climate is cooler, especially at night.
  • Intermediate lands or Intermediate: in this group are the hybrids between lowland and highland Nepenthes.

What is the use of knowing this? Basically, to be able to take better care of them. For example, a lowland will need high temperatures and a much higher humidity than a lowland for example. In addition, if we live in an area where the climate is rather cool, it will be easier for us to maintain a highland area than a lowland area.

Main species

The best known are:

Nepenthes alata

Image – Wikimedia/ DenesFeri

The Nepenthes alata is a carnivore native to the main islands of the Philippine archipelago. Its leaves are lanceolate-ovate, with a sharp or attenuated apex. The traps are about 10 centimeters long, and are normally reddish in color.

This species is still being studied, since depending on the region its characteristics differ a bit from those believed to have. Thanks to the investigations that are being carried out, it has been possible to create a new species, Nepenthes eustachya, which has lanceolate leaves instead of lanceolate-ovate for example.

Nepenthes bicalcarata

The Nepenthes bicalcarata, known as fanged pitcher plant is an endemic plant northwestern Borneo, where he lives at low altitudes. It is a climber, being able to reach 20 meters in height, and its leaves are petiolate, obovate-lanceolate and with a size of up to 80 centimeters long. Its traps are yellowish.

Nepenthes hookeriana

Image – Flickr/ David Eickhoff

The Nepenthes hookeriana (or Nepenthes hookeriana x ) is a natural hybrid of Nepenthes ampullaria x Nepenthes rafflesiana. It is native to the lowlands of Borneo, the Malaysian peninsula, Singapore, and Sumatra. The traps are small, about 5-7cm, green with irregular reddish spots.

Nepenthes rajah

The Nepenthes rajah is an endemic carnivore of Mount Kinabalu in Borneo. It lives at altitudes between 1500 and 2650 meters, which is why it is considered to be a highland plant. It is a climber whose stem can reach 6 meters in length, although it is rare that it exceeds 3m. Their traps are large, up to 41cm tall.

What is the care of the Nepenthes?

If you want to have a copy, we recommend you provide the following care:


  • Outdoors: these plants fear direct sun. They live under the shade of trees, either on top of branches or on the ground. You will like a place with light, but indirect.
  • Interior: the room must be bright, and a relatively high humidity, especially if it is a kind of lowland.

The pot to be used must be made of plastic, with holes in the base through which water can escape when watering.


Image – Wikimedia/ Thomas Gronemeyer

They should be watered with distilled, rain or osmosis water, several times a week, except in winter when we will space out the waterings a bit. The substrate must remain moist, but not waterlogged.

It is not recommended that they have a plate underneath (except in summer), since the roots could rot.


Mix equal parts unfertilized blond peat with perlite.

Can it be paid?

No. They are plants that use their traps to get the nutrients they need, and do not accept any «extra food.» The compost, even if it is natural, can do a lot of damage to the roots which are not prepared to assimilate it, causing the death of the plant.


Nepenthes multiply by seeds, which are sown in spring or summer in a plastic pot with substrate for carnivorous plants, or with a mixture of equal parts blond peat and perlite.


They are not easy plants, unless you live in a climate without frost, and with a high humidity. However, there are several species that do support some weak frosts down to -1ºC as long as they are punctual and of short duration. They are as follows:

  • Nepenthes »Rebeca Sopper»
  • Nepenthes x sanguinea
  • Nepenthes x ventrata, is the most common in nurseries and garden stores

These three species are suitable for those who live in areas with a Mediterranean climate, or for those who live in sheltered areas, without strong frosts.

If we follow these tips, we will see our Nepenthes grow strong and healthy.

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