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Pitcher plants growing in fibrous mulch
These amazing carnivorous plants are fun, educational and surprisingly easy to grow.

What you need to know about pitcher plants

Name: pitcher plant, Sarracenia species.

Height: 20cm–1m.

Foliage: tall, narrow pitcher-shaped hooded foliage.

Climate: best in warm temperate climates.

Soil: low-nutrient and waterlogged soil. 

Position: direct sunlight. 

Flowering: 3–10cm, generally red, yellow, white, purple or pink, held on long stems above the pitcher.

Feeding: no fertiliser required; plants feed on insects.

Watering: keep damp.

Appearance and characteristics of pitcher plants

These bizarre plants have modified leaves that form pitchers in bright alluring colours. These pitchers attract insects with their colour and intoxicating nectar. The insects go in search of the nectar and slip down the pitcher, where they’re trapped and digested by the plant. Though not generally grown for their flowers, these often appear for a short period during spring in striking colours of pink, purple, white, yellow or red. The flowers look like upside-down umbrellas. Some are pleasantly scented, while in some varieties the flowers smell like cat urine!

Close-up of a pitcher plant 

Uses for pitcher plants

Pitcher plants are a unique conversation-starter for beginner gardeners, and a bizarre, beautiful plant for kids to grow. These amazing plants are popular with collectors and plant breeders, and are often grown in unheated greenhouses.

How to plant and grow pitcher plants

  • Pitcher plants naturally grow in poor, boggy, low-nutrient soil that is too acidic for other plants. They need full sun, so if you have a sunny spot in the garden that is damp, boggy and sheltered from strong winds, you could try growing these unusual plants.
  • Pitcher plants are most commonly grown in pots filled with a mix of peat, bark and vermiculite sitting in a deep saucer of water.
  • The pitchers die back in late autumn, and are replaced by more traditional leaves, which last until spring, when more pitchers will grow.

Caring for pitcher plants

Watering pitcher plants

The soil needs to be quite wet during the summer growing season. If the pitcher plant is in a pot, only water it with distilled water or rain water. The chemicals in tap water could kill your pitcher plant. Keep the pot in water, rather than watering from the top. In winter, ease off the watering and just keep the plant damp – don’t let your pitcher plants dry out.

Feeding pitcher plants

You don’t need to feed these carnivorous plants, they get their food from the ants, wasps, flies and other small insects they consume. Insects are tricked by the plant’s bright colours and enticing nectar, drawing them down into the pitcher, where they become trapped. The liquid in the bottom of the pitcher turns the insect into plant food. You’ll often see larger pitchers filled with insects as the plant consumes the soft parts, until all that remains is the exoskeleton.

Diseases and pests that affect pitcher plants

Directly feeding pitcher plants can cause soil-borne fungal diseases to rapidly multiply. They’re well adapted to low-nutrient soils and can harvest their own food from insects falling into the pitcher.

If your plants are becoming yellow, this may be because they’re in a spot with too few insects. You can use a diluted liquid fertiliser at half the recommended rate and add it to the pot saucer or, if your pitcher plant is in the garden, add it in small amounts to any large pitcher with water in it.

Surprisingly, for a carnivorous plant, some insects, such as spider mites, aphids, thrips and mealybugs can be a problem. Neem oil is a great control for these pests. Make sure you always follow the application rates on the package.

Growing pitcher plants from seeds and cuttings

It’s difficult to propagate pitcher plants by seed, generally taking 3–6 years to develop flowers and pitchers, so cuttings are the best method of propagation.

  1. Take a cutting from an actively growing stem. 
  2. Put it in a jar of rain water in a bright area, making sure you change the water once a week. 
  3. The cutting should start to grow roots in about two weeks. It can then be put into a container with some sphagnum moss. When it has more than six roots, plant it in your bog garden or pot and keep it moist – in about six months it should start to grow pitchers.

If you like this then try

Venus flytrap: a sturdy indoor plant that feasts on insects.

Aquatic plants: a range of plants for your garden water feature.

Orchid: loved for its exotic flowers and perfect for growing in pots. 

Start growing today

Check out our huge range of plants now and get your garden growing!

 

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Health & Safety

Asbestos, lead-based paints and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber are health hazards you need to look out for when renovating older homes. These substances can easily be disturbed when renovating and exposure to them can cause a range of life-threatening diseases and conditions including cancer. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page.

When following our advice in our D.I.Y. videos, make sure you use all equipment, including PPE, safely by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Check that the equipment is suitable for the task and that PPE fits properly. If you are unsure, hire an expert to do the job or talk to a Bunnings Team Member.