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Nepenthes Monkey cups

Nepenthes Carnivorous | Nepenthes Plants | Nepenthes Monkey Cups

Nepenthes 

With their unique and unusual leaf morphology, Nepenthes (colloquially known as ‘monkey-cups’) arearguably some of the Earth’s most beautiful carnivorous plants. The main stronghold of this genus is South-East Asia, with some of the most commonly available species coming from the islands of Borneo, Sumatra and numerous islands of the Philippines. 

Because of their exotic looks, many novices are hesitant to give their hand a try at growing these magnificent plants. However, as the old adage goes, ‘never judge a book by its cover’! The care requirements for Nepenthes can be met in the average UK household. To understand more about their care needs, we need to understand theNepenthes environment in the wild. 

Habitat 

Although found throughout a wide range in South-East Asia, Nepenthes grow in very similar habitats.Throughout their natural range, Nepenthes experience very little seasonal variation in their specific locations. Due to their privileged position on and around the equator, Nepenthes experience very little seasonal variation in daylength, sunlight and rainfall. Daylength in this part of the Earth is approximately 12 hours all year-round. Similarly, the sun’s rays always shine down highfrom the sky, with a strong UV index all-year round. Equally, rainfall is always high, with daily showers being the norm. So with such little seasonal variation, what divides Nepenthes into different categories I hear you ask? Well, it is the altitude and corresponding temperature at which they grow at. 

Broadly speaking, Nepenthes may be divided into two distinct categories. The first are grouped into the ‘lowland’ category, and the second fall within the ‘highland’ category.

Lowland 

As the name suggests, lowland varieties of Nepenthes grow in ‘low-lying’ terrain throughout their native habitat. This habitat ranges from sea-level to around 3,000ft in altitude up the side of tropical mountains. As explained, daylength, sunlight and rainfall remains very constant throughout the year. Due to their limited range at lower altitudes, the temperature in their habitat does not change significantly, including fluctuations between day and night time temperatures. 

Lowland species of Nepenthes need stereotypical ‘tropical’ environments to thrive in. They experience 25c – 35c daytime temperatures and night time lows of no less than 21c. They also grow in near-constant humidity levels of 80% or higher. 

How does this translate into the UK home environment? Well, thankfully ‘lowland’ Nepenthes are reasonably adaptable plants and can forgive the odd mistake or two. Here at Hampshire Carnivorous Plants, we have had success with ‘lowland’ Nepenthes under a range of conditions. Please see the below heading ‘Care’ for some guidance. 

Many growers have had success growing ‘lowland’ Nepenthes in heated greenhouses, conservatories, terrariums or even warm bathrooms. Nevertheless, these conditions, although not impossible, are not always readily providable in the average UK home. This is where we can look at the second category of Nepenthes. 

Highland 

The vast majority of Nepenthes will fall into the ‘highland’ category. Like, ‘lowland’ Nepenthes, this group experience year-round consistent conditions. The difference is that they inhabit cloud-forests located at elevations of over 3,000ft. They therefore live in very different temperature ranges that their ‘lowland’ cousins. 

‘Highland’ species experience year-round daytime temperatures of around 21c, with temperatures very rarely exceeding 24c in the day. At night time, they experience significant drops in temperature to around 10c – 12c. ‘Highland’ Nepenthes can also tolerate slightly less humidty in the daytime

Due to their ease of cultivation (and their sympathetic nature to colder temperatures we have in the UK), here at Hampshire Carnivorous Plants we sell mainly ‘highland’ nepenthes and their hybrids.

Care – in brief 

Light 

Both ‘lowland and ‘highland’ Nepenthes need bright light or bright shade in order to thrive. In the U.K. this can translate as a bright North, East or West facing window. If you intend to place your plants on a South facing window, be sure to stand it a little back to avoid it overheating the leaves in the sunlight. 

Some growers have taken to growing their Nepenthes in terrariums under grow lights, with great success! Other growers cultivate their plants in heated outdoor greenhouses or conservatories with sheets of 50% shade cloth to protect their plants from heat and strong direct sunlight. 

Water

Although Nepenthes are more tolerant of hard water than other species of carnivorous plants, we still recommend watering your plants with rainwater, distilled water or reverse-osmosis water in order to avoid damaging their delicate root system. Always water with room-temperature water in order to avoid shocking the roots. 

Watering should be done when the medium is barely moist, but still slightly damp. A Nepenthes should never be allowed to dry out. However, never be tempted to stand these plants in water as you would do for Sarracenia or Dionaea as this will simply encourage root rot and the eventual loss of your plant. Nepenthes thrive in hanging baskets and other porous containers and when watered gently from above. 

Temperature & Humidity

These two elements of cultivation go hand-in-hand. It is worth bearing in mind that as the temperature increases, humidity will decrease. 

To grow ‘lowland’ nepenthes successfully, we recommend daytime temperatures of around 21c – 24c as a minimum. Night time temperatures should not drop below 14c under any circumstances, even in winter. Relative humidity above should be maintained above 60% as an absolute minimum in order to encourage strong health growth and pitchering. If the temperature or humidity is too low, your plant may cease to pitcher or stop growing altogether. 

‘Highland’ Nepenthes may be grown at lower temperatures of around 21c during the day. Unlike their ‘lowland’ cousins, they appreciate the drop in night temperature to lows of 10c – 12c. These night time drops slow down their metabolism at night, which they need for healthy and vigorous growth. The ambient humidity should again be kept at least 60% but ideally higher. 

If you intend to grow these plants in a greenhouse or conservatory, it may be worth investing in a humidifier to give the plants optimum growing conditions. We stock both the HR15 and HR50 hydro foggers on our website, which are the same foggers we use on the nursery. 

We can recommend Nepenthes x Ventrata and Nepenthes Sanguinea as two ideal beginner plants for growing indoors in the UK. Both are very tolerant of the odd mistake and both are very adaptive to their environment.

Compost & growing medium 

Our COM4 or COM7 is ideal for re-potting these plants. We also sell Akadama, which has been found to be a fantastic medium for growing Nepenthes. Some growers also use 50% perlite / Sphagnum moss mix with equally fantastic results and one which we also recommend. 

The best time of the year being March to May as the days begin to get longer. When re-potting be very careful teasing away the old compost from the roots of the plant as they are extremely brittle and damage easily. Also, when adding the new compost, never pack too tightly around the plant and roots, just be gentle with them. Nepenthes love an airy mix and so pressing down hard on the growing medium is never a good idea!

Feeding 

Nepenthes do not require feeding, and will catch their own insects as and when the opportunity presents itself. However, they do benefit from some light foliar feeding. Here on the nursery we use SB Plant Invigorator once every two weeks all year round. It’s worth bearing in mind that it is best to under feed than to over feed as too much feed can make the plants lazy and produce fewer pitchers!



Propagation from stem cuttings in early spring or from seed which must be fresh and sown on to a mixture of peat and sharp sand. When large enough to handle the transfer to the above-recommended medium, a heated propagator is essential for striking cuttings and for good seed germination.

POINTS TO REMEMBER

Always use rainwater and make sure it's not ice cold in the winter
Keep the compost just damp not soaking wet
A bright humid position is best for these plants, very hot and dry conditions are really not suitable
Light foliar spray with feed once every two weeks can help produce strong healthy plants
Cut climbing stems back once every two years if required

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