Since there seems to be a spike in interest in seed grown plants (finally), I've decided to throw this down as the ultimate reference.
First, I decided to make my own guide on sowing. I do not advocate the use of sphagnum, especially for growing from seed, for these reasons:
1) The moss can choke out the seedlings
2) Seed to substrate contact isn't nearly as good as it is with peat-based mixes
3) Sphag tends to grow liverworts, fungi, etc.
4) Transplanting the seedlings is a pain, and you are more than likely going to destroy some of their roots in the process
Anyway, I use a peat/perlite/vermiculite mix, which should look about like this:
I like this mix because its kinda airy, stays moist for a long time, grows less unwanted organisms, and is flat (good substrate contact).
Wet your media to ensure good seed-substrate contact. Dry your hands, and sprinkle the seed over the media. Don't worry about rolling the seed in your fingers as you sprinkle it on the media, as the embryo is only a little dot in the very center of the seed, and it's pretty well protected. While you're doing this don't breathe/sneeze/cough, or else your seeds are going to go everywhere. Here goes the N. insignis:
I know that looks really clumped, but some of those "seeds" are actually fragments of the seed pod.
Spray the seeds down thoroughly so they are stuck to the substrate.
I disagree with the previous thread on this topic that advocates using bottom heat every time. Unless you are sowing lowlanders in the winter time (or if you can't provide at least 75° consistently otherwise), bottom heat is not necessary.
Label the pot, including the date the seeds were sown. It's going to feel like an eternal waiting game if you don't. Also, since it take neps years to show mature characteristics, not knowing what something is for 2 years is going to make your head hurt. Also, if you trade someone a seedling that you think is a certain nep, but it's really something else, that person is not going to be very happy with you when they find out otherwise...
And now, the FAQ:
Q: Should I sterilize the media (via microwave)?
A: I have begun to do this now. I mix up the media (make sure it's moist) and just stick the pot in the microwave for 1-2 minutes. It will depend on your microwave power. Mine was made in 1885 and takes longer than every other microwave I've ever seen. Just make sure the media gets hot, but not hot enough to burn you. This is a great way to kill bacteria, fungus, etc that may pop up in the media. You're probably going to get algae or something no matter what, but you'll definitely get a lot less if you nuke the media.
Q: What about light?
A: If you're growing under lights, put the pot as close to the lights as possible without it actually touching the lights (literally about 5 mm), because fire is bad. If growing in a greenhouse, put them in the brightest location you can. Light is the number 1 factor for getting seeds to germinate. Insufficient light is the number 1 cause of low germination rates.
They should be about this far from the lights: (sorry for the blur but you get the point)
Q: What about water?
A: I spray the seeds down every other day, or every three days. The substrate needs to stay consistently moist, but not "wet".
Q: Can I use the tray system?
A: You can, but I definitely wouldn't unless it's short term out of necessity (going out of town for a week or two).
Q: Should I put the pots in baggies for humidity?
A: If you're growing these in a greenhouse or terrarium, no! Using baggies blocks out a significant portion of light, especially with condensation. The only time it is appropriate to use baggies is if the humidity is less than about 50-60% (like on a windowsill).
Q: What kind of temps do they need?
A: For a highland species, highland temps. For a lowland species, lowland temps. For hybrids, pretty much whatever you want (within reason), unless it is like a highland x highland cross. But even in that case, it will certainly take higher temps than highland species seed. Germination rate is proportional to if the temperatures are proper or not.
Q: How long will the take to sprout?
A: FOREVER! Actually, if the seed is fresh and you do everything right, 2-3 weeks. If its not fresh or you fail to provide the proper conditions, it can take months. If nothing happens after 3 months, I throw the pot away. I get seed pretty frequently, and can't afford to waste space for something that might not even germinate.
Q: What do seedlings look like?
A: Nepenthes are dicots, so the first thing they will form is two ovate seed-leaves called cotyledons. From then on, leaves will be produced one at a time, and will end in proto-pitchers, which are really really small green pitchers with little hairs on the lids.
Q: How long can I store the seed?
A: Don't. Sow immediately. Germination rate is inversely proportional to seed age. If you have to store them for a few days, just leave them at room temperature. I wouldn't even put highland species in a refrigerator. Refigerators are usually about 40something°. That's too cold.
Q: When should I transplant them?
A: After they've been growing for about a year, or are about 3 inches across. This plant is 9 months old, and is ready for transplanting:
Pot in an appropriate mix depending on highland/lowland.
Q: Can I spray them with fertilizer?
A: You can if you feel the need. I do it. It sure doesn't hurt, but it WILL cause algae, so I would wait until the plants have at least 3 sets of true leaves (the ones with the proto-pitchers) to make sure they are big enough to not be in danger from the algae. If plants have 3 or more sets of true leaves, the algae is harmless, but ugly.
Q: Can I get a higher germination rate with GA3 or treating the seed before sowing?
A: Not really. I found an experiment that said there is a higher germination rate in some species when GA3 is used, and a lower germination rate in others. I did my own experiment and found that it doesn't matter if you use GA3 or not. Save your time/money. Sometimes I get seed of species that are pretty rare, and to put it simply, I'm not going to risk a lower germination rate.
Q: How long until they reach maturity?
A: 3-5 years. Count on the higher end of that spectrum.
Q: I followed the directions, but I still had a low germination rate, what gives?
A: Either you didn't follow them as well as you think you did, or your seed was old, or inviable due to being crushed, heat, etc.
Q: What is a normal germination rate?
A: About 60%-100%.
Q: Why should I grow from seed?
A: To preserve the genetic diversity of species in cultivation, and to be able to establish large cultivated populations of pure species, so as to breed pure from seed for specific traits, and alleviate stress on wild populations.
Q: What are the benefits of seed grown plants?
A: More tolerant, stronger, more beautiful and unique individuals. Also, less stress on wild populations once cultivated breeders are established. As an example, seed growing has alleviated collection stress on N. Viking for one. This is also the reason the new species was affordable, and diverse. If you bought a Viking prior to about a year ago, it's from seed.
Unique seed grown plant (lowland veitchii):
Q: What do you mean by stronger, etc?
A: Lets say you can only provide lowland conditions. If you get say, a TC tentaculata clone from the peak of its range (2550m), that thing is going to die in a few weeks. Now, if you grow some tentaculata from seed that was collected at the bottom of its range (700m), you can look forward to enjoying that plant for years.
Q: Why are seed grown plants more expensive?
A: Because they're more awesome and unique. See above.
Once growing from seed becomes popular, which hopefully happens soon as myself and a few others are constantly ranting about it, prices for seed grown material will drop, as it will become the "norm".
Q: Where can I get seed?
A: Keep your eyes and ears peeled. It pops up on the forum from time to time. Or make friends with people that grow from seed a lot, or that make lots of hybrids.
Now go get some seed, grow it out, and start trading your exta seed grown plants!