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Thread: Nepenthes brown stem rot / death please Help!

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    Nepenthes brown stem rot / death please Help!

    Hello everybody!

    I have three different nepenthes in an eastern facing window that had been pretty happy all year. I noticed some old leaves and stem starting to brown on a single plant 6 weeks ago. I left town for about three weeks and had a friend water them while I was away. On my return I have noticed that all three potted plants have brown stems rising up from the base and every leaf along the length of that brown stem also turns brown and dies.

    They are all planted in a mix of peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite and they do not drain particularly well. Is this my problem? Should I transplant them into new medium or just take cuttings above the brown? Does anyone have experience with this brown "death?" Any advice would be greatly appreciated!



    Last edited by ljproud; 12-18-2013 at 10:55 AM. Reason: photos didn't show up first time. Grr..still won't show up...

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    UnstuckinTime's Avatar
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    How often did you tell your friend to water? Too much watering in a relatively poor-draining mix like you're using might be the problem. Depending on how far north you are, the cold weather that has settled in probably didn't help either (Wet + cold = rot, in most cases). I can't see the pictures, but your best shot may be to take cuttings from above the browning zone, preferably putting those cuttings into a more loose media (try sphagnum and perlite to start. I add some kind of bark in, as well, for more drainage).

    Good luck! Let us know what happens!
    "The plants you grow, end up growing you."


    My Grow List:
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    Try linking the photos through an image hosting website, like photobucket or flickr.


    Has the entire stem rotted or is there still a lot of green left? You need to cut the stems above the rot so that there is no brown discoloration in the vascular tissue. Once you cut high enough, root them in sphagnum moss. As you said, your media is probably too wet and should be reevaluated.

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    Whimgrinder's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ljproud View Post
    Hello everybody!

    I have three different nepenthes in an eastern facing window that had been pretty happy all year. I noticed some old leaves and stem starting to brown on a single plant 6 weeks ago. I left town for about three weeks and had a friend water them while I was away. On my return I have noticed that all three potted plants have brown stems rising up from the base and every leaf along the length of that brown stem also turns brown and dies.

    They are all planted in a mix of peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite and they do not drain particularly well. Is this my problem? Should I transplant them into new medium or just take cuttings above the brown? Does anyone have experience with this brown "death?" Any advice would be greatly appreciated!



    Judging by your photos (all current pics, I assume -- not just "before" shots?) there is nothing wrong with your plants. There is always going to be some amount of natural leaf senescence (leaves retired from service as they age) and this is what you are seeing. In the middle of winter, when light levels are low and days short, Nepenthes will tend to drop some of their older pitchers, and that too is normal behavior. Those look like perfectly healthy Nepenthes to me - not brown stem rot/death.

    However, when you stated your pots "do not drain particularly well", that is a matter of some concern, as Nepenthes generally despise slow-draining, waterlogged soils. If you pour two cups of water (somewhat arbitrary volume; enough to test drainage response) into the pot, how long does it take to start draining out the bottom? Five seconds? A minute and a half? Longer?? In my experience, a Nepenthes soil should be open and airy enough that two cups of water poured into the top of the pot should start draining through the bottom within a few seconds. If the first drainage water doesn't start out the bottom of the container for at least 20-30 seconds (or - heaven forbid - longer!), then you should consider one of the following: go very lightly on watering and monitor soil moisture levels carefully, to avoid persistent waterlogging (which leads to root death) or: when daylength starts to increase and light levels improve (late March/early-to-mid April) you can repot the plant(s) into a more open mix.

    About soil components: Most Nepenthes growers will tell you that Vermiculite is a poor choice for a Nepenthes soil mix; it compacts over time and holds too much water to be ideal for this genus. Although everyone has their favorite soil mix, most of the recipes are based on a simple 3-part formula of 1) quality long-fiber Sphagnum, 2) medium/coarse Perlite, and 3) fine or medium grade Orchid bark, in equal parts (give or take). You can substitute Coconut Coir chips for the Orchid bark if you prefer, but you have to either purchase Coconut that has been certified leached of all salts and minerals; this is extremely important - or soak the chips yourself to remove all traces of minerals and salts. (This can be done by soaking the chips in clean water for a couple of days, draining the water, and repeat the process two more times. Its a bit tedious, but quite necessary.) I have personally used Coconut Coir chips myself and - after doing the proper soak routine - have found the material to be a perfectly decent Nepenthes soil component.

    Other components you can include in your mix might be things like Horticultural Charcoal (buy the right stuff from a nursery!) or Pumice (instead of Perlite). The core concept is to create a soil mix that is FAST draining, free of soluble salts and minerals, and maintains a good balance of air pockets and available water. Questions?

    Some of your Flickr album photos:


    Last edited by Whimgrinder; 12-18-2013 at 11:57 AM.

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    Those are the photos? There's nothing wrong with that plant!

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    Yes! Those are the photos I just took. The upper and lower plants drain ok but the big one in the middle does not drain at all. The bottom of the container is plugged from the inside.

    I understand that old leaves will eventually die off, but the stem? Is that not some kind of rot or decay? It's on all three of them and scaring me. They're all still rigid, not mushy or anything. But the stems themselves are as brown as the leaves. I live in Oakland, CA about a mile from the bay and it's about 50-70F year round. It has been kind of chilly.

    I water them daily. When I was out of town they were watered every other day. The growth above each of the browned stems seem to produce less pitchers than other stalks. Are my plants actually fine or should I be cutting them apart?! Either way, I'll transplant into something more like whimgrinder recommends. I've got coco coir, vermiculite, orchid chips, and the biggest, coarsest perlite available. Guess I should go get some long-fiber sphagnum.

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    They are fine! The browning of the lower stems is normal. All of my plants do this. It's kind of like when trees make bark; older stems turn woody and change color. It's normal, I assure you.

    However, pots that do not drain at all are going to lead to trouble; fix that ASAP.

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    Oh! Thanks a bunch.

    I was pretty worried there for a minute.

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