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thez_yo

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Well, apropos of a recent thread, I decided to start a new one here that is on-topic, of that off-topic discussion :jester:

When I was first starting out, in all the instructions I found, the proverbial 'they' described a certain potting medium, certain humidity, a grow setup, which plants would work for what setup, and a multitude of other instructions usually including greenhouses. 'They' probably had success with their methods, and were likely trying to emulate the actual environments of the plants in-situ, and that was the prevalent methodology of the time. It sure makes logical sense that if they grow well in their indigenous habitat, if you re-create that, the plants should grow well.

But I decided that I really wanted to grow Nepenthes, and that I really wanted to have them as houseplants. I didn't want to spend the money on a fancy grow set up when I could use it to get more of the nice plants I wanted. And I knew if I tried to trade and people asked me what my grow setup was, and I answered 'on the back porch in the desert' I wouldn't have gotten people's precious babies, so I bought little starter plants back in the day to pour my own hard-earned money into the Grande Experiment. There were a couple people who were obvious renegades at the time, and growing their plants not in fancy terrariums, so I decided I'd give it a shot. I modeled my collection pretty early on based on the recommendations given by Nepenthes around the House, and got some inspiration from elgecko's magical window too. My conditions are mostly outside on a balcony in San Diego (close to Nepenthes around the House conditions), and some plants behind my windows inside (elgecko).

It was trial and error - I shipped off more than my fair share of plants that weren't doing well, and unfortunately killed a few on the way. Luckily they were clones, so I don't feel too guilty, but it would have been nice had I figured out how to grow N.campanulata. Along the way I added some other things to the collection including a few Sarrs, a pile of Helis at one time, Cephs, Dews, VFTs, and even some Utrics. Oh, and the hated Pings (slimy lettuce!).

Conditions are pretty bad here for swamp plants. My plants look terrible in comparison to other people's who actually have nice lights on auto-timers and consistent humidies >30% and consistent temps too. Huge pitchers, green leaves, and nice fluffy moss would be so nice! But I like the plants, so I keep trying to grow them and in the very least my collection can be an absurd testament to how much abuse the plants will actually take and still be able to thrive, to prove that other end of the spectrum from in-situ conditions.

Humidity swings can go from 100% to 0% in the span of a day or two, temps can be 65ºF one day and 100ºF the next day, and light levels are absurd (burning summer desert sunshine) and burn the plants' leaves when I first get them from other growers. I need to acclimate plants in baggies to indoor conditions let alone to go out on the balcony. When I get plants from Germany, that's easily a month with the bag method to acclimate them to the terrible conditions here, and often times more. When I used to get plants from Tony, his were the hardest and those I still precautionarily put in a bag for a week or two and suffered pitcher loss.

At the moment, I have all of my plants in a ~1/2 sphag moss mixture, sitting in saucers of water outside (water til they're sitting in water), except for the Cephs, Dews and Sarras (those are in half peat mixture). I water once a week, maybe twice if it's especially hot or windy. I have them in off-white plastic pots to reflect the heat of the sun, and am relying on evaporative cooling too. I'm not going past 8" pots because I don't have the space for that. Indoors, half sphag mix too and watering once a week because I don't have wind to evaporate the water away. I'm pretty afraid of root rot, so I keep my plants a lot dryer than I've ever seen anyone else grow theirs, although I had the Heliamphora all but swimming in their little pots of sphag back when I grew them outside. Heliamphora will survive 90ºF in the direct sunshine in a terrarium filled with sopping wet Sphagnum I've figured out. But, on the flip side, I don't think N.aristolochioides likes direct sunshine and did vastly better in the shade of a N.platychila vine.
 

adnedarn

I'm growing CPs in the Desert of Tucson, Az
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I love seeing people trying different things! Usually a little bit of knowledge behind your idea helps, but as you show you can just try it! A good example of growing outside of what is said to be "needed" is Joseph Clemens and his growing Mexican pings in pure peat moss, sitting constantly in water. I remember him posting photos of his pings, and people still telling him he was going to mess then up. :p I took to his method of lots of water LOTS of light and it worked great for me. I lose more pings now keeping them a bit dryer out in the semi-shaded greenhouse than I ever did indoors completely soaked under lights. Go figure!
 

Heli

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I think the fact that you have kept a Nepenthes villosa alive and well on that porch for years is a testament to how bulls*** some of these claims of difficulty are. Some members here keep repeating dogma spewed out by some "experienced" members who like to proclaim that Nepenthes are incredibly challenging to grow.
 
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thez_yo

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I think the fact that you have kept a Nepenthes villosa alive and well on that porch for years is a testament to how bulls*** some of these claims of difficulty are. Some members here keep repeating dogma spewed out by some "experienced" members who like to proclaim that Nepenthes are incredibly challenging to grow.

Venting is good, but growing is better.

Have you got any novel growing methods to share with us?
 

Heli

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Sure, from experimenting with Nepenthes rajah cultivation I have found out that a soil mix consisting of equal parts kanuma, peat and perlite works very well ONLY if you have a thin layer of live sphagnum moss on top. I had repotted all my Nepenthes rajah into this mix without the top dressing of sphagnum and while they did grow well, they weren't putting out consistently larger leaves. Only after adding this top dressing have I seen steadily larger leaves in all of the plants. This mix is generally very well draining so the plants responded well to periodic flushing with water which is quite similar to what they experience in the wild. Also, it is worth noting that a wide pot is preferred for rajah. From what I have seen their roots grow more horizontally than vertically.
 

SubRosa

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I think the fact that you have kept a Nepenthes villosa alive and well on that porch for years is a testament to how bulls*** some of these claims of difficulty are. Some members here keep repeating dogma spewed out by some "experienced" members who like to proclaim that Nepenthes are incredibly challenging to grow.

Especially considering that not too many years ago you yourself bought a fridge just to keep one!
 

Heli

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Well yes that was my only viable option considering my bedroom in my very much urban apartment had no windows and very high temperatures. A chest freezer was simply the most efficient option for me.
 
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Many horticultural idiot savants -- idiots being the operative word -- frequently told me that subjecting Nepenthes to sustained nighttime temperatures below ten degrees C, meant certain death for the delicate little things, most especially for seedling plants. These lauded experts included people from Cal (Berkeley) and the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco . . .

Nepenthes seedlings 1 December


Nepenthes robcantleyii (that name is such the clunker)
 
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So rare species can be grown by those of us without a large setup? Wonder of wonders! I don't understand why people DO use methods emulating the natural habitat do that then. If these plants can be grown like this, why spend all the money on a fancy setup?
 
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Nice write up Thez , I grow my nepenthes as house plants too as I didn't like the idea of viewing them through condensation in a terrarium . You say you keep them on the dry side because of fear of root rot , I was wondering if you have many shrunken lids on the pitchers as that's what seems to happen to mine if I don't water them in time
 

thez_yo

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Indeed, I can't seem to grow a lid on the N.robcantleyii for the life of me. The rest of the plants are fine though.
 
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So rare species can be grown by those of us without a large setup? Wonder of wonders! I don't understand why people DO use methods emulating the natural habitat do that then. If these plants can be grown like this, why spend all the money on a fancy setup?

I do attempt to emulate their environments; but they are a bit more tolerant than most believe. It does get cold at altitude in SE Asia; and I once had a partially filled nalgene water bottle freeze, while camping in Borneo near 3000 meters . . .
 

SubRosa

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So rare species can be grown by those of us without a large setup? Wonder of wonders! I don't understand why people DO use methods emulating the natural habitat do that then. If these plants can be grown like this, why spend all the money on a fancy setup?

It's about expectations. I can't grow Nepenthes, but I sell a lot of goldfish and for the purposes of this discussion they're exactly the same. People ask me all the time if they can keep a goldfish in a bowl. The answer is of course yes. As long as they don't expect it to reach its full potential. If they want it to get 14" long and live 40 or 50 years, more attention to its needs is required than that needed for mere survival.
 
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It is indeed interesting to see how much "abuse" these plants can take. Their goal is to reproduce, and they'll do their best to accomplush that even if conditions aren't what they are in the wild.
 
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Well, after a PM to Thez_yo I'm going to try this.


One thing I am wondering about though-- If these plants can grow as intermediates (as exhibited by the pictures shown) how come they aren't found at lower elevations in their natural habitat? Perhaps they can grow well in warmer conditions for a time, but once they are fully mature they need a nightly temp drop?

Here's what I see-- The plants would naturally occur where it is best to grow them, right? You don't see Flytraps growing in the Midwest, right? But you can still grow flytraps there (and in a gigantic range of conditions, from desert to swamp.)

Obviously, flytraps will do best in high humidity, high temperature and lots of sun as in their natural habitat, but they don't NEED it. So I'm thinking it could be the same with Nepenthes.

If this reasoning isn't faulty, what this leads to is that highland Nepenthes can grow in a much wider range of conditions than where they do in the wild.
 

thez_yo

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It's about expectations. I can't grow Nepenthes, but I sell a lot of goldfish and for the purposes of this discussion they're exactly the same. People ask me all the time if they can keep a goldfish in a bowl. The answer is of course yes. As long as they don't expect it to reach its full potential. If they want it to get 14" long and live 40 or 50 years, more attention to its needs is required than that needed for mere survival.

If you're defining in-situ as full potential, the wild outdoors has even more problems than my balcony.

My plants don't get eaten by large herbivores, don't get used as a scratching stick or play toy by wild cats, don't get bulldozed to make way for a casino, don't have fires rip through their grow area, etc. ad nauseam.

They also *do* get regular watering, their pests controlled or eliminated, trained up stakes so they don't bend and snap, artificially fertilized so all seed pods have a chance to ripen, etc.

It seems like most plants have a symbiotic relationship with root bacteria or fungus to boot, e.g. the root tincture Av8tor1 uses on his Heliamphora or the bugs required to start orchids growing from seed, so growing in an absolutely sterile environment might actually be a bad thing. It's weighing the negatives versus the positives. In my situation, putting in a grow tent introduces a heat problem. If I have a heat problem, I have to provide a fan or AC, in which case I have to re-up the humidity and then add a humidifier. In stead of growing my plants a little dry, I now must pour money into 3 different devices (tent, fan/ac, humidifier) to re-create slightly better conditions. In comparison to growers who have plants in more humid conditions, my plants have tougher stalks and leaves, smaller pitchers, and are shorter. I'm ok with that because I have limited space anyway.
 

Heli

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I've never visited any wild Nepenthes habitats so I can't say for sure. However, my guess is that as you go lower in altitude on a mountain, there is more vegetative competition that Nepenthes (at least highlanders) can't handle. This makes sense considering how fragmenteted mountain ecology can be.
 
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thez_yo

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Well, after a PM to Thez_yo I'm going to try this.


One thing I am wondering about though-- If these plants can grow as intermediates (as exhibited by the pictures shown) how come they aren't found at lower elevations in their natural habitat? Perhaps they can grow well in warmer conditions for a time, but once they are fully mature they need a nightly temp drop?

Here's what I see-- The plants would naturally occur where it is best to grow them, right? You don't see Flytraps growing in the Midwest, right? But you can still grow flytraps there (and in a gigantic range of conditions, from desert to swamp.)

Obviously, flytraps will do best in high humidity, high temperature and lots of sun as in their natural habitat, but they don't NEED it. So I'm thinking it could be the same with Nepenthes.

If this reasoning isn't faulty, what this leads to is that highland Nepenthes can grow in a much wider range of conditions than where they do in the wild.

I had a brief chat with BigBella the other day and it was about this sort of topic. It boiled down to, does a plant need an obscure chemical found in the soil/rocks of its in-situ climate, or is it that the particular chemical might be a poison to other plants effectively eliminating competition and the plant that does grow there can tolerate a reasonable amount of it?

That conversation was about a Nepenthes specifically, but it also applies to what some people are trying with Darlingtonia. Does Darlingtonia absolutely need Serpentine mixed into its growing media, or is it that Serpentine is poisonous but Darlingtonia can still grow despite it?
 

chibae

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If you're defining in-situ as full potential, the wild outdoors has even more problems than my balcony.

My plants don't get eaten by large herbivores, don't get used as a scratching stick or play toy by wild cats, don't get bulldozed to make way for a casino, don't have fires rip through their grow area, etc. ad nauseam.

They also *do* get regular watering, their pests controlled or eliminated, trained up stakes so they don't bend and snap, artificially fertilized so all seed pods have a chance to ripen, etc.

It seems like most plants have a symbiotic relationship with root bacteria or fungus to boot, e.g. the root tincture Av8tor1 uses on his Heliamphora or the bugs required to start orchids growing from seed, so growing in an absolutely sterile environment might actually be a bad thing. It's weighing the negatives versus the positives. In my situation, putting in a grow tent introduces a heat problem. If I have a heat problem, I have to provide a fan or AC, in which case I have to re-up the humidity and then add a humidifier. In stead of growing my plants a little dry, I now must pour money into 3 different devices (tent, fan/ac, humidifier) to re-create slightly better conditions. In comparison to growers who have plants in more humid conditions, my plants have tougher stalks and leaves, smaller pitchers, and are shorter. I'm ok with that because I have limited space anyway.

Just wanted to give this a +1. Agree totally.
 

SubRosa

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If you're defining in-situ as full potential, the wild outdoors has even more problems than my balcony.

My plants don't get eaten by large herbivores, don't get used as a scratching stick or play toy by wild cats, don't get bulldozed to make way for a casino, don't have fires rip through their grow area, etc. ad nauseam.

They also *do* get regular watering, their pests controlled or eliminated, trained up stakes so they don't bend and snap, artificially fertilized so all seed pods have a chance to ripen, etc.

It seems like most plants have a symbiotic relationship with root bacteria or fungus to boot, e.g. the root tincture Av8tor1 uses on his Heliamphora or the bugs required to start orchids growing from seed, so growing in an absolutely sterile environment might actually be a bad thing. It's weighing the negatives versus the positives. In my situation, putting in a grow tent introduces a heat problem. If I have a heat problem, I have to provide a fan or AC, in which case I have to re-up the humidity and then add a humidifier. In stead of growing my plants a little dry, I now must pour money into 3 different devices (tent, fan/ac, humidifier) to re-create slightly better conditions. In comparison to growers who have plants in more humid conditions, my plants have tougher stalks and leaves, smaller pitchers, and are shorter. I'm ok with that because I have limited space anyway.

I don't define full potential as in situ. You just seem to think I do. Full potential comes from both optimally meeting the organism's biological needs, (which in situ growing may or may not provide), and preventing the setbacks that are part of a "natural" existence.
 
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