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Some pitcher plants might need a little extra TLC to thrive in their environment whether that is inside or outdoors. Fertilizer fits this demand. In this article, we answer the important question of how to easily fertilize your pitcher plant at home.
How do I fertilize a pitcher plant? If your pitcher plant is in an environment or stage of growth that requires fertilizer, you can fertilize the plant with either a water solution or pellets. You place the fertilizer directly in the pitcher of the plant, though the amount varies based on the plant’s size.
Fertilizing a pitcher plant can be important to your plant depending on the environment or the stage of growth. Read on to find out what environment calls for fertilizer, what options you can choose from, and other useful tips to help your pitcher plant grow and thrive.
Does My Pitcher Plant Need Fertilizer?
Adding fertilizer to your pitcher plant can make it live a longer, healthier life. However, not all pitcher plants necessarily need this huge boost in nutrients, as discussed in the following sections about location and stage of growth. Consider these factors.
Why The Plant’s Location Matters
The location of the plant will play a large role in whether or not you need fertilizer for your beautiful pitcher plant.
If your plant is an indoor plant, it usually needs a little extra love and care in the form of fertilizer. This is true primarily because indoor plants don’t get to eat insects often. For pitcher plants and other carnivorous plants, the purpose of insects is to supply the nutrients that their often deprived soil lacks. This is why fertilizing an indoor pitcher plant is a good idea.
If your plant is an outdoor plant, it might not need fertilizer at all. This is mainly because it has access to insects. This is how wild ones survive, after all! As long as the environment suits the pitcher plant with proper humidity and amounts of water (as well as porous, well-draining soil), it might not need to be fertilized at all.
In the same vein, if your pitcher plant is wilting or not thriving, you might consider fertilizing it. However, you should also assess whether its other needs are met as well.
The location is not the only factor in whether you should fertilize your pitcher plant, as you will see next.
Why The Plant’s Stage Of Growth Matters
The stage of growth the pitcher plant is in will also affect whether or not you should fertilize it. Let’s break this down a little.
Let’s say a pitcher plant is a seedling. Like the vast majority of pitcher plants, it is located in porous soil that is devoid of most nutrients. If this is the case, it needs to eat insects to fortify itself. The problem is it isn’t a plant yet, so it can’t trap insects yet either. This is when a small bit of fertilizer might come in handy.
However, if the plant you are thinking about fertilizing is large enough that it already has a pitcher in its growths, it is able to catch insects. This means it is also less likely to need fertilizer. However, as mentioned earlier on, some plants end up needing fertilizer if they are unable to thrive in their environment (provided it’s well-planned).
Depending on the stage of growth it’s in, a pitcher plant will be more likely or less likely to need fertilizer.
Be sure to take all of these factors into account before fertilizing your pitcher plant at home. Also assess the plant’s other needs such as mild temperatures, high humidity, porous soil that drains easily, and proper watering.
What Should I Use To Fertilize My Pitcher Plant?
You’ve established your plant needs fertilizer. Luckily, there are two different types of fertilizer you can use to supplement your pitcher plant and its growth. The two types of fertilizers available are water-soluble and pellet fertilizers. I’ll cover these in detail below.
Water-soluble fertilizers, or fertilizers that can be dissolved in water, are a great way to stretch your money when it comes to fertilizing your pitcher plants and other carnivorous plants you might care for.
To use these fertilizers for your pitcher plants, you should add a level half teaspoon (½ tsp) to an entire gallon of water. Keep in mind you use distilled water any time you fertilize or water your carnivorous plants. After the solution is shaken to ensure even mixing, you are ready to fertilize your plants. Store any extra solution you have at room temperature and out of direct sunlight.
Keep in mind the amount of fertilizer you use might vary between brands. Read the packaging carefully and measure accurately when mixing the solution. Err on the side of caution if you are nervous.
According to this carnivorous plant owner on YouTube, you should mist the leaves of the pitcher plant just enough to get them wet—up to five or six spritzers. You should also fill the pitcher part of the plant with the fertilizer solution (no more than halfway). If the pitcher starts to lean or tip, stop and remove some of the solution if necessary.
You should repeat this process every two weeks for best results. However, if your plant is looking wilted after being fertilized, consider cutting back on how often you use the fertilizer.
Maxsea, which is the brand used in the video linked above, is a popular brand of fertilizer—especially for carnivorous plants. It comes in various sizes. You can find the 1.5 pound canister here for about $16. This is a great size to start with regardless of how many plants you have because it keeps for a long time.
There are some fertilizers, however, that you shouldn’t use on your pitcher plant at all because the balance of nutrients in the fertilizer will kill them. Miracle-gro, though a trusted brand for a variety of plants, should NEVER be used on pitcher plants or other carnivorous plants.
With these tips, your pitcher plant will be wonderfully fertilized with water-soluble fertilizer solutions.
Fertilizer pellets can be a quick and easy way to fertilize your pitcher plant if you’re busy or in a time crunch.
To use this fertilizer, you simply add one or two crushed up pellets to the pitcher of the pitcher plant—depending on its size—so start with one and go from there. Crushing it will help digestion. If the pitcher is dry, add a few drops of water to make digestion even easier. Keep in mind too much fertilizer can have negative effects, too!
You should follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for most applications of pellet fertilizer. This is mainly because there is such a wide array of concentrations in pellet fertilizers, and high concentrations can sometimes lead to issues with pitcher plants and others.
According to Maria, an avid fan of carnivorous plants, a good pellet fertilizer choice is the Oscomote brand (the flower and vegetable version). You can find her fully explained take on this fertilizer on her website. To summarize, she recommends using pellet fertilizer only when the pitcher plant is able to digest it—meaning it has enough liquid in the bottom of it’s pitcher on its own.
There you have it—both types of fertilizer explained. Use these details to choose your best fertilizer option.
What Else I Should Know About Fertilizing My Pitcher Plant?
Fertilizing your plant can be an easy chore, but it’s not foolproof. Before you fertilize your pitcher plant, you need to take the following into account.
Avoid Fertilizing The Soil
Avoid fertilizing the soil of a pitcher plant. Fertilizing the soil instead of the actual pitcher part will kill the plant. The natural habitats of these plants are devoid of most nutrients—hence their adaptation of eating insects to fill that void—and as such, they should never be overloaded in such a way.
If you are planting a pitcher plant seed, then you can use pellet fertilizer…if any. However, many experts say you can do this at your own risk because it can ruin the seed before it even turns into a plant at all. You should only do this if you are a more experienced gardener.
Don’t Overdo The Fertilizer
As you might have guessed, too much fertilizer can hurt or even kill your little pitcher plant.
Like any other plant, a pitcher plant can die if over-fertilized. This is because the nutrients in the fertilizer are so numerous that it upsets the normal balance of nutrients the plant needs to survive and thrive.
You can try to safeguard yourself against this by using water-soluble fertilizer; this is a harder way to overdo fertilizing your pitcher plant. You can also make the solution weaker than the recommended half a teaspoon per gallon of water. For example, you can add a quarter teaspoon to start and analyze how the plant did two weeks from now.
If you are still nervous you might over-fertilize your pitcher plant, get a TDS meter. A TDS meter is a small device that measures the amount of dissolved solids in water in parts per million. This one, selected on Amazon as “Amazon’s Choice,” is about $13. It is an inexpensive investment if you are looking to fertilize many plants. Water-soluble fertilizer should measure about 15 parts per million.
Remember to take it easy on the fertilizer to avoid any issues. You can always add more later, but it’s much harder (if not impossible) to take it away!
The Best Time To Fertilize Your Pitcher Plant
The best time of day to fertilize plants is usually in the morning, as is the case with pitcher plants. Though they are mildly active at night, the most nutrients will be absorbed during daylight hours. This is because it is more active during the day, in sunlight, which it uses to create energy.
As far as the best time of year to fertilize your pitcher plant, you should fertilize them every two weeks if they are indoors. In the event that your pitcher plant goes dormant, or turns black or brown during wintertime, you can return to fertilizing it around February, March, or early April each year to start from scratch.
Don’t Feed Your Pitcher Plant Instead Of Fertilizing It
If your plant is thriving without fertilizer, that’s a good thing. If your plant needs fertilizer to thrive, that’s fine, too. However, you shouldn’t feed your pitcher plant in lieu of fertilizing it because these two things can balance each other out.
You also don’t need to feed a pitcher plant as often as you fertilize it. Brands like like water-soluble Maxsea (mentioned earlier) recommends fertilizing every two weeks; however, it’s recommended that you feed the plant every three weeks at most.
These are the additional factors you need to keep in mind when you fertilize your pitcher plant.
Should I Feed My Indoor Pitcher Plant?
Feeding your indoor pitcher plant is an interesting activity if you haven’t experienced it before. However, if you are just now realizing you should be feeding your pitcher plant (instead of simply providing it with fertilizer and water), the task might seem daunting. Don’t worry—I’ll discuss what you should feed your pitcher plant in this section.
Food for all pitcher plants primarily consists of insects. While your indoor pitcher plant will come across the occasional insect, it’s recommended you feed them every three weeks anyway. You can feed them freeze-dried insects to get the longest shelf life. Crickets are the most readily available source, and you can find a bunch of options on Amazon. Crush one up per feeding for easy digestion.
Live mealworms are also an acceptable food source for pitcher plants. They are high in nutrients and don’t need as much water for the pitcher plant to digest them. Keep in mind this isn’t always a practical food choice because one or two mealworms will do the trick. If you have lizards as well, however, this becomes a more practical option.
An alternative food for pitcher plants is fish food. You should opt for fish flakes—like these on amazon—for an option that is digested quickly (and with less energy). Another option is pellet fish food. The latter should be crushed before feeding your pitcher plant. Whether you use flakes or pellets, a small pinch of food is enough.
Regardless of what you feed your pitcher plant, you should also be sure they will be able to digest the food properly. If the pitcher is dry, add only a few drops of water to help them digest the food more easily.
You can overfeed your pitcher plant. If the food doesn’t get digested and begins to mold and/or develop a foul-smelling odor in the pitcher, you should cut back on how much you feed your plant. If this persists, cut back on how often you feed it as well.
Feeding your indoor pitcher plant doesn’t have to be a big event. Choose one of the foods discussed every three weeks (or less depending on its needs), and you will have one happy pitcher plant.
Should I Put Water In The Pitchers Of The Plant Or The Soil?
Everyone knows plants need water to survive, but when you start exploring the realm of carnivorous plants like pitcher plants, things can start to get confusing! Do you water the pitcher part of the plant, the soil, or both?
Contrary to what many believe, you shouldn’t water the pitcher of your pitcher plant unless it’s only a few drops for feeding purposes. This is because it takes a lot of energy for the plant to digest things, and if the water doesn’t have any nutrients in it, it is wasting energy. You need to water the soil the plant is placed in—not the pitcher.
On the other hand, liquid fertilizer should be administered through the pitcher for the best affect. Any water for pitcher plants should be given via the soil.
This contrast can also lead to confusion, but keep in mind the pitcher is for nutrients and the occasional few drops of water during feedings; the soil is for water. This will ensure you will help your pitcher plant live a long and healthy life.
How Long Do Pitcher Plants Live?
Pitcher plants themselves can live for multiple decades in the wild and flourish year after year. In enclosed pots in homes, however, it’s hard to pinpoint an exact age of a pitcher plant. Some owners report lifespans of up to 20 years per plant. This, of course, depends on how well it is cared for throughout its life as well.
Note pitcher plants develop many pitchers over the life of the plant. The lifespan of a pitcher is very different from the life of the overall plant.
For example, one plant can have multiple pitchers. These typically last from a few weeks up to nearly nine months each before the plant goes dormant for the year (which may or may not happen based on your climate).
Pitcher plants can live surprisingly long lives despite the fact that they live in infertile soil!
Why Is My Pitcher Plant Turning Brown/Black?
There are a few possibilities as to why your pitcher plant is turning dark brown or black (on the leaves and/or pitchers). These include dormancy, death, or shock. Read on to find out more about these possibilities as well as how to fix them.
Many plant owners might not realize pitcher plants, like countless others, often have a time of dormancy each year. This depends on your climate, however. For example, the snowy winters of the northeast in America is very different than the winters closer to the equator.
If your pitcher plant is dormant, the upper portions of the plant—namely the leaves and pitchers—will turn dark brown or black. The stem of the plant may or may not be visible, but it will likely look the same way.
The plant might even look like it died. New plant owners might not be able to tell the difference, either. If this is the case, you should wait until spring to see if it revives itself. This typically happens from February to April depending on the climate and changing weather conditions.
Sometimes the plant doesn’t recover after dormancy; it is really dead. If this happens, you have two options: throw it away to start over or attempt to revive it.
If you want to revive it, try sitting the plant next to a humidifier in the most humid room in your home. They love humid air, and they are more likely to grow new pitchers in humid conditions.
You should know this last ditch effort might not work either, but if you have a humidifier, it’s worth a shot to bring back your pitcher plant.
New conditions in the pitcher plant’s environment might cause it to start turning brown or black. Make sure the temperature and humidity are stable. You should also check the amount of water the plant has (it likes wet conditions, but it strongly dislikes standing water).
If you can’t pinpoint anything about its environment, you should analyze any changes you made in its care.
Such common issues might include:
- A change in water: If you use tap water now as opposed to distilled water (which is highly recommended), you might notice a change in your plant. It was thrown into shock by additional minerals in the tap water. Switch back to distilled water to avoid this in the future.
- A change in temperature: Shock can also be caused by a sudden drop in temperature. Make sure to keep your home’s thermostat at a consistent temperature, and seal any drafty windows the plant might sit next to.
- A change in humidity: As mentioned above, sometimes a lack of humidity has a negative affect on pitcher plants.
- A change in soil: Changing or adding to the existing soil in the pitcher plant pot might have shocked the plant. If this is the case, try a little additional distilled water to flush out the excess nutrients from the soil.
These three possibilities will help you pinpoint any trouble you might have with your pitcher plant. Use the corresponding remedies to bring your pitcher plant back brighter than ever.
What If My Pitcher Plant Stops Producing Pitchers?
Pitcher plants stop producing pitchers if they are dormant for the year. However, if their leaves aren’t turning dark brown as well, there are three key reasons the plant might stop producing pitchers. Read on to learn more.
The Air Isn’t Humid Enough
As mentioned in the section about dead/dying pitcher plants, humidity plays a huge part in helping the plant grow new pitchers.
Experts recommend keeping your pitcher plant in the most humid room of your home and, if needed, next to a humidifier if you have one. If you don’t have a humidifier, try sitting your plant next to a simmering pot of water for a little bit of time each day if possible.
Other options include placing the pitcher plant in a greenhouse if you have one—these are very humid! Keep in mind you should not do this if temperatures have dipped below 60 degrees Fahrenheit because those temperatures won’t help, either!
If adding humidity to the environment doesn’t help your plant recover, try the suggestions mentioned next.
There Isn’t Enough Light
If your pitcher plant still doesn’t recover and grow new pitchers with the help of extra humidity, there might not be enough light in its everyday environment. These plants need at least three hours of direct sunlight per day, but four hours is better.
This is easily remedied. Try moving your plant to an area with better lighting. Keep an eye on it for the next few days. Make sure the light isn’t too intense as well—nothing above 70-72 degrees Fahrenheit if you can help it! If the leaves start turning yellow, your poor pitcher plant is now getting too much light.
Try moving your plant back to its original location and follow advice from the next reason as to why your pitcher plant isn’t growing new pitchers.
It Needs Time
Sometimes all a pitcher plant really needs to grow new pitchers is a little extra time. It might sound annoying and cliche, but it’s true!
As long as there are healthy leaves and tendrils of growth, this is evidence the plant is alive and trying to grow. Try leaving it alone, and let nature take its course. Pitchers will grow when they need to.
Hopefully your pitcher plant is suffering from one of these simple fixes and will start growing new pitchers soon.
Learning about the types of fertilizer available for your growing pitcher plant might seem daunting at first, but with a little guidance—admittedly along with some trial and error—you will fertilize and care for your pitcher plant like a pro. Keep these tips in mind as you care for your pitcher plant.