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American Pitcher Plant - Sarracenia spp.

Pitcher Plant
1:1 peat:sand
Pitcher Plants
4-6" plastic pot
moist to very wet
full to part sun
warm summer, cool winter-tolerates frost
medium to high
outdoors, windowsill, terrarium, greenhouse
Most American Pitcher Plants, Sarracenia spp. grow naturally in the bogs, pocosins and fens of the coastal plains of the southeastern United States.  They grow among the sedges in the open sun, where the moist soil is typically a sand/peat mix, usually dominated by sand.  The climate is generally warm temperate.  Summers are hot and humid and winters are generally mild with occasional cold spells and even light frosts.  Rainfall is about 8”/month (20cm) in the summer and 5”/month (12cm) in the winter.  A common companion CPs is Drosera intermedia.
The American Pitcher Plants are fairly tolerant of general CP growing conditions.  A standard CP soil mix of peat and sand works well.  The ratio of peat and sand is not critical.  Mature Pitcher Plants prefer a deeper large pot of 6-8” (15-20cm) because of their long roots.  Most pitcher plants do best when the soil is evenly moist, but not soaking wet.  They can tolerate very wet, even submerged conditions, for weeks at a time.  Let the soil become drier; yet remain somewhat moist, during winter dormancy.  Water from below with mineral-free water.  The tray method works very well.  Stand the pot in a tray or saucer and keep about 1” (2.5cm) of water in it at all times during the growing season.  American Pitcher Plants prefer full sun and develop their best colors in very bright light.
A winter rest period is required of mature plants.  As day length and temperature diminish the plant will slow its growth and many of the traps will die back, starting at the tops.  Traps in the winter may still trap insects and nutrient decomposition still occurs.  Cut back on winter watering, but allow the soil to stay moist.  Provide cooler temperatures during dormancy.  A cold porch or garage may work well.
American Pitcher Plants are constantly luring, trapping and digesting weary prey with their passive traps.  They are quite good at this, and provided with natural access to insects they will “feed” themselves.  Even indoors they will attract and capture an occasional fly or other insect.  Do not feed them meat or cheese.  This will likely rot and kill the trap.  If feeding is desired, drop in a few dead crickets, wasps or similar insects.  Freeze dried food from the pet shops works well. 

Other Considerations
  • It is generally a good idea to remove the flower spike when it forms.  If left to grow, it draws energy from the plant and can weaken a potted plant to the point of death.
  • Tall growing American Pitcher Plants are difficult subjects for a terrarium, because it is hard to give such a vertically growing plant even light.  Consider low growing S. purpurea or S. psittacina for the terrarium instead.
  • Repot every few years in a fresh CP soil mix, since the peat breaks down and can create poor drainage.  Plant near the edge of the pot with the growing tip pointed to the center of the pot, so that the rhizome has room to grow.  This is a good time to divide an already branching rhizome.  Repotting is best done in the spring, before active growth begins.
  • Consider growing American Pitcher Plants outdoors.  They can tolerate frost or a light freeze.  They grow exceeding well in a bog box or bog garden in the yard.  They will thrive in full sun and moist CP soil, naturally catching a variety of insects.

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