Growing Tips for Heliamphora

Growing Tips for Heliamphora

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Heliamphora - Sun Pitchers

Soil: 2:2:1 perlite:sand:peat mix
Container: 4" plastic pot
Watering: moist, but not soggy
Light: full to part sun
Temperature: cool
Humidity: medium to high
Location: windowsill, terrarium, greenhouse
Dormancy: no

     The Sun Pitchers, Heliamphora spp. are native to the tepuis (high plateaus) of Venezuela, Brazil, and Guyana.  They grow in the low lying depressions and crevices among other bog plants such as ferns, horsetails and heath in moist barren soil of a sandy peat mix.  The climate is windy, misty, foggy, and cool year round with typical daily temperatures between 46-68°F (8-20°C).  Throughout the year they can range between 34-90°F (1-32°C).  There is abundant rainfall of 80-100”/year (200-400 cm).  The nights are cold, winter frosts are common, but it rarely freezes.  Companion CPs include Drosera, Utricularia, Genlisea and the carnivorous bromeliad, Brocchinia reducta.
     Sun Pitchers are challenging CPs to grow because of their need for bright and cool conditions.  This is a difficult combination for many growers.  Sun Pitchers prefer good air circulation and a light, well-drained, porous soil.  A soil mix of 2 parts perlite, 2 parts sand and 1 part peat works well.  Pure live sphagnum moss or long-fiber sphagnum mixed 1/4 with perlite are good alternate soil mixes.  Keep the soil evenly moist.  Water with mineral-free water from overhead, and avoid having the pots stand in water for very long.  A deep pot of 4-6+” (10-15+cm) will help keep the roots out of water.  In greenhouse culture a misting system is beneficial.  Sun Pitchers prefer full bright sun and cool temperatures.  A day/night temperature difference of 10°F (5°C) is recommended.  A vented terrarium in an air-conditioned room under fluorescent lights, set 6” (15cm) above the plants, and on a timer for 16 hours/day, works very well. Keep in mind their preference for bright light during the day, and cool nights.
     Sun Pitchers do not require dormancy.  Provide cooler winter temperatures though.  Slow growth during the winter months is typical.
     In the wild Sun Pitchers are often weak feeders with only a few insects in their traps.  They only need to “feed” about once a month during active growth.  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 pet shops works well. 
Other Considerations
     Sun Pitcher traps and roots are very stiff and brittle.  This may be an adaptation to the high winds and rains of their native tepuis.  Handle the plants with care to avoid breakage.
     Sun Pitchers do not like to have their roots disturbed.  Repotting and root division can set back plant growth for several months.
     Consider heavy spraying once a week to destroy fungi growth, especially when grown in terraria. Spray with the same water you water the plants.

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