Saturday, December 8, 2012

Growing Nepenthes from Seed: This Year's Winter Project

I usually have some kind of project going on inside once it gets so cold outside you can't really do much. Luckily, I don't have to spend another year in the cold and gray misery that is a NY winter, but this project had already begun so we might as well continue. I wouldn't have started this at all had I known I wouldn't still be in NY, but whatever, things happen. Nepenthes are notoriously difficult to germinate from seed and grow through seedling stages, even without a cross country trip in there and a change in conditions.

This year's project wasn't so much planned, as gifted. I was sent a generous amount of Nepenthes ventricosa seed from a someone on one of the carnivorous plant forums. Back in November, I decided to try an experiment, using both of the generally accepted ways to grow Nepenthes from seed. I have one container that I sowed most of the seeds in using a 50/50 mix of Sphagnum peat moss/Perlite, (which I'm far more comfortable germinating carnivorous plant seed in.) The second container I decided to try germinating with pure (dead) long fiber Sphagnum moss. We'll see if either works better as both containers will be getting the same amount of light and heat, next to each other in my lowland terrarium. The advice I got as far as temperature goes, is better germination comes with warmth, regardless of the species normal preference for temperature range. So although N. ventricosa is an intermediate growing Nepenthes, (1000-2000 m above sea level, 75-85°F/24-29° C day, 55-65°F/ 13-18° C night,) we're going to germinate the seeds without that much of a temperature drop at night.

Container #1: 50/50 Peat/Perlite. It's one of those clear plastic pastry containers from the grocery store. I could've just put a plastic bag over a pot to achieve the same level of humidity, but this seemed easier and there were raspberry turnovers involved in the purchase of this container. An excuse to eat junkfood I never would otherwise have an excuse to eat seemed like a good plan.

Container #2: 100% Chopped, Rehydrated LFS. Clear plastic container again, although I didn't have to eat pastry to clean out this container, it's probably better that way.

I microwave sterilized the media for both containers, and pre-leached the Perlite for a few days.

Each seed is only about 5-10 mm long.

I carefully stratified the seeds with a tweezers on top of the media, then sprayed them down with distilled water one last time to ensure good contact with the media. Closed the container tops to get a high humidity level. I punched a few holes for drainage, and a few smaller one's for a little air flow in the containers as well.

Now to wait a few weeks to a few months to see if anything germinates. Nepenthes seed has a short shelf life and are best sown right after harvesting. I'm not sure how old these seeds are, but hopefully no older than a month or two would be best.

Container #1, 200 N. ventricosa seeds on 11/5/12

Container #2, 110 N. ventricosa seeds on 11/5/12
Wish me luck, because as of today we have 50+ that have germinated so far, with more popping up every few days. Although they won't all germinate, and every one that germinated will not make it to maturity, still way too many to keep if this rate keeps up. So aside from my promise to the person I received these seeds from to pay this generosity forward on the forum, I'd of course like to share them with my readers as well when they're old enough to be shipped. My only request is if any turn out to be female, you owe me a cutting, just, I'm serious. It'll be many years before these reach maturity and a flower is the only way to sex Nepenthes. Could you imagine the space I'd need for all those adult ventricosas to wait for each one to grow out so I could have at least one female? Exactly, so I can't keep them all that long.

Germination started around the end of November, about 3 weeks after being sewn. The majority of germination so far is in Container #1, the peat/perlite mix. Along with a lot more algae. I ended up removing the tops for both containers inside the terrarium because I got mold and fungus on the seedlings after about a week. I sprayed them down with water and without the tops it didn't grow back much. I think even though the humidity in the terrarium is not at 100% these seedlings need a little airflow more than they need ultra high humidity.

After the move these are in a 10 gallon terrarium that gets a combination of artificial and natural lighting, which keeps it warm enough in there too, never below 70 F/ 21 C. In the pictures below, look for 2 tiny leaves, that's all they are when they 1st germinate. Sorry no macro photos for the germinating seedlings, once I get my camera back I'll make up for this.

Bottom right, 2 tiny green leaves.

There are more than 1 in this picture, but one at the top center you can see easiest.


  1. Fascinating Melody! I hope they all grow well & you can share them with your readers when they are older if you need to. I did not know that Nepenthes are dioecious. Growing from seeds tests our paitence like nothing else! :)

    1. Thanks Ngeun, it'll be a long time before they really start looking like Nepenthes, but I'll take some better pictures next month. Patience is certainly needed for these kinds of projects for sure!