Pitcher plant has a Dr. Seuss-like quality that draws onlookers to its unique leaves and whimsical, upright habit. At home in soggy soil, pitcher plant has exacting growing requirements. In nature it grows in full sun and moist but not watery soil, from Minnesota to Florida. Mimic its native environment and you’ll have success with pitcher plant, too.
How It Works
An old wives' tale says the plant requires a constant diet of protein in the form of bugs or hamburger to feed it, but there is no truth to that tale. Pitcher plant is carnivorous because it traps and kills insects by luring them into its trumpet-shape pitchers. The insects tumble down into the pitcher, where they are trapped. Eventually the insects die, and their nutrients are absorbed by the plant for nourishment through special cells.
Pitcher Plant Care Must-Knows
Pitcher plants are best grown in the consistently moist soil of a bog garden. The bog garden should be in full sun to promote full leaf coloration and strong, upright growth. The plants grow best in a humusy muck that is constantly damp but doesn't have standing water. Irrigation hoses and rubber pond liners should be considered to create the just-right environment for pitcher plants.
Pitcher plants grow from rhizomes. Blooming for two to three weeks in spring, pitcher plants develop new pitchers, or leaves, in spring and summer, then die back to ground level in cold regions in late fall. In spring, cut back dead plant tissue.
Indoor gardening and pitcher plants don't mix. They require bright sunlight during the growing season and cold dormancy in winter; indoor gardening doesn't satisfy these needs.
Plant a Container Garden
Pots make it easy to enjoy pitcher plants. Rather than building a bog in your yard, a container can become a bog with a few simple steps. First fill a plastic container—plastic is best because it will retain moisture well—with 50-percent peat and 50-percent perlite or vermiculite. Do not use potting soil and fertilizer for pitcher plants, both have the potential to kill pitcher plants. Place the container in a spot that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. Set the pot in a tray filled with water. The constant moisture will keep the peat and perlite mixture wet, creating a boglike environment.
In Zones where pitcher plants are hardy, overwinter potted plants by burying the pot up to the rim in the garden. Choose a protected location, such as the south side of a building or in a protected corner of the landscape. Containers may be brought inside in winter and kept in a cool area, such as an unheated garage or basement. Keep soil moist in indoor locations.
More Varieties of Pitcher Plant
Yellow pitcher plant
(Sarracenia flava) has upright narrow leaves adapted into pitchers with round mouths and a semi-upright open flap covering them. Their nodding long-petalled flowers are chartreuse and appear in spring. They grow about 3 feet tall. Zones 7-10.
Plant Pitcher Plant With:
Take a walk down the primrose path and you'll never look back! Primroses are a classic cottage flower and are popular with collectors. They covet the hundreds of different primroses available, especially some of the tiny rare alpine types.Many are staples of cottage gardens and rock gardens, while others provide spring color to damp places, rain gardens, and bog gardens. Their basal rosettes of oval leaves are often puckered or are very smooth. The colorful flowers may be borne singly or rise in tiered clusters, or even spikes. Provide humus-high soil that retains moisture and some shade for best results.
The curious corkscrew rush loves wet or boggy conditions. It makes a fascinating architectural accent in planters, beds, and moist borders. It's technically leafless, with green cylindrical stems that are pointed at the tip. Plant rush alongside streams and ponds, though it will tolerate dryer conditions elsewhere. It's excellent in container gardens.