Fertilizing Nepenthes (type, method, etc.)

Discuss fertilization techniques here. For advanced growers only!
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Fertilizing Nepenthes (type, method, etc.)

by Veronis » Tue Sep 08, 2009 10:14 pm

I wouldn't normally do this, but I thought this discussion should be in a separate thread.

This stems from the Feeding Nepenthes Coffee thread where a discussion about fertilizer in general came up -

Matt wrote:
twigs wrote:Generally, fertilizer used is very specific, using the wrong kind can kill a plant. Also, it is usually diluted. I have just started using 1/4 strength orchid fertilizer on my Nepenthes and Cephs.

Do you put the fertilizer in the pitchers or pour it into the soil? I've been thinking about using orchid fertilizer on my Neps just to experiment as well. How often are you planning on fertilizing them?

I was thinking about starting with 1/4 strength orchid fertilizer and using it once a month.

Also, do you grow orchids? I just got a few myself and I flasked some seed from Steve_D's phalaenopsis that he sent me about a week ago. I might end up with a ton of Phals from that!


Sorry for the mess of "blah blah blah", but here's some details on Nep fertilization. I guess I enjoy compiling data based on research.

First, here are a few Nep ferts people have used:

- 20-14-13: This is the stuff a lot of Nep growers use and swear by it.
- 30-10-10: Several people use this orchid fertilizer as an alternative to the above. It's generally the easiest to find in local stores so it's not uncommon for Nep growers to use it.
- 16-16-16: Several top Nep growers (source: June or July ICPC newsletter, in an article about this fert) use Maxsea 16-16-16 seaweed fertilizer. No it doesn't have an overpowering smell, in case there are any sea-smell haters out there. It's been talked about so much on the forums over the last year that California Carnivores also adopted it as their fertilizer and are still using it today. Note that some people have said they use this particular gentle fertilizer at full strength and their Neps grow like mad, others use 1/2 strength with great results, and still others use 1/4 strength with great results. I'll probably switch to this stuff over the 20-14-13 soon and will probably start at 1/4 strength twice a month to see how it does.

Fertilizer that contains Urea, copper, or zinc should be minimal amounts (although some have used 13% Urea and claim that flushing the medium well resolves the buildup) must be flushed especially, as build-up can cause root burn and kill Neps.

Use 1/4 strength (for the fertilizer above, that's 1/4 tablespoon per gallon of water) and water it into the soil. Water it as though it's regular water - just until it leaks into the pot then water again when the soil just starts drying out. Do this about once every month in off-season, twice a month during summer/high growth season. If you don't flush the soil well (use 2x the water and let it run out) after you fertilize, you can get a buildup (salt/mineral) that will make the plant sick.

Some Nep growers say they put the fertilizer into the pitchers and they take it well (NO bugs in the pitchers if you use this method). Others state that they tried this trap-filling method and their traps died.

Lastly, foliar feeding was considered the least effective method (spraying the leaves). While some said they've seen improvements doing it this way, others have stated that it's not even worth fertilizing at all if you're going to foliar-feed, vs. feeding the roots via watering the soil, or watering fertilizer into the traps themselves.

Here's a good discussion we had on terraforums a while back regarding fertilizing Neps, when I had first started researching it - these guys are really knowledgeable: http://www.terraforums.com/forums/showt ... p?t=112821

After reading countless articles about Nep fertilization, I went with the 20-14-13 and water it into the soil, flushing it out 2 days later if you use a mixture with LFS that holds more water; you can stand to wait a little longer (say 3 days) if you use peat + mostly coarse materials in your Nep soil, e.g. perlite, charcoal, orchid bark, pumice, lava rock, etc. In any case, fertilizing can create algae in the soil but usually this algae is harmless and is nothing to worry about.

Another variable to mention - if your Neps get LOTS of light and are in prime living conditions (e.g. greenhouse, full sun) they can usually take a more concentrated dose of fertilizer.

Here's a slide show of the general size of pitchers forming without the 1/4 strength fertilizer I mentioned above, as well as a pitcher that was formed by the same plant AFTER the 20-14-13 fert was used at 1/4 strength by watering it into the soil. http://s138.photobucket.com/albums/q265 ... 3fb373.pbw - the results are pretty incredible. People have described similar results using the Maxsea 16-16-16 - right now Maxsea has the most attention in the CP world and a lot of people are switching to it.

As fertilizing Neps is not an exact science (yet...) and no two species of Neps are the same, your mileage may vary.
Last edited by Veronis on Tue Sep 08, 2009 10:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Fertilizing Nepenthes (type, method, etc.)

by hackerberry » Tue Sep 08, 2009 10:23 pm

Very nice discussion going on, I like the concept of this. Neps are more hardy with fertilizers than any other CPs so I believe that this will work. I tried a different approach and got great results in a matter of weeks. The leaf size tripled after foliar spraying with this PGR [24-Epi]. It's a little expensive but hey, I love to experiment.

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Re: Fertilizing Nepenthes (type, method, etc.)

by lemonlily » Tue Sep 08, 2009 10:28 pm

Do you fertilze the plants through the pitcher or the roots? I'm just guessing but I think it would be better to put the stuff in the pitchers because that's where insects get digested. But I'm not sure.
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Re: Fertilizing Nepenthes (type, method, etc.)

by hackerberry » Tue Sep 08, 2009 10:29 pm

I do Foliar and Pitcher feeding. PGRs for foliar/ bugs and fish pellets in the pitchers.

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Re: Fertilizing Nepenthes (type, method, etc.)

by Veronis » Tue Sep 08, 2009 10:37 pm

You can do either. Don't put any bugs in the pitchers if you fertilize the pitchers though. Some have had great success with this, others said it killed their pitchers.

If you fertilize the soil, make sure to flush it a few days afterward with 2x water and let it run out to reduce mineral buildup.

If your soil mix is really well drained (you use mostly coarse materials as opposed to using a lot of long-fiber sphagnum) the soil method would probably be better.

It's all trial and error; pick a method and look it up, or just try it out. :) Don't forget to dilute the fert though - 1/4 strength is generally considered the amount to use, once or twice a month.

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Re: Fertilizing Nepenthes (type, method, etc.)

by lemonlily » Wed Sep 09, 2009 1:25 am

I might have to try this when I actually do get a Nep, but they are sort of expensive so I might get one when I am better at growing carnivorous plants.

For those that are still experimenting, I would suggest you fertilize by the pitchers. That way, it won't harm the plant too much if something fails. Or at least you can tell what the problem is before the plant gets sick.

And to use the fertilizer, can you add less and water more often or something like that? I think if you can do that, it would be better to fertilize every once in a while but just give the smallest dose. Rather then feeding it once in a long time. Unless, it's those slow release pellets.

Though after all, you don't need to fertilize these plants, so don't risk it, if you've haven't don't enought research!
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Re: Fertilizing Nepenthes (type, method, etc.)

by allenc666 » Wed Sep 09, 2009 5:07 pm

well Lily there not that expensive.. an there much easier to grow than Venus Flytraps well most of them.. you don't need too fill the pitcher's with "water" since they make there own Digestive fluids.


Well, I'm not really a big fan of "fertilizing" the plant but if people want more pitcher's an growth that's fine.. but still it's better too let them grow naturally.

allen,
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Re: Fertilizing Nepenthes (type, method, etc.)

by lemonlily » Wed Sep 09, 2009 11:31 pm

I found them being quite expensive. I don't have a limit for how much to buy, but I'd rather buy one plant and have it make seeds, that way, I can see them grow from seed to plant. Or I would do pullings. I want to save. Save money for nothing. But, "money is important. If you were smart, you'd know that." Okay, that quote was from the radio. LOL!!!
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Re: Fertilizing Nepenthes (type, method, etc.)

by tommyr » Wed Jul 20, 2011 10:53 pm

*I* have found (other opinions may vary!) that a light spraying on the leaves of 1/4 strength orchid food in the spring every 2 weeks induces pitchering. It works for me.


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