Grow Happy and Healthy Cephalotus follicularis - Australian Pitcher Plants

Cephalotus follicularis - Australian Pitcher Plants

Unpacking and Planting your Cephalotus

When you first receive your Cephalotus pitcher plant — carefully unpack the plant being careful not to spill any of the sand topping the soil. It is a good idea to keep the plant in elevated humidity conditions for at least the first week or two as it settles into its new environment. This can either be done by putting a clear plastic baggie over the pot, using the protective plastic dome that the plant shipped with, or with a humidity dome. Keep it in bright, but indirect light. Be sure to ventilate the dome occasionally and be sure not to put the plant in full sun when it is covered or it will get too hot and cook your new Cephalotus!
Always keep the soil damp and NEVER allow it to dry completely. Use only rainwater, distilled water, or reverse osmosis water. Your tap water is likely to contain too much of dissolved solids—minerals and salts—that may kill a Cephalotus, possibly within weeks. If growing in a 4-inch pot like we ship our plants in, we recommend keeping the pot in a tray of water that is about ½ to ¾ of an inch deep. Cephalotus DO NOT like being waterlogged. If kept too wet, Cephalotus will succumb to root rot and are notorious for “sudden Cephalotus death syndrome” (rapid plant collapse). For that reason, we recommend never watering from the top and not keeping too much water in their water tray. .
Cephalotus prefer a particular kind of soil that is poor in nutrients and slightly acidic. They will very likely die in "potting soil" or soil from your garden or yard. Their soil must be like the soil in their natural habitat: acidic and with almost no nutrients, moisture-retentive but well-drained. Most growers use pure sphagnum peat moss (no other kind of "moss") mixed with a more or less equal amount of silica sand (not beach or river or "play" sand) and/or perlite.
Cephalotus love bright light and do best when grown in a greenhouse setting, a very sunny windowsill, or under artificial lights that are very strong. They can also be grown outdoors in full sun though may not appreciate a lot of sun in a very hot environment. Cephalotus are more tolerant of lower light conditions than most carnivorous plants and can thrive in a sunny south-facing windowsill.
NO Soil Fertilizer
Never! Although experienced growers occasionally fertilize Cephalotus lightly, Cephalotus will probably die when fertilized by beginner growers, for the same reason that they usually die from tap water: too many minerals and chemicals. These burn the plants' roots and kill them. Cephalotus get all the nutrition they need from the sun (through photosynthesis like any plant) and from the insects they catch. If your plant isn’t catching insects and it has mature pitchers, it is a good idea to manually feed the pitchers with dried insects, like bloodworms or similar, that are rehydrated and dropped in the mature pitchers. Alternatively, some growers dilute a high-nitrogen fertilizer in water and use droppers to occasionally put a few drops in the mature pitchers.
Ideal growing Temperatures and Dormancy
Cephalotus enjoy growing in moderate temperatures, ideally between 60°F and 85°F) and also appreciate elevated humidity levels, though high humidity is not a requirement. They can stand lights freezes and also can tolerate very hot temperatures, but will often sulk (and possibly perish) unless kept in moderate temperatures. A good rule of thumb is if the temperature feels good for humans, it will also be good for Cephalotus. Cephalotus do not require dormancy and can be grown indoors year-round under artificial lighting. However, without seasonal cues, Cephalotus will never flower. In order to flower, the photoperiod must vary with the seasons.

When it is Time to repot – after your plant completely fills its 4-inch pot

Planting media
Until you learn what alternative planting media will also work, plant Cephalotus in a mixture of 50% pure sphagnum peat moss and 50% silica sand. If your plant came shipped from, it will already be potted in this mix. If you can't obtain sand that is composed of almost pure silica (such as sandblasting or pool filter sand and not river nor beach nor desert nor sandbox "play" sand), then use perlite instead of sand. Warning: do not use Miracle-Gro brand sphagnum peat moss nor perlite; they are "enriched" with plant food that may kill Cephalotus.
Planting container
Cephalotus enjoy deep pots. Use glazed ceramic, plastic, or insulating polyurethane foam planting containers that have a drainage hole and are at least 4 inches deep, and preferably 6-8 inches deep. As your small Cephalotus grows and fills the 4-inch pot it was shipped in, we do recommend to “up pot” it rather than removing the soil from the roots. Cephalotus are very sensitive to root disturbance and can be set back dramatically to the point where they lose all their foliage or even perish when uprooted. Thus, when your Cephalotus fills out the entire 4 inch pot it shipped in, we recommend dumping the entire pot over while being careful not to spill any soil and then setting the entire soil and root bundle into a hole made in a larger pot. We also recommend covering the surface of the soil with a layer of silica sand (¼ to ½ an inch). This keeps the crown of the plant a little dryer, which helps prevent crown rot – a primary killer of Cephalotus, and helps slow down algae and carpet moss growth. Keep humidity elevated for a week or two after repotting.