Nepenthes - Monkey Cup Plants


Nepenthes × ventrata (Interspecific hybrid between N. alata & N. ventrata). 



Contents

  1. Top Tips
  2. Introduction
  3. Location, Water, Humidity & Fertilisation
  4. Dormancy Care
  5. Common Issues
  6. Origins, Temperature, Propagation, Repotting & Toxicity.


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Introduction

To get the most out your specimen and this article, learning about how a Monkey Cup Plant functions is an excellent place to start. Many people will have a vague idea of how the mechanics of the plant works; however, the science behind this is much more enjoyable. The insect is lured into the hollow chamber via its smells of sweet nectar and bright colours. Once inside, the slippery surface and downward-pointing hairs will cause the prey to cascade into a pool of liquid, where it'll instantly sink and drown in digestive-acid. The detailed tops of the Pitcher (otherwise known as a Monkey Cup) are created by a cluster of window-like structures, formed from groups of chlorophyll-deficient cells that enables light into the chamber, enticing the insects to enter.




Top Tips & Info

  • Care Difficulty - Very Easy
  • Provide a bright location with the possibility of morning sunlight for an hour or two.
  • Allow the top third of the compost to dry in between waters, avoiding the risk of total dehydration. Although short-lived droughts can be tolerated by your specimen, we'd recommend introducing a pebble tray to promote a more reliable environment and slow the rates of drying soil. 
  • Feed one live insect a week, reducing this to monthly in the autumn and winter. Do not over-feed or give the specimen any other plant-fertiliser as it'll lead to root burn and death. Place the specimen outside during the spring and summer for it to catch its prey and regain its health.
  • Repotting is a rare practice for carnivorous plants, as their root systems tend to be quite sparse. Only use a Carnivorous-labelled potting mix during a transplant, as anything else will contain too many chemicals that'll lead to fertiliser-burn.
  • It's entirely reasonable for a loss of Pitchers over the winter months; as long as there's still a few healthy leaves leftover, it'll bounce back in the spring in no time!




Location & Light - 🔸🔸🔸

Perfecting the amount of light a Monkey Cup Plant receives is crucial for a long-lasting specimen. During the spring and summer, be sure to provide a brightly lit spot away from any direct light. Excessive exposure during this time will negatively affect the plant in the likes of sun-scorch and dehydration. Once the autumn kicks in, be sure to include an hour or two of direct light per day to get it through the dormancy period, lasting until the following spring.


Water - 🔸🔸🔸

This genus must sit in continual moist soil, with specimens left outside or near a window being monitored frequently. Never to pour water directly in the Pitchers as they'll self-regulate the enzymes and liquids secreted over the course of the week. Under-watering symptoms include browned leaf-tipsstunted growth and rapidly declining foliage - be sure to place the pot around 1cm deep in water to counteract dehydration. Those situated in brighter areas will have their compost dry significantly quicker than others in cool, darker settings. Over-watering symptoms include a rotten crown, mouldy soil and yellow or brown lower leaves. Take the specimen out of its pot and inspect its root health; if you feel that root rot has taken over, be sure to visit this link!


Humidity - 🔸🔸

Create a humidity tray to provide a moist and stable environment. If the surrounding saturation is too low or the heat too high, its foliage may start to brown over and curl at the tip, especially in strong light. Hose the foliage down from time to time to hydrate the leaves and keep the dust levels down, but NOT directly into the Pitchers.


Fertilisation - 🔸🔸

Many people panic over what to feed their plant. Natural prey like spiders, flies, mosquitoes and even slugs are the only food that they should digest. Never feed them cake, meat or stones as this will kill the individual Pitcher or even spell the end of the plant's life. Dead insects should be avoided too, as the trichomes can detect whether or not there's something inside it, and if the prey doesn’t move, digestion won't take place. The final point to mention is never to allow it to digest something bigger than one-third of the Pitchers' size; the lips won't be able to shut entirely, thus wasting vital energy in the process.

Keep the plant outside once the nighttime temperatures are above 10⁰C (50⁰F) so that it can catch its own prey. There's nothing better for a carnivorous plant than to allow it to breathe, digest, and photosynthesise in the fresh outdoors without human intervention.




Dormancy Care

The final element for a long-lasting carnivorous plant is a vital resting period during the autumn and winter months. While keeping the soil moist, reduce insect-feeds to almost none, as in the wild airborne prey tend to be less in numbers during this time. Reduce the ambient temperature to around 12℃  (54℉)  during the night to reinforce this critical period - even a cool windowsill will be sufficient enough. If its dormancy is served well, you'll be rewarded with a flurry of juvenile growth towards the start of spring season.

Those that don't serve an adequate dormancy period will show signs of weak spring growth, along with a shorter life span.




Common Issues with Monkey Cup Plant

Too little light accompanied by water-logging will cause the lower leaves to rapidly yellow and rot. Although this is a natural response to ageing on a smaller extent, persistent yellowing and a near absence of foliage should only occur during the winter. If this is the case during the height of summer, action must be taken immediately. Place the plant in a location that receives little direct sunlight out of peak hours, or outside if possible. Although it will take several weeks for the plant to start to recover, better-growing conditions with the occasional insect will significantly benefit its overall health. Other causes for yellowing leaves are sun-scorch or the use of a non-carnivorous potting mix. Monkey Cup Plants must not be repotted into any other compost, as the chemicals will quickly lead to root-burn and inevitable death.

Under-developed or deformed Pitchers are caused by persistent under-watering or too much sunlight. Dry soil must be avoided at all times for success as they grow naturally in moist nooks of the trees. After a few weeks of moist environment, better growth should start to develop.

Complete dehydration will cause the foliage to crisp up and die. Instead of discarding the plant, remove all of the affected leaves and maintain moist soil. Monkey Cup Plants have a modified stem, whereby its 'rhizome' will still store enough energy to reproduce new foliage. Have a look at the image below to learn more.

Cold tap water will quickly damage the plant with foliage-loss and stunted growth. The cold temperatures and high levels of chloride typically found with taps water should be replaced by either rainwater or fresh bottled water. If you were to use water from the tap, help the situation by allowing it to stand for 24hrs in a non-mental container before application.

Mould developing on the soil means two things - too little light and over-watering. Despite the harmlessness, it'll prove unsightly to most gardeners and is therefore removed once known. To remove, replace the top two inches of the soil for a fresh batch of carnivorous-labelled compost. Either increase the amount of light received (no direct sunlight for the first few weeks to prevent environmental shock) or decrease the frequency of waters slightly. If the mould is accompanied by yellowing lower leaves, you may also have a case of root rot.




Origins

The two most popular Nepenthes species sold indoors, N. alata and N. ventrata, have natural distributions to the Philippines, and were first described by Francisco Manuel Blanco in 1837. The origins of its name, Nepenthes, could either refer to the Latin word for 'rare' (nepenth) or from the Ancient Greek word for 'grief' or 'pain', that may refer to the fate of its victimised insects.


The Distribution of Nepenthes alata & N. ventrata


Temperature 

12° - 38°C   (50 - 100°F)
H1b  (Hardiness Zone 11)  - Can be grown outdoors between late spring and summer throughout most of the UK while nighttime temperatures are above 12℃ (54℉). If you decide to bring the plant outdoors, don't allow it to endure more than an hour of direct sunlight a day as it may result in sun-scorch. Regularly keep an eye out for pests, especially when re-introducing back indoors.


Spread

Over 0.2m in height and 0.2m in width once maturity is reached. The ultimate height will take around 5 years to achieve, but can live for over 10 years in the right conditions.


Pruning & Maintenance

Remove yellow or dying leaves, and plant debris to encourage better-growing conditions. While pruning, always use clean utensils or shears to reduce the chance of bacterial and fungal diseases. Never cut through yellowed tissue as this may cause further damage in the likes of diseases or bacterial infections. Remember to make clean incisions as too-damaged wounds may shock the plant, causing weakened growth and a decline in health.


Propagation

Via Seed, Basal Offset Division & Stem Cuttings.

Seeds (Easy) - The only soil you can use is a carnivorous-labelled compost, as other mixes will retain too many chemicals that'll burn the cases of the seeds. Set the seeds on top of the soil's surface, resisting the temptation to compact it. Maintain evenly moist compost and allow the excess water to freely drain from the pot's base to prevent water-logging. The ideal location for successful germination is in a bright, indirect setting with temperatures above 18℃ (64℉) with bottom-heat. Keep the pot in a transparent bag to provide a stable level of humidity, along with longer-lasting soil moisture. Germination may take up to three months, so don't discard any unsuccessful seeds until this threshold has been surpassed. Remove the bag once the seedlings produce their second leaf and then split them into their own 5cm (2 inches) pots after a further month.

Basal Offset Division (Easy) - Your plant will produce several offsets that can be separated once they have a sufficient root system, with the biggest Pitcher surpasses 8cm. If possible, water the soil 24hrs before the main event to reduce the risk of transplant shock, when its dry root systems are over-fingered. Take the plant out of its pot and place your fingers close to the nodal junction - compost may have to be removed for better access. Push the chosen offset downwards until you hear a snap. Separate the foliage and its root system away from the mother plant, mentally noting the high risk of damage. Transplant in the appropriate sized pot with a fresh batch of carnivorous soil. Maintain evenly moist soil and situate it in a bright, indirect location away from any direct sunlight. After four weeks, treat it like a healthy specimen, following the care tips above!

Stem Cuttings (Difficult) - Choose the healthiest stems located at the leading growths; these should be damage-free and healthy. Cut off at least five inches and remove the older half of the leaves for the reduction of transpiration (moisture loss).
Soil: Use a well-draining potting mix and 8cm pot, namely Carnivorous compost, and place the bottom half of the cutting into compost. Try not to cover the actual foliage with soil as this will harm its light-capturing efficiency, along with higher rates of rotting. Water the specimen once the top inch dries out, along with introducing a pebble tray to improve humidity levels and decrease transpiration. Situate it in a bright, indirect setting with temperatures above 18°C (64°F). Be sure to pierce a few holes in the bag and actively remove any yellow or rotten debris to present a healthier environment. After three weeks of substantial foliar growth, treat it as an adult specimen using the information mentioned above.


Flowers

Monkey Cup plants will take many years to mature and produce a show of blooms. The typical time to develop flowers is in the spring, but may occur later in the summer months in some cases, Unfortunately, due to the unfavored growing conditions found in a domestic setting, most Monkey Cup Plants won't flower in their lifetimes. 


The Inflorescence of Nepenthes spectabilis x ventricosa. Copyright: Eden Project. 


Repotting

Repot every three or four years in spring using only a carnivorous-labelled compost and the next sized pot with adequate drainage. Hydrate the plant 24hrs before the tinkering with the roots to prevent the risk of transplant shock. If you're still unsure of what to do, never hesitate to send us an email or direct message to get our expert advice on transplantation. Never use any other compost as the chemicals typically found in these soils will burn the roots, killing the plant outright.

Book a 1-to-1 video call with Joe Bagley if you'd like a personal guide to repotting your houseplant. This will include recommending the right branded-compost and pot size, followed by a live video call whilst you transplant the specimen for step-by-step guidance and answer any further questions!


Pests & Diseases

Keep an eye out for mealybugs, aphids, spider mites, scale, blackfly, soil mites & root mealybugs that'll locate themselves in the cubbyholes and undersides of the leaves, with the exception of the latter two in the soil. Common diseases associated with Monkey Cup Plants are root rot, leaf-spot disease, botrytis, powdery mildew & southern blight - click here to learn more about these issues.


Toxicity

Not known to be poisonous when consumed by pets and humans. If large quantities are eaten, it may result in vomiting, nausea and a loss of appetite.


Retail Locations

Online Stores.



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