Tom's Carnivores

The Interactive Guide

Nepenthes - also known as tropical pitcher plants or monkey cups - have been inspiring awe in botanists since they were first discovered by Europeans in the 17th century. With their dazzling colours and elaborately decorative traps, the plants seem to flaunt their carnivory with pride.

Ranging in size from diminutive miniatures like Nepenthes ampullaria to gargantuan monstrosities like Nepenthes rajah, the genus includes the only carnivorous plants known to have caught and eaten whole rats.

As with all plants, the key to successfully growing Nepenthes in cultivation is the ability to replicate the conditions of their natural habitat. Most Nepenthes species are found in Southeast Asia, particularly Borneo, Sumatra, and the Philippines, and the genus ranges from highland montane plants to those inhabiting steamy lowland jungles.

Below, you’ll find an interactive altitude chart covering every species, a calculator for growers of hybrids, a visualization of the day & night temperatures of these habitats, and finally advice on watering, light, and soil. Good growing!

  1. The Nepenthes Calculator
  2. Nepenthes Species List
  3. Nepenthes General Cultivation

1. The Nepenthes Calculator

Enter species (e.g. rajah):

N. x N.

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Elevation (m)Avg Day Temperature (°C)Avg Night Temperature (°C)
350016 - 224 - 12
300017 - 236 - 13
250018 - 248 - 15
200020 - 2610 - 17
150021 - 2712 - 18
100024 - 3015 - 21
50026 - 3217 - 23
029 - 3520 - 25

2. Nepenthes Species List

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NameLow (m)High (m)Region
Nepenthes lamii27003520New Guinea
Nepenthes diatas24002900Sumatra
Nepenthes angasanensis22002800Sumatra
Nepenthes densiflora17003200Sumatra
Nepenthes singalana20002900Sumatra
Nepenthes macrophylla22002642Borneo
Nepenthes villosa16003240Borneo
Nepenthes lavicola20002600Sumatra
Nepenthes diabolica22002300Sulawesi
Nepenthes murudensis20002423Borneo
Nepenthes aristolochioides18002500Sumatra
Nepenthes dubia16002700Sumatra
Nepenthes edwardsiana16002700Borneo
Nepenthes talangensis18002500Sumatra
Nepenthes lowii16502600Borneo
Nepenthes maryae20502150Sulawesi
Nepenthes nigra15002700Sulawesi
Nepenthes rajah15002650Borneo
Nepenthes inermis15002600Sumatra
Nepenthes muluensis17002400Borneo
Nepenthes monticola14002620New Guinea
Nepenthes flava18002200Sumatra
Nepenthes spathulata11002900Sumatra
Nepenthes hamata14002500Sulawesi
Nepenthes jacquelineae17002200Sumatra
Nepenthes jamban18002100Sumatra
Nepenthes kitanglad18002100Philippines
Nepenthes mikei11002800Sumatra
Nepenthes saranganiensis18002100Philippines
Nepenthes sumagaya16002247Philippines
Nepenthes lingulata17002100Sumatra
Nepenthes ovata17002100Sumatra
Nepenthes pantaronensis16002200Philippines
Nepenthes alba16002187Peninsular Malaysia
Nepenthes mantalingajanensis17002085Philippines
Nepenthes bongso10002700Sumatra
Nepenthes glabrata16002100Sulawesi
Nepenthes pectinata9502750Sumatra
Nepenthes xiphioides18001900Sumatra
Nepenthes alzapan17501850Philippines
Nepenthes izumiae17001900Sumatra
Nepenthes mollis13002400Borneo
Nepenthes rhombicaulis16002000Sumatra
Nepenthes robcantleyi17501850Philippines
Nepenthes spectabilis14002200Sumatra
Nepenthes undulatifolia17501850Sulawesi
Nepenthes copelandii11002400Philippines
Nepenthes naga15002000Sumatra
Nepenthes gracillima14002000Peninsular Malaysia
Nepenthes gymnamphora6002800Sumatra
Nepenthes stenophylla8002600Borneo
Nepenthes gantungensis16001784Philippines
Nepenthes ceciliae15001880Philippines
Nepenthes zygon15001875Philippines
Nepenthes petiolata14501900Philippines
Nepenthes argentii14001900Philippines
Nepenthes ephippiata13002000Borneo
Nepenthes pilosa15501650Borneo
Nepenthes pitopangii14001800Sulawesi
Nepenthes barcelonae15001700Philippines
Nepenthes attenboroughii14501726Philippines
Nepenthes mira15501605Philippines
Nepenthes appendiculata14501700Borneo
Nepenthes burkei11002000Philippines
Nepenthes pulchra13001800Philippines
Nepenthes macfarlanei9002150Peninsular Malaysia
Nepenthes boschiana12001800Borneo
Nepenthes burbidgeae12001800Borneo
Nepenthes eymae10002000Sulawesi
Nepenthes nebularum12001800Philippines
Nepenthes ventricosa10002000Philippines
Nepenthes tentaculata4002550Borneo, Sulawesi
Nepenthes klossii9302000New Guinea
Nepenthes tboli14131513Philippines
Nepenthes paniculata14101510New Guinea
Nepenthes chaniana11001800Borneo
Nepenthes ramispina9002000Peninsular Malaysia
Nepenthes fusca3002500Borneo
Nepenthes glandulifera11001700Borneo
Nepenthes hamiguitanensis12001600Philippines
Nepenthes leonardoi13001490Philippines
Nepenthes sibuyanensis12501500Philippines
Nepenthes micramphora11001635Philippines
Nepenthes minima10001700Sulawesi
Nepenthes maxima402600Very wide
Nepenthes justinae10001620Philippines
Nepenthes rigidifolia10001600Sumatra
Nepenthes peltata8651635Philippines
Nepenthes vogelii10001500Borneo
Nepenthes deaniana11801296Philippines
Nepenthes alata5501900Philippines
Nepenthes junghuhnii11701270Sumatra
Nepenthes aenigma11501250Philippines
Nepenthes pudica11001300Borneo
Nepenthes palawanensis11001236Philippines
Nepenthes dactylifera8001500Borneo
Nepenthes platychila9001400Borneo
Nepenthes reinwardtiana02200Borneo, Sumatra
Nepenthes tenuis10001200Sumatra
Nepenthes tobaica3801800Sumatra
Nepenthes ampullaria02100Very wide
Nepenthes sanguinea3001800Peninsular Malaysia, Thailand
Nepenthes negros6701400Philippines
Nepenthes ramos6701400Philippines
Nepenthes cornuta9501050Philippines
Nepenthes epiphytica9501050Borneo
Nepenthes faizaliana4001600Borneo
Nepenthes khasiana5001500India
Nepenthes surigaoensis8001200Philippines
Nepenthes talaandig9501050Philippines
Nepenthes bokorensis8001080Cambodia
Nepenthes adnata6001200Sumatra
Nepenthes leyte850950Philippines
Nepenthes erucoides800929Philippines
Nepenthes eustachya01600Sumatra
Nepenthes veitchii01600Borneo
Nepenthes graciliflora3001280Philippines
Nepenthes cid720820Philippines
Nepenthes armin700800Philippines
Nepenthes benstonei1501350Peninsular Malaysia
Nepenthes macrovulgaris3001200Borneo
Nepenthes mapuluensis700800Borneo
Nepenthes mirabilis01500Very wide
Nepenthes smilesii01500Southeast Asia
Nepenthes truncata01500Philippines
Nepenthes weda4151014Halmahera, Indonesia
Nepenthes clipeata600800Borneo
Nepenthes holdenii600800Cambodia
Nepenthes longifolia3001100Sumatra
Nepenthes mindanaoensis01400Philippines
Nepenthes neoguineensis01400New Guinea
Nepenthes abgracilis620720Philippines
Nepenthes hirsuta2001100Borneo
Nepenthes krabiensis600700Thailand
Nepenthes papuana01300New Guinea
Nepenthes rafflesiana01200Very wide
Nepenthes albomarginata01100Borneo, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra
Nepenthes gracilis01100Very wide
Nepenthes merrilliana01100Philippines
Nepenthes pervillei350750Seychelles
Nepenthes thai500600Thailand
Nepenthes rosea450520Thailand
Nepenthes chang300600Thailand
Nepenthes hispida100800Borneo
Nepenthes kerrii400500Thailand
Nepenthes insignis0850New Guinea
Nepenthes vieillardii0850New Caledonia
Nepenthes beccariana0800Sumatra
Nepenthes bellii0800Philippines
Nepenthes extincta350450Philippines
Nepenthes sumatrana0800Sumatra
Nepenthes halmahera10760Halmahera, Indonesia
Nepenthes bicalcarata0700Borneo
Nepenthes distillatoria0700Sri Lanka
Nepenthes kampotiana0600Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam
Nepenthes philippinensis0600Philippines
Nepenthes samar0600Philippines
Nepenthes madagascariensis0500Madagascar
Nepenthes northiana0500Borneo
Nepenthes tomoriana0500Sulawesi
Nepenthes campanulata100300Borneo, Philippines
Nepenthes masoalensis0400Madagascar
Nepenthes ultra0400Philippines
Nepenthes danseri0320Halmahera, Indonesia
Nepenthes hemsleyana0200Borneo
Nepenthes suratensis0200Thailand
Nepenthes thorelii0200Vietnam
Nepenthes viridis0120Philippines
Nepenthes parvula080Australia
Nepenthes rowaniae080Australia
Nepenthes tenax080Australia
Nepenthes treubiana080New Guinea
Nepenthes abalata050Philippines
Nepenthes andamana050Thailand
Nepenthes kongkandana050Thailand

3. Nepenthes Cultivation

Where to grow Tropical pitcher plants

There are over 160 species of Nepenthes, plus countless natural and cultivated hybrids. Their habitats are hugely diverse, and some are far more adaptable growers than others. For this reason, it’s very difficult to offer generalised advice which is applicable to all tropical pitcher plants! The guidance below is a good starting point, but one that will need to be adapted to suit your chosen species.

When selecting a location for your Nepenthes, you must consider light, temperature, humidity, and space. Most tropical pitcher plants grow in the upper canopy of the rainforest and prefer very bright light, but without much direct sun. Diffused or partial sun is ideal, but high-powered fluorescent lights (such as T5 growlights) can also work well. Spindly leaves and a lack of colouration are signs of insufficient light. Nepenthes do not require a winter dormancy, but the shorter daylight hours will often slow them down over the colder season.

Temperatures should be within the ranges illustrated on the charts above. For most intermediate and highland species, 25°C during the day and 15°C at night is ideal. True lowland species require closer to 30°C days and 20°C nights, and can be killed by cold snaps. Humidity should ideally be high - a lack of developing pitchers can be a sign of low humidity. Don’t forget you can monitor your conditions using a temperature and humidity sensor to determine which species could grow well for you.

Beginner-Friendly Species

Note that Nepenthes hybrids are often easier growers than pure species plants (on account of so-called ‘hybrid vigour’). As such, don’t limit yourself to just species when looking to start your collection.

Below I have listed a few Nepenthes species and hybrids which are known to tolerate a wide range of conditions, along with some of the hybrids you’ll frequently find in garden centres and large nurseries.

Nepenthes for beginners! From left to right, N. 'Rebecca Soper', N. maxima, N. 'Bloody Mary'.
Nepenthes for beginners! From left to right, N. 'Rebecca Soper', N. maxima, N. 'Bloody Mary'.

Soil for Nepenthes

Nepenthes are very tolerant when it comes to soil. They enjoy a loose, low-nutrition growing medium which keeps their roots aerated and allows excess water to quickly drain away while still retaining some moisture.

Popular mixtures tend to include a combination of long-fibered sphagnum moss, orchid bark, tree fern fiber, coconut husk fiber, sand, perlite, and pumice rock in varying ratios. Many growers successfully grow their highlanders in pure long-fibered sphagnum moss. Exactly how coarse your soil should be is dependent on numerous other factors, including ambient humidity, frequency of watering, and the species and age of your plant.

As a general rule, however, a mixture of long-fibered sphagnum moss, perlite, and - optionally - orchid bark works well. If you plan to mix your own compost, I highly recommend The Sphagnum Shop as the best place to buy high quality New Zealand sphagnum in the UK - you can use the code TOMS10% to get 10% off your order.

Alternatively, you can buy ready-made Nepenthes compost in my online shop.

Watering Nepenthes

Water frequently, keeping the soil damp at all times and never letting it dry out. Unlike many other carnivores, Nepenthes are not bog plants and do not appreciate having waterlogged soil. As such, avoid standing them in water for extended periods, since this will cause root rot.

Nepenthes are far more tolerant of water impurities than other carnivorous plants. Whereas American pitcher plants (Sarracenia) will quickly deteriorate if given hard water from the tap, tropical pitcher plants do not seem to mind as much. Impurities can build up over time, however, and will often accelerate the breakdown of your soil mixture. For long-term healthy growth, stick to rainwater, distilled or deionised water, or water purified using a reverse-osmosis (RO) system.

What to feed your Tropical pitcher plant

If you are growing your Nepenthes where they will not be able to catch their own food, dried insects can be dropped into the pitchers every few week weeks. These should be small enough to fit comfortably inside the pitcher. Do not overfeed, or your plant’s pitchers may turn black and rot.

My recommended foods for Venus flytraps will all work, but dried crickets are particularly suitable for Nepenthes. For experienced growers with larger collections, I would also recommend Osmocote Flower and Vegetable pellets - I tried these following recommendations from Peter D’Amato and Natch Greyes, and the results have been excellent.

Unlike many other carnivores, Nepenthes can also benefit from foliar fertilisation. During the spring & summer, spraying your plant with a weak solution of high-quality orchid fertiliser several times a month can help promote good growth. However, you should remember that no fertiliser is better than too much, and look to take care of all your plant’s other needs (lighting, temperature, humidity, and so on) before thinking about feeding & fertilisation.

From left to right, Nepenthes lowii, Nepenthes veitchii, Nepenthes macrophylla.
From left to right, Nepenthes lowii, Nepenthes veitchii, Nepenthes macrophylla.

If you’re interested in Nepenthes hybridisation, flowers & pollination, propagation methods, or other advanced areas of cultivation, I’ve listed some recommended resources and expert blogs below. This list is obviously not comprehensive!

If you’re looking to buy a tropical pitcher plant you might want to take a look at my shop. Got a question? Please send me an email.