Why Is My Pitcher Plant Brown and Crispy (+Easy Fix)

Dried out pitcher plant

Nepenthes pitcher plants have specific environmental needs and sometimes the pitchers can turn dry, brown, and crispy. So why is exactly is the upper half of your pitcher plant turning dried out, brown and crispy?

Pitchers drying up is a normal process but all of them drying up at the same time is generally a sign that it was not being kept in good condition. Just make sure the plant has the right soil, the right (amount) of water, and is grown by a window with full to part-sun. When the pitchers are brown, you can cut them off at the end of the leave.

Learning how to take care of your Nepenthes is important when you want a healthy and long-living plant.

Why are the Pitcher Cups brown and Crispy?

In order for a Nepenthes pitcher plant to have maximum and healthy growth without drying out or dying – it’s of great importance that the plant has the right environmental conditions. However, if the environmental conditions are good and the pitcher plant is still turning brown, it might be something else that is causing the traps to dry out/die.

Below I have listed 5 things that could cause a Nepenthes pitcher trap to turn brown and dry up or die as a whole.

  • The health of the plant is not optimum (water, sun, fertilizer, root damage, soil).
  • A natural part of life for the Nepenthes.
  • The trap has no fluid it in (solution: traps need to be at least 1/2 filled with distilled water).
  • The trap has caught something that is too big or is not able to digest properly.
  • Extreme weather conditions (frost or too much heat).

Proper Nepenthes Care to Avoid Brown Leaves

The most important thing if you want to grow a Nepenthes without it dying or drying out, is to make sure its health base is good. When the pitchers dry out, it’s probably one of the points below that is the issue.

Soil

Nepenthes pitcher plants prefer well-drained and porous soil. 1:1:1:1:1 peat:sand:perlite:fir bark:chopped Sphagnum will do great but you can also use pure live sphagnum moss. Never give a Nepenthes soil with fertilizer in it, the minerals will eventually kill the plant or stop the growth.

Light

Some low growing Nepenthes need less sun than other high growing ones. In general, they love the sun and they do best in full to part sun, some prefer more shade (be careful).

If a sunny windowsill is not available for your Nepenthes, you can also use artificial lights for the plant. Best is to use strong fluorescent lights with a minimum of 40 watts in actual output. Start with the lightbulb about 12 inches above the plant. Keep an eye on the plant and adjust the light source if you are not satisfied with the growth. Lastly, make sure to use an electrical timer which will give the plant a 14-hour photoperiod (hours of light per day).

Water

Nepenthes is prone to root rot when constantly in wet soil. Make sure you don’t use the water-tray method for your Nepenthes because the plant will die /dry out.

Put your finger on the soil and feel if it’s dry – if it is, then it’s time to water the plant. Best is to water from above until water comes out of the draining holes in the pot.

Temperature

Most types thrive at temperatures between 55-95°F (13-35°C). Highland species prefer cool night near 55°F (13°C) with temperatures of 77°F (25°C) during the day. Lowland species prefer 85°F (30°C) days and 70°F (20°C) nights. Lowland types are more tolerant of warmer conditions and usually easier to grow.

Humidity

Nepenthes pitcher plants are tropical plants, which is why they need a medium to high humidity year-round.

In any case, I would recommend buying a humidifier that you can place in the area that you are growing the nepenthes. This way you will always have the right humidity, which these plants like and keep them happy and healthy.

When choosing the right humidifier, you want to make sure it covers the right amount of square feet so that all of your nepenthes plants are enjoying the higher humidity. If you choose a humidifier that is too weak, you will still not provide the right amount of water in the air for the Nepenthes to grow. This will result in the pitchers drying out or dying when it’s too hot indoors.

Feeding

To ensure that the plant receives the right amount of nutrients to grow healthy – the plant will catch small insects on its own.

The nepenthes pitcher plant doesn’t need food to grow beautiful traps, but a lot of people on including myself have seen pitchers grow bigger when being fed. This doesn’t mean you should feed them every day – feeding them once every month is more than enough and only feed them when they are 3/4 filled with fluid (distilled water).

Feeding can be done by inserting live small insects, koi food pellets, or fish flakes in the trap. Never feed them any human food, this might be too rich in nutrients and the trap will dry out and die.

Natural Lifecycle of The Nepenthes Traps

Nepenthes pitcher traps can live and be healthy for a long time. However, when the traps dry out and die it can be just a sign that your plant is renewing its traps. How often the Nepenthes renews its trap is not known and can differ per species and the health of the care.

What Should I Do When my Pitcher Plant Dying/Dried Out?

It’s not necessary to cut off the dried out traps, but it looks more esthetically pleasing without these brown traps on the plant.

You can do three things:

  • Leave the dead traps hanging.
  • Cut off only the dead part of the trap.
  • Cut off the whole trap.
Where to cut pitcher trap
Photo by: Teresa Grau Ros

Some people suggest cutting only the dead part of the trap so that the insects inside the living part of the trap will still be digest and the nutrients will be taken in. After a couple of days/weeks when the other healthy half of the trap will be brown, you can cut the whole trap. Cutting is always done on the tip of the leaf (see picture) and with a pair of sterelized scissors.

You can also cut the whole pitcher trap off without damaging the plant, cutting at the end of the leaf (see picture). This way your plant will look healthier and you don’t have to worry about cutting the other part off later.

Conclusion

If the pitcher cups of the Nepenthes plant turn brown and crispy, there is no need to panic. Often the problem is small and can be fixed quite easily.

Even though the brown spots won’t go away you can chose to cut away the brown pitchers or you can leave them on the plant. After cutting away the brown and crispy cups, the pitcher will grow new cups if you care for it in the right way.

If you like Nepenthes, check out top 5 easy-to-grow Nepenthes!