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Favi's Heli Thread

I received my Heliamphora nutans x ionasii from a great friend, on February 24 of this year. As you can see in the picture the size, shape and color is just gorgeous.

The medium consists of LFS & Cypress mulch and I feed it these fish pellets:

I put a plastic bag over it, with a light on top. I had it like that for about a week before I started putting holes in the bag in order to lower the humidity. At the end of the second week, I put it on my office’s windowsill. I thought that two 40 watt spot lights would be enough since it was getting some sun light. As you can see in the picture that is all new growth. I cut off all the old pitchers it had from when I first received it.

This is the bulbs I used:

The pitchers obviously weren't getting enough light which is why they have this shape.

So I talked to my friend and I decided to change it to 6500K. The previous bulb was only 2700K
These are the 6500K:

I decided to not only change the light bulbs but also, move it into my desk where it be cooler and not get the heat from the window.

After a week, color started appearing!

And better shape!

And larger growth!

And finally, A GREAT FORM :)

I’m very happy with the outcome and I will keep an update on the next pitchers to come!
Thank you for your time!
Wow.... nice gift and very well done Favi!

Looks like you graduated Heli 101 with honors lol
Very nice photodocumented example on the effects of lighting on Heliamphora.

Looks great Favian :) I have used 27 watt (="100 watt incandescent equivalent") compact fluorescent lights to grow Heliamphora for many years. You are getting very nice results with a lower powered bulb, but FWIW you may find that the stronger bulbs give even better results or allow you to use fewer bulbs. I grow my tallest tatei under 2 of these 27 watt (consumption) bulbs.
I use 42 watt (consumption) 6500k 2900 lumen CFLs for my Nepenthes and Heliamphora with good results. They don't give the plants much color though.
Thank you, guys! The other two new pitchers are looking great! I will post in two weeks for followup!
One problem with CFL's is a lot of energy is lost due to so much of the bulb being pointed in the wrong direction....
Very hard (impossible) to efficiently focus that energy... why you don't see them in the ceilings of walmart stores etc etc.

good solution, and many times the right solution, but they have their downside...
Favian: great photos and plants, thanx főr sharing. You are truly talented.

For the fish food....can you post a picture of the ingredients listing?
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One problem with CFL's is a lot of energy is lost due to so much of the bulb being pointed in the wrong direction....
Very hard (impossible) to efficiently focus that energy... why you don't see them in the ceilings of walmart stores etc etc.

good solution, and many times the right solution, but they have their downside...

Butch, I be open to suggestions on what would be the next step up, in lighting for this species. :D
Favian: great photos and plants, thanx főr sharing. You are truly talented.

For the fish food....can you post a picture of the ingredients listing?

Thank you, Maiden!!!

Here is a, picture.

  • #10
Update on the new, pitcher:

  • #11
Butch, I be open to suggestions on what would be the next step up, in lighting for this species. :D

Favi, the advice given to you for a specimen plant was spot on IMHO... and the improvement in your plant is clear evidence of that.
I would not use them for a typical full sized rack system, but some do, and do so very successfully. They are just not very efficient IMHO, and this inefficiency adds up with the number of fixtures used.

Every indoor lighting option has its disadvantages.

The lighting requirements of Heliamphora exceed that of most if not all other Cp's.
While many can grow them, few get the color that they should.
When looking at lighting options, everyone wants to give you advice, and that's great. When they do, ask to see their Helis, then judge the performance for yourself.

We have quite a few true indoor heli "growers of distinction" on TF, ask them what they use and what kind of setup they have (pics?)
(some have already been giving you their feedback)

When you get ready to make the jump to a larger setup, holler at me via pm or txt and I'll give ya my opinions as well :p

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  • #13
And so the threadjacking begins. It is certainly true that we see many sad yellow green etiolated Heliamphora in cultivation. It is also true that cfl's have disadvantages, including inefficiency. I have never tried to illuminate large areas with cfl's, but they are handy for illuminating tall and narrow individuals that can't play well with a lighting solution that is supposed to illuminate a bunch of smaller plants and one or two tall ones. I think Butch is saying as much when he says cfls are good for specimens. FWIW, this is what tatei Cerro Duida looks like after years of growing under cfls:


In any case, I think all growers should interpret this claim with great care:

While many can grow them, few get the color that they should.

My purpose here is to discuss the evidence we have, not to start a fight. Spreading our increasing knowledge of photoprotection has been kind of a hobby horse for me, I think it's really important that artificial light growers understand the newer research on anthocyanins, coloration, and photoprotection.

What color should Heliamphora have? Clearly, yellow green etiolated plants are unattractive and are not displaying their true leaf form. Increasing the light will restore leaf form, but this can occur without reaching full blood red coloration. In this photo I think both plants exhibit their true leaf form, but neither is blood red. FWIW the pulchella was growing under a 27 watt cfl for convenience, while the sarracenioides was growing under t12's. (The latter too, I readily agree, are inefficient light sources.)


If we add even more light, or drop the temp, we can keep the leaf form but also attain full blood red coloration. I agree that full blood red or purple coloration is attractive to the eye. And if the grower's goal is to achieve that coloration, so be it. Add more light and/or drop the temperature, they'll turn really red. There's no mystery to it, it's easily done.

However, my (perhaps false) perception is that many growers go a step further, and believe that full blood red coloration is not just a horticultural goal, it's a sign that the plant has reached its optimal state. In other words, full blood red is not just pleasing to the eye, full blood red is *evidence* that the plant is maximally happy. This view, which I am not attributing to Butch or anyone else for that matter, is at best questionable, and at worst, simply false. It is also the case that if efficiency is a key criterion, *no* artificial light gardener should ever apply enough light to turn a Heliamphora blood red.

Why? Older literature (some is referenced in eg Juniper et al) focused on interpreting coloration in terms of prey attraction. However, evidence continues to mount that anthocyanins serve an essential photoprotective function. Here is an easily available older paper on photoprotection, but you can find much more on the subject:


Things we know for sure:
1) In simple terms, blue and red light are the photosynthetically useful wavelengths.
2) The enzymes involved in photosynthesis use these wavelengths to make sugar, they are essential for plant life.
3) The rate at which these enzymes can process photons is temperature dependent. At lower temps, the rate drops.
4) When photons are supplied in excess of the rate at which the enzymes can process them, bad things happen. One bad thing is reactive oxygen species will form; in simple terms, these are undesirable substances that can damage the plant.

Given claim (1) and (2), it's sort of mysterious why a Heliamphora or any other plant would turn full blood red. Red light makes food! So why on earth would a plant turn red and *reflect* that light away? The answer used to be adaptation to attract prey, but it is increasingly clear that the correct answer is that the plant is protecting itself from more photons than it can process at that temperature. In other words, the plant is turning red specifically in order to reject excess photons that would otherwise create ROS and cause damage. This interpretation is consistent with my own experience, Favian's, and I daresay all growers: drop the temp and or increase the light, and the plant turns red. In habitat in Oregon, I'll never forget seeing green Darlingtonia along the edge of a frigid snowmelt stream. They had runners extending into the water, and young plantlets on those runners were completely submerged, and full blood red. The same clones exposed to the same sun, yet the underwater plants were blood red. It's because the water was so cold, the plantlets could not take that much light, so they were reflecting it back. Rejecting it is maybe a better description.

Full blood red coloration on a Heliamphora simply is not evidence that the plant has reached *its* optimal state. It is evidence that the plant is getting more light than it can profitably use, so the plant is reflecting that energy away, in order to protect itself. It is at best unclear whether a blood red Heliamphora is successfully managing overexposure to light, or whether it is suffering from ROS related damage despite its efforts to reflect away red light (or in the extreme purple cases, red *and* blue light.). Even if one wants to question the photoprotective interpretation of anthocyanin production, it is indisputable that a blood red plant is returning the supplied red wavelengths to sender. This is why I say, if efficiency is really a key criterion for an artificial light grower, it is undeniable that light is being wasted on a blood red plant--the plant is definitely reflecting it rather than absorbing it, the evidence supports the view that it is reflecting it so as not to be damaged by the excess of photons, it is certain that excess photons can cause damage, and it is unknown whether a blood red Heliamphora is experiencing damage from excess photons.

I think the research on photoprotection is fascinating, and like I said, I think it is very relevant for artificial light growers as they evaluate the growth of their plants and the performance and scale of their light systems. All light systems have advantages and disadvantages, this is indisputable. And like I said, full blood red is attractive to the eye; if that's the grower's goal, that's their business imo. But I do think we have very good reasons to question the view that full blood red coloration is evidence that the plant is maximally happy. (And as I said, maybe that view is a straw man, I've never seen anyone make that claim. But I suspect that some believe it.) We also have good reason to reject full blood red coloration if efficiency is a key goal, because such plants are indisputably reflecting away PAR that has been supplied at great cost, effort, and in many cases, by burning coal. It would definitely be more efficient to supply less light, and possibly (though this is unclear), the plants would be healthier, even if less attractive to the eye.
  • #14
The only thing I would add to Mike's excellent points is that it is also very species dependent.
If you look at pictures of my rack you will see many species grown together under identical conditions.
Not all species will turn red, and trying to make them red is pointless. There are some species that will practically turn red under candlelight almost.
On the other end of the spectrum, In the case of my foothills testigos I look for a delicate lime-yellow color when it seems happiest and growth is at optimum levels.

Only experience or research can teach you which is which...
  • #15
Thank you for that data, Mike a lot I didn't know. I'm glad, I read this. & BTW beautiful plants! Yes Butch, I looked at your pictures and I noticed that as well. I will keep with what I'm doing and keep update. I'll see if Next month I will pot pictures of my heterodoxa x minor, who I recently re potted and I'm growing under the same lighting as the nutans x ionasii.

Here is a pic of the new leaf. I will update again, when the new one pops up.

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  • #16
One problem with CFL's is a lot of energy is lost due to so much of the bulb being pointed in the wrong direction....
Very hard (impossible) to efficiently focus that energy... why you don't see them in the ceilings of walmart stores etc etc.

good solution, and many times the right solution, but they have their downside...

I use reflective foil tape on the insides of my fixtures to help focus the light. It does seem to make a little bit of a difference in where the light goes, but you are still limited by the angles of the fixtures themselves.
  • #17
"Full blood red coloration on a Heliamphora simply is not evidence that the plant has reached *its* optimal state. It is evidence that the plant is getting more light than it can profitably use, so the plant is reflecting that energy away, in order to protect itself."

Are you sure of that? Because i blast my helis like a crazy. Its the only way i found to color up my burgundy black the good purple coloration, not the average red burgundy you can see on all the helis. Same thing for my pulchellas clones. The nectar spoons are black, like those insitu. If i remove a single watt, my plant start to decline.
  • #18
I think we can look to nature for the key, 1000's of years of natural selection have fine tuned these species based on their conditions.
If they are green, yellow or red in nature than that is a reasonable goal in cultivation.

Brad Wilson has an excellent collection of in-situ pictures: https://www.flickr.com/photos/frogdr/sets/

There is no one right answer to this debate.... all depends on the species IMHO
Some "should" be red, some "should" be green, some "should" be yellow if our goal is to mimic their natural appearance

Edit: but most are a combination of the above, usually they darken as they age
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  • #19
I see :)

Yes i follow brad since years on flickr. The pictures from up there are just WoW.

The Bonnetia bolivarensis trees are amazing..
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  • #20
Maiden: you are demonstrating that adding a lot of light makes the plant look the way you want it to look. That's fine, but that's not the same as demonstrating that minor in general or that clone in particular *prefers* to exist in that state. Did you read the paper I linked? Do you have reasons to deny the research in support of the photoprotective interpretation of anthocyanins? It's an empirical question whether the intense coloration is photoprotective or not, people can and should doubt it, but they should also thoroughly familiarize themselves with the research before rejecting it. The Xanthin system clearly also serves a photoprotective function, I myself don't see any reason to doubt the photoprotective view of anthocyanins. What color do you turn when you are exposed to too much light? I turn red, though obviously the mechanism is different. That's what my body does naturally. Is that evidence that my body *prefers* that much light, or finally reached its optimal state? No. It was too much light, and my skin was damaged, and with sufficient bad luck, I'll get skin cancer from repeated overexposure. The natural environment of these plants is extreme. Cool nights and intense radiation during the day provoke enhanced coloration whether or not the photoprotective interpretation is true. It's factual observation that these will cause the color enhancement, you just told me that. So if the photoprotective interpretation is false, the burden is on you to explain why the plants do that. Why do they turn red when the temp drops and or the light increases? This is a fact that needs to be explained. Why were the juvenile Darlingtonia blood red under cold water, while the adult leaves of the same clones were green? I am satisified by the photoprotective interpretation, it explains these and many more observations, and it relies on very few indisputable facts to do so.
Assuming we agree on the photoprotective hypothesis, there is a separate empirical question, which is presently unknown, though it is knowable. That question is, when a plant is fully red, and (again indisputably) reflecting away photosynthetically useful radiation, is it reflecting away enough light to prevent oxidative damage, or is it nevertheless being damaged by the radiation that comes through? No one knows the answer; I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for someone to do a study on this question. But it is a fact that excess light causes damage, on this hypothesis the whole purpose of the color enhancement is to avoid or minimize such damage, so we definitely have good reason to ask the question.

Butch: the problem with letting habitat appearance be our guide is twofold. I'm not going to rehearse the argument about wasting artificial light on a plant that is indisputably reflecting it back to the universe, but that is the first problem. The sun doesn't care whether its light is being wasted, but an efficiency minded artificial light gardener ought to be. The other problem is that how a plant looks in habitat is neutral on the question of what is optimal from the plant's point of view. It is evident that eg sarracenioides and pulchella are capable of intense coloration, but it is also evident that they will grow, flower, and fruit without ever achieving that coloration. We see them in habitat, and they are red as h*ll when growing in full sun, I'd never deny that. But again, why are they that red only under very specific conditions--high light, cool temps? You could say it's because those are the conditions they grow in, they are well adapted to those conditions. Okay, but so why are they reflecting PAR only under those conditions? Darlingtonia are well adapted to their environment, they are the oldest genus in the family. What is the explanation for green leaves above water and red leaves below chilly water, if not photoprotection? The problem is that on the photoprotective hypothesis, we expect the plants to be super red in their natural extreme conditions, and indeed this would be a great adaptation to those conditions. So I don't think there's a straightforward inference from "this is how red they are in full sun on eg Ptari Tepui" to "this is how they look when they are maximally happy." Were the Darlingtonia plantlets maximally happy growing under chilly water, is that what the red color implies? One year a professor gave me some ancient controlled growth chambers. They had 2 or 3 24" t12 tubes inside, and an airconditioner. It was a hot portland summer, I had no ac, so I moved 2 dome flats of juveniles into the growth chamber, and set the temp for 70 by day, 60 at night. A month later, I determined that the built in light timer was faulty, the lights had been running 24 hours a day for the whole month. Those babies were super red, despite the fact that relatively little light (in lumen terms) was being supplied. Is that color evidence that they finally felt at home, in 24 hour light? Evidence that I was finally growing them the right way? It clearly isn't. On the photoprotective hypothesis, we expect to see blood red plants growing in full sun on Ptari Tepui, and we expect all the observations I have mentioned. Further, we then have to wonder whether those plants are so well adapted to their extreme environment that they are successfully reflecting 100% of excess photons away, or whether enough photons are getting through to cause damage, and if so, whether this is damage of consequence. If the answer turns out to be that they are successfully reflecting away 100% of excess photons, that's great, maybe they are at their peak carbohydrate production and are therefore maximally happy. I tend to doubt that this is the case, but I definitely don't know; this happy answer is one logical possibility among several. My point all along has been to question this inference from "that's how they look in the wild" to "that's how they should look in cultivation, that's what a maximally happy plant looks like." I don't think this inference is justified without further evidence. On the photoprotective hypothesis, we expect a light stressed/damaged plant to look really red, and we expect a plant that is successfully reflecting away 100% of excess photons to look really red. So color in habitat is just neutral on the question we are interested in (maximal plant happiness.). I also don't think we can stress the importance of efficiency on the one hand but then go to great lengths to supply par that is indisputably being wasted. Like I said, it's an empirical question, one can test for oxidative damage, and test for sugar production, and test flower, fruit, and seed numbers. I don't think this will happen soon. But I haven't heard any good arguments from anyone about why we should reject the science on photoprotection.