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Northiana looks like a mutant

It is a tiny plant I recently acquired that looks like it has never pitchered.  The leaves do not look consistent, much less good.  

I "know" that my soil mixture is wrong, as of last night.  I'm using peat.  I got that from Savage Garden, I think.  It was one of my two books anyway.  My confidence is high on that one.  

I "know" that the northiana needs "highland" conditions, as of last night.  What?  I got that information from a legitimate nepenthes expert here in Florida who was nice enough to e-mail me back with a tip that might help explain why the northiana is my worst looking plant.  So, I guess my confidence is high on that also -- except that it's a darn "lowland" plant, I thought.  Function versus formalism strikes again?  

Anything else?  Am I right so far?

As I mentioned at the top, it's a tiny little plant that has not pitchered yet.  The leaves are growing in some strange shapes.  It has some rusty spotting.  As you might have seen on the Weather Channel, or heard in my other posts, we've had good "lowland" conditons in Central Florida.    
N. northiana is very much a lowland plant. It also seems to dislike changing conditions and does not appreciate the normal high light levels I give most of my plants.

Tips I would suggest. Easy on the light and keep the temperature steady 78 range without any swings up and down. Also keep the humidity good and high. A peat based mix is fine also.

Hi Beagle,
Tony pretty much hit the nail on the head, and he's up in northern New York. We got a handful in and they were not happy. They just sat on the bench all summer and did very little. Michelle put them in large, clear plastic containers (we get 'em at Target) after reading Jeff Shaffer's article in CP Newsletter. We treat them like cuttings, and lo and behold, they are coming to life and some of the tendrils are hooking. We keep the containers under the bench in shade, and mist every day. Temps are running about 88 F day, 75F at night. The real trick is providing constant high humidity. A friend of mine propagates cuttings in his Miami greenhouse using mist heads that cut on and off several times an hour-its all automated. He had a northiana next to the propagation bench and it got the overspray from the misters. The plant produced beautiful pitchers. He moved the plant away from the prop bench, and the plant immediately went downhill. It was potted in standard Nep mix, and temps were in the nineties during the day, upper seventies at night. The propagation bench is shaded. Use this as a guide, and good luck!

As the two venerable members have already contributed their opinions, I will not repeat.

However, with regards to Beagle's potting media, and what I think he's getting at, isn't northiana more comfortable in alkaline soils? Since it grows on limestone rocks and all that.


I'm mixing some sand, vermiculite, perlite, and river rock sand (Savage Garden -- I checked -- inspired) right now. Man, that's a lousy looking potting mix. I could just scrap that whole idea if the media isn't the problem. But, as Colin suggested, smarter people than I think it might be.

Of course, if YOUR northiana DO grow in some peat...

What I am going to do is transplant the northiana out of the basket it is in -- into a plastic pot which I will tray water and keep at the very bottom of the most shaded grow rack.

Since I'm transplanting it anyway, I will use more alkaline soil. Plus, it's already mixed. Whatever happens, I'll report back eventually when I know something.
The four tier grow house I am now using has its plastic cover on. I'm housing the cuttings and the northiana together. The humidity outside has been around 80% in my back yard for quite some time. The cover should keep it that way, or higher, pretty much all the time. I realized that the soil the plant was shipped in was more like what it should have been. I added the peat.

Our temps have been pretty mild. This will be our hottest day in over a month: 87 F. But, because the neps are on a northern exposure, this time of year they get very little (none in the afternoons) direct sun and the temps are a lot lower back there. I've described the shade / humidity situation in the back yard along the wall before. It's very good for lowlanders usually. Where they are stays a lot more moderate and humid than the weather overall.

Now, it should be very moderate -- absolutely moreso than it was. I was giving it more light in a hanging basket and not maxing out the humidity -- well, except that ours has been maxed for weeks.

Thanks for the help. I figured "highland" conditions could not be exactly what I was looking for. I was going to have to put it under an AC vent at night, or something. Dry ice?
Actually, from what I've seen, northiana does not care for alkaline conditions. The best plants I've seen were grown in a normal peat- bark-rock type mix with good drainage. I know of two experiments with an alkaline mix that resulted in death. In its native environment, N. northiana does not grow directly on the limestone, but in pockets of collected leaf and moss that has aged to a very peaty substance. The acidic nature of this "soil" actually eats further into the limestone creating pits and sinkholes. This is what was described to me by someone I met who observed N. northiana in the Bau region of Sarawak. He also said it was oppressively hot and humid.

Beagle, start making plans for the cool weather. The humidity really drops when those cold fronts move through. I don't think your northiana will like it at all, even if the humidity only drops to 60%.
N. northiana: so beautiful, but such a big baby!

Well said Trent.

With my experience of N. northiana, mine arrived in a vermiculite potting mix. I have just repotted it into some coco nut chips/peat/perlite and milled sphagnum. Now it is doing much better. I'm getting pitchers again even.

Tony, you got me addicted to that coco chips mix now! I gotta come down and buy some more pretty soon!
  • #10
NOW it is in peat, sand, river rock sand, long sphag, orchid bark, charcoal, vermiculite, and perlite. Did I forget anything?

It's getting high heat and high humidity. If that does not work, I'll try voodoo.
  • #11
What are these "coco chips"?

You know you are a nep nut when...
  • #12
Hi all:

i think we are getting mixed experiences with the soil type. A friend of mine had his northiana growing in the standard mix of peat, perlite, sand, sphagnum moss and orchid bark and it was not growing!!. he then added some aquarium gravel and the plant start growing better!. Possibly the alkalinity in the soil increased a little.

I have read somewhere, i think Rob's site that perlite in the long term may be detrimental for neps due to the fact that it releases fluoride into the media.

  • #13
You left out aliflor and pumice.

We use coconut husk chips as part of our Paph and Phal mix (orchids, not a cp). I've thought about using it with Neps, but have hesitated because of the washing. I give two complete soakings of the chips-two complete changes of RO.water- before using them with the orchids. I wonder if this is suitable for Neps.
Also, what proportions of peat and coconut are used?
If Tony is using coconut husk chips, I would like to hear his input on this too.

  • #14
Yup, gotta soak them 2 times with RO or distilled overnight preferably. I tried a mix without saoking and the palnts were not affected.....go figure. I throw in a handful or 2 of peat to clump the mix together.
  • #15
I have done pretty well with my N. northiana from 4" to 14" diameter in about a year with 5" pitchers. I too had the same questions about alkaline soils but everyone said that was BS. So I just potted mine in LFS (which is now live). The following photos are a couple months old so the plant is a bit bigger now:

It lives in a lowland chamber that is 85-95*F during the day and 70-75*F at night with humidity between 80-90% at all times (condensation on the glass at night). It is under 240 watts of flourescents and all sides of the tank are covered with reflective foil which not only causes the light to constantly bounce around but also helps retains heat inside the tank.
Beneath the plants in the chamber is a big sheet of lighting grid/egg crate grid that is set ontop of PVC pipe running lenthwise across the floor of the tank and this way I can water the pots and the water which runs out sits in the "false bottom" pool and as it evaporates this makes the constant sticky environment true lowlanders love
  • #16
words, very nice plant! I have no experience with lowland neps, just wanted to compliment swords, lol,
  • #17
Wow, very nice swords
. Do you think I could grow my two northianas in conditions with 50-80% humidity (highest at night), temps 65-85F (highest at day, lowest at night), potted in sphagnum moss and watered with distilled water. It is in a shady part of my grow room, under a 1000 watt metal halide. Can it grow satisfactory under theese conditions, or do I haveto make changes
  • #18
I make sure the humidity is no less than 80% RH during the day, 90-100% at night for any of my Nepenthes (lowland or highland) for adequate pitchering and pitcher lifespan on each leaf. The highest humidity possible (while avoiding saturation) is of prime importance (next to bright lighting) in my opinion. For lowlanders I feel the leaves, to see if they're slightly warm and "sticky" or tacky. If yes then I'm happy with the temp/humidity levels.

If you have a large growing area (showerstall size or larger) why not buy a ultrasonic cool mist humidifier to raise the RH to higher levels? They only cost $30-$50 at almost any pharmacy and work very well with any number of add on devices (timers/humidistats/etc) to control their fog output.

I do not think your N. northiana would be happy with temps that cold at night. The plant is said to grow from "sea level" up to only 500 meters in altitude. this limits it's natural habitat to the very hot and steamy lowland climate of Borneo's Bau district in Sarawak. The humidity range of the Sarawak state is at it's lowest reading of 60% RH in direct sun on a clear day and increasing to 90% at dusk. Most days however are cloudy or overcast and not clear, and the humidity is more in the 75-80% range at noon and rising to 90% before the almost nightly rains. (from National Parks of Sarawak book). And Nepenthologist (?) Charles Clarke states (in Nepenthes of Borneo book) that at no time during a year of study did the high/low thermometer left in the lowland wilderness drop below 72*F.

I try and mimic my Neps natural conditions as close as I can so they will hopefully grow fast since they are in their prefered conditions but not stressed by the rigors of life in the wild. So I don't know for sure how they would perform outside these kinds of conditions but many people say N. northiana is finicky so I would not try it unless I knew I would be satisfied after going through all the work and price of acquiring and growing it.

Your temps sounds more like intermediate and would be good for non-definate lowlanders (too cool for them) and non-definate highlanders (too warm for them). Things like N. clipeata, campanulata, burbidgeae, maxima, truncata,  eustachya, alata, veitchii, fusca, etc. would probably agree with those conditions. Species that either have a more intermediate altitudinal range or have a very very wide distribution in many different habitats. It's harder to try and choose things that will all be happy in one middle of the road setup.
  • #19
I like the look and feel of coco chips. I soak them and change water for more than two nights, though. I noticed that with these, and orchid bark, that after soaking, the coc chips smelled like pine-sol. I did not like that, so I kept changing the water every couple of days, and I finally noticed it stopped after several weeks. Now it smells clean, but not pine-sol clean, lol.
When adding peat to a mix, a little portion sort of "binds" the mix together, so it does not seem like a bunch of chunks, but one light, fluffy mix. I hope someone can explain that better than I just did. I use peat with bark or coco chips, perlite, NZ or chilean sphagnum and charcoal.
On the flouride aspect of perlite, "I think" (note the quotes) that the build up can happen if you use water with flourides. I don't see how that would happen with RO water(can't squeeze blood from a turnip and all).


  • #20
Can worms, open, everywhere.

That's my first attempt at modern poetry. I'm so confused now. I guess I'll try what trent says: hey, don't argue with a guy who's been to Sarawak. Not to mention the weather information.

I can barely find it on a globe, and I know where to look.