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Hello all,

Firstly I would like to say a big thank you to all who contribute to this forum, you have really inspired me and encouraged me in this fascinating hobby. I know I only post when I have a problem and true to form here I go!

I have a problem with my Nepenthes hamata. I have two. One is in serious decline. After growing well for me for six months it suddenly slowed its growth dramatically and went into suspended animation and finally started to slowly die. The new leaf it started to put out just stopped growing. Now a new growth is attempting to push out in a very pathetic fashion.

My other hamata I have had for well over a year and was pitchering on every leaf. That too has appeared to dramatically slow its growth and as you can see the new leaf seems very small and not vigorous as before. So now I'm in total panic as I don't know what to do? Here are the pics. Sorry for camera phone quality!


Mix is sphagnum moss peat, vermiculite and perlite in equal quantities in square plastic aquatic baskets. Room temp during the day and window opened at night to allow cooling (I live in London so cooling seems sufficient at this time of year). I have been using that method for two years with success. Misted with RO every evening and have done for two years. The only thing I've changed is one of the grow tubes. I used to grow them under two 39W 10,000k tubes with great success. In September when I replaced the tubes I used one 10,000k and one 6,700k after reading that Nepenthes would prefer this. I gave coffee treatment in Spring and in Autumn. What could it be? Please help! Their life is in your hands!!!!!:-(
Without knowing actual figures for daytime high temps and night time lows, its hard to say where the problem lies. Have you inspected for pests? (Scale, thrips, etc)
I get some aphids, which I pick off. I use a hand lens with a built in light and have never seen any pests other that the aphids which I control by squashing. I did a control test spray on one of my hamata pitchers with fatty acids but the pitcher died so I haven't used it again for obvious reasons. Night temps are are 13C - 15C, occasional lows to 10 or 11C. Winter daytime temps are 20C with 12 hour photo period.
This is purely a guess as I don't grow hamata, but when a plant that I have had for a reasonable amount of time suddenly starts declining and everything above soil is normal, I check the roots. Possibly your media has become compacted and isn't allowing enough oxygen to the roots. I've also never used vermiculite in a Nepenthes mix, so not sure how it does after 1-2 years of being constantly moist. I would think it degrades rather fast compared to perlite. Repotting may help your plant out.

Just a suggestion, but see what others have to say. Temperature and light seems good, and humidity shouldn't be a problem in a terrarium, especially if they plants have been doing well for the last year plus.
i agree with drew ,i have had a couple of neps look like this and have repotted into a new well draining and airy mix and used net pots as i thought root rot,seems to of worked for me(i am no expert at all,but worked for me)
What stands out to me is the vermiculite and peat combination, which I can only imagine would become quite soggy. There is also the issue of vermiculite raising the pH, which it is prone to doing. Frankly, I stay away from this asbestos-esque component, as I've had nothing but problems when using it for any plant.

The aphids are also a pretty glaring problem. You may want to consider controlling these with a good pesticide and isolate any effected plants until the problem is clearly gone. Repotting will also ensure there are no pests below the soil line.
Thanks for the replies guys. Drew the mix is moist constantly as I like to mist every evening. I eased of recently and the sphagnum went downhill. I think growing the moss is as much of a joy as the plants! Good advice Corky. Do you think two parts perlite to one part peat, given the fact that I mist often to keep the moss tip top? I'm also worried about root disturbance as I've heard hamata hates this? Just to throw another spanner in the works, the plants seem very firmly rooted when I've been turning the leaves over to check for pests (surely they would wobble if root rot was it?). Finally do you think changing the light may be it? Mato, I would love to spray the aphids but after the fatty acids spray incident am terrified to do this, Corky can you recommend something here in the UK that's hamata friendly?Sorry for all the questions! Your help is greatly appreciated! Ant :)
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Because the growth tip is dying back I would guess the problem is in the roots. I switched to net pots some time ago after receiving one with plant. I can't claim any miraculous recoveries but the NZ sphagnum dries out quicker than before resulting in an infusion of oxygen more often. I buy the NZ sphag buy the bale and quickly realized a bale makes a truck load. As far as insects I used the systemic in the picture on all of my neps to kill off a thripe attack and it worked with no ill effects on the plants.
hi anthony,i have stayed away from peat for nepenthes, and slowly repotting plants into a 2/1/1 sphagnum orchid bark perlite mix,my plants seem to like it and as you say the moss is pretty nice too,i used peat based in the past and would not go back,i still have a few plants in peat based but they are growing too well to disturb,i used neem oil on aphids ,a small outbreak but got it sorted
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Thanks so much Corky! I tend to buy on ebay, can you recommend good orchid bark suppliers? I have recently got into Cattleyas so that would be a great help. Also there seen to be many Neem oil products on ebay, where would you recommend? Thanks so much Spooky1, I don't think that product is available in the UK, unless I'm mistaken?
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I'll give it a go! so that's sphagnum moss, Orchid bark and perlite in equal quantities? I assume the only way to minimise root disturbance is to remove the soil in a bucket of RO?
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my mix was 2 parts sphagnum 1 bark 1 perlite but no strict rules,if the plant is in decline i would give it a go,i put a link up for the neem in my last post
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Thanks Corky got the link much appreciated. Any ideas to minimise root disturbance would be really welcome.
  • #15
Hello Antony

I'm no expert here, but I agree with others to carefully check your roots on the plant. I have a few young hamatas, and I had one over the past 6 months gradually slowed in growth, and the new leaves were getting smaller. Upon inspection, I found that the roots did die back. This was due to the soil mix I was using. I spoke with a few hamata growers, and they stated that theirs grew best in a plastic mesh pot, with live sphagnum only.

I then transplanted the weak plant (out of desperation!) into a mix of live sphagnum (which at the time I had little of), with fir bark, Perlite, and pumice. I have been keeping the new mix moist and once a week, watering with Super-Thrive (if it really works?). Over the past two months, the plant has snapped back, though the leaves are still small, the plant has produced 4 new growth points.

I’m hopeful that this one pulls thru. I have since transplanted my others to the same mix, and they are doing well, although, like most hamates, they are slow growers.

The bark I was using was the Black Gold Orchid Bark. I have been displeased with the product since the last few bags I bought from them contained a lot of small rocks, which is a dishonest way of adding weight to the bags. The results are less bark in a bag.

Good luck on the recovery process!
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  • #16
Antony, insecticidal soaps are always advised against in this hobby. That and copper fungicides are a recipe for disaster, as these plants do no tolerate either. Anything without insecticidal soap (fatty acids) as an ingredient will probably be ok, but it's always good to investigate first - pyrethroids, neem, neonicatinoids, etc., should all work well.
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i was thinking some one with more expertise would chime in about root disturbance ,i transplanted my hamata with no probs at all,try and keep some media around the roots ,just enough so you do not disturb them,water will still drain better when surrounded by the mix i suggested,and as mato has said the fatty acid soapy stuff is no good at all and maybe the problem ,either way a repot in my opinion into a better mix is the way forward
  • #19
Insecticidal soap (fatty acid) is death to most CPs: avoid this at all costs! That alone could have caused your troubles.

The suggestions you received for more appropriate soil mixes are good ones. Vermiculite is not recommended for CP soils in general as they tend to leach minerals, so if you use them in a mix that doesn't regularly get a flushing with lots of clean water, there is potential for toxic buildup of minerals.

My Nepenthes mix is generally 1/3 high quality long fiber Sphagnum, 1/3 coarse Perlite, and 1/6 each of fine orchid (Fir) bark and horticultural charcoal. I have used coconut chips as well, but you have to wash that stuff by soaking for days, draining the water, and repeating the soak at least one more time. (To leach out salts) It works, but its more trouble to prepare.
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Thanks so much for all the replies I am so grateful to you all!! I'm gonna put them into the perlite, sphagnum and an orchid bark product which I've just picked up from the garden centre. I'll take some pics and keep you posted. No more peat for me! Fingers crossed!