How to Grow Sarracenia Plants

Guide to Growing North American Pitcher Plant and Trumpet Pitcher

Members of the Sarracenia genus are hardy perennial insectivorous plants that may reach from 15 cm to 1.2 meters in height.

The pitcher plant usually come into bloom in the second half of spring

They carry green or purple veined hooded pitcher flowers; though some varieties of Sarracenia have drooping yellow flowers.

Pitcher Plants

Pitcher plants
The above two photos of pitcher plants were taken in Borneo, and belong to the Sarraceniaceae family, most likely Nepenthes (Monkey cups). I've included them here, because they are just so beautiful and I have no relevant place on the site for growing these tropical plants.
See the picture below for the North American Sarracenia spp.

Some common names for Sarracenia include Pitcher plant, Indian Cup, Trumpet Leaf and Side Saddle Flower.

Sarracenia leucophylla photograph by i-saint

Sarracenia Growing and Care Guide

  • Common Names: Trumpet pitcher, North American pitcher plant, Indian-cup
  • Life Cycle: Hardy perennial.
  • Height: 6 to 48 inches (15—120 cm).
  • Genus: The genus contains from eight to fifteen species and subspecies, depending on opinion the main species are: Sarracenia alata (Pale Pitcher), Sarracenia flava (Yellow Trumpet), Sarracenia leucophylla (White Top Pitcher), Sarracenia minor (Hooded Pitcher), Sarracenia oreophila (Green Pitcher), Sarracenia psittacina (Parrot Pitcher), Sarracenia purpurea (Purple Pitcher), Sarracenia rosea (Burke Purple Pitcher), and Sarracenia rubra (Sweet Pitcher).
  • Native: North America.
  • Growing Region: Zones 4 to 8 (Only Sarracenia purpura subsp. Purpura in cooler zones, perhaps to zone 3).
  • Flowers: Spring.
  • Flower Details: Yellow, Green, red, purple, burgundy. Umbrella-like. Located above the pitcher. Pungent fragrance, similar to urine. Appearance often resembles that of raw meat.
  • Foliage: Herbaceous. Hooded pitchers. Veined purple.
  • Sow Outside: Seed grown plants typically take four to five years to flower. Surface. Warm areas only. Spring.
  • Sow Inside: Germination time: one to three months. Start about 12 weeks in advance. First place seeds on moist blotting paper and stratify in the fridge for one week. Remove from the fridge and cover with a clear plastic cling-film tent and maintain at ~70 to 75°F (24—27°C). be sure to keep the blotting paper/plastic environment moist at all times. Once seeds germinate prick out to individual containers. Transplant outdoors to their final location in the spring, well after the last frost, when temperatures do not drop below ~45°F (7°C). If you have boggy land then space at 12 inches (30 cm), otherwise grow in containers.
  • Requirements and care: Full sunlight or preferably shade for best colors. Very Moist/wet boggy. Slightly acidic. Poor nutrient free soil. If growing pitcher plants in containers use a mixture of one part peat moss and one part perlite. Do not add nutrients! Containers should be stood in standing water at all times, ideally this should be mineral free/rain water. If using tap water then it may be necessary to renew soil yearly to prevent mineral build up in the soil. Protect from Squirrels and raccoons, as they are major pests. Plants are dormant over the winter and will tolerate temperatures as low as 20°F (-7°C) with little damage, consider covering plants with black plastic or bringing the container indoors to a shed or unheated greenhouse for the winter. Let plants feed naturally to prevent over nutrition. Propagate: by dividing in the spring in cooler areas or the autumn in warmer areas.
  • Family: Sarracenia
  • Closely Related Species: Trumpet pitchers, Darlingtonia, and Heliamphora.
  • Miscellaneous: North American pitcher plants capture insects to gather nutrients. Their color and scent attracts insects, and nectar at their rims – some of which is slightly out of the insect’s reach – tempts them to their fate. As the insect tries to get the nectar it will loose its grip on the waxy surface of the pitcher’s surface. Once inside it will be trapped, as it will not be able to climb up the slippery sides, which are further enhanced by backwards facing hairs. Digestive glands are located further down the pitcher and the insect’s fate is set.
    In addition to color, scent, and nectar the hood of the pitcher also acts to guide insects into the pitcher, however, its primary purposes are to prevent insects flying out of the trap and to stop the pitcher filling with rain-water as this prevents the trap from working effectively. In addition to catching insects, the Parrot pitcher is also capable of catching small fish and amphibians (usually in tadpole form) during floods.

How to Grow Pitcher Plants

It is difficult to grow Pitcher plants from seed and hard to look after them, you may want to consider buying pitcher plants from a garden center.

When growing from Sarracenia seed, unless you live in a very warm area then start off indoors. Seeds should be sown about 2 months before they are to be put outdoors (middle of spring when there is no chance of a frost).

Pitcher Plant seeds should be imbibed by placing the seeds (within soil) in a black bag, then placing in the fridge for about one week.

Seeds should then placed on a wet piece of blotting paper; this should be in a dish and kept permanently moist. The dish should then be covered in cling film to provide a humid environment; the dish should be placed in an area of 20 to 25 degrees centigrade.

Germination of Pitcher plant species should take from one to three months, the seedlings should be pricked out to individual pots once they have germinated.

The Sarracenia seedlings (or bought plants) should then be transferred to a lightly shaded part of the garden (they will tolerate full sunlight but results are not so good).

The Pitcher plants should be spaced at about 30 to 50 cm apart into an area that has moist/damp swampy soil, that is slightly acidic. It should take about 4 years until the pitcher plant will produce its first flowers.

Caring for Sarracenia

Pitcher plants, Trumpetleaf and other members of the Sarracenia genus are not easy to care for.

Although they are insectivorous plants it is important that you let them feed naturally, as too much nutrition from insects will make them wither.

Keep the soil that the pitcher plants grow in very moist so water frequently. It is important that the crown of the plants remain dry.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Sarracenia. You may also enjoy the following growing guides: How to grow Darlingtonia and Arum plants.

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