Cephalotus - Albany Pitchers
Top Tips & Info
- Care Difficulty - Moderate
- It's best to maintain evenly moist soil, as short-lived droughts will increase the likelihood of browning Pitchers or leaves.
- Provide a bright location with the possibility of morning sunlight for an hour or two.
- Feed one live insect a week, reducing this to monthly in the autumn and winter. Do not over-feed or give the specimen any other plant-fertiliser as it'll lead to root burn and death. Place the specimen outside during the spring and summer for it to catch its prey and regain its health.
- Repotting is a rare practice for carnivorous plants, as their root systems tend to be quite sparse. Only use a 'Carnivorous' labelled potting mix during a transplant, as anything else will contain too many chemicals that'll lead to fertiliser-burn.
- It's entirely reasonable for a loss of Pitchers over the winter months; as long as there's still a few healthy leaves leftover, it'll bounce back in the spring in no time!
Location & Light
Perfecting the amount of light a Albany Pitcher receives is crucial for a long-lasting specimen. During the spring and summer, be sure to provide a brightly lit spot away from any direct light. Excessive exposure during this time will negatively affect the plant in the likes of sun-scorch and dehydration. Once the autumn kicks in, be sure to include an hour or two of direct light per day to get it through the dormancy period, lasting until the following spring.
This genus must sit in continual moist soil, with specimens left outside or near a window being monitored frequently. Never to pour water directly in the Pitchers as they'll self-regulate the enzymes and liquids secreted over the course of the week. Under-watering symptoms include browned leaf-tips, stunted growth and rapidly declining foliage - be sure to place the pot around 1cm deep in water to counteract dehydration. Those situated in brighter areas will have their compost dry significantly quicker than others in cool, darker settings. Over-watering symptoms include a rotten crown, mouldy soil and yellow or brown lower leaves.
Create a humidity tray to provide a moist and stable environment. If the surrounding saturation is too low or the heat too high, its foliage may start to brown over and curl at the tip, especially in strong light. Hose the foliage down from time to time to hydrate the leaves and keep the dust levels down, but NOT directly into the Pitchers.
Many people panic over what to feed their plant. Natural prey like spiders, flies, mosquitoes and even slugs are the only food that they should digest. Never feed them cake, meat or stones as this will kill the individual Pitcher or even spell the end of the plant's life. Dead insects should be avoided too, as the trichomes can detect whether or not there's something inside it, and if the prey doesn’t move, digestion won't take place. The final point to mention is never to allow it to digest something bigger than one-third of the Pitchers' size; the lips won't be able to shut entirely, thus wasting vital energy in the process.
Keep the plant outside once the night time temperatures are above 10⁰C (50⁰F) so that it can catch its own prey. There's nothing better for a carnivorous plant than to allow it to breathe, digest, and photosynthesise in the fresh outdoors without human intervention.
The final element for a long-lasting carnivorous plant is a vital resting period during the autumn and winter months. While keeping the soil moist, reduce insect-feeds to almost none, as in the wild airborne prey tend to be less in numbers during this time. Reduce the ambient temperature to around 12℃ (54℉) during the night to reinforce this critical period - even a cool windowsill will be sufficient enough. If its dormancy is served well, you'll be rewarded with a flurry of juvenile growth towards the start of spring season.
Those that don't serve an adequate dormancy period will show signs of weak spring growth, along with a shorter life span.
Common Issues with Albany Pitcher Plants
Spider Mites are small, near-transparent critters, that'll slowly extract the chlorophyll from of its leaves. Have a check around the leaves, most notably along the midrib, for small webs and gritty yellow bumps. Click here to read our article about the eradicating Spider Mites, along with some extra tips that you may not find elsewhere!
Too little light accompanied by water-logging will cause the lower leaves to rapidly yellow and rot. Although this is a natural response to ageing on a smaller extent, persistent yellowing and a near absence of foliage should only occur during the winter. If this is the case during the height of summer, action must be taken immediately. Place the plant in a location that receives little direct sunlight out of peak hours, or outside if possible. Although it will take several weeks for the plant to start to recover, better-growing conditions with the occasional insect will significantly benefit its overall health. Other causes for yellowing leaves are sun-scorch or the use of a non-carnivorous potting mix. Albany Pitcher Plants must not be repotted into any other compost, as the chemicals will quickly lead to root-burn and inevitable death.
Under-developed or deformed Pitchers are caused by persistent under-watering or too much sunlight. Dry soil must be avoided at all times for success as they grow naturally in bog climates across south-west Australia. After a few weeks of moist environment, better growth should start to develop.
Complete dehydration will cause the foliage to crisp up and die. Instead of discarding the plant, remove all of the affected leaves and maintain moist soil. Albany Pitcher Plants have a modified stem, whereby its 'rhizome' will still store enough energy to reproduce new foliage. Have a look at the image below to learn more.
Cold tap water will quickly damage the plant with foliage-loss and stunted growth. The cold temperatures and high levels of chloride typically found with taps water should be replaced by either rainwater or fresh bottled water. If you were to use water from the tap, help the situation by allowing it to stand for 24hrs in a non-mental container before application.
Mould developing on the soil means two things - too little light and over-watering. Despite the harmlessness, it'll prove unsightly to most gardeners and is therefore removed once known. To remove, replace the top two inches of the soil for a fresh batch of 'Carnivorous' labelled compost. Either increase the amount of light received (no direct sunlight for the first few weeks to prevent environmental shock) or decrease the frequency of waters slightly. If the mould is accompanied by yellowing lower leaves, you may also have a case of root rot.
Cephalotus was first described by Jacques Labillardière in 1806, along with its sole species, C. follicularis. It has natural distributions across south-western Australia, occurring in water-logged bogs and nearby riverbeds.
12° - 38°C (50 - 100°F)
H1b (Hardiness Zone 11) - Can be grown outdoors between late spring and summer throughout most of the UK while nighttime temperatures are above 12℃ (54℉). If you decide to bring the plant outdoors, don't allow it to endure more than an hour of direct sunlight a day as it may result in sun-scorch. Regularly keep an eye out for pests, especially when re-introducing back indoors.
Over 0.2m in height and 0.2m in width once maturity is reached. The ultimate height will take around 5 years to achieve, but can live for over 10 years in the right conditions.
Pruning & Maintenance
Remove yellow or dying leaves, and plant debris to encourage better-growing conditions. While pruning, always use clean utensils or shears to reduce the chance of bacterial and fungal diseases. Never cut through yellowed tissue as this may cause further damage in the likes of diseases or bacterial infections. Remember to make clean incisions as too-damaged wounds may shock the plant, causing weakened growth and a decline in health.
Via Seed or Basal Offset Division.
Seeds (Easy) - The only soil you can use is a 'Carnivorous' labelled compost, as other mixes will retain too many chemicals that'll burn the cases of the seeds. Set the seeds on top of the soil's surface, resisting the temptation to compact it. Maintain evenly moist compost and allow the excess water to freely drain from the pot's base to prevent water-logging. The ideal location for successful germination is in a bright, indirect setting with temperatures above 18℃ (64℉) with bottom-heat. Keep the pot in a transparent bag to provide a stable level of humidity, along with longer-lasting soil moisture. Germination may take up to three months, so don't discard any unsuccessful seeds until this threshold has been surpassed. Remove the bag once the seedlings produce their second leaf and then split them into their own 5cm (2 inches) pots after a further month.
Basal Offset Division (Easy) - Your plant will produce several offsets that can be separated once they have a sufficient root system, with the biggest Pitcher surpasses 8cm. If possible, water the soil 24hrs before the main event to reduce the risk of transplant shock, when its dry root systems are over-fingered. Take the plant out of its pot and place your fingers close to the nodal junction - compost may have to be removed for better access. Push the chosen offset downwards until you hear a snap. Separate the foliage and its root system away from the mother plant, mentally noting the high risk of damage. Transplant in the appropriate sized pot with a fresh batch of 'Carnivorous' soil. Maintain evenly moist soil and situate it in a bright, indirect location away from any direct sunlight. After four weeks, treat it like a healthy specimen, following the care tips above!
Blooms will appear in early spring, typically ahead of the first Pitcher development. The design of the flower is elaborate, with extensive detail in the avoidance of self-pollination. The flower has evolved to hang upside down, similarly to the Cyclamen, with its filament hanging from the ceiling and a platform-shaped 'style' to catch the pollen. The insect will land on the style which guises itself like a chamber and landing-pad, and for it to access the nectar, it will have to brush past the dangling stamens. Upon exiting, the insect will have to push its self under a trap-like petal, therefore staying away from the stigma entirely.
Repot every three or four years in spring using only a 'Carnivorous' labelled compost and the next sized pot with adequate drainage. Hydrate the plant 24hrs before tinkering with the roots to prevent the risk of transplant shock. Never use any other compost as the chemicals typically found in these soils will burn the roots, killing the plant outright.
Pests & Diseases
Keep an eye out for mealybugs, aphids, spider mites, scale, blackfly, soil mites & root mealybugs that'll locate themselves in the cubbyholes and undersides of the leaves, with the exception of the latter two in the soil. Common diseases associated with Albany Pitcher Plants are root rot, leaf-spot disease, botrytis, powdery mildew & southern blight.
Not known to be poisonous when consumed by pets and humans. If large quantities are eaten, it may result in vomiting, nausea and a loss of appetite.