Should I Cut Off Dying Pitchers?

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One day you notice one of the pitchers on your nepenthes has turned brown. This might look alarming but is nothing to worry about, because pitchers have a limited lifespan and will die off eventually. The question is, should you cut off the dying pitchers or just wait for it to naturally fall off and be replaced by a new one?

Dying pitchers should be pruned off to encourage growth of new ones. Lots of light, high humidity and proper watering stimulates faster growth of new pitchers which will replace the dead ones.

How to Cut Pitchers on Pitcher Plants

Pitcher plants do not need regular pruning. But trimming off dead pitchers and leaves does stimulate growth and keeps the plant looking tidy.

Use a pair of sharp scissors to cut off dead pitchers and leaves. Snip off the pitcher, careful not to cut any healthy green leaves nearby.

While you are it, you should cut off any wilted blossoms as well. Snip the stalk right at the base. Look for any yellow or brown leaves and remove those too. It is normal for pitcher plants to have a few brown or yellow leaves so it is not a cause for alarm.

You can make things easier for yourself by using quality cutting tool. The Wevove Pruning Shears for example, is well suited for this because they are designed specifically for pruning plants.

Pruning dead leaves is straightforward. Cut off at the spot where the leave ends and the stem begins. Or you can cut off at the brown or yellow part and leave the green intact.

When to Prune Pitcher Plants?

This is a matter of personal preference. Nepenthes can last a long time without any pruning. But trimming helps keep it looking clean. In addition, removing dying pitchers can lead to quicker regrowth.

The best times to trim pitcher plants:

  • When you see dead or dying pitchers
  • Several leaves have turned brown or yellow
  • The blossoms have wilted
  • The foliage has gotten too thick
  • You are removing bug infestations

While pruning is simple, do make sure you have a sharp pair of scissors. A dull blade makes cutting difficult and will require multiple passes. That could lead to mistakes and you could end up sniping healthy parts off the plant.

How Long Do Pitchers Last on a Pitcher Plant?

Pitchers on pitcher plants can last for 1-8 months. Its lifespan depends on how healthy the plant is. A robust pitcher plant will have long lasting pitchers. On the other hand, a sickly nepenthes or sarracenia pitcher will barely last a month.

If the pitchers are dying quickly, the plant is not being grown properly. It probably lacks sunlight, water, improper or nutrition. Lack of humidity is another possible factor. If you suspect it is lack of food, feed it something,nutritious such as Soil Sunrise Carnivorous Plant Food. It is specifically for these plants so they get the nutrients needed to grow.

Look inside the pitcher for signs of liquids. There should be fluids there which the plant uses to trap fallen prey. An unhealthy nepenthes will have brown, dry pitchers, a sign it lacks the resources to produce the liquids.

If you want long lasting pitchers, do the following.

Provide 6-8 hours of light minimum. Pitcher plants need bright light to grow. Nepenthes benefits from partial and direct light (as long as the temperature does not go beyond 100 degrees). Light is essential to produce the energy needed to make pitchers.

Feed the pitcher at least once a month. Pitchers have one purpose, catch prey. Once caught, it is eaten and the nutrients used to create more pitchers, and the cycle repeats. If your pitcher plant is indoors and not getting any food, there is no reason for it to make any more pitchers. And it will not have the resources to do it as well.

Feeding once a month is enough, but you can give the plant one bug a week. You are not limited to insects either as fish food and mealworms are acceptable food alternatives.

High humidity is good for pitchers as these plants prefer moisture in the soil. As temperatures climb try to keep the humidity level high to counter it. The easiest way to do this is to water the plant so the soil remains constantly moist.

If you do these things, the lifespan of each pitcher will grow longer. You have to start with the plant itself. A healthy nepenthes has the energy and resources needed to create pitchers that can survive for long periods.

Do Pitcher Plants Regrow Pitchers?

Pitchers on pitcher plants do not last forever. They will die off and it is completely natural. Although you can wait for the leaves to fall off, it helps to actually trim them as new growth could appear faster.

Healthy pitcher plants will replace dying pitchers with new ones. It might take several months for new pitchers to grow however. To encourage faster regrowth, ensure your pitcher plants are growing in the best possible environment.

All pitcher plants need light but it takes more than that to replace dead pitchers. You have to replicate the natural environment the plant grows in. For beginners, it is easier to raise pitcher plants that naturally grow in your location so there is little adjustment required.

Nepenthes requires light to produce pitchers, but too much of it can prevent this. Intense heat can burn the leaves and dry out the liquids inside the pitcher. Provide shade if the plant is getting burned by the sun. If your plant is indoors, move it away from the window and reduce its light exposure.

You also have to be patient. Some pitcher plants take longer to create new pitchers than others. That does not mean the plant is sick. It is just that nepenthes and sarracenia variants have differences. As long as your pitcher plants are well cared for, those dead pitchers will be replaced by new ones

This is where the benefit of pruning dead leaves comes to fore. Instead of waiting for the leaves to fall off, a pitcher plant can quickly generate new pitchers. Clearing the way can speed up the process especially if the environment is conducive to growth.

Why is My Pitcher Plant Not Producing New Pitchers?

There are many possible reasons why a pitcher plant will not create new pitchers. The following are the most likely.

Too much light. Not enough light is bad for pitcher plants, but so is too much. Light itself is not bad, but bright light is usually accompanied by high temperature. Too much heat can dehydrate pitcher plants especially if they are not watered sufficiently. It is crucial that you know how much light your specific pitcher plant variant needs.

Using tap water. Tap water contains chemicals and elements that can cause serious damage. Because the effect takes a long time to manifest, it might seem like there is nothing wrong with your plant. But the minerals in tap water can damage the soil. This in turn affects the ability of the plant to make pitchers.

Low humidity. Most pitcher plants need a humidity rate of 50% or higher. The higher the humidity the easier it is for these plans to grow. Low humidity and lack of water will weaken existing pitchers. In certain cases this can even kill pitchers off.

High temperature. The majority of nepenthes prefer temperatures of no more than 85-90 degrees F. As the temperature climbs, the plant has to exert more effort to produce liquids and moisture around and inside the pitcher.

All of these things are contributing factors. They determine how quickly a pitcher plant can replace a dying pitcher and in some cases, why they are not making new ones.

You should also check for signs of root, rot, infestations or bacterial infection. Any of these will affect the ability of the plant to make pitchers. Once you have figured out the cause, you can adjust its environment so it is more suitable for making new pitchers.


Cutting off dying pitchers is one of the best things you can do for a nepenthes. This helps the plant get rid of the withered leaves faster and thus not waste energy. Because of these benefits, you should make this a part of its regular maintenance.