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The pitchers in pitcher plants usually contain fluids which are used to digest food. So it can be alarming to see your pitcher plant is empty. What could be causing this and what do you do about it? There are many possible reasons this can happen, and the good news is you can fix this.
Pitcher plants can lose water and other liquids during very hot conditions or when adjusting to a new environment. If you just bought the plant, give it time to adjust to its surroundings. If the temperature is too high, increase the humidity by adding a bit of water to the pitcher.
Why Does My Pitcher Plant Have No Liquid?
The liquids in the pitchers play a huge role in how the plants obtain nutrients. These fluids are essential for any nepenthes that will feed, so why is it that these pitchers sometimes appear empty?
Lack of humidity is the most likely reason pitcher plants do not have any liquids. The combination of low humidity and hot weather can literally dry the leaves out. Not enough water is another possible reasons.
There are two solutions: the quickest is to use a humidifier like the Levoit 6l. This will allow you to set the humidity level to exactly what your pitcher plant needs. This should lead to a quick recovery. Another method is to water the plant more often.
Sarracenia and nepenthes pitcher plants prefer warm, sunny weather and high humidity. When humidity is low and the temperature is above 100 degrees F (37 C), the liquids evaporate. The plant is forced to produce more but it dries up just as quickly due to the heat.
Nepenthes and sarracenia plants use a lot of energy to produce digestive liquids. The heat affects their ability to do this and the end result are dry pitchers. Lack of humidity is also one of the reasons why pitcher plant leaves turn brown.
By increasing the moisture and humidity, pitcher plants can generate more liquids. The more fluids a pitcher has, the more bacteria can grow there. The bacteria and insect larvae in the pitchers dissolve prey and makes it easier for the plant to digest food.
Lack of water is another cause. Pitcher plants cannot sit in several inches of water like Venus flytraps, but they still need moist soil. A dry soil is going to be fatal to these plants so water as often as necessary to keep moisture levels up.
Should My Pitcher Plant Have Water in It?
Pitcher plants should always have some water because it helps with digestion. You can add water up to 1/4 the height of a pitcher plant.
In most cases it is not necessary to add water. If the pitcher is empty, increase the humidity and the plant will produce its own fluids. In fact, too much water can dilute the liquids, which is another reason not to do it.
If you want to add water to a pitcher plant, make sure it is purified or pure such as Deer Park Spring Water. Again you only need to do this if the plant refuses to produce liquids. If you have an empty nepenthes pitcher plant, wait at least a month before adding water.
Because there are many types of pitcher plants, liquid requirements will vary. However, here are some tips to help you manage the water (or lack thereof) in the pitchers.
- Sarracenia pitcher plants grow best outdoors under full sunlight. As long as the temperature does not exceed 100 degrees, the plant will produce water in its pitchers naturally. There is no need to add anymore.
- Nepenthes pitcher plants benefit from a bit of water. You can pour a little in the pitcher or rainwater.
- All new pitcher plants produce their own liquids including water. However they need time especially if moved to a new location.
- If you just bought the plant from a store, give it time to get used to your home.
Some sarracenia species like S. purpurea and S. rosera have very little liquid. This is normal because they get filled with rainwater. However, you can fill it with water up to 1/4 its height to aid with digesting food. The bacteria in pitcher plants benefit from this too.
Do Pitcher Plants Refill?
If a pitcher plant is empty, it will refill within 2-4 weeks. In nature pitcher plants get refiled by rainwater, but even indoor pitcher plants will produce their own digestive juices.
Never add water to a pitcher plant if it refills. While it helps when eating spiders and other prey, too much water dilutes the digestive juices. Water also adds a lot of weight to the plant and it can fall over.
Pitcher plants that do not refill are not being grown properly. Change its environment to something more suitable. Add humidity, increase moisture and provide more light. Sarracenia grow better outdoors with natural light than artificial ones, so that can help.
If your pitcher plant does not have any liquids and you added water, let it sit for a couple of weeks. Do not feed and just see how the plant reacts. In all likelihood the plant is just getting used to being in your home after spending its life in a different place.
How Do Pitcher Plants Make Fluids?
All pitcher plants produce fluids to consume food. Each pitcher contains liquids that trap fallen bugs and dissolve their tissues. There are differences between nepenthes and sarracenia however.
A fully formed sarracenia that has never eaten prey does not contain any digestive fluid in its pitcher. Full nepenthes plants which have never eaten food contain digestive liquids in each pitcher.
Sarracenia do not need a lot of water because it makes the digestive juices less effective. This is why sarracenia plants have hoods, to prevent rainwater from filling the pitcher. Some water inevitably gets in, but the point is too much is not good for the plant.
Both nepenthes and sarracenia naturally add liquids to their pitchers. You may fill a nepenthes with water up to 40% its height. But do this only if the pitcher has lost all its liquids and has not refilled. It is a last resort.
If you do add water the plant can absorb it in a day or two. In other cases the water will just remain in the pitcher. Leave ti there and the plant should produce liquids in four weeks or so.
How to Keep Liquids in Pitcher Plants
- The most common reasons for an empty pitcher plant are lack of water, lack of humidity and not enough light.
- The liquid in nepenthes fill up 5-18% of the pitcher. This seems like a very small amount but it is sufficient to digest prey. Other species may have more liquids.
- Do not add water if the plant is eating food properly. Remember, too much water weakens digestive liquids.
- Nepenthes prefers a humidity of 50% or higher. Anything lower than that and you can mist it up to four times a day.
- Sarracenia can handle lower humidity and hotter temperatures better than nepenthes.
- Nepenthes prefer moist soil, but the tray method is not very effective. Sitting in water is not going to help it fill the pitchers. Check out this guide on how often to water pitcher plants.
- Sarracenia can absorb a lot more water than nepenthes.
- Some pitcher plants like sarracenia purpurea can deal with more water in their pitcher. This is because in nature they rely on rainwater to dissolve prey.
- Most upright pitcher plants do not need extra water in their pitchers.
As long as your pitcher plant is being grown properly, there is no reason it cannot produce liquids. you do not have to mist or add water to a plant that fills and refills. If your pitcher plants are outside, do not add water because it might rain and overfill the pitcher.
Seeing an empty pitcher plant should not be a cause for worry. As long as the plant looks healthy it will produce liquids in due time. But if it is taking too long, the tips in this guide should kick start the process and soon enough, you will see liquids in the pitchers.
My fascination with carnivorous plants began many, many years ago with Venus Fly Traps. Now I am more than happy to impart what I know with other enthusiasts and those who are curious about meat eating plants.