Nepenthes are tropical pitcher plants that are found in Borneo, Malaysia, Sumatra, Philippines, New Guinea, and a few other areas in that region. They are generally divided into 2 groups. Those growing below 1000 meters or 3000 feet in their native environments are called lowlanders. Those growing above 1000 meters are considered highlanders. Some species grow in both areas and are referred to as intermediates. And of course there are a few that grow at higher altitudes and are referred to as ultra-highlanders. Lowlanders generally experience warm, humid days with a mild night time temperature drop. Average temperatures for lowlanders range from the 80's to 90's during the day to 60's at night. Highlanders don't experience as hot of days as lowlanders and tolerate lower night time temperature drops that is required for adequate growth. Highlanders range from the 70's to 80's during the day and 50's to 60's at night. Knowing these differences will help you decide what species or hybrids to grow.
Nepenthes are sought after for their unusual pitchers or traps. The pitchers come in a variety of colors ranging from near black, red, purple, and some ornately decorated with intricate splotching. A few species have vicious looking peristomes with "teeth" that are incredible. The pitchers are used by the plant to trap prey that falls inside it and digest the organic matter. Nepenthes, like other carnivorous plants, have evolved their pitchers to get nourishment from the insects they catch because of the nutrient lacking soils in which they grow. The enzymes in the pitcher dissolve and digest their prey to aid in growth. It is not necessary to "feed" Nepenthes on a daily basis for good growth. If grown outside, Nepenthes will catch mainly ants and other insects with ease. Nepenthes that don't have access to insects can be supplemented with flies, mealworms, and crickets from pet stores to encourage good growth. However, they don't need much. Stuffing a pitcher with prey that is too big will most certainly cause the pitcher to turn brown and die much sooner than if let alone. A little goes a long way with them. Remember, they are plants and can photosynthesize light like other plants to make food for themselves. In other words, Nepenthes won't "starve" to death if they don't have insect matter for periods of time. At worst, they may slow down on growth.
Because Nepenthes are tropical plants, they do need higher humidity and warmer temperatures than other plants. Most people grow their lowlanders in greenhouses, grow chambers, or terrariums where humidity, temperature and lighting can all be controlled. Highlanders can be grown this way too as long as a night time temperature drop can be provided for them. Once their proper growing requirements are met, Nepenthes are relatively easy to care for and will thrive on their own. Some species are more demanding than others so those Nepenthes should be avoided until easier species / hybrids have been grown with success.
I grow my highlanders and intermediates outdoors year round and my lowlanders indoors as houseplants. I've found through experimentation that Nepenthes can adapt to these conditions and do quite well without lights, misters, or heaters to control environmental conditions. Although this may not be the BEST way to grow Nepenthes, they can thrive in these conditions. Generally I treat my indoor plants as lowlanders and my outdoor plants as highlanders. In warmer climates like Florida and Hawaii, lowlanders can tolerate being grown outdoors year round because they have warm humid weather. However, highlanders grown outdoor in these areas might stress because of their need for lower night time temperature drops for adequate growth. I grow my lowlanders as windowsill plants while my highlanders are outdoors in hanging baskets or on tables under shade cloth. Sometimes I will bring a plant indoors during the winter time if it starts to stress out from lower temperatures. Then when spring returns, I move it back outdoors. So if you want to grow outdoors, these are some options you should consider.
My Nepenthes that are grown outdoors tend to be more "robust" than indoor grown plants. They are exposed to all the elements from wind, rain, and sun to other unforeseen problems like pests and birds. It is not uncommon to find a plant that lost some leaves due to snails or slugs that were hungry that night. I've noticed that my plants generally grow at a slower pace and remain in the rosetted stage longer than greenhouse grown counterparts. The trade-off is that once adapted to outdoor conditions, the plants produce thicker stems and tendrils due to the weather conditions. Pitchers also burst with more color than my indoor grown plants from increased amounts of sunlight. My plants also look similar to photos taken of Nepenthes in their natural environments. They are not perfect specimens that come from a greenhouse with few defects. The leaves can be torn or tendrils deformed at times. So if growing outdoors, expect some abnormalities as the plants grow out.
The first Nepenthes that most people start off with are hybrids they come across in nurseries, at orchid shows or home improvement centers that are often sold along side Venus Fly Traps, Sarracenias, and sundews. Many of these commercially cloned hybrids are good starter plants because they can tolerate more stress than other Nepenthes and are relatively inexpensive. Usually these plants can be grown indoors next to sunny windows and will do well once established. Nowadays there are plenty of on-line vendors that sell great plants and give excellent advice to anyone desiring to grow these phenomenal plants. If you reside in a certain part of the country where that grower is located, then that would be an excellent opportunity to gain insightful advice on what Nepenthes to start off with. A great carnivorous book is The Savage Garden by Peter D'Amato (owner of California Carnivores) that provides a mountain of information about growing all kinds of carnivorous plants. I consider this book a must read to grow great carnivorous plants.
I started growing my Nepenthes around the house purely by accident. I didn't have the resources to grow my plants under lights or in a greenhouse in the traditional way. With a few plants growing next to my orchids, I found that I could grow Nepenthes as windowsill plants or outdoors. I experimented and grew my collection totally by trial and error and other grower's advice until I figured out how to adapt Nepenthes to MY growing conditions. I always wanted to grow Nepenthes but never thought I could without a greenhouse or under lights in a terrarium. It's exactly that reason that I started this website so hobbyists that wanted to grow these plants that didn't have access to all of the traditional growing equipment, would be able to successfully. For the most part, I've been able to grow most species and hybrids fairly successfully. I do well with highlanders outdoors because my coastal climate is conducive to their growing demands. It's the lowlanders I have the most trouble with because they prefer warmer humid conditions that is difficult for me to create indoors as houseplants. And yes, I have killed my fair share of Nepenthes with my experimentation. But I truly believe that once you figure out your growing conditions, there's a Nepenthes out there waiting for you that will thrive and reward you for your time and investment with unique and beautiful pitchers. Be forewarned: these plants can be addicting like orchids!! Once you get a few doing well, there may be no stopping!