Cephalotus follicularis – The Albany Pitcher Plant

Cephalotus will tolerate and grow well in a range of conditions. It is suggested that prospective growers talk to a number of collectors who are growing this species and initially adopt the conditions that most suit you. Failing that, the following guidelines on growing conditions is a good start and is just one of many that works.

Compost: A mix of 3 parts peat moss, to 1 part horticultural sand is best for Cephalotus; although some people grow it in straight peat moss or sphagnum moss with good results.

Potting: Cephalotus requires a 15 cm full length pot as it has long roots, and a larger pot will give you a larger plant. If your plant comes in a small pot and looks crowded, repot it immediately. Plants grown in larger pots will also send out secondary rhizomes, which produce more plants.

Water: Rainwater is ideal, as tap water contains too many salts, which accumulate in the compost, and can be toxic to many carnivorous plants. The next best thing to rainwater is distilled water, but this can be expensive. The pot should not be stood in water, rather the pots should be watered frequently from the top. Plants in the wild tend to be growing in areas where the water is moving through the soil. Particularly large pots can be stood in water provided the plants are watered from the top. If plants are grown in conditions where fungi canattack the crowns then the plants should be moved moved to a brighter location with good air flow.

Humidity & Temperature: Cephalotus produces larger pitchers when grown in conditions of high humidity but also grows well with lower humidity. A temperature range between 5°C to 35°C is reasonable with the best growth occurring at temperatures between 20°C and 30°C. Lids close on hot dry days as it is the plants natural mechanism to counter moisture loss under conditions of low humidity. It is not something to be concerned about provided the soil is kept moist. Moving plants to an area of higher humidity will cause the lids to open again.

Light: If given full sunlight at most times, Cephalotus will produce smaller pitchers, although these will be a beautiful red colour. Some shading during the summer is recommended so if the plant is grown in full sun move the pot to a shady position in hot weather. Plants grown in indirect sunlight will be larger but lack the red colouration. Cephalotus also grows quite well on a bright window sill or a bright verandah.

Pests & Diseases: Aphids or mealy bugs can sometimes be a nuisance but can be controlled with Rogor. If the plant is kept too wet in winter grey mould may be a problem, if so, treat with Mancozeb or another fungicide. Try to keep the plant free of dead leaves, as this will often help prevent fungal attack; and for your own safety always use chemicals according to the instructions on the packet. Moving plants to a sunny area with good air movement should help prevent fungal problems from reoccurring.

Propagation: Leaf cuttings are the easiest method of propagating this plant. Use both the pitcher and foliage leaves for cuttings, being sure to take them from as close to the stem as possible. Dip the cuttings in a rooting hormone and fungicide and place them in the same type of compost as the parent plant. Keep them damp, warm and in bright light (not direct sun); cover them with a propagating dome to provide ample humidity, and periodically remove any cuttings that rot. You should have about a 50% success rate, with new plants appearing in about 4-6 weeks. These can be repotted into larger pots once they have a few leaves.The thick fleshy roots can also be used for propagation, although this involves breaking up the parent plant. Plants are produced quicker and larger than by the previously described methods. A section of the root (about 2 cm) can be taken and treated in a similar manner as leaf and pitcher cuttings. The parent plant, while smaller, recovers well rewarding you with numerous new shoots from where the cuttings were taken.

General: On occasions and for no apparent reason Cephalotus dies back to the base; even though the plant previously appeared quite healthy; leading you to think you have lost your plant. If this happens, remove the dead growth from your plant without disturbing the root system or the above ground stem. Leave the plant in the same position as it was growing and keep the compost moist. If the underground rhizome is healthy, new shoots will appear in about 8 weeks. Cephalotus is not a difficult plant to grow and if things appear to be going wrong try varying the conditions such as increasing the light or humidity and varying the watering, being careful not to let the soil dry out.

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