The Carnivorous Plant FAQ v. 11.5
- courtesy of -
The International Carnivorous Plant Society

Q: Heliamphora cultivation

A: To first approximation, general cultivation of Heliamphora is much like growing highland Nepenthes. They do well in large pots with Sphagnum-rich mixes, they should be top-watered instead of watered by trays, do not expect a significant yearly variation in temperatures, and may or may not appreciate fertilizing (this depends upon the skill of the applicator and fertilizer selected). However---and here is the tricky part---in terms of the temperature ranges and sunlight intensity they are more like Darlingtonia.

There is no doubt about it. Maintaining a very bright, humid, but cool environment is not easy, and that is why most growers are unsuccessful with their Heliamphora. On the other hand, for growers who can achieve such conditions, Heliamphora is a veritable unkillable beast. Plants in inadequate light do not produce the leaf morphology characteristic of their species.

To be successful, you should target 16-27°C (60-80°F), although mine have experienced peak temperatures of 41°C (105°F) and still flowered. I prefer a potting mix of pure live or long fiber Sphagnum, but I have also had luck with 2:1 Sphagnum:perlite, and also 2:1:1 mix of perlite:peat:sand.

I readily admit that I grow my plants poorly because I am not interested in the gymnastics required to grow them cool enough. As such, my plants are weak and prone to damage and slow growth. One symptom of this unhappiness is that the plants really dislike repotting---many times I have repotted a large plant just to have it respond by dying. Growers like Peter D'Amato who have better temperatures do not have problems with repotting.

If you are a first-time grower, I suggest you start with a hybrid. Also, I find that both H. minor and H. nutans are relatively forgiving (at least for the clones I grow). If you obtain plants from tissue culture, do not grow overly confident if you do well with your plants---Heliamphora fresh from tissue culture show unnatural vitality for about a year. After a while they slow in growth, and behave more naturally.

Well-grown Heliamphora flower readily, but they must be pollinated manually. Encouraging a flower to produce pollen is difficult. Don Schnell obtained pollen when his flowers were resting against the hot glass just under fluorescent lights. Why this works for a plant which lives on the rainy tepuis is a mystery to me. A more widely used practice is to use a tuning fork to rattle the pollen from the anthers.

Some people grow these plants very well. I am quite adept at keeping them miserable and pathetic. They just barely limp along under my "care". They annoy me for this reason. I encourage you to review D'Amato. He is a grower more successful than myself!

Page citations: D'Amato, P. 1998; Dodd, C., and Powell, C. 1988; Rice, B. 2006a; Schnell, D.E. 1982.

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Revised: March 2007
©Barry Rice, 2005