Of all the carnivorous plants, this species of Pitcher Plant must surely be one of the most stunning. The pitchers of Sairacenia leucophylla can grow to 1.2m (4ft) tall and bear reddish-purple flowers to 10cm (4in) across in Spring. These look much like the spokes of an umbrella. In addition to the flowers, two other types of growth are produced: the carnivorous leaves, or pitchers, are produced all Summer long, unless growing conditions are poor, when they will be replaced by strap-like, evergreen, non-carnivorous leaves, which may also be produced during Winter.
The pitchers are impressive: the lower part is a rich green, which gradually fades to near white as the neck flares into the pitcher shape. The paler, frilly-edged part is criss-crossed by a network of deep red veins; insects land on the lip of the pitcher, then are lured downwards by the smell of nectar and by the throat markings. Escape becomes impossible as the pitcher sides steepen, while slippery, downward-pointing hairs form a barrier to retreat. A final drop into the nectar brings the prey into contact with the digestive enzymes that convert it into food: it is thought that the nectar is intoxicating, so death is probably quite painless.
Sarracenia make good houseplants, but they dislike temperatures above 15°C (60°F) in Winter; in modern homes, this can create problems. An ideal Winter temperature is 5°C (41°F); this species is less cold-tolerant than its close relative S. purpurea. Provide this plant with a period of dormancy: a Winter temperature above 15°C (60°F) will result in poor specimens in the following year. For the remainder of the year, Sarracenia grow well at 10°C (50°F).
Place S. leucophylla in good, but indirect, light; the plant needs ‘all round’ light, so turn the pot regularly to ensure an even distribution of light to all sides. Reduced light levels will inhibit the production of carnivorous leaves: eight hours of light daily is essential. Beware of sun scorch on the trap lid, as the nectar droplets may magnify the sun’s rays.
This plant needs wetduring the period of active growth: stand its pot in about 2.5cm (1in) of lime-free water throughout the growing season. During the Winter rest period, water to keep the compost just damp – possibly at monthly intervals: do not water from above and never fill the pitchers with water.
The high level of humidity required is provided by the watering regime. Misting is not necessary.
Carnivorous plants grow naturally in boggy, nutrient-starved soils, taking their food from their prey: never feed carnivorous plants.
Repot this plant every 2-3 years in Spring, or when crowded. This is indicated when the roots emerge from the holes in the base of the pot. Grow in a 50/50 mix of moss peat and washed, sharp sand; do not use a proprietary compost, which will contain nutrients that may kill the Sarracenia.
This tall-growing plant needs the stability offered by a large pot; the mixture of moss peat and sharp sand is also heavy enough to ensure that the plant will not become top-heavy.
Don’t feed Root damage, distortion of the carnivorous leaves or even death may result from use of plant food: do not feed these plants.