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Nepenthes Spp.: How To Grow and Care For The Monkey Cup Plant

Nepenthes spp. is a perennial, carnivorous flowering plant native to the tropical regions of the Asian continent. 

The Monkey Cup Plant

The Nepenthes spp. belong to the Nepenthaceae family and are made up of about 140 different known species. Nepenthes plants are divided into two categories: highland and lowland, with each requiring specialized care.

Nepenthes are also nicknamed tropical pitcher plants and monkey cups. It is a viney plant having greenish leaves with pitchers hanging from the ends of the leaves.

Pitchers are created by the swelling of the mid-vein in the leaf. This forms a hollow cup filled with fluid at the bottom. Insects are attracted to this cup as a result of the beautiful colors and the nectar it secretes.

The inside of the cup is slippery and filled with downward-facing hairs. This causes the insect to cascade into the bottom of the cup, where it will be drowned by the digestive acid at the bottom.

They are called monkey cups because monkeys are fond of drinking the liquid in the cups.

Scientific nameNepenthes Spp.
Common nameMonkey Cups, tropical pitcher plant.
OriginNative to the Asian continent.
LightingBright indirect sunlight.
SoilMoist but also well-draining soil.
Temperature64 – 81 degrees Fahrenheit ( 18 – 27 degrees Celsius). 
FertilizerDiluted well Balanced fertilizer.
ToxicityNot toxic.
PropagationStem cutting.

Monkey Cup Plant Care

Monkey Cup Plant Care

Understanding what type of carnivorous monkey cup plant you have will be the best and easiest way to meet its needs. For example, lowland and highland pitcher plants require different levels of sunlight to perform well, so always observe your plants to see how they react to certain growing conditions and make necessary adjustments.

Light Requirements

When growing the nepenthe plant, make sure it gets 2 to 4 hours of direct sunlight per day. Avoid placing them under the scorching sun; this can lead to leaf burns.

Monkey cups can tolerate a little bit of shade, but avoid full shade as this will cause your plant to have floppy leaves.

When growing indoors, place the plant in an east or west-facing window. And in areas with no windows and bright light, you make use of artificial light.

Soil Requirements

Provide your monkey cup plant with moist and well-draining soil that is low in nutrients and has great aeration.

Avoid using standard potting mix to grow this plant, as the minerals present in it can damage the plant. A good potting medium would be one containing one part perlite, one part sphagnum moss, and one part silica sand.

This mixture will help improve both water drainage (perlite) and water retention (sphagnum moss).

Water Requirements

Just like most tropical plants, the monkey cup will thrive better in damp soil. Do not overwater the plant to the extent where it becomes soggy. Ensure your soil has provisions for draining excess water.

You can cover the top of the soil with organic mulching materials to help prevent water loss due to evaporation.

Also, ensure the soil does not go completely dry in-between waterings. In the warmer months, you might need to water the plant almost on a daily basis. In winter, cut back on watering to prevent over-stressing the roots.

Fertilizer Requirements

Monkey Cups Fertilizer Requirements
Monkey Jars

When growing the monkey cup plant, fertilizer application is not necessary. They are capable of surviving on the nutrients they get from trapped insects.

When growing in areas such as offices with little to no insects, you can feed the plant yourself with dead insects placed comfortably inside the pitcher of the plant.

You should also consider moving the plant outside once in a while so it can catch and feed on its own prey. This will help improve the general well-being of the plant.

Do not feed the plant during winter as this can cause root burn and eventual death.

Temperature And Humidity

Carnivorous pitcher plants love a warm and humid environment. They are capable of tolerating the average household humidity level but will appreciate growing in a more humid environment.

Most nepenthes species, particularly highland nepenthes, grow and perform best at temperatures ranging from 18 to 27 degrees Celsius during the day and 7 to 18 degrees Celsius at night.


Pruning is not necessary when growing the pitcher plant. For a fuller plant, you can prune back its stem. Also, deadheading can be carried out after blooming occurs to force the plant into growing more leaves.

You can also trim off dead leaves, disease-infected leaves, and old leaves as well. Doing this will greatly benefit the plant.


Start the propagation process by taking a cutting from the plant slightly above a node. This should be done when the plant is actively growing. Clear off all the bottom leaves on the cutting, leaving around 2 to 3 leaves at the top. The cutting should include a node and some leaves left at the top.

Plant the cutting in sphagnum moss by placing the base of the cutting with the node directly in the potting medium. Water the cutting and then place the pot in an area with high humidity and access to bright light.

In about a month or two, the cutting will start to root. When new growth appears, you can then transfer it to a much larger pot.

Common Health Problems

Common Health Problems/Pests And Diseases

Some common health problems affecting the monkey cup plant are

  • Brown or yelling foliage as a result of old age.
  • Floppy leaves caused by insufficient lighting
  • Inability to produce a pitcher could be as a result of low humidity and poor lighting. 

A few more carnivorous plants: Venus Fly Trap, Butterwort, Cobra Lily, Purple Pitcher.


Is nepenthes toxic to pets?

No. Nepenthes are considered non-toxic to pets and humans.

Why is nepenthes called a monkey cup?

Nepenthes are called monkey cups because monkeys are fond of drinking the liquid in the pitcher.

What should I feed my pitcher plant?

Refrain from feeding your pitcher plant with fertilizer. Instead, feed them with dead insects placed directly into the pitcher.

Can monkey cups be grown in full shade?

No. Pitcher plants grown under full shade will develop floppy leaves.

Why is my nepenthes not producing any pitcher?

This can be caused by low humidity and inadequate or poor lighting. To handle this, place the plant in a humid environment with access to bright light.