Nepenthe deaths by the bucket load!


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Hi,

Been off the forum for a while. Though still growing many plants in my greenhouses I have loads of losses with my usually  tough reliable neps. I have suffered a few losses over the long winter months but these last few years the numbers have increased considerably. This week alone I have lost a big BE burbidgeae & my oldest (26 years) N. alata. With loads of other plants looking sick. After comments on the Highland Neps FB pages I am reasonably convinced it is a fungal issue or root rot. Though most of the plants have extensive root systems when unpotted. But very black thin and wirey. Healthy plants have usually slightly thicker roots with micro hairs and a white cap to them.  The plant leaves go wrinkled and curled and lack lustre and lose their healthy glossy waxy look. So the plant has stopped taking up water. If I take cuttings these recover quite quickly when placed in water. But rooting particularly at this time of year is far from guaranteed. And some cuttings go black very quickly suggesting the disease has already spread completely through the plant. I use LFS (NZ dried) or live, mixed with orchid bark and sometimes perlite. I tend to keep my plants on the drier side particularly in winter. And flush through with either rain or RO water when the pot gets lighter and the compost is almost dry. Winter min temps on average 10c- though a combination of this mild winter (now finished I think!) and upping the thermostat is giving temps of 12/15c. Average light levels (only natural) and mainly overcast days.

 

I am used to losing the odd or weak plants. But this more serious collapse is getting me down and I see no end to it. Help!!

 

bill          

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I don't know, how is the soil moisture?

Damp rather than wet. I tend to let the compost almost dry out before flushing water through. Though at this time of the year with the Neps in an almost dormant state because of the light levels and temperature the gap between watering increases. Just ripped apart my dying BE N. burbidgeae and the roots cover the outside of the compost around the side of the pot. Thin black & dead. And those thicker roots you get were brown/red all the way through. I lost my MT N. burbidgeae also in similar circumstances late last summer. In fairness both plants failed to pitcher last summer and were not looking great.  But any knack I had to growing these wonderful plants has gone and I can see my remaining plants going the same way and as Agatha Christie would say "And them there were none!" And judging from their appearance they are along that road!!  

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Sounds bad Bill.  Cant honestly make any suggestions.  Just hope you don't lose all your plants.  Are relatively young plants affected as well?  I doubt many people have plants as old as yours.

 

btw if the Alata is the one you sent me a cutting off, i can probably return the favor later in the year...

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Sounds bad Bill.  Cant honestly make any suggestions.  Just hope you don't lose all your plants.  Are relatively young plants affected as well?  I doubt many people have plants as old as yours.

 

btw if the Alata is the one you sent me a cutting off, i can probably return the favor later in the year...

Yes Mark its not been/is good! I suddenly realised that every plant on my main staging in my original neps house is now dead! Including the ones hanging above it.. :( The alata is indeed one of them and was the original 26 year old mother plant! And that burb/mac hybrid I got from you alongside it. Even my robust but for some reason impossible to get cuttings to strike BE N. sanguinea is fast going downhill. And the two cuttings I took from it went black within a couple of days. I fear that there must be some kind of fungal infection. And without a good quarantine area and the overall effects of a cold and dark winter cannot see how I can turn it around until at least summer. But of course I have been having these issues to a lesser extent for at least 7 years now without pinning down the cause and source. And now I just dread stepping in the greenhouses which makes the hobby a trial not a joy!! Perhaps eventually growing any tropical plants in the UK will always eventually end in loss and sickness. I cannot help but think that if they only experienced summer conditions all year round, this situation would not exist.    

 

I have not that many really young plants now as I stopped getting any around 2010 once it became clear I had some problems. But yes any more recent rooted cuttings do look happier (for now!!)

I hope Mark your greenhouse is still working out well. I have upped the temperature as I think you suggested a while back to give an average of 12/15c But the plants collapsing and dying were going downhill a long time back I think... 

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I lost a 10 old singalana last year to the brown rot but put it down to my own lack of care, seems once it gets into the woody bits its game over. I do wonder if older plants are more susceptible, i'm not convinced that most neps have a naturally long life span either.

Do your greenhouses get relatively good light? I lost quite a few in my conservatory over the years, its just slightly less well lit than the new greenhouse where most things are doing way better.

I lost all my heliamphoras a few years back, after several years of them doing really well, still no idea why.

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I had a similar problem with some nepenthes and another kind of plants. In nepenthes the symptoms where stunted plants, lack of growth, and then the stems turned black from below to the growing tip. I was able to save some plants doing cuttings, but almost all of them turned black. In one (with the growing tip) a white fuzz appeared on what was going to be the new leaf after the entire stem turned black (only old leaves where still green).

In other plants the symptoms where dark edges on leaves, death of branches, defoliation and reddish roots.

I got rid of it repotting plants with early symptoms, throwing any soil of infected plants, avoiding contact of draining water or tools between pots and spraying Aliette (fosetyl-al). I suspect it was phytophthora root rot, but that's only an assumption.

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Most of my older plants vine, flower and have basals but just seem to lose vigour progressively and either die or may as well have died. I'm massively impressed your plants lasted as long as they have.

Younger plants I had went nowhere, but repotting and raising winter temperatures to 14oC has worked wonders.

Whether they are naturally weedy 'live fast die young' I don't know. Maybe in cultivation there is an increasing chance of endemic disease of one kind or another.  

It's extreme, but maybe chucking the lot, sterilising the greenhouse and starting again with a brace of simple favourites might bring back the joy

I have resigned myself to enjoying them in their youth, and having a trickle of seedlings to keep things interesting for next year.

 

All the best,

Dave

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  • 1 month later...

Thanks everyone for your helpful comments and words. I do agree Dave/Mark that I wonder whether as the plant gets older it gets weaker. Even if it produces new basals they still emerge from very old woody bits of the plant. And when I have ripped old dead plants apart it is often red and unhealthy inside.

 

Mark- My greenhouses don't get the best of light in the winter so feel that does stress them more than the temperature. And this current winter while it has been the most mild on the whole has also been the dullest as well. Hard to see how I can improve that as hanging any lights would only help a few. And most likely not at all the biggest vining ones.

 

Apart from losing my knack in growing the plants well I have lost the knack of getting cuttings to root as well! Though feel that is most likely because any disease in the plant has already spread to all parts of it. As cuttings even when healthy looking go black quite quickly from the tip down. And plants like burbidgeae have never rooted for me even in happier days! Perhaps one of these species like villosa which don't respond well...

 

Dave- Have you still got your BE Hairy hamate? Mine has grown very slowly and has refused to pitcher for the last few years. Is it one that needs high humidity and my greenhouses are fairly low in humidity. High or dappled light?     

 

cheers

 

bill

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  • 2 weeks later...
 
This gives you an idea of what is happening to my plants :(
 

Other plants gone this way recently include AW N. veitchii, EP N. lowii x truncata, a few mini maxima etc etc.. It is certainly either root or stem rot or both! I am always careful to not over water particularly in winter. Some composts look worse than others. I have taken cuttings but so far these are going black quickly suggesting that the infection has already spread to all parts of the plant.

Edited by flycatchers
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