Common Name: pitcher plant
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Zone: 6 to 8
Height: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 0.75 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Maroon red
Sun: Full sun
Suggested Use: Water Plant, Rain Garden
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Strict adherence to the cultural needs of this plant is essential. In residential areas, this plant is best grown in the consistently moist soils of a bog garden. The bog garden should be prepared in advance of planting. In the St. Louis area, the bog garden should be sited in a protected location with winter mulch. If a bog garden is not available, then growing plants in containers may be the next best option. Plants require full sun. In part shade, leaf coloring does not develop as it should and pitchers droop. Plants need an acidic, humusy muck that is constantly damp. Soils must never dry out. Soil recommendations include Canadian peat or mixes of peat/sand or peat/perlite. Irrigation hoses and underground liners should be considered. Plants have a horizontal rhizome. Plants flower in spring and produce pitchers throughout summer. Pitchers mostly die back as winter approaches. In cold climates, trim leaves back in winter as pitchers die, but only trim dead tissue. Soil may be mulched with pine needles in winter to protect plants from cold temperatures. Easiest propagation is by rhizome division. Plants may be grown in pots/containers (plastic best) placed outside on a sunny deck or patio area. Container soils can be 50% peat and 50% perlite/vermiculite. Potting soil and/or fertilizer may kill the plant. Containers should be placed in a tray of water that keeps the soil constantly moist. Containers may be overwintered by inserting them to the rim in soil in protected locations. Dig up containers in spring to place back in full sun areas. Containers may also be brought inside in winter with somewhat reduced watering. Plants need full sun in the growing season and cold temperatures in winter dormancy, hence they simply do not grow well as houseplants. Do not collect these plants from the wild.
‘Judith Hindle’ will not come true from seed and must be vegetatively propagated.
Pitcher plants are described as carnivorous plants because they trap and kill insects (e.g., flies, ants, beetles, wasps) and similar prey (e.g., mites, spiders) by luring them into trumpet-shaped pitchers (modified leaves) where the insects become trapped and die. Nutrients from the decayed pest bodies are absorbed by the plant as nourishment through special cells located at the base of each pitcher.
Genus name honors Dr. Michael Sarrasin de l’Etang of Quebec who reportedly sent the first pitcher plants to Europe around 1700.
‘Judith Hindle’ is a compact hybrid pitcher plant whose parents are separate clones of (S. purpurea x S. flava) x S. leucophylla. This is a stemless herbaceous perennial that grows in full sun. Modified leaves form upright, slender-fluted pitchers of variable height to 12-24” tall. Pitchers are narrow with a somewhat horizontal lid (hood) that prevents most rain from entering the tube. Lids on this cultivar are distinctively undulating. Young pitchers emerge green with green and white undulating lids, but mature to deep reddish-maroon with marbled lids veined in pink and red. Lids are attractive landing sites for flying insects. Insects are lured to the pitchers by the attractive leaf colors and nectar. Nectar reportedly has a paralyzing effect on insects. Each pitcher is slippery inside, and insects fall down the tube into a digestive juice liquid at the bottom of the pitcher. Insects decompose and nutrients are absorbed. In spring, a single maroon-red flower blooms atop a leafless stalk to the height of the pitchers. Flower stalks are crooked at the top, and the globular, 5-petaled flower hangs down. Flowers typically have a moderate fragrance. Each flower is followed by a 5-parted seed capsule.
Plants will do poorly if specific cultural requirements are not followed. Protect from strong freezing winds. Winter hardiness is generally not a problem in the St. Louis area for this plant. Feeding plants manually is not advisable. Do not fertilize plantings. Watch for aphids, scale, mealybugs, moth larvae, leaf spot and root rot. Pitcher plants in the wild often exhibit poor growth in years with dry springs, with some rhizomes remaining dormant for the entire growing season.
Bog garden is best. Also may be grown in containers, greenhouses or as an indoor houseplant. Growth in containers as an indoor plant can be difficult because of the need for growing season sun and winter dormancy. May be grown outside in low spots or other continuously moist locations, but this can be difficult and is not recommended.