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Look, you'll get the 'pitcher'

DRINK UP: Monkeys drink from the pitcher plant.
DRINK UP: Monkeys drink from the pitcher plant. Contributed

WHAT'S weirder, a plant that can grow whiskers up to ½ m long, or a climbing carnivorous plant that can get so big monkeys use the insect-catching pitchers as a cup?

What's even weirder still about both these plants is that they both can be grown here in Ipswich.

The Bat Plant, Tacca integrifolia (white) and Tacca chantieri (black), can grow whiskers up to 50cm long. This amazing and weird plant has bizarre flowers resembling a bat's black face with white or black ears and long whiskers. It is found naturally in south-east Asia and from eastern India to southern China.

It is a clumping plant with large lush green foliage. It loves humidity and can be grown indoors as well as outside in a warm shady spot. In the past this plant has been quite rare and many found it hard to grow.

I have found that it is not hard to grow, just a little fussy. Once you have found the perfect spot for it and stop fussing (overwatering it) it will thrive. At Trevallan Lifestyle Centre we found the Bat Plants like a particular area in the garden centre best. This area is not really that much different from other areas in the centre. It is shady but very warm and the plants are kept moist but not sitting in water. Our Tacca chantieri, Black Bat Plant, had more than 10 flowers on it during its past flowering season!

We advise that when you take your Bat Plant home don't plant it immediately. Try it in a few spots first and see where the plant would like to make its home. Plus it's best not to fuss over it - it grows naturally on the rainforest floor. I find the best fertilisers are the Plant of Health range of fertilisers - Triple Boost Liquid Fertiliser and Organic Link slow release granular fertiliser as the Bat Plant does not like strong fertilisers and tends to look sick if you use chemical fertilisers, which leads you to use more - and kill it.

Nepenthes, tropical pitcher plants, have a common name of monkey cups. This refers to the fact that monkeys have been observed drinking rainwater from these plants' pitchers.

I find the climbing pitcher plant the easiest of all carnivorous plants to grow. They enjoy similar growing conditions to ferns and orchids. They can be grown indoors or outdoors in a sheltered, semi-shaded position receiving 50-80% shade or morning sun. We have ours growing in a hanging basket under a shady tree. They like to be kept moist, but they must have good drainage as they do not like to sit in water. Sphagnum moss as mulch helps a lot.

Nepenthes can be tip-pruned to keep them compact as the older leaves die right back to the stem. I kind of like the kooky look of having pitchers climbing up through the tree. Step outside your box this weekend and get a little bizarreness going on in your garden!

Topics:  chelsea van rijn gardening opinion



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