Yellow pitcher plants (Sarracenia flava) are carnivorous plants native to the United States, and they grow in marshy areas in the Southeast. These plants attract insects with their nectar. The insects fall into the "pitcher" of the plant, where they are trapped and digested. Although Sarracenia flava can be grown indoors, these plants are happiest outdoors, according to Rob Gardner, curator of the North Carolina Botanical Garden.
Yellow pitcher plants have modified leaves that form the pitcher. Without enough light, these leaves cannot stand upright and will wilt and flop over. For that reason, yellow pitcher plants need at least six hours of sunlight each day. Eight to twelve hours is ideal.
The planting medium of yellow pitcher plants should be loose and acidic. In the wild, these plants thrive in sandy soil. Prepare a medium composed of equal parts peat moss and coarse sand. Wet the mixture and let the moss absorb the water for a few days before planting your yellow pitcher. Do not plant if the medium is too soggy. Squeeze it: If water drips out, it is still too wet and should sit for another day.
Pitcher plants thrive in very boggy, marshy areas, so never let the planting medium of your yellow pitcher dry out. Use rain or distilled water, as tap water sometimes contains minerals that can change the acidity in the soil. In the winter, Sarracenia plants go dormant, or rest. This is required for the plants to flower in the spring. During this time, reduce the amount of water you give the plant. Instead of keeping the planting medium saturated, keep it barely moist to the touch. In addition, too much watering in the winter can lead to mold or fungus growth.
Indoors or outdoors, pitcher plants will benefit from being in a container that will retain water, such as a small plastic wading pool or even a plastic bowl. Do not use one that has drainage holes. Or, if your potting container does have holes, place it on a tray full of water.
Food and Maintenance
If your yellow pitcher plant is indoors where it cannot trap insects, feed it a tiny insect every month or so to keep it supplied with nutrients. Never feed the plant meat, as this can cause the leaves to rot. In the fall, parts of the leaves may turn brown and die. Simply cut those parts off.
Never fertilize yellow pitcher plants (or any other type of pitcher plant). Pitcher plants grow in soil that is poor in nitrogen, and they rely on insects to provide missing nutrients. Fertilizers are rich in nitrogen, which could overload the plant and eventually kill it.
Diseases and Pests
Sclerotinia is a fungal disease that can attack carnivorous plants. It is not caused by water, but by infected soil or planting medium. For that reason, it is best to plant your yellow pitcher plant in new, sterile planting medium rather than digging it up from the wild. If your plant is infected, you will see small clusters of fungus growth starting at the base of the plant and moving upward. Treat the disease by applying fungicide.
Pitcher plants can also be bothered by tiny insects called thrips, which suck the sap from the leaves, causing them to become twisted or otherwise malformed. Aphids and mealybugs are also known to infest pitcher plants. Hand-remove or use an insecticidal spray, applied in the evening, to rid your plant of these bugs.