Carnivorous Plants/deformed nepenthes leaf
I have a Nepenthes ventricosa x aristolochioides that I purchased from your nursery about two months ago. It grows along with my other nepenthes and carnivorous plants on a grow rack in a large, bright, SSW-facing window. It is still in the pot in which it was shipped. I use only distilled water and keep the soil moist, but not soggy. I live in southern CT.
The problem is that the new growth appears deformed--twisted and curled in on itself at the tip. There is a basal shoot exhibiting the exact same deformity, as well. I can't see any insects or other pests and my other nepenthes (ventrata, spath x [tal x spec], and spec x spath) seem fine. Is this simply a sign that the plant is adjusting to my conditions? are strange leaves normal for this hybrid (it does, overall, seem "curlier" than the other neps)? or could it be some kind of pest?
ANSWER: Hi Chris,
This may not be a problem. Occasionally plants do produce an odd leaf, but I'm going to have you do a careful inspection for a particular pest. Get an hand lens to inspect the undersides of the leaves carefully. You're looking for a tiny bug that has a long body that moves under the leaves. If you see anything like that, these are Thrips. You will need to spray to get rid of them. They suck plant juices and can cause the kind of damage you're seeing. If you find them on this plant, you'll need to spray your other Nepenthes too.
Bayer Rose and Flower insect killer works very well. Insecticidal soap sprays (commercial, not "homemade") work too. Just be sure to follow directions on the label. Here's a link to our insecticide podcast: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbRCdJ8ZNF0
In the podcast we recommend against insecticidal soaps, but we've found they are safe on Nepenthes, just don't use them on Sundews, Butterworts, or Flytraps. Their leaves are much more delicate.
Let me know what you find.
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QUESTION: Thanks for the FAST reply! I just inspected the plant with a lens under some bright light. Lo and behold, tiny bugs! These aren't elongated like thrips, but round, a pale reddish-orange, and relatively fast moving, like tiny mites. They were in the curled-up part of the leaf and I found others hiding out in spaces where the leaves meet the vine. Could it be spider mites?
It's a very good chance they are. You will need to treat for these. Spider mites can be a tough customer, and are immune to many insecticides. For this reason I would recommend using the insecticidal soap. Because of how it works arthropods can't build resistance to it easily. You'll need to treat your other Nepenthes too. Follow the product directions for reapplication. If you have any other houseplants, check them too, and treat as needed. Plant damage can occur is this product is overused, so be sure and follow label directions.