Pitcher Plant Pitchers Turning Brown – 6 Causes(Should I Cut It)

If your pitcher plant pitchers turning brown & you don’t know what to do then before that let me tell you these are carnivorous plants that traps the live insects and digest it so they get nutrients from it. But what happens to them if they suddenly get discolored? There are some nepenthes pitchers which do get effects from the change in climatic conditions. What causes pitcher plant to turn brown?

Pitcher Plant Pitchers Turning Brown

Pitcher Plant Pitchers Turning Brown due to low water or the area is too hot with a low humid environment. Nepenthes or Pitchers turning brown is another sign of a pitcher plant getting older. In Winters They stop producing new leaves & go dormant which also leads to existing pitchers to Brown. To revive pitcher plants from dying or Browning, Provide them a moderate humid environment by spraying water, using saucer or humidifier.

If they are low in water then pour water till the water leaks from the bottom. This saves the plant from browning. Whenever the plant feels dry, low in water with that pitcher plants are placed in full sun so they easily get drought conditions which leads to pitcher plant turning brown. These Carnivorous plants discard the growing pitchers to save the main plant from losing more water on sunny days. If you are giving it proper water they will surely grow and revive back but those leaves that have already turned brown won’t turn green but the happy news is that the new pitchers will come in healthy color.

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I have these plants in my grandfather’s garden and he used to grow these extraordinary living things. They are quite fascinating and growing them is easy for anyone. When I used to go there I learned about how they have got their food in the pitchers and sometimes when they feel low my grandpa takes an insect and puts it in its mouth. I got scared at that time of what was happening, after that I learned about these pitcher plants. I know they are carnivorous and they need nutrition to fulfill their requirements to grow.

When they turn brown there can be a lot of reasons which I have given below in this article. Do not worry much, they are strong plants and somehow they manage to survive. I suggest you follow the instructions and that way you can easily make it healthy again. 

Sometimes I feel the browning does occur because it’s natural right, every plant part has time to grow and with time it withers, so basically if pitchers do that it might be giving a sign of aging or replacing the pitcher by making the unhealthy one dry and brown. This way new pitchers will come and grow. There are many reasons this is just like when your plant is old but if you have a healthy young pitcher then make sure to find more causes of the pitcher turning brown.

Quick Facts:

Family Nepenthaceae(Asia) and Sarraceniaceae(North American)
Type Carnivorous Plant
Light Requirement Full Sun, Bright Light
Water Keep it Moist
Fertilizer Non Used, External Prey for Food
Propagation Seed, Stem Cuttings
Toxicity Non Toxic to Cat, Dogs
Pruning Once or Twice Every year With old leaves

Why my pitcher plant pitchers turning brown?

There are many reasons why pitchers react this way, There could be environmental stress, insufficient water and exposure to light. If your nepenthes pitchers are old then it might be turning brown naturally. It’s their natural phenomenon. 

Another reason for pitcher plants turning brown is due to the fact that the plant is growing new pitchers which lead to existing ones dying back. The browning gives life to new ones and all the prey that are still getting digested by the half or 70% brown pitchers will be used to make the new pitchers. This can be one possibility of the upper half pitcher turning brown. Now let’s know more reasons about pitchers’ browning. 

Natural Phenomenon

It’s just that your pitcher plant is getting older and your plant is telling you that it is using a half browned pitcher(upper half gets brown) which still has insects in it and the plant is absorbing all nutrients from it. So once the pitcher is totally brown it means now there is no nutrient left in it and you can cut off the tendrils and not the leaf. 

Browning happens when the plant produces new pitchers so the old pitchers need to die back first to create more such leaves. Otherwise if these old leaves don’t die they will just use the nutrients and still die. And your new pitchers get less nutrients that is why sometimes the length of the pitcher is less because of nutrient deficiency.


The second most common reason why pitcher plants turn brown is due to low humidity. In a drought environment, these plants require more water and if pitchers get shower or have some water then it can definitely thrive better and don’t get browning in its leaf tips. Also these plants don’t want water which can be soggy and flooded. It should dry up to 90% of its soil or find check it by using your index finger, tap on the soil up to 2 inch if the soil feels dry give it water. This can solve the watering issue.

Low humidity in pitcher plants causes browning and the leaf loses a lot of water on hot days. To make sure they grow healthy, robust and vigorous you need to provide them with an area with moderate humidity. Using a humidifier indoors can solve the problem for those who are growing a pitcher inside the house. While some of them who have placed the pots outdoors can use a saucer with water which can help the plant to fulfill water requirements and stay moist. 

Or regular misting on sunny days will help the plant grow healthier and green.

If you find pitchers turns brown more than 50-60% then they won’t needed by plant and its then indication that once the pitchers turns 100% brown cut off and let the plant handle it. New pitchers will grow and use existing pitchers to catch prey nutrients so don’t worry just remove the modified leaf from the tendril and let the normal leaf grow.

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Pitcher plants need soil to be moist most of the time and when they tend to grow in full sun your plant loses a lot of water. This makes the soil dry and supply of water to the other parts like leaves may get limited. If soils feel dry your pitchers may turn dry and start to brown. It’s a slow process but if it happens regularly and your plant doesn’t get enough water your most leaves can turn brown.

Also They like distilled water that doesn’t contain chemicals and if they don’t find clear or rainwater the pitcher plant might turn to brown. It’s one of the impacts that the plant feels but if it resists the plant leaves may get pale, dried. 


Growing pitcher plants in the wrong soil also leads to browning of leaves or your plant may not grow properly. nepenthes like well draining soil and mostly I recommend them to grow in peat or sphagnum moss and never on the ground soil. Soil has different problems relating to fungus infection. 

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nepenthes pitcher plant don’t like fertilizer, they won’t requires the plant food generally because every nutrients they get from insects, bugs they trap on their stomach. Pitchers break down the dead insect and absorb its nutrients to make a new pitchers and grow well in the environment. These are carnivorous plants that’s why I never needed the natural plant based fertilizer. If you want to give fertilizer to your plant then take a dead insect and drop it into the modified leaf called pitcher. The digestive enzymes will do the rest of the things. In the end your plant will be more bright, healthy once you feed the insect to your plant.

Old Age

If a pitcher plant getting old it started to show some signs like browning, drying, decaying. This means that the pitcher is old and not able to grow back again. although pitcher has lifespan of 10 to 20 years but if you have it dying early then it can be a different cause otherwise after 10 years it started to grow slow or if you propagated it then a new pitcher can be produced and it will surely grow from the first stage.

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Should I cut off the brown pitchers on my pitcher plant?

You should know that by cutting off the brown pitchers it will give loss to the plants as it can be still feeding on the prey. If you check it from inside there might be dead insects it is digesting. People who saw pitchers plant a pitcher turning brown half then wait for it to brown fully. Once the pitcher turns brown, time to cut off from the tendrils(the thread-like thin stem) and leave the leaf because they will help the plant to grow more pitchers.

The noodle-like vine that grows from the leaf which creates a vessel-like pitcher is cut down so the plant can be robust, stable, energetic and pest free. Never Cut Off Leaves until they also turn pale or dried out completely.

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Nepenthes or pitcher plants are carnivorous so they feed on live insects once they get their prey, your plant may feel more strength and may become greener as it gets its nature’s fertilizer. Pitchers has nectar which insects are attracted to, that makes them sit on the pitcher top. But the surface where the insect foot on is slippery which makes the prey fall on the stomach of the pitcher. It has digestive enzymes which then makes insects slowly die and all of the prey’s body breaks down and that’s how our pitchers plant get food. This is how from many year nepenthes are growing and thriving in nature.

How do you revive a dying pitcher plant?

A dying pitcher plant can be revived by determining the exact problem. Your pitcher plant might not getting sunlight, or they have been sitting in damp soil. There are various reason but the most common are relating to watering and sunlight.

If your plant is not producing enough pitchers then move your plant to more of a full sun area. It needs to be moist & sprayed often so it doesn’t lose the water in its leaves or soil. These plants when sat in soggy soil they started to get fungus which lead to root rot. Always check your topsoil for about 1-2 inch for its dryness if its dry then give some water to your plant. 

Anther problem when you see dying pitcher plant, this could be due to low humidity because these are tropical plants they need moderate to high humid environment. So use a artificial humidifier, saucer pots or regular misting would work to increase the indoor humidity & can make your pitchers more happy.

Carnivorous plants also need proper feeding when they are grown in limited environment which doesn’t have insect, bugs so it needs someone to feed them directly so they can get nutrients and become strong and vigorous again.

Fixing dying pitcher plants by increasing humidity, adequate watering or relocating it to another good spot with full sunlight that makes the leaves green and healthy.

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Pitcher Plant Care

Pitcher plant are easy to care for and the only thing you need is a good location where it can get a lot of insects so these carnivorous plants can use them as fertilizer and take nutrients from it. It helps them to perform better and helps them to produce more bright leaves and more pitchers. They like full sun and if grown in a good moderate to high humid area they thrive better there. They also grow in well draining soil and for watering just give water only when the soil feels dry. For more information check my article on pitcher plant care.

Wrap Up

I hope you get the answer on “Pitcher Plant Pitchers Turning Brown ” and also check out related topics below.

Pitcher Plant Fertilizer – What And When Should i feed Nepenthes?