In the past 18 months I have gained quite a bit of experience with the handful of North American nurseries that sell Nepenthes (and often, a selection of other insectivores). This page is intended to be a guide to the suppliers I have purchased from, offering a summary of my experience with each.
OK, so who do I recommend for high quality plants and great selection? Here in the US there aren’t a lot of choices. Peter D’Amato’s nursery, California Carnivores usually has a few plants to offer, but those are generally imports from Borneo Exotics: either seedlings or tiny tissue cultured species. They are fine plants, but you will wait a year or more for most of these to start into their “adult vigor” phase, which isn’t particularly rewarding for a beginner. Occasionally they also offer rooted cuttings of select plants. Plant quality is always excellent, but for Nepenthes, you may want to buy larger plants to start out with.
The two North American nurseries I feel have the most to offer are Leilani Nepenthes, and Exotic Plants Plus. Read on……
Leilani Nepenthes is run by Jeremiah Harris in Colorado, and he is the mainland rep for Sam Estes in Hawaii. Jeremiah has one of the most amazing collections in the US and the plants he sells are both great value and excellent quality. For the most part, his offerings are limited to what Leilani produces, plus a few things Jeremiah propagates himself. Sam’s hybrids have a certain style to them that not everyone loves, but I happen to really appreciate many of Sam’s plants; I think he is very creative with his breeding program. When you buy several plants from Jeremiah, you get an occasional freebie bonus plant in your order! Who doesn’t like a freebie?!
Exotic Plants Plus, aka Par-O-Bek Orchids is owned by Tony Paroubek in Rodman, NY. Tony’s great asset is the scope of his offerings; he is the US agent for several hybridizers, including Borneo Exotics and Exotica Plants in Australia, the latter being one of the most respected and revered of the Nepenthes breeding houses in the world. I have several EP hybrids and they are truly remarkable plants, every one. Tony also offers seed grown hybrids from his own breeding, and plants raised from seed supplied by “private growers”. In all, Tony’s inventory represents the widest range of plants, so there’s never a shortage of choices. His prices are also very reasonable and plant quality is always top notch. A five star review, without hesitation.
Update March 2014: At this time, Exotic Plants Plus is closed and no longer doing business, the result of a catastrophic heating system failure in January, on a very VERY cold night. The Paroubek Nepenthes collection was ostensibly destroyed in the freeze event and so Tony has — at least for the time being — closed shop until further notice. Sadly, should he choose not to re-open the business, we will have lost the best North American supplier of the world’s finest Nepenthes. Lets hope Tony restarts his business at some point in the future.
Both Exotic Plants Plus and Leilani ship bare-rooted* plants, just so you know. However, I have not found this to be a problem, since all of the plants from both sources have been quick to establish and almost all have resumed growth immediately after potting up. I don’t think you should be deterred by the notion of acquiring bare-rooted plants, but I thought it needed to be mentioned. The great advantage of shipping Nepenthes bare root is that there is far less risk of damage to plants during shipping. Heavy pots full of soil tend to act like a brick placed in the box, bashing the plant about as it gets jostled. (Although the Sarracenia NW boys do an excellent job of packing their plants to avoid damage) I also like buying bare rooted Nepenthes because I get to choose the soil mix, and I know the soil will be fresh and will be good for at least a year. When it is someone else’s soil in the pot, you can’t be sure how old it is or what its made of!
These days, I tend to rely on Tony Paroubek and Jeremiah Harris as my two go-to guys for plants, and I think they are both superb suppliers in every way. Although in the past I have had some fine plants from Sarracenia Northwest, I tend to go to them less often only because I prefer buying plants with a known pedigree now, rather than the “Poi Dogs” they tend to offer, which have uncertain or unknown pedigrees. Otherwise, they sell fine plants, but many of my “unknowns” from them I now treat as my “beginner” plants that I tend to use for cultivation experiments. (Testing fungicides, fertilizers on, outdoor growing, etc. to see what their tolerances are) Many of SNW’s offerings are very reasonably priced, but sometimes the rare and more desirable plants are, in my estimation, inexplicably overpriced, in which case you may want to explore other options.
I have bought many fine plants from Sarracenia Northwest in the past, but after a rather unpleasant (and expensive) experience with a purchase this year, they are no longer on my list of trusted sources, I’m sorry to say. I’ve had a good experience with them in the past, but this recent experience has put me off them. YMMV/caveat emptor.
I have also bought a few Nepenthes (and Sarracenia) from Cook’s Carnivores (Dean Cook), and have been quite pleased with my acquisitions. Curiously, Dean sells many of his more interesting offerings only on his eBay store (you can buy his exclusive N. inermis X talangensis there), and although I generally avoid eBay, I can recommend this seller without hesitation.
Regarding eBay: while it is possible to get good merchandise from specific sellers there, I’ve found there is a greater risk of acquiring plants in poor condition, or simply ending up buying sub-par plants (I’m speaking about seed grown hybrids mainly) that some grower has culled from their collection because the plant is a poor performer, or relatively uninteresting. Not every seedling is a winning combination! Be especially cautious about buying on eBay; ask on forums who is a good seller, and who should be avoided.
I have also bought one or two plants from www.droseragemmae.com (My N. hamata is from this guy), and from Predatory Plants/Josh Brown, but the latter appears to have shuttered his store, at least temporarily. Both have sold me nice plants for reasonable prices, no problems, no dissatisfaction.
The one supplier I have had a less satisfactory experience with is PetFlyTrap.com, and in fact, I won’t buy from this nursery anymore after one particularly bad experience. Suffice it to say that I think this nursery charges very high prices for some items that can be had elsewhere for a fraction of the price, and some of the plants you receive may be in rather questionable health. Perhaps the Texas heat makes life difficult for the Highland Nepenthes they offer, or they just don’t have a handle on their growing environment, but two of the most expensive plants bought from PFT have been the worst specimens I have acquired to date, and have taken 8 months or more to start making healthy, normal growth. To be fair, some of the plants I got from them have been just fine (My beautiful N. jamban came from here), but the poor ones were really unsatisfactory, and so I’ve decided I don’t want to play roulette with my money by buying from them anymore.
There are other Nepenthes suppliers in the US, but I have not had any purchasing experience with the following, and so I can neither recommend nor discourage you from trying them:
Cascade Carnivores has a few Nepenthes in their catalog as well. A friend of mine has recently reported that he has had an excellent experience buying from Cascade, so I may try them myself soon.
Of course, if you are an experienced grower and want to look further afield, especially for rare and hard-to-find species, you may want to consider importing a few treasures from Wistuba Nepenthes, in Germany. Andreas Wistuba has a remarkable collection and has a number of highly desirable species to offer.
Meadowview Biological Research Stationoccasionally offers rooted cuttings of some of their Nepenthes, but their focus is on Sarracenia conservation. If you want to help preserve Sarracenia habitat here in North America, I urge you to visit their site and contribute to the preservation of this “home grown” genus.
*what you can expect when buying “bare-rooted” Nepenthes: the plants have had 90% of their potting media removed and the root ball is carefully wrapped in Sphagnum moss for protection and to keep the roots moist. Nepenthes are easily transported this way and rarely suffer any transplant shock as a result of the uprooting.
Want to learn how to propagate Nepenthes from cuttings? Check this out: http://www.youtube.com