Interview with Michael Kong
Please tell us a little about yourself.
I grow and sell primarily nepenthes and heliamphora. I started growing in terrarium before converting a room into a grow space. As the room filled up and plant addiction grew, I spent the last summer building a greenhouse.
What’s your favorite plant and why?
My favourite plant is Nepenthes mollis, formerly known as hurrelliana. It is one of the most iconic and unique species of nepenthes. The black striping against the tall green peristome makes it like nothing else in the genus. A few years back on Instagram when Nepenthes mollis was starting to become more widespread in cultivation, a few growers and I started #mollisgang as a joke. Unbeknownst to us, this stuck and mollis reminds me of those early days.
What first sparked your interest for carnivores?
Living near California Carnivores exposed me early on to CPs. After seeing pictures of Ampullaria Black Miracle, I knew I wanted to grow nepenthes. Over the course of finding CP plant related Instagrams, I saw the huge diversity of pitcher plants out there and knew I wanted to grow them.
What’s your best tip for growing carnivores?
Look at your plants everyday. This will help you enjoy the results of the time you put into growing them while also seeing anything that might need attention. Plants will tell you for the most part if they are unhappy. By picking up the early signs, you can easily keep everything growing on track. Also, form your plant schedule around your daily/weekly schedule – if a plant is drying out faster than your normal water schedule it most likely needs a repot because it is rootbound.
What if you don’t have a green thumb? What’s the hardest carnivorous plant to kill?
Nepethes ventricosa and drosera capensis. I recommend starting with easier species/hybrids before moving into the more challenging ones. Also, do your research before buying plants, not the other way around. You should have a set up ready to go before the new plant arrives.
What has been your biggest failure/learning experience in your garden/greenhouse?
One time I was cutting some basals off one of my Nepenthes talangensis x sibuyanensis and accidentally cut the mother plant instead. Always look twice before cutting!
What challenges do you face in your specific area/country/climate? And have you found a “solution” or a way to work around or with those challenges?
When I was building the indoor grow room I initially had an issue keeping the humidity up. I got a swamp cooler to blow into the room and painted the walls with water proof paint to prevent molding. I also got a Mistking system to give everything a good mist every other hour which helps keep the sphagnum happy.
What is your favourite task in the garden/greenhouse?
Looking for basals. Its like a gift a plant gives to you (and something you can sell!). Often times when a plant stops pitchering its because it’s devoting it’s energy in creating another node activation.
What is your least favourite task in the garden/greenhouse?
Fertilizing things. I use a combination of quarter strength maxsea via foliar application and osmocote in the pitchers. I used to love spraying the plants and filling each pitcher but as the collection has grown, it has been a lot harder to keep up with it.
Who or what inspires you?
IInstagram! I have made so many great friendships with other growers over the years that have become part of my daily life.
How many plants do you have approximately?
Which non carnivorous plants do you grow?
Masdevallia Orchids, airplants, antplants and pineapple plant
Thanks for the interwiev Michael!
Check out his Instagram page.