Calatheas are tropical plants known for their vibrant foliage and unique patterns. Calathea plants (Calathea spp) feature patterned leaves, adding a splash of color to your space.
They produce flowers that range in color from purple to white to yellow. Calatheas can be grown indoors and outdoors. While indoors, they make great bedroom plants.
|Calathea, prayer plant, zebra plant, rattlesnake plant, peacock plant
|Central America, South America
|USDA Hardiness Zones
|18°C-24ºC (Warm, tropical temperatures)
|Loamy, moist, well-drained with an acidic to neutral soil pH
Common Indoor Calathea Varieties
There are over 50 different species of Calathea plants and countless cultivars. Here are some popular Calathea varieties to consider:
1. Calathea ornata (Pinstripe Calathea): The Calathea Pinstripe’s foliage features silvery-pink leaf veins resembling pinstripes. It’s an evergreen perennial that grows clumping and reaches about 3 feet tall.
2. Calathea lancifolia (Rattlesnake Plant): The rattlesnake, or Insignis, has long, spear-shaped leaves (unlike other Calatheas that are more rounded).
3. Calathea makoyana (Peacock Plant): It’s easy to recognize the peacock plant from its pale green leaves with a dark green feathered effect. It has glossy leaves that feel almost like plastic.
4. Calathea veitchiana (Medallion Calathea): The Medallion has large, oval leaves with purple undersides.
5. Calathea roseopicta (Calathea Dottie): The Calathea Dottie features pink dusting on the leaves and dark pink undersides.
How to Care for a Calathea Plant
Calatheas, a tropical plant, prefers filtered light or shade due to their adaptation to jungle floor trees. To prevent leaf burn and fade, keep them away from direct sunlight.
Indirect sun from east-, south- or west-facing windows is suitable when growing indoors. Rotate the plant to ensure even sun exposure. The leaves fold up at night and open wider in the morning to maximize sun absorbency.
Soil Mix and Composition
Calatheas prefer a potting mix that drains well. Look for components like compost, pine bark, coco coir, worm castings, and perlite. These offer nutrients and support moisture preservation.
Calathea plants thrive in containers 8-10 inches deep. They should also have ample drainage holes and unglazed clay for overwatering. Each plant should grow in its pot to prevent overcrowding.
Transplanting and Repotting
Repot every few years in larger containers to prevent root-bound plants from becoming weak and unhealthy. Remove the root ball from the old pot to repot, keeping the roots intact.
Transfer the plant at the same depth in the new pot, filling it with fresh potting mix. Repotting is best done during the plant’s active growing season in spring or early summer.
Temperature and Humidity
Calathea, tropical plants, thrive in warmer temperatures above 65°F-85°F. They should be placed away from drafty windows and vents, especially during colder months.
Calathea plants need 50% or higher humidity levels, as they may curl or dry out in dry conditions. They thrive in areas with extra moisture, such as kitchens and bathrooms. A humidifier or a pebble tray with water provides the necessary dampness for Calathea.
Calathea plants need regular fertilization to promote growth and blooms. A diluted liquid fertilizer is recommended. Consider using soil amendments like seaweed or fish emulsion during repotting.
Fertilizer is beneficial during the growing season. Consider holding out on fertilization during colder months when the plant is dormant.
Calathea plants need ample water, so it’s essential to water them when the soil is dry. They thrive in well-draining soil and containers with drainage holes.
The water used affects the plant’s health, as tap water may contain harmful minerals or compounds. Brown edges on leaves indicate high salt or chlorine content. If tap water isn’t suitable, use filtered or distilled water.
Pruning and Training
Calathea plants don’t need regular pruning. Trimming off brown, wilted leaves as they die off is necessary. It’s crucial for maintaining their appearance and tidiness.
How to Propagate Calathea Plants
The best way to propagate Calathea is by root division, especially when repotting. The steps for propagating Calathea plants include:
- Separate the plant into sections from the mother plant and plant them in different pots. Remove the entire plant from the pot to identify the dividable sections and identify a section with a root system.
- Divide the plant at the point with a natural root separation. Most Calathea plants have fragile roots, so be keen to prevent damage that might impact the divisions’ growth.
- Plant the roots of the offspring in the new pots. Fill the pot with soil so the plant is at the same level as the dirt.
- Consider covering Calathea divisions with a clear plastic bag until new growth. It mimics greenhouse conditions and will hold in heat and humidity.
Pest and Disease Management
- Spider Mites: These tiny pests can cause webbing on the leaves and lead to yellowing and wilting. Rinse the plant with water to remove spider mites. Consider using insecticidal soap or neem oil to control them.
- Mealybugs: Mealybugs appear as small, white, cottony masses on the leaves and stems. Remove the insects using a cotton swab soaked in alcohol or insecticidal soap.
- Aphids: Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects common on new growths. They cause leaf distortion and sticky residue. Management involves spraying the affected plant with a strong jet of water. Use insecticidal soap or neem oil in severe cases.
- Fungus Gnats: Fungus gnats are small black flies attracted to moist soil. Always allow the soil to dry between waterings. Sticky traps are also beneficial in catching adult gnats.
Troubleshooting Common Issues
Calathea plants can sometimes encounter issues that affect their growth and appearance. Here are some troubleshooting tips for addressing these problems:
- Curling Leaves: If the leaves of your Calathea start to curl, it could be due to low humidity levels. Increase humidity around the plant by misting the leaves. Ensure the plant is not exposed to cold drafts or hot, dry air.
- Brown Leaf Tips: Brown tips on Calathea leaves indicate low humidity, underwatering, or soil salt accumulation. Increase humidity levels and water the plant using filtered water to prevent salt buildup. Trim off the browned leaf tips with clean scissors or pruning shears.
- Yellowing Leaves: Yellowing leaves indicate overwatering, underwatering, or exposure to direct sunlight. Check the soil’s moisture level and adjust your watering routine. Ensure the plant is not receiving direct sunlight, as it can scorch the leaves. Remove any severely yellowed leaves to improve the plant’s appearance.
- Dull or Faded Leaves: Calathea leaves may appear dull or faded due to inadequate lighting or nutrient deficiency. Ensure the plant receives sufficient indirect light. Consider fertilizing it with a balanced houseplant fertilizer using the recommended dosage.