Fall in Love with the Velvety Foliage of Calathea Rufibarba

Calathea rufibarba originates from the rainforests of Brazil. The plant has the nicknames of Velvet Calathea and Furry Feather Calathea because of the leaves’ fuzzy undersides and long, wavy leaf edges. Rufibarba’s growth rate is slower than other varieties but growth is boosted with the help of fertilizer.

Calathea Rufibarba
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Calathea Rufibarba Appearance

Calathea rufibarba have two-toned, green leaf tops with undersides of deep purple. Unlike most Calathea, the undersides of this variety have a fuzzy texture. The plant reaches a height of 2 to 3.5 feet (60 cm) tall. Blooming indoors is rare, but when flowering occurs they are bright yellow and more showy than other varieties. 

Calathea Rufibarba Sunlight Requirements

Proper Calathea rufibarba care requires lots of bright, diffused sunlight. Avoid full sun that causes leaf markings to fade and the edges to burn. Some shade is acceptable but full shade will stunt growth and affect foliage health.

Water Needs

Water Needs
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The recommended Calathea rufibarba watering schedule is every five days, or when the top 1 inch of soil feels dry when a finger is inserted. Use filtered or rainwater to avoid leaf damage from tap water’s chemicals. The plant’s pot needs drainage holes for excess water to escape. Dispose of water collected in the drip tray immediately to avoid damage to the roots. 

Temperature and Humidity

Keep Calathea rufibarba’s temperatures between 64 and 73 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 23 degrees Celsius). Humidity levels of 60 percent or higher are recommended for foliage health. Too little humidity results in brown leaves. Supplement low humidity by placing the plant in rooms with higher humidity, like the kitchen or bathroom. A tray filled with pebbles and water placed under the pot also boosts low humidity.

Soil and Fertilizer Requirements

Grow Calathea rufibarba in a well-draining soil mix of equal amounts potting soil, coco coir, and perlite. To incorporate natural, slow-release fertilizer, add worm castings or compost to the soil mixture. If using synthetic fertilizer, feed twice per month in the spring and summer with a ½ strength liquid fertilizer with Nitrogen. 

Calathea Rufibarba Propagation

Calathea Rufibarba Propagation
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Propagate rufibarba by division of a mature plant with new growth sprouting from the sides. Division ensures each new plant already has its own developed root system. When a mature plant is ready for repotting, remove the plant and use your hands to gently divide the new growth at natural separations in the root system. Plant each division in its own pot using a peat-based soil mixed with perlite for drainage. Place the plants in the recommended temperature, sunlight, and humidity conditions. 

Calathea Rufibarba Pests and Diseases

The two most common pests to watch for are spider mites and mealybugs. Infestations typically result from improper Calathea rufibarba care resulting in plant stress, making them more susceptible to pests. Check your plant at each watering for signs of insects, honeydew, or fine webs. Correct infestations by first swapping the affected leaves with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol to remove adult pests. Follow up by treating the plant with neem oil or an insecticidal soap

Browning or yellow leaves is a common problem resulting from incorrect Calathea rufibarba watering. The problem is either too little water or overwatering. Use the guide of watering when the top inch of soil feels dry and draining excess water from the drip tray. Prolonged excess watering leads to root rot. Pull the plant from its pot if foliage is droopy and growth has slowed. The presence of dark, mushy roots indicates rot. Trim affected roots with sterilized shears. Repotting in fresh soil is recommended if the rot is extensive. 

Calathea rufibarba has very particular needs but the effort is worth it for their unique foliage and chance of blooms. The key is frequent waterings and filtered sunlight to keep the foliage healthy and lush. With a little effort, this plant makes a stunning addition to your houseplant collection.

Calathea Rufibarba FAQ
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Calathea Rufibarba FAQ

How Do I Clean Dusty Leaves on My Calathea Rufibarba?

Clean the foliage by gently wiping the leaves with a soft, damp cloth. Do not use leaf shine products as they damage fuzzy leaves.

Why are the Leaves on My Calathea Rufibarba Turning Brown?

Brown, crispy edges on leaves indicate low humidity, underwatering, or low temperatures. Trim dry edges with sharp, sterilized shears. Provide proper humidity, moisture, and temperatures to avoid future issues.

Is Calathea Rufibarba Toxic to Pets?

No, all Calathea plants are considered not toxic to pets

Can Calathea Rufibarba Propagate in Water?

No, all Calathea plants are susceptible to root rot if their root system is kept wet. Instead, propagate by division of mature plants once they outgrow their current pot.

Will Calathea Rufibarba Grow Outdoors?

Yes, it is hardy in USDA zones 10 through 12 or similar tropical climates. Keep the plant out of full sun, choosing a place with dappled light for optimal growth.

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