Calathea is a genus of eye-catching houseplants with unique, stunning leaves. These plants are relatively easy to care for, and their colorful patterns make them one of the most popular choices for home decoration. Let’s take a look at the most important aspects of Calathea care!
What is a Calathea Plant?
Calathea is a genus that refers to several varieties, and some of the most popular include:
- Rattlesnake Plant (Calathea lancifolia)
- Medallion Plant (Calathea veitchiana)
- Pinstripe Calathea (Calathea ornata)
- Calathea (Calathea orbifolia)
- Jungle Velvet (Calathea roseopicta)
- Peacock Plant (Calathea makoyana)
The Calathea Plant genus is native to the tropical Americas. This region includes Central and South American countries located along the equator. The genus underwent some changes lately, and some plants that were previously considered Calatheas are now labeled Goeppertias.
For example, Calathea orbifolia, one of the most popular Calathea plants, is now technically Goeppertia orbifolia. Don’t worry about the scientific names too much because many still refer to Goeppertia plants as Calatheas.
Calatheas and closely related species are often called “prayer plants” due to their leaves’ movements. During the day, the leaves open up to catch as much sunlight as possible before closing at night. This opening and closing resemble hands coming together in prayer.
Are Calathea Plants Easy to Care For At Home?
Yes, Calathea plants are easy to care for. This is actually part of the reason they’re so popular! The average houseplant owner won’t have difficulty taking care of their Calathea, though the plants are fussier than a low-maintenance succulent or cactus.
The Calathea’s quirks come from the high humidity of their native habitat. If you live in a dry region, keep in mind that these prayer plants come from areas with plenty of moisture in the air. Fortunately, thanks to devices like misters and humidifiers, this won’t keep you from caring for Calatheas!
Can You Grow a Calathea Plant Indoors and Outdoors?
Calathea plants are excellent indoor companions, though you can also place them outside in the right conditions. If you live in a warm and humid area, you can likely grow Calathea plants outdoors. Just be sure to avoid direct sun exposure if you keep your Calathea outside.
The United States Department of Agriculture has made a handy chart that divides the countries into sections, based on their ability to support plant life. The ideal environment for the Calathea genus is USDA zones 9b-11. Though, with the right care and attention, any zone higher than seven should be suitable.
What Are the Benefits of a Calathea Plant?
Calathea plants purify the air, so whichever room you place them in may feel fresher and cleaner. They help scrub toxins in the air and thrive in a humid environment. A toxin-free atmosphere and moisture in the air are both beneficial for those with breathing difficulties!
If you want to maximize your Calathea’s sun exposure, the plant is already one step ahead of you! Their leaves open and close by adjusting the water pressure inside their stalks. These “praying” leaves mimic the sun’s movement (even when indoors), saving energy at night.
How to Care for a Calathea Plant
When it comes to decorative plants, Calathea is an easy-going species. Though the plants require higher humidity than some other species, modern technology makes small, efficient, and cheap humidifiers a possibility. There are many varieties of this genus, but most grow under similar conditions.
The Calathea lancifolia, or rattlesnake plant, is considered the easiest to care for in its genus. The most difficult of these plants to look after is Calathea leitzii (white fusion), which requires more humidity and regular watering. For those who want darker leaves, Calathea ornata (pin-stripe) has beautiful deep green foliage.
Choosing the Right Soil
The best soil for Calathea plants is a well-draining potting mix. If you’re wondering what ingredients make a good potting mix, we recommend two parts peat moss or coir and one part perlite. Keep the soil moist, but try not to soak it. We’ll take a closer look at this in the watering section.
Choosing the wrong soil can have negative effects. If the plant’s growing medium doesn’t drain water fast enough, the soil may become too wet and cause root rot. If it drains too fast, the soil will dry out quickly and damage the plant.
Finding the Right Pot
Calathea plants need well-draining soil. “Well-draining” refers to the speed with which water passes through the soil. Since Calatheas need soil that won’t trap too much water, ensure all that extra liquid has a place to go.
Purchase a pot that has drainage holes and consider using a pebble tray to collect the runoff. Pebble trays are just what they sound like: a dish full of small rocks that a pot sits in. The spacing between the pebbles allows the plant’s container to sit on top of them while still letting water through.
We recommend a terra cotta pot because it is breathable. The material wicks away moisture, keeping the soil at the perfect moisture level without getting too wet or dry. Choose a pot that is big enough for an equal amount of soil and roots. If roots are poking out of the drainage holes, try going up a size.
Water your Calathea plant every one to two weeks. Let the soil dry between watering, though this is only necessary for the top of half of the soil. Stick your finger into the soil, and if it isn’t moist until halfway down the pot, water the plant.
The amount of light your Calathea receives affects how much water it needs. Plants kept in low light won’t need water as often as those kept in bright sunlight.
If you want to take the best care of your calathea, the type of water you give your plant is worth considering. Try to avoid using tap water from your bathroom or kitchen. This water can contain minerals that are beneficial to humans but harmful to plants, potentially resulting in fungal infections. Give your Calathea plant bottled or distilled water.
Feeding Your Calathea
Calathea plants are hungry, and they require regular fertilizer feeding. Fertilizers provide additional nutrients that potting soil either doesn’t contain or gets used by the plant. We advise giving your plant fertilizer every month, though this is most important during growth periods.
A half-strength houseplant fertilizer is suitable for Calathea plants. Choose a balanced fertilizer that features an equal amount of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. These three nutrients are essential for healthy leaf development and speedy growth.
Placement and Lighting
Calatheas enjoy bright, indirect light. Whether you’re growing this plant inside or outdoors, make sure it stays out of direct sunlight. Too much direct sunlight can cause its leaves to burn and lose their beautiful color. These tropical plants are used to environments with plenty of shade and sparse light.
Certain Calathea varieties may require different amounts of light. Fortunately, there’s an easy trick to estimate how much light your plant needs: the darker the leaf, the darker the room should be.
Humidity and Temperature
Calathea plants thrive at temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the temperature above 60 degrees, as anything lower may stunt the plant’s growth. Tropical Calatheas can bloom flowers in their native habitats, but indoor plants rarely do.
When it comes to the proper humidity level for these plants, a good rule of thumb is the more moisture, the better. An indoor plant of this genus typically enjoys levels around 60%, though try not to let the humidity dip below 50%.
Pruning a Calathea Plant
Pruning is one of the best ways to take care of your plant’s leaves and overall health. Snip leaves off your plant if they become brown or yellow. This helps the plant distribute its nutrients as efficiently as possible and also enhances its appearance!
Common Care Issues in Calathea Plants
Here are some problems that plant parents often run into when caring for their calathea plant. Don’t panic —they’re all simple fixes! Let’s take a look.
- Improper watering – This is the most common care issue. Since there are multiple types of Calathea plants, you may find information on one variety that doesn’t apply to another. For example, the white fusion and rattlesnake are both Calatheas, but the white fusion needs more water.
- Too much light – Another common issue in indoor Calathea plants is over-exposure to light. If you keep your plant next to a window, make sure it doesn’t get direct sunlight.
When you buy your Calathea, first determine its variety before researching its needs. This will help you get more specific information on whether it needs low light, is particularly sensitive to cold drafts, or prefers warmer temperatures.
How Do I Know if My Calathea is Dying?
The best way to gauge the health of your Calathea plant is by examining its leaves. If they are wilting or curling at the edges, or the soil is drying too quickly, the plant is likely underwatered. Yellow or brown leaves indicate overwatering, which means you have to water your Calathea less.
If you see spots on the leaves, the cause could be one of two things. The first is overexposure to sunlight, which you can easily fix by moving the plant to a place that gets more indirect light. The second possible reason for spots is a fungal infection caused by the minerals in tap water.
Are Calathea Plants Poisonous?
Nope! The ASPCA’s findings show that the Calathea is non-toxic to people, cats, dogs, and horses.
Final Thoughts – Calathea Care
Here at Planted Pot, we provide education on many beautiful plants! The Calathea is one of the most gorgeous species that our eyes have ever seen, and we’re sure you’ll love these prayer plants too. Keep the temperature on the warmer side, the humidifier on, and get ready to be the envy of your house guests!