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Calathea orbifolia is one of the most popular plants and even if you’re not a gardener, you’re sure to recognize it. But we as gardeners also love this plant because it’s easy to take care of and it also looks gorgeous in our houseplant collection. There are different types of Calathea, so make sure you know your Calathea!
In this guide, I will be talking about some of the most important things:
- Light and Temperature Requirements
- Problems and Solutions
So let’s see what it takes to grow and take care of this lovely plant and also answer some frequently asked questions.
What is Calathea Orbifolia?
Calathea orbifolia is one of the largest plants from the Calathea family indigenes to South America and it may well be one of the most popular houseplants.
As a tropical plant, there are some disadvantages of growing it, if you live in a cold and dry area, but if you adjust the conditions – it’ll thrive.
It is characterized by its thick and oval leaves that have sort of silvery bands throughout them and its thick stems that spring out and sort of bend outwards.
Do note that the Calathea orbifolia is quite a large plant compared to other houseplants.
Calathea Ornata is a bit smaller in size, so if you are in love with Calatheas, check that one out too.
Here are some of the most popular calathea varieties:
- Calathea Leitzei
- Calathea Makoyana
- Calathea Beauty Star
- Calathea Medallion
- Calathea Zebrina
- Calathea Network
- Calathea Ornata
- Calathea Roseopicta
- Calathea Elliptica Vittata
- Calathea Lancifolia
- Calathea Rufibarba
- Calathea Fasciata
Orbifolia can grow up to 3ft or 1m and the leaves can get as large as 1ft or 30cm in width so you do need to make some room for it, if you want to grow it indoors.
The leaves are cool to watch moving throughout the day because the Calathea orbifolia is a prayer plant and the leaves tend to rise up during the night and bend down during the day.
Overall, it’s an easy plant to take care of but let’s see what exactly it takes to grow it successfully.
Related: Calathea – The Ultimate Caring Guide
Light Requirements of Calathea Orbifolia
Even though Calathea orbifolia grows in hot and humid conditions, direct sunlight is the plant’s number one killer.
A shady area is the best place for your plant to sit in but also you certainly don’t want to put it in a dark corner where it won’t receive any light at all.
As a rule of thumb, you should place your Calathea orbifolia in a shady spot that’s light enough for you to read a book in.
Also, you can use artificial lighting if you have the means to set up an indoor greenhouse and by doing this you can also control the other required conditions.
Of course, sunlight is also the source of heat which is another crucial requirement for the Calathea orbifolia plant.
Because you can’t just leave your plant under the sun all day, you should keep the indoor temperature from 65°F (18°C) to 75°F (24°C).
Watering Calathea Orbifolia Plant
As with any other plant, watering is essential for the care of the Calathea orbifolia.
Because this is a tropic plant, it thrives in humid conditions and this means that you should always keep the soil moist.
Never let the soil dry completely as the plant will quickly wilt so skipping one watering session isn’t an option.
Usually, you should water it at least once a week or when the soil starts drying.
I would suggest you use a stick and insert it into the soil so that you can monitor the wetness of the soil, or if you have a moisture meter, you can use that as well.
When the first inch of the soil feels a bit dry, that’s a sign that you need to water the plant.
On the other end of the spectrum, you shouldn’t over-water your Calathea orbifolia as the roots can rot away so you need to make sure that you water it just enough so it can survive until the next watering session.
The type of pot you use is also crucial because you need a plant pot that retains water and terra cotta pots just won’t cut it because it dries out the soil very quickly.
I suggest you use a plastic pot with good drainage as it will retain the most water and to be honest, it’s a lot cheaper than other plant pots.
Fertilizing Calathea Orbifolia Plant
Fertilization is optional as far as Calathea orbifolia is concerned and it can definitely help with the growth during the growing season.
If you do decide to fertilizer your Calathea orbifolia, you should do it once a month during the season and I suggest you use a water-soluble formula.
My first choice would be a mild 15-15-15 formula (about ¼ tablespoon mixed with 1l of water) which you can apply using a spray bottle.
Also, some gardeners suggest using organic plant food to feed your Calathea orbifolia and in that sense, you can use kelp-based fertilizers or alfalfa meal but make sure that you don’t raise the acidity of the soil.
Please note that you should never fertilize during the winter months as the plant is in a vulnerable state and introducing any foreign organisms can easily damage your Calathea orbifolia.
All in all, Calathea orbifolia can do without fertilization, but if you want to stimulate its growth, you have a lot of options.
Repotting Calathea Orbifolia Plant
In the first year or so, repotting Calathea orbifolia is important so that the plant has enough room for the roots to expand.
After that, you should only re-pot it once every 2 or 3 years or if you notice that it has outgrown its previous pot.
Repotting should be done right before springs starts or about 2 weeks before the season.
There are some basics tools you’ll need for repotting such as sheers, a trowel, a watering pot, a larger plant pot (about 2” wider than the previous) and some type of cloth to wrap up the root-ball in.
First things first, you’ll need the right plant pot and as I already mentioned a plastic pot with good drainage works best.
Second, you need some type of cloth, whether it is an old t-shirt or a cotton rag it doesn’t matter as long as it’s clean so that you can put the root-ball in before planting it in the new pot.
I recommend you water your Calathea orbifolia so that the root-ball is wet and it will be easier to wrap it in the cloth and also it will take less effort to put it in the pot.
Use the trowel to dig out the root-ball and put it in the cloth and make sure to secure it with rubber bands or some string.
Then, put the soil mixture into the new pot and leave a large enough hole for the root-ball to fit in.
In the end, you just put the root-ball and gently remove the cloth and fill the hole with the remaining soil mixture.
Put your newly repotted Calathea orbifolia in a shady area and make sure that the soil is damp enough.
Because you’re already repotting the plant, it’s a good idea to use shears and to cut off the yellow bits on the leaves so that they can regenerate.
Pruning Calathea Orbifolia Plant
Calathea orbifolia usually has a set of single-leaf stems and the stems don’t need to be pruned.
However, because the leaves are susceptible to pest damage, yellowing, and mildew, you will have to trim off the damaged parts of the leaves.
Before you start trimming, you should disinfect your sheers with rubbing alcohol and let them dry.
You can use sharp sheers for this and just cut around the damaged parts so that the leaves can start to regenerate.
If the leaves are heavily damaged, you should cut them off and keep the top of the stem.
Once you’re done with pruning, you should water your Calathea orbifolia and keep it in a shady area to help it rejuvenate.
Pruning should be done when you’re repotting but since Calathea orbifolia doesn’t need to be repotted so often, you can do it during the winter months.
How to Propagate Calathea Orbifolia
If you want to grow new sprouts from your Calathea orbifolia you should prepare for the propagation the same time you’re repotting.
The best way to propagate Calathea orbifolia is from the division of the stems and you just have to cut about 6″ or 15cm of the stem and use it to regrow new Calatheas.
Now that you have your cuttings, you need to decide which method you’ll use for the propagation process and I’ve selected 3 of them which we’ll go over.
1. Repotting the Cuttings Immediately
The first method you can use is to re-pot your stem cuttings right away by placing it in a small plant pot filled with soil.
Just make sure to keep it well hydrated and place in a shady area.
It can take weeks to even months until your Calathea orbifolia starts to reach a decent size so it is suggested that you do this when the temperatures start to rise.
The pros of this method are that you don’t have to wait as long for the plant to start sprouting again, but you’ll have to re-pot multiple times before it reaches its full size.
2. Placing the Cuttings in Water
The second method is self-explanatory.
You take the cuttings and place them in a small container full of water and wait for the cuttings to develop roots.
Once the roots start to develop in about 2 weeks, you replant them in a small plant pot and wait for the plant to grow.
After that, you just repeat everything from the first method and you’re good to go.
As you can see, this method just has one more step than the previous one but has the benefit of making sure that your Calathea orbifolia is capable of re-growth before you put it in the plant pot.
3. Division of the Roots
Propagating your Calathea orbifolia by division is the most popular method and it’s not that hard if you do everything right.
Take out the root-ball and take off as much soil as you can so that you’re left with just the roots.
Then see which stems are the most loosened-up and which you can divide easily without damaging the mother plant.
You’ll probably end up with one or two divisions which you can then replant into a smaller pot.
Once you replant it in a smaller pot, just repeat everything from the first method and you’re done.
The benefit of this method is that your newly propagated Calathea orbifolia will grow out faster than if you were to plant only the stems.
However, if you don’t do this method properly, you can end up damaging the mother plant and it can die so be careful.
Calathea Orbifolia Pests, Problems and Solutions
Gardening has its ups and downs and most of those downs are linked to problems that can occur while growing our favorite plants.
And even though the Calathea orbifolia doesn’t have too many issues to deal with, there is still a couple you should be prepared for.
1. Curling Leaves
One of the most common problems you may spot when growing your Calathea orbifolia is that the leaves start to curl or bend outward.
This is linked to poor hydration and your plant is giving you a sign that it needs to be watered more frequently.
Some people who aren’t gardeners and don’t know that this is a sign of dehydration won’t be bothered by the look of the curled leaves because they’ll think that it’s normal but it’s not.
If you notice these changes, you should water your plant more often and in a matter of weeks, the leaves will start to straighten up again.
Just don’t water your Calathea orbifolia too frequently as the roots can start to rot which is a whole other problem in itself self so give your plant some time to recover.
2. Spider Mites
Spider mites love to nibble on the leaves of Calathea orbifolia and can do a lot of damage if they are left alone to feast.
They can even start to eat the stems and your plant is sure to die out and there’s no way of stopping it.
The best thing to do is to prevent the spider mites from attacking your plant in the first place and you’ll have to use pesticides for this.
You can use water-soluble pesticides or ones that are applied to the soil but you want to use pesticides with the least chemicals and the most effects.
If using pesticides fails, you’ll need to cut off all of the damaged parts of the plant and propagate it in a new pot.
Of course, to minimize the chance of spider mites attacking your Calathea orbifolia, you can keep it in an indoor greenhouse or a grow tent.
3. Browning and Brittleness of the Leaves
Everyone who’s had a Calathea orbifolia can confirm that they’ve sometimes noticed that the leaves start to get brown on the edges, which leads to them getting quite brittle.
This is more common during the winter months as the plant has to adapt to new conditions and sometimes can’t enjoy the proper temperature and humidity.
Related: Best Plant Humidifiers and a Buying Guide.
You want to cut off all the parts of the leaves which are brownish but only cut along the edge so that you don’t damage the healthy tissue of the leaves and later they can start regenerating
The best thing to do in this situation is to get a humidifier and set it on medium and you can also try misting the leaves once a week so that they soak up some moisture.
Another trick you can use it to put pebbles and rocks in the plant pot saucer.
This way when the water collects on the saucer the rocks will help it evaporate and raise the humidity levels.
All in all, if you cut off the brown parts on the leaves the minute you notice them, your Calathea orbifolia will make full recovery in about a month.
1. Is Calathea Orbifolia a Good Houseplant?
Yes, it is.
One of the things that attract people getting Calathea orbifolia in their homes is not just its gorgeous leaves but also because it can purify the air.
Calathea orbifolia produces oxygen at night and some scientists even believe that this can make you sleep better.
So the Calathea orbifolia isn’t just a beautiful plant but it also has some health benefits of owning it.
2. Why are there Yellow and Brown Bits on the Leaves of My Calathea Orbifolia?
The yellowing and the browning of the leaves mean that the plant is either dehydrated or that maybe some pests have damaged the leaves or the stems so they are starting to wilt.
If you see a change in color on the leaves, you should cut off the brittle parts and water the plant and wait for about a month to see if the leaves have regenerated.
If the leaves have not regenerated and you spot that they are wilting away, then you know that the plant stems are damaged in which case you need to propagate your Calathea orbifolia to save it.
3. How Much Daily Sunlight should my Calathea Orbifolia Get?
You don’t want to leave your Calathea orbifolia in the sun at all because it is susceptible to sunburns so a nice shady spot is always preferred.
However, don’t leave your Calathea orbifolia in the dark because it will wilt fairly quickly so you need to pick a great spot where it’s not going to be exposed to direct sunlight but can still get some heat and natural light.
Artificial lighting is also an option but it has to be specified to the liking of your Calathea orbifolia and because there are all sorts of artificial lighting, that’s the thing you’ll have to find out on your own.
4. Should I Fertilize My Calathea Orbifolia?
This depends on what you want to accomplish.
If you want to get faster growth, you can use a nice mild water-soluble fertilizer to do the job, but you are introducing chemicals to your plant just so you know.
Going for an organic fertilizer kelp plant food but you won’t get the same growth effect.
Fertilizers can also be used to toughen-up the roots of your plant and make it healthier but just don’t get carried away with them and use them once a month during the season.
5. How Fast Does Calathea Orbifolia Grow?
Because this plant can’t be exposed to direct sunlight, it grows quite slowly especially if you grow it from seeds.
The growing speed depends on many different factors and it all comes down to how good you care for the plant and it may take even a whole season until your plant reaches full growth.
You should be more focused on ensuring that the plant is healthy and this way your Calathea orbifolia will surely grow faster so there’s no need to rush things. Let nature run its course.