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Zebra plant, a rattlesnake plant, a peacock plant, what matches all these plants of unusual names? Do cathedral windows sound familiar to you? How about Dottie, and Medallion? Having such colorful and descriptive names, these adorable plants have one thing in common- they all belong to a great, big and versatile Calathea Family.
With around 300 cultivars and several dozens of species, this group of plants is one of the most frequently seen in homes and offices all over the globe. Maintenance is not complicated, and they are extremely decorative, which is a winning combo for those who like gardening.
This is especially for the ones who have just discovered how fulfilling this hobby is, as chances to kill your plant or anything like that are truly minimal.
Besides, they are one of the prettiest indoor plants, quite a treat for all gardenistas!
Let’s get to know them better!
1. Calathea Roseopicta
This adorable plant is known by many different names, such as rose-painted Calathea, Corona, Dottie, Medallion, Rosey, Sanderiana. As you probably assume, it’s the specific coloration or the structure of the patterns which determines this unique and memorable nickname.
Its natural home is tropical forests of South America- to be precise, Brazil. It’s undoubtedly one of the most picturesque members of the Calathea family. The average height of the Calathea Roseopicta is 20 inches.
It has large rounded leaves that are dark green above, red below. The surface of the upper part of the leaves is marked heavily (painted) with cream or pink stripes all along the veins and midriff, accompanied by feathered margins. Stunning, isn’t it?
BONUS TIP: You’ve probably heard that Calathea plants lift their leaves upwards, but Roseopicta has one extra trick. During higher temperatures or when it doesn’t get enough humidity, it curls the leaves inwards.
2. Calathea Lancifolia
Just a single glance at this one is more than enough to realize why it is called a rattlesnake plant. Its specific markings and patterns resemble a reptile a lot.
Also native to Brazilian rainforests, this fabulous looking plant has slender pale yellowish-green leaves with beautiful dark green blotches and purple undersides. It belongs to the taller varieties, as it can grow up to 30 inches, while the leaves may reach 18 inches.
Here is a complete guide on how to care for Calathea Lancifolia!
BONUS TIP: When kept indoors, this type of Calathea doesn’t bloom. But, accommodate it outside, and it may produce yellow flowers. It typically happens during late spring or early summer. Those grow in spikes which are approximately 4 inches tall.
3. Calathea Makoyana
Similar to the previous one on the list, it’s the shape and looks of leaves which explains its common names- Cathedral Window or Peacock plant.
It has egg-shaped foliage that is glossy and pale green. The upper part of the leaves is marked with dark green spots along the veins, while the underneath part, which is deep purple, has very thin leaf shafts.
Calathea Makoyana is not among the taller variants, as its size is about 12 inches when it grows fully. Its thin leaves can also reach a length of 12 inches. If you’d like to know much more about it, here is a complete guide on how to care for Calathea Makoyana.
BONUS TIP: When new leaves on Peacock plant grow, they are rolled up and show off their pinkish-red surface underneath. The color of the undersides gradually darkens, until it becomes deep purple.
4. Calathea Ornata
Also known as Pin-Stripe Calathea, it got its nickname for the typical long and thin stripes all over the plant.
Color combination more or less resembles the above-described varieties, with the upper part being glossy green, and the underside purple. However, the upper surface is adorned with pinkish-white pin stripes, which make this variety one of the most beautiful in the family.
Calathea Ornata’s natural habitat is Columbia and Venezuela, but you can also see it in Thailand, due to the tropical climate. Its size is 2 feet in height and 2 feet in width, which makes it a convenient one to accommodate.
If you’d like to know how to grow this beauty at home, here’s a complete guide on Pin-stripe Calathea.
BONUS TIP: The lovely stripes on the leaves are not just a decorative detail, it reveals how old is your plant. When the plant ages, those pink stripes turn white. Just like us humans, isn’t that so?
5. Calathea Veitchiana
Also known as Medallion, Calathea Veitchiana is endemic to Ecuador. You can find it in subtropical or tropical humid lowland forests and subtropical or tropical humid montane forests.
In 1862 Victorian plant collector, Richard Pearce discovered this lovely plant near Cuenca. The name it bears is in honor of his employers, James Veitch & Sons.
It has an amazing feather-shaped pattern on the upper surface, as there’s a leaf on the leaf, one lighter, one darker green.
BONUS TIP: More than 100 years after it was discovered, in 1983, similar species were found in Peru, displaying the same leaf patterns, but it turned out to be misidentified as Veitchiana. To make the precise difference, the newly-discovered one was named C. pseudoveitchiana.
6. Calathea Zebrina
Those dark green stripes displayed across the light green leaves are the guilty ones for this plant’s name. Calathea Zebrina also has is purple underneath, and it usually grows about 2 to 3 feet in width and 12 inches in height. The elliptical leaves can reach 18 inches.
This plant resembles another member of the humongous Marantaceae family, Maranta Leukonera, but still, don’t confuse them. Zebrina still has those typical zebra-like stripes, while Leukonera patterns are completely different.
Zebrina is honored with RHS’s Award of Garden Merit.
Learn more about this marvelous Calathea Zebrina!
BONUS TIP: As you probably know, Calatheas rarely produce flowers. However, there are exceptions, and Zebrina is one of them. In spring, you could spot really small whitish-purple flowers.
7. Calathea Orbifolia
Oval-shaped, with a fantastic combination of green and silver-whitish stripes, Calathea Orbifolia most certainly is among the most popular from the family.
Native to South America, as numerous from this kind, it grows almost 8 inches wide. Fully-grown plants can reach around 2.5 feet tall and the same width. It is structured as a thick plant, with new ones appearing in its center.
It also has fine air-purifying properties, which is why it’s a common choice for all gardeners, both the beginners and the experienced ones.
Being quite easy to care for, but tricky if you don’t follow the steps, I’ve created these simple steps that will teach you how to grow Calathea Orbifolia like a pro.
BONUS TIP: All Calatheas like to be misted, but this particular one thrives on higher humidity, so you can mist it daily. It’s the best way to prevent leaf curling and brownish and crispy edges.
8. Calathea Leitzei
Also known as Calathea White Fusion, has extraordinary leaves, which look like brush strokes- white, lilac, and green. The underside is also purple, making it a highly decorative Calathea variety.
The mature plant is about 2 to 3 feet in height and 10 to 16 inches in width, which implies it’s not among the largest ones. It rarely produces flowers. it’s a great choice for low light areas.
Check out our complete guide on how to grow Calathea Leitzei.
BONUS TIP: These amazing patterns can easily change if the location for your plant is not a proper one. Expose it to direct light, and the patters will fade, put it in a too shady place, it will darken. So, the best choice for White Fusion is indirect, diffused light.
9. Calathea Warscewiczii
Endemic to Nicaragua and Costa Rica, this plant can grow between 20 and 40 inches in width and height.
Calathea Warscewiczii, also known as Goeppertia warszewiczii) displays patterned lanceolate leaves and white cone-like spikes that fade to yellow or pink, with a purple underside. As the name is a bit tricky to pronounce, it is often referred to by its nickname, Jungle Velvet.
be careful when you fertilize it, as it is sensitive to salt in fertilizer and may get burnt.
BONUS TIP: In case you’re interested in obtaining a Calathea that produces flowers, this one could the perfect choice. To be precise, those are not the real flowers, but more like white bracts. They appear during winter and late spring and they approximately last three to four weeks.
10. Calathea Crocata
You could say this one’s a new kid in the block, as it’s one of the youngest ones accepted as a common houseplant. That’s because it is a bit more demanding to maintain that the other members of the family.
Its other name is Eternal Flame or Tasmania Bloom, as it produces enchanting yellow flowers. They can even last around two to three months, provided that the conditions are stable.
However, the flowers of this type of Calathea are very sensitive. When misting the plant, just mist the leaves, never the flowers.
BONUS TIP: Besides humidity, Crocata highly appreciates warmth. When choosing a perfect place to locate it, choose the one where the temperature is around 65°F to 80°F.
11. Calathea Rufibarba
It may not be as patterned as the majority of other Calatheas, but it certainly doesn’t lack those tropical vibrations.
This type of Calathea grows approximately 2 to 3 feet in both height and width. The top of the distinctive slim leaves is green, while below is dark purple. Like all the members of the family, Calathea Rufibarba is not dangerous to pets and children.
When conditions are optimal, and there’s enough humidity, it may treat you with a special gift- adorable tiny yellow flowers.
Learn more about Calathea Rufibarba!
BONUS TIP: While the majority of Calatheas have shiny and smooth leaves, this one has the fur-like sufrace of the leaf undersides, which is untypical for this genus. That explains the interesting common names- Furry Feather or Velvet Calathea.
12. Calathea Musaica
Compared to other members of the family, one could say that this type looks relatively ordinary, network), but that’s just if you don’t take a closer look.
When you do so, you’ll notice a breath-taking mosaic-like structure all over the leaves, which is exactly what makes Calathea Musaica very distinctive. And rare as well.
The thing in common with the rest of the family is observable nyctinasty. It’s a sort of spectacular performance, during which foliage moves reacting to the daily light cycle.
BONUS TIP: Don’t let so many names confuse you. Musaica is widely the best-known one, due to the patters, but it is also known as Goeppertia kegeljanii ‘Network’, Goeppertia Bella, or Calathea Bella.
More Calathea Varieties
The ones that I have described above are among the top-selected sorts kept as houseplants. But as I said, there are many more.
Apart from those which have adapted well to indoor conditions and are very resilient house plants, a huge number of them are near-threatened, endangered, or even critically endangered.
Perhaps the main reason is that they cannot grow elsewhere but in their natural habitat. Having in mind how climate changes, their environment changes drastically as well, and they find it hard to keep up with it.
Basic Instructions on Growing Calathea Plants
The best thing about this plant is that no matter which type, they all have so many things in common when it comes to maintenance.
As there aren’t any extraordinary requirements, Calathea is a good choice for both experienced gardeners and those who are just getting started.
Having Calathea and taking care of it boils down to several simple steps to follow:
- Don’t water it too much, but don’t underwater it as well
- Pay attention that the soil is always humid and get a well-draining one.
- Maintain a moderate temperature and lighting.
- Never expose it to direct source of light, but neither where it’s too dark.
- Feed it during active growth stadium.
- Transplantation is usually done either once a year or even every second year.
Keep reading for more!
Watering Requirements for Calathea Plants
While some plants can thrive in a dry like desert soil, Calathea prefers a humid environment. but be very careful, this doesn’t mean you can make a swimming pool for your plant.
Humid and soggy soil are not the same thing, the difference is enormous, at least from a plant’s perspective. It doesn’t require frequent watering.
If you do so, the roots may begin to rot, and you’ll find yourself killing your plant unintentionally until it suddenly dies before you realize what has happened.
Find the balance, that’s the key! Keep the soil moist, it’s an ultimate rule to follow.
There’s a quick test to check it- stick your finger in the soil to check how moist it is. If you evaluate that around an inch below the surface is dry, your Calathea is thirsty.
This trick is useful for all types of plants, so feel free to apply it whenever in doubt whether your plant should be watered or not.
How watering frequency also depends on season. As you probably know, plants have active and passive phases.
The pure logic indicates that watering is more frequent during the growth stage, both for your plant to develop properly and also due to higher temperatures outside. During autumn and winter, you can minimize watering.
Of course, you need to take the specific climate conditions where you live. Those will also determine how often will your plant demand watering.
Ideal water temperature for Calathea plant
One more rule which works for a majority of plants is the adequate temperature of the water. Without any doubt, room temperature is the ideal choice for all of them.
Now you are probably wondering, in case you don’t have any distilled water or rainwater, is it safe to use tap water?
You can, but you’ll have to be very careful with it. This means you should leave it to sit overnight and then water your plant. Why’s that so?
Because freshly-poured water is full of fluoride, most notably in urban areas, and fluoride toxicity can be harmful to plants.
Temperature and Light Requirements for Calathea Plants
While discussing the temperature, let’s see what Calatheas enjoy. If I were to choose one word to define their likings, it would be moderate.
They fancy warmer to higher temperatures, between 18-23°C. They don’t like overly hot but also try not to expose them to those below 15°C.
Another significant thing to pay attention to is ventilation. Your plant needs air as well, so find some well-ventilated place to accommodate it.
However, pay attention to draught. It’s very harmful to plants, they are much more sensitive to it, as their structure is more delicate.
Do you know what’s all the fuss about variegated plants?
They are truly nature’s wonder-if you keep them in a too shady place, they will produce ordinary juicy and entirely green leaves, while when exposed to direct and bright light, they will lose all the patterns.
To make sure they have adequate conditions for development, you need to put them someplace where the light is diffused. That’s how those unique patterns are maintained!
The reason I’m telling you that is because Calatheas are variegated plants, so they will thrive when placed on indirect sunlight. You can experiment a bit and relocate your plant here and there, but never make too extreme changes, or you may shock your plant.
Soil Requirements for Calathea Plants
Knowing that Calatheas like humid environment gives you more than an excellent hint on the type of soil they could prefer. It’s a well-draining one as it can hold humidity but also let the excessive amount of water go through the hole at the bottom of the pot.
In case you have problems finding a specific mix for Calatheas, don’t worry, you can buy the one used for African violets, it does the job as well.
But, if you feel like embarking on a real gardening adventure, I have an excellent DIY idea for you.
What you need is a 50% potting soil, 20% orchid bark, 20% charcoal, plus 10% perlite, and when these ingredients are mixed, you’ll get pure heaven for your plant.
It won’t take much time, and you’ll be sure that you’ve created an ideal environment for your plant, enabling it to develop and grow properly.
Fertilizing Calathea Plants
Calathea plants need to be fed during the active development phase. And even during this period, once a month is more than fine. When a plant is in the passive stadium, you don’t have to feed it at all.
Of course, when you fertilize your plant, always water it afterward. No matter how mild a fertilizer is, it’s still something too strong for a plant, so with a bit of water, it will absorb the fertilizer easier.
There are many suitable all-purpose products suitable for the majority of plants that do not have some specific requirements. Just make sure it’s the one that has more nitrogen, as this nutrient is important for them.
And, yes, it’s essential to follow the instructions for dosage. Check the label, and do as written.
Never pour more fertilizer than it says, just because you feel that your plant could use some boost. It doesn’t work that way, and you could only do the opposite- kill it.
Pruning Calathea Plants
Some plants need to be pruned very often, otherwise, a gardener may end up dealing with a whole mess of foliage, trying to tame a leggy plant.
This is not just a matter of aesthetics, but a huge problem for the proper development of your plant.
Luckily, Calathea is not like that, at least none of the most commonly kept varieties. Trimming here is done to refresh the plant and get rid of the diseased parts of the leaves if you’ve spotted any.
As for the tools needed for pruning, it’s very basic ones. It’s actually only one- a pair of sharp and clean scissors and that’s all. Of course, you need to disinfect them before you use them because tiny particles of dirt or plant leftovers from previous trimming can infect your plant.
On the other hand, sometimes pruning can be done with no tools at all- just pinch the unnecessary leaves with your fingers, that’s all.
So, how does trimming look like?
Take your plant and observe it to see if there are any dead, dying or damaged leaves or crispy edges.
Remove the unnecessary leaves (the dead ones), and if the edges are sharp and brownish, cut those parts carefully.
If you spot some faded blooms, deadhead them to refresh your plant. These are not always so easy to spot, so double-check your Calathea.
Calathea Plants Propagation
Plant propagation is done in numerous ways. Some can be propagated in water, the other by trimming (pruning), but Calatheas don’t belong to either of the groups.
This plant is propagated by division. Though it may sound formal and confusing, it’s far away from that. It needs to be done gently and patiently, and nothing can go wrong.
The best time for propagation/division is when you repot the plant. You don’t want to make the whole mess twice, and what’s even more important, it’s too shocking for the plant.
Here’s how division is done:
- Take the Calathea out of its current container and shake it gently so decrease the amount of soil around the roots.
- If there’s too much soil around the roots, wash it so that you can see it properly.
- Split that mass using some tool into two (or more) pieces.
So, you logically wonder what’s the next step to take after division?
You need to germinate the spores. This is also very simple, just put a divided piece of the root on top of a smaller container of sphagnum moss and then place it on a plate with water. Keep them in moderate light, and if you want to protect them extra, you can cover them with some plastic.
Mist it every day, but also check the water on a plate, there has to be some of it always. It takes about two to three weeks for this process to take place, and once they appear, you can plant them.
After that, an additional 2 to 4 weeks is some average period for a plant to settle properly and keep on the development process. As for fertilization, it’s best to wait at least two more weeks until the plant is fully used to its new home.
Also, you never propagate a diseased plant, it’s done with healthy ones.
Repotting Calathea Plants
Some plants are transplanted because they need a bigger home, so to say, they grow rapidly need more space so that roots would be comfortable. In other cases, you repot plants to replenish the soil. That’s the case with Calathea.
You can repot it once a year, or even every second year, it doesn’t have to be more frequent than that. New soil means new nutritive ingredients, and it will have a positive effect on your plant’s growth and overall health.
Transplantation is usually done during active growth, so we are talking spring or summer. Don’t forget to water Calathea one day before repotting. It’s to soften the soil and minimize the stress for your plant.
Apart from replenishing the soil, the other situation when a plant needs repotting is when its roots are bound. When this is the case, your plant becomes more susceptible to various diseases, and it cannot continue its growth and development.
When repotting, you can reuse the old container, but it’s very important to clean and disinfect it. Any remainder of rot roots, any bacteria on the walls of the container, and similar are not good for the plant.
You probably wonder whether a plant needs a bigger container. You can take the same one if the root mass is not overly big for it, or a bigger one, precisely-the next size compared to your current pot.
How is repotting done?
Remove the plant from its container, gently take off about one-third of the soil around the roots. Look for any signs of illnesses and diseases, and treat them, if any.
Fill the bottom of the new (or reused and cleansed) container with soil, about one-third of it, and press the soil with your fingers to firm it. Place the root mass and add more soil until you cover the entire rootball. Press it again to firm it, and the job’s done.
Return the plant to its usual location and observe how it develops. Also, don’t fertilize it immediately after repotting as the plant is too sensitive. Wait at least two weeks.
Calathea Plant Problems and Solutions
Even though this plant itself is no complicated to maintain and take care of, still it happens so that some issues and problems occur. But worry not, I’ve got you covered for these as well.
The best way to spot any of the problems is to observe your plant. They have feelings, and this one particularly, and it will indicate when something wrong’s going on, and when conditions are not quite the best ones.
As this guide features so many different types, I’ve listed the most common issues encompassing the majority of them.
Keep reading for more!
1. Calathea curling leaves
There are multiple reasons why this happen, such as lower humidity or lack of water. You’ve probably skipped watering when it was time to do so. Don’t worry, just stick to the watering plan, check the soil humidity. The plant will recover soon, and the leaves will unfurl.
The other reason is a higher temperature or stronger light. So, just relocate your plant, but make sure the conditions are not drastically different. It should be slightly darker, but not too much.
2. Calathea leaves turn yellow
This is an issue caused by a lack of water. Even though it doesn’t demand frequent watering, still it cannot withstand long periods of underwatering. You can even set a reminder, or an alarm if this happens too often.
However, believe it or not, this is also a situation which can result from overwatering. Moreover, it can be caused by droughts or temperature extremes, and it can also be a sign that your plant is aging.
3. Calathea brown leaves and crispy edges
Your plant doenst have enough moisture, and that’s why the leaves turn brownish, and edges become brittle. To solve this problem, cut those parts of the leaves, and maintain an optimal level of moisture in the plant’s environment.
4. Calathea drooping/wilting leaves
This happens when your plant is thirsty, and you know how to fix it. However, Calatheas make certain natural movements, so don’t mistake them with the lack of water. These movements usually happen during the night, so if in the morning your plant looks healthy, then don’t water it.
5. Calathea fading patterns
This happens because your plant is receiving too much light. Like I said, to preserve the patterns of those interesting variegated plants, you shouldn’t expose them to direct source of light, but someplace shadier. The patterns will start appearing after you find some more suitable place for your Calathea.
6. Calathea stems limp and rotten
Draught, overwatering, and temperature fluctuation, are the main guilty ones for this problem. Your plants need to be in a well-ventilated place, where the temperature will be relatively stable, so find some appropriate place to put it.
7. Calathea stems have grey mould (Botrytis)
This is caused by a higher level of humidity. It’s either because the container hasn’t got a proper drainage hole, or because the soil is not adequate, and also because the room lacks air circulation. Change its location, is the first to do, but if the problem is persistent, repot the plant.
8. Calathea roots rotting
When your plant is receiving an excessive amount of water for some longer period, it gradually leads to root rotting. To make sure this never happens, simply get an appropriate container and adequate soil, and don’t water your plant so often.
However, if you are following these steps, and the soil is too soggy, perhaps your plant’s roots are blocking the hole, that is- your plant is root-bound.
Take your plant out of the container and check the roots. If the affected part doesn’t dominate over the healthy part of the rootball, you can save the plant. If it’s the opposite, sorry, but not much can be done, unfortunately.
Perhaps you can give it a try if there’s some healthy piece of the rootball (germinate the spores and all). Try to remove all soft, brown, and slimy parts, and whatever is left, you can try starting a new plant, but don’t expect too much.
Expert tip: If there’s to name the most typical telltale sign for root rotting, then I’d choose the funky smell of soil, the one that makes you vomit. This is the signal that repotting needs to be done ASAP!
9. Calathea fungal, viral and bacterial problems
These problems are not typical for all Calatheas and happen very rarely in general, but the reason I included them here is just to draw your attention that these issues exist.
Commonly seen fungal issues include the Alternaria leaf spot, Helminthosporium leaf spot, and Fusarium wilt. However, if you have a good watering schedule and stick to it, this will never happen. But, in case the problem won’t go, there are fungicides to treat it.
Though the Cucumber mosaic virus (CMV) may sound like something terrifying, it’s just an aesthetic issue. However, a plant that has this virus is not used for propagation, as it can transfer the disease to the new plant.
Pseudomonas leaf spots appear when the leaves get too wet too often from overhead watering, so when you avoid it the problem will be gone. Pseudomonas blight is a bit trickier bacterium and is systemic in infected plants. Since it is not enough researched, the only solution is to destroy a plant that has it.
10. Calathea common pests
These are very common for the majority of indoor plants- mealybugs, mites, aphids, and scales. Sometimes you can clean them with rubbing alcohol or a bit of water and liquid soap, but if there are too many of them, then pesticides or insecticides are the only solutions.
Is misting Calathea plants a good idea?
It’s an excellent idea. This is the best way to maintain the desired level of humidity for your plant, so feel free to mist it occasionally.
Is the Calathea plant poisonous to people and animals?
Good news-it’s not! Still, it should be placed out of reach of tiny hands and tiny paws, if possible, because both kids and pets can be curious to explore the plant, pinch a leaf or grab a bite, play with soil, and that means lots of mess.
Do Calathea plants purify the air?
Yes! Perhaps not as much as some other plants which have excellent air-purifying properties, but let’s say they are valuable contributors to a better quality of air in your home.
The way they work is by eliminating toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air, primarily benzene and formaldehyde. That’s how a home becomes healthier and hence a happier place.
What do Calathea leaves do during the night?
This closes the leaves at night when there’s no light and reopens it when the light appears, in the morning. And the rustling sound you hear is the movement of a small joint that connects stem and leaf. When it closes and opens, it produces that sound.
How to remove salt build-ups from Calathea plants?
The best way to do so is to periodically flush the soil to remove them. The excessive amount of those can harm the plant, particularly the roots.