Caletheas are a common sight in indoor spaces all year round. It features lovely, marked oblong foliage that is available in multiple colors, including rose, white, yellow, and even olive.
The plant is eye-catching, without a doubt. This is because of the veins and stripes that give it a unique appearance. Many common names of the plant are inspired by these marks!
Calathea is a genus of herbaceous perennials that originate from Brazil.
Tropicals in every sense, they’re considered by many to be picky about their growing needs and not necessarily beginner-friendly. But, once you provide them with what they need, they will thrive and reach a mature height of one to two feet within a year.
Calathea plant care involves giving the plant bright, but not direct sunlight.
If you have kids or pets, no worries; calathea isn’t toxic to humans and animals. What I love the most about calatheas, besides the impressive foliage, is its air-purifying ability.
Breathing cleaner air and gazing at its stunning leaves? -Yes, please!
One of its common names, prayer plant, is given because of the leaves’ unique movement in the day and night cycle.
Namely, the foliage raises and closes up at night, taking up a position reminiscent of praying hands.
This phenomenon is known as nyctinasty and it’s believed to follow the movement of the sun in an effort to optimize the absorption of light in the wild.
How to Care for Calathea Indoors
Though it’s a tropical plant, calathea wants filtering, indirect light, as well as shadier spots in your home or office.
This is because the plant naturally grows on forest and jungle floors and the light they receive through the trees is filtered.
Avoid placing them where they’ll be exposed to long hours of sunlight or to too much direct sunlight because this may burn the precious foliage and fade the unique pattern.
Calatheas need higher temperatures to grow happy and healthy.
This is why it’s recommended to keep them in an area where the temperature is continuously hot (from 70 degrees F to 85 degrees F).
However, it’s able to tolerate lower temperatures, down to 60 degrees F, no lower!
Water & Humidity
Calatheas need regular watering so that you keep their soil moist, but not soggy. Depending on the indoor situation, the watering may need to happen every couple of days, once per week, or every other week.
One thing I’ve noticed that my calatheas dislike is allowing their soil to dry out entirely.
Since they’re quite choosy in terms of the type of water, avoid the tap one and opt for filtered water, rainwater, or tap water that has sat overnight and the fluoride and chlorine have evaporated.
Calatheas need at least 50 percent humidity, with the more sensitive types like Zebrina and Orbifolia needing higher humidity, around 60 percent.
A hygrometer is one way to find out the humidity in your home or office.
Another simpler method is to put a couple of ice cubes in a cup of water. If no condensation happens on the outside and more than 5 minutes have passed, the humidity is below 50.
Boosting the humidity of your calatheas can be done by misting, tray with water and pebbles, or a humidifier.
Moisture is important for calatheas. Choose soil that retains water optimally. You can use a peaty potting mix that’s airy and lightweight, but also any other mix for African violets.
Use pots with drainage holes. Despite liking moist soil, it’s still prone to root rot when there’s too much water. The soil will be the best if it’s slightly acidic, with 6.5 pH.
To get the most from this plant, I use a liquid fertilizer, diluted at half strength, and apply it in the spring, summer, and autumn.
In the winter, I pause the feeding because the growth slows down.
Beautiful and sensitive, calatheas should be repotted very carefully and only when necessary, every two years or so.
If it’s root bound, repot it at the beginning of spring. Use an inch or two bigger pot and add proper soil.
Don’t loosen the roots or soil, although they may look root bound.
The more you tackle them, the more time will they need recovering after the repotting. This may also cause transplant shock.
- Through division
This is the easiest way to spread calatheas.
Divide it during the repotting and do it carefully, at the natural division at the roots.
Plant each division in different pots.
Be extra cautious with their fragile roots so as to not damage them.
Place the plants in warm and moist areas, with higher humidity. Lower the light exposure until two to four weeks, until it enters active growth.
- Through seeds
This method is more challenging, but it’s not impossible. Buy seeds from a premium supplier.
Grow them in smaller pots or trays for propagation, using a potting mix for seed starting or a 1:1 mix of coarse sand and peat.
Moisten the soil and plant the seeds at a depth of half an inch or an inch. Next, cover the pots with plastic and use a tray cover for propagation to maintain the seedlings warm and to boost the humidity.
A heated mat helps with the germination rate.
Keep the seeds where they’ll get bright and indirect light. When they’re around 2 inches high, transplant them into separate pots carefully, making sure the baby roots aren’t damaged.
Types of Calathea Species
1. Zebrina (Zebra Plant). This variety has beautiful green stripes on the top of the leaves and the undersides have a lovely purple color.
2. makoyana (Peacock Plant). This variety is among my favorites! I was attracted to its purplish underside coloring on the foliage that pairs so well with the white and green on top.
3. ornata (Femme Fatale). This variety doesn’t just have a unique name, but it also has a striking appearance! The foliage boasts pink and white stripes.Though stunning, it’s said to be one of the most demanding calatheas to grow.
Other Calathea Plant Care Tips
- If you wish to better the appearance of your calathea and encourage it to grow new leaves and blooms, prune the old or faded blooms.
- However; blooming is more often in calatheas grown outdoors and in the wild; blooming indoors is much less common.
- If you want an indoor calathea that can bloom, opt for the crocata-it grows lovely orange flowers.
Trouble Shooting- Common Issues
Problem: leaves are yellowing and browning
Cause: Overwatering or under watering.
Solution: Water the plant once a week and always check the soil before watering. The soil needs to be kept moist, but not soggy. Do it in a better light.
Problem: leaves are curling and browning
Cause: Low humidity, pests, low temperature, watering with tap water
Solution: Increase the humidity, treat any pests accordingly, place the plant where it’s hotter, and use filtered water or rainwater for watering.
Problem: the patterns are disappearing
Cause: Very low light or too much direct sunlight.
Solution: Move the calathea where it will receive indirect or shaded light. A north-facing window may be a good option.