What you're learning
Famous for its variegated look, who could say no to a calathea plant? This indoor plant’s main attraction is the lavish foliage decorated with various patterns that are truly highly attractive. One look and you’ll fall in love.
But of course, maintaining such pretty foliage is not for the laid backs. You’d have to learn how to keep this plant healthy in order to be rewarded with a calathea that’s worth bragging. Here are the things you need to pay attention to:
|Scientific Name||Calathea spp.|
|AKA||Calathea, Prayer plant, Rattlesnake plant, Peacock plant|
|Similar to||Maranta, Ctenanthe, and Stromanthe|
|Native to||Tropical Regions of America|
|Shape||Oval-shaped leaves growing on its base or small stems|
|Maximum size||36 to 40 inches (0.8 to 1 meter)|
|Light requirements||Low to medium (150 to 200 foot-candle is optimum)|
|Preferred humidity||High humidity (40% – 60%)|
|Preferred temperature||65°F – 80°F (18°C – 27°C)|
|Soil||A mix of sand and peat at a ratio of 3:1
Soil pH must be maintained near 6.5
|Fertilizer||Apply fertilizer once a month except for winter|
|Propagation method||Rhizome division or tip cuttings, with nodes to from the roots; tissue culture for commercial production|
|Toxicity||Non-toxic to cats and dogs|
|Vulnerable to||Spider mites and scale insects|
There are about 300 species of Calathea that you can choose from. With such a huge variety of options, you might get a little overwhelmed thinking about the various care and maintenance practices you have to remember for each.
No need to worry, though, because plants of the same genus would normally have common grounds. So, we can sum up here the general and basic requirements for calathea species to grow. This will serve as our guide on how to keep our potted calathea healthy inside our homes.
Calathea loves water. That’s why you have to keep the soil moist but not overwatered. It is crucial that the soil drains well and no stagnant is sitting at the bottom of the pot.
Water application should be made once you observe that the soil starts to dry out. Basically, everyday watering is needed in the hot seasons. One indication of a thirsty calathea is the curling up of its leaves so you should watch out for that.
Calathea grows well in an environment with medium-light but it can tolerate even low light levels. It’s okay, then, to place this plant somewhere shaded. You just have to put it out occasionally to be able to catch the light.
Direct contact with sunlight is highly discouraged. Calathea, like most houseplants, is easily irritated by a high-intensity light. That’s the pretty obvious reason why they’re meant to be kept indoors.
At most times, artificial light is enough source for them to harness energy for photosynthesis. A range of 150 to 200 foot-candle is ideal. This light intensity is almost the same as the one you see when it’s clouded outside and you barely see the sun.
An environment with high humidity is very favorable for calathea. When you buy from garden shops, most sellers would recommend that you place this plant in your kitchen or your bathroom. The reason for that is the high humidity present in those places.
Calatheas are tropical plants so it’s natural for them to look for more moisture in the air. Just in case your indoor atmosphere is getting a little dry, you can mist the plant from time to time. Adding a humidifier and pebble trays are also a big help in compensating for the lacking moisture.
Plant Food and Soil
Calathea appreciates a consistent feeding of nutrients. If you desire for healthy foliage (and you should be!), you’ve got to apply fertilizer monthly except during winter season. Liquid fertilizer is a convenient option in terms of mode of application.
You can opt to buy synthetic fertilizer if you want the nutrients to be readily available for the plant. But you may also use slow-release, usually organic fertilizers, as a regular feeding for the soil. Either choice, be careful to follow instructions and recommendations for potted plants to avoid overfertilization.
After providing the basic growing requirements for your calathea, your next goal is to learn some tips on doing maintenance care. These following steps are mostly secondary but are nevertheless important. Remember that maintenance is the most challenging part of growing houseplants.
Repotting can be done as soon as your plant arrived home. The majority of the plants purchased from garden stores have disposable or temporary pots. In that case, you have to transfer the calathea to a stable, size-appropriate, and more artistic pot.
After that, repotting can be done yearly. Once your calathea starts growing out the container, that’s the time a larger pot is needed. Another indication is when the general appearance of the foliage gets thinner and stunted; it probably is calling for more room.
Repotting helps prolong the life of the plant while keeping it healthy. By allowing larger space for roots to breathe, providing new set of soil and trimming off excess parts, your celethea will have a high chance of surviving for a long time.
Pruning is like grooming your pets. In order to maintain the calathea’s good appearance, we need to trim off diseased or aged leaves and other excess foliage. The timing depends on how frequently they appear.
Trimming off leaves during hot seasons will also help your calathea conserve moisture. This will reduce the volume of water transpired because limiting the leaves would mean limiting the pore spaces where water molecules escape.
Spider mites and scale insects are common enemies of calathea. You have to beware of these pests because they can work in a subtle way. We do not want to lose such a beautiful foliage to these tiny monsters.
Regularly inspect your plant for the presence of any pest. Manually remove them from the plant. You may also spray them with hose water or a diluted dishwashing liquid to kill them off.
If your planning to hoard more of calatheas but is hesitant because you own pets, then this is good news for you. Calathea is non-toxic and pet-friendly. The only thing you need to worry about is when your pets get naughty and accidentally drops your potted calathea.
That would be a huge heartbreak!
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is my Calathea drooping?
Underwatering is the main reason why your calathea gets droopy. Water supports the plant structure and keeps it in shape. When cells are dehydrated, they normally shrink so the plant loses its sturdy look.
Another reason would be too much heat. When the temperature rises, transpiration also rises so the plant loses moisture at a faster rate. As a result, the plant becomes dehydrated and stressed out.
What should I do when the edges of my leaves are turning brown and yellow?
Browning and yellowing of leaf edges is a common sign of overwatering. So much water intake leads the plant cells to swell and burst. So when water is passed through from cell to cell, the receiving end (edges and tips of the leaves) becomes the sink where water gets stagnant causing them to die first.
The first thing to do is to drain the pot. You can tilt it sideways to allow the intact water to leave. Place it outside where the temperature is hotter to speed up the evaporation process.
If you think the soil still holds more than enough water, withdraw water application for a few days until the soil gets dry. You may also check the roots for any sign of rotting.
How often should I change the soil for my Calathea?
It depends on how frequently you do your repotting. Repotting is done for a number of reasons but the main trigger is when the plant gets overly crowded in the pot. At this point, you’d need to transfer other portions of the mother plant to new pots for propagation.
During this time, you have to provide new soil to the plant because most probably, it has already developed a root-bound. And of course, the newly propagated calatheas would need new sets of soils as well.
You also need to change the soil if the plant contacted a soil-borne disease. Most pathogens thrive in the soil, infect the roots, and eventually destroy the whole plant. If you’re sure that the reason for the disease is its infected soil, then you have to replace it.
Keeping calathea indoors is definitely worth it. Once you learn the basic how to’s and apply them correctly, you’ll understand that caring for this plant is not as complicated as you’ve imagined it.
Of course, there’ll be setbacks along the way. Most gardeners would even share the same stories of failure in tending calathea. That’s why it’s best to start with a handy knowledge of the basics.