How to Grow and Care for Calathea Plants Indoors


Calathea, Calathea spp

Photo credit: Amazon Uk

Botanical name: Calathea spp
Family: Marantaceae

Description

Calathea Plants are grown for their ornately patterned leaves. They are striking plants that will add a splash of color to any space. They make a spectacular focal point in any room.

Origin

Calathea spp are native to the tropical regions of America where they grow as understory plants.

Like the shaded floors of their native tropical canopies, Calathea prefer low to medium light. Too much direct sunlight can damage their fragile leaves resulting in sunburn and dullness in the color of leaves.

Calathea also require high humidity to mimic their natural habitat. They thrive in moist but not wet (soggy) soil. Overwatering or underwatering Calathea can lead to brown dry leaves.

Due to their need for high humidity, Calatheas do well in a terrarium or a bottle garden where the humidity can be quite high.

Varieties

There are about 60 species in the Calathea genus.

Related Plants

Calatheas are closely related to the Marantas, Ctenanthe and Stromanthe.

These groups of plants are sometimes commonly called Prayer Plants in reference to their curious characteristic of closing their leaves at night.

Where to Buy Calathea

Beautiful and healthy Calatheas are readily available online at Etsy. Buy the spectacular Calathea Plants from Etsy.

Calathea crocata, Eternal Flame

Photo Credit: RHS Plants

Calathea Care Indoors

Light Requirements

Calathea grow best in medium to bright, indirect light as colors fade in bright light. They can also grow under a grow light where natural light is not sufficient.

Keep Calatheas away from direct sunlight as it can cause sunburn marks on the leaves.

Turn the pot regularly to ensure that the plant receives light on all sides for uniform growth. Read more on understanding light for houseplants.

Watering

Watering Calathea requires keeping the soil moderately moist during the growing season. Reduce watering in the cold season as growth is minimal at this time.

Use tepid water that is free of chlorine and flourides as Calathea are sensitive to chemicals dissolved in water and they respond with brown leaf tips and edges. Read more on how to water houseplants.

Ensure the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy as it can lead to root-rot and eventual death of the plant.

To prevent fungal infestations, avoid wetting the foliage during watering or water from the bottom instead.


Temperature

Calathea prefer average warmth with a minimum of 150C. Room temperature that is comfortable for you is ideal for this plant.

Protect it from cold draughts and sudden changes in temperature as they cause the leaves to begin dropping. Read more on understanding temperature for houseplants.

Humidity

Calathea require high humidity inorder to thrive. Low humidity causes the plants to develop brown leaf tips and edges.

To raise humidity, set the pot on a wet pebble tray or use a cool mist humidifier.

Calathea can also be grown in the bathroom or other moist areas in the home where humidity is high. Read more on how to raise humidity for houseplants.

You can also grow Calathea in a terrarium as a high humidity can be maintained in a terrarium. Read more on how to make a closed terrarium for houseplants.

Clean the Calathea leaves by damp-wiping with a soft cloth to keep them clean and neat and also discourage pest infestation. Read more on how to clean houseplants.

Fertilizer (Feeding)

Feed Calathea with a balanced, liquid fertilizer once monthly through out the growing season.

Do not feed Calathea during the cold season as growth is minimal and feeding at this time can lead to fertilizer burn. Read more on how to feed houseplants.

Regularly, flush out accumulated chemicals (salts) from the soil by running a stream of water through the soil. Allow the stream of water to run for some time and repeat the process several times.

Repotting

Repot Calathea every 2 years at the beginning of the growing season or when it becomes root-bound. Use a pot one size larger than the current one.

Ensure that the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy as it can lead to root-rot and eventual death of the plant.

If the plant is large and has outgrown its current pot, divide it into several sections and use the splits to propagate new plants.

Repotting may cause the leaves to droop but the plant will eventually recover once it takes root; in about 3-4 weeks.

Soil

The best soil for Calathea Plants should be rich in organic matter and free-draining to prevent it from getting soggy while providing the required nutrients. Purchase quality Calathea potting medium online from Etsy.

Pruning

Pruning Calathea is easy as it involves removal of dead and yellow foliage to maintain the plant neat and attractive.

Propagation

Calathea are propagated by plant division at the beginning of the growing season during repotting.

How to propagate Calathea by plant division

Water the Calathea thoroughly at least 1 day before to make it easier to divide and also hasten establishment. A well hydrated plant suffers less shock and takes a shorter time to take root.

Take the plant out of its pot and divide it into several sections. Ensure each sections has adequate roots and at least 2-3 stems.

Select a 6 or 8 in. pot and ensure that the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy as it can lead to rotting.

Fill the pot with Calathea potting medium and make a hole in the center of the pot. Ensure that the hole is slightly wider than the root base of the section.

Place the section in the previously made hole and lightly firm the soil around the base while taking care not to bury it too deep; maintain the section at the same soil level it was in the previous pot.

Liberally water the soil until water comes out through the drainage holes. Cover the pots with clear polythene to create a greenhouse effect and maintain warm humid conditions which hasten establishment of the plants.

Place the pots in a warm, well-lit place away from direct sunlight until new growth emerges from the sections.

Gradually remove the polythene over a period of two weeks to acclimatize the new plants.

Maintain the soil moist until the new Calathea plants are well established after which you can begin routine care.

Calathea, Calathea spp

Calathea makoyana by Dreamtime

Calathea Problems Indoors

Drooping leaves

Drooping leaves in Calathea are due to three possible reasons. One possible cause is too dry air (low humidity). Calatheas are very sensitive to low air humidity.

To raise humidity, set the pot on a wet pebble tray or use a cool mist humidifier. Read more on how to raise humidity for houseplants.

Calathea can also be grown in a terrarium where a high humidity can be maintained. Read more on how to make a terrarium for houseplants.

The second possible cause of drooping leaves in Calathea is incorrect watering; either overwatering (soggy soil) or underwatering.

Water the plant liberally and maintain the soil moist at all times during the growing season. Reduce watering during the cold season but do not allow the soil to dry out completely.

Also, ensure that the soil is free-draining and that the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy.

The third possible cause of drooping leaves in Calathea is that the plant is root-bound. This means that the roots have filled the pot and there is very little soil to hold water when you water your plant.

Therefore, there is no water for the plant to take up to the leaves. The leaves loss their stiffness and they droop.

Check the bottom of the pot for roots growing through the drainage hole. Repot the plant into a pot one size larger than the current one or divide it into several sections to propagate new plants.

Limp, rotting stems

The reasons for limp rotting stems in Calathea are that the air is too cold and the soil is too wet. At this point, the plant may be too far gone to be saved.

To prevent the occurence of limp, rotting stems in Calathea, keep the plant away from cold draughts and maintain an average warmth with a minimum of 150C. Room temperatures that are comfortable for you are ideal for the plant.

Also, reduce watering during the cold season and ensure that the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy.

Leaves discolored or washed out

Exposure of Calathea to direct sunlight is the cause of discolored and washed out leaves. These plants grow best in medium to bright, indirect light away from direct sunlight. Move the Calathea to a more shaded spot or instal a light curtain to protect it from direct sunlight to prevent its eventual death.

Curled, spotted, yellowing leaves

Curled, spotted and yellowing leaves in Calathea are caused by incorrect watering; either overwatering (soggy soil) or underwatering.

Overwatering (soggy soil) causes the roots to die due to lack of oxygen. When the roots die they cannot take up water and therefore the leaves begin to curl and eventually die.

Underwatering implies that there is too little moisture in the soil and therefore, the plant has no water to take up to the leaves. Thus, the leaves begin to curl and eventually die if the situation is not corrected.

Calathea requires that the soil be kept moist at all times during the growing season. Do not allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings during the growing period.

Reduce watering in the cold season but do not allow the soil to dry out completely. Also, ensure that the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy. Read more on how to water houseplants.

Brown, dry leaf tips and edges

There are four possible causes of brown, dry leaf tips and edges in Calathea. One cause is dry air (too little humidity).

Calathea requires a humid environment to thrive. To raise humidity, set the pot on a wet pebble tray or use a cool mist humidifier.

The plants can also be grown in the bathroom or other moist areas in the home where humidity is high. Read more on how to raise humidity for houseplants.

A terrarium is also ideal for Calatheas as a high humidity can be maintained in a terrarium. Read more on how to make a closed terrarium for houseplants.

The second cause of brown, dry leaf tips and edges in Calathea which is accompanied by stunted growth is spider mites infestation due to the air being too dry (low humidity).

Remove the dead growth and raise humidity for the plant (as outlined above) to discourage the pest infestations.

The third cause of brown, dry leaf tips and edges in Calathea is watering with hard water. Water the plants with chlorine-free water only like rain water.

Calathea are sensitive to chlorine and other chemicals dissolved in water and they respond with brown leaf tips and edges.

The fourth cause of brown, dry leaf tips and edges in Calathea is accumulation of salts or chemicals in the soil. These chemicals may have originated from the water or from the fertilizers.

Regularly, flush out accumulated chemicals (salts) from the soil by running a stream of water through the soil. Allow the stream of water to run for some time and repeat the process several times.

Pests

Calathea pests; mealy bugs, aphids, scale insects and spider mites. Isolate the affected plant to prevent spread to the other houseplants and treat it appropriately for the pests.

Diseases

Calathea are prone to leaf spot disease due to the humid conditions that they prefer.

The disease is indicated by brown patches surrounded by a yellow halo. Isolate the affected plant to prevent spread to the other houseplants and treat it appropriately for the disease.

Are Calathea toxic?

According to ASPCA, Calathea are non-toxic to both humans and pets. They are safe to grow indoors.

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