How to care
for your Calathea
Meet the Calathea, who you might mistake for the Marantaceae (Prayer Plant), the major difference being that the Calathea doesn’t practice nyctinasty. No, that’s not a Dungeons & Dragons term, it’s the term used to describe a plant’s response at nighttime when its leaves fold up. Originating from Central and South America, they’re also commonly found in Africa and Asia. Calatheas are beautiful foliage plants with really distinct visual features (colours, patterns, vibrant ribs and pleated leaves) on their large, oval-shaped green leaves – the Mona Lisa of plants. Slow-growing, there are around 200-300 different species of the Calathea that can grow up to 3 feet, which makes it a lovely choice for floor plants, low plant stands or tabletops.
Calathea 'Beauty Star'
Calathea Roseopicta 'Corona'
Calathea Roseopicta 'Dottie'
Calathea Ornata 'Pinstripe'
Calathea Rufibarba 'Velvet'
Calathea Lancifolia 'Rattlesnake'
Care Level : Beginner, Expert or Somewhere in the middle.
Calatheas, like their cousin, land in the middle and push closer to expert depending on which varietal you have. Some of the more difficult varietals have a reputation of being a drama king/queen with an absurd number of demands. That said, they can withstand a decent amount of neglect and can bounce back, if you put in the work.
Calatheas are medium to low-light plants, making it an attractive plant for basement apartments or homes that don’t get a ton of light. A good rule of thumb is that the darker the Calathea foliage, the less light it needs. Avoid direct sun at all costs - if they’re placed in direct light, you’ll bleach their leaves faster than running a load of colours with actual bleach.
Calatheas have a rather finnicky watering schedule – you should keep an eye out with the finger or stick test and water when the top layer of the soil is dry. If the pot goes bone dry, Calatheas might wilt significantly and take a lot of time to recover. Like their cousins, you want to avoid getting water on their leaves and avoid using water direct from the tap. Use distilled water or fill your watering jug from the tap and leave it out overnight so the chlorine and minerals settle before you get to it. If the leaves turn yellow and start dropping off, then that’s a sign you’re overwatering.
Calatheas enjoy humid environments – so daily misting (not on the leaves – go under), pairing with a humidifier or placing them on top of a tray of pebbles submerged in water will keep them happy. You’re welcome to take your Calathea in the shower with you (gentle reminder – don’t physically shower with it). Grouping Calatheas together are also another way of increasing the humidity – squad goals!
Calatheas thrive in 16 to 27°C conditions. Placed in colder temperatures and you’ll start to see their leaves drop.
Calatheas are pet-friendly! Go to town.
Calathea Pink Diamond
Calathea Lancifolia aka Rattlesnake
Other fun facts:
- In Brazil, colourful Calathea leaves are used to wrap fish, while in Thailand they’re used to make rice baskets – hint, hint – that’s a clout-worthy, how-to video someone would like to see!
- Calatheas grow wild in the rainforest, reaching several meters high and some varieties bloom. Unfortunately that won’t happen indoors, so sorry about getting your hopes up.
- Calathea Allouias were one of the earliest plants and food crops domesticated by pre-historic Amerindians in South America; it tastes like sweet corn when boiled.
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