With its brightly colored, patterned leaves, Calathea is one of the most exotic houseplants you can grow. This tropical plant is native to Brazil and other parts of South America, where its incredible foliage stands out on the forest floor. Even indoors, a Calathea brings a sense of the tropics and rainforest to your room. Read on to learn all about caring for and enjoying these tropical plants.
What are Calathea Characteristics ?
Calathea is a genus of neotropical plants in the Marantaceae family. There are over 300 varieties of Calathea, many sharing similar traits such as:
- Oval-shaped, colorful leaves with unique patterns and striping
- New leaves often start out rolled up and unfurl as they mature
- Movement – leaves raise and lower throughout the day seeking light
- Low-spreading growth habit, typically reaching 12-24 inches tall
- Prefers tropical environments with high humidity
- Native to tropical Americas – mainly Brazil, Colombia, and Nicaragua
With proper care, Calathea can grow indoors for many years, filling pots with their bold foliage and bringing life to indoor spaces.
Popular Calathea Varieties
Some of the most popular Calathea houseplants include:
- Rattlesnake Plant (Calathea lancifolia) – Long wavy green leaves with light green stripes
- Peacock Plant (Calathea makoyana) – Dark green leaves with purple spots
- Pinstripe Calathea (Calathea ornata) – Slender leaves striped in pink and white
- Medallion Calathea (Calathea roseopicta) – Round leaves with purple undersides
- Zebra Plant (Calathea zebrina) – Leaves with light and dark green stripes like a zebra
There are many other unique leaf patterns and colors to discover within the Calathea genus. Find one that fits your personality and decor style.
How to Care for Calathea ?
Caring for Calathea indoors comes with some specific requirements to keep them healthy. Here are the key care tips:
Calatheas need bright, indirect light. So avoid direct sun which can scorch Calathea leaves. An east or west facing window is ideal. Or you can provide sheer curtains to filter light if needed.
Use room temperature rain or distilled water to keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy. Allow the top inch or two of soil to dry between two times watering.
High humidity is essential – at least 50% or more. Use a humidifier, pebble tray, or frequent misting to boost humidity around the plant.
Calatheas prefer warm temperatures between 70°F and 80°F. Keep away from drafty areas and cold outdoor air. And soil is also important for Calathea plants. Please use a well-draining potting mix, go up one pot size if roots are crowded. And repot annually in the spring to refresh the soil.
Feed monthly in the growing season with a balanced houseplant fertilizer diluted to half strength. Reduce fertilizer dosage in winter.
Signs of a Healthy Calathea
When cared for properly, Calatheas will show off their true beauty indoors:
- Vibrantly patterned leaves unfurling and expanding to full size
- Movement of leaves following light throughout the day
- New leaves emerging as the plant matures
- No crispy leaf edges or curling due to dryness
- No pests present such as spider mites or mealybugs
- No fungal issues like powdery mildew or leaf spot
Calathea Propagation: How to Grow New Plants ?
Calathea can be propagated by separating tubers, division, and stem cuttings in water or soil. Do you know how to propagate Calathea plants ? If you want to propagate new Calathea plants, you can try these three ways.
Propagate calathea by Division
Large, overcrowded Calathea clumps can be divided into smaller sections and repotted.
Remove the plant from its pot and carefully divide the root mass into smaller sections using your hands or shears.
Each divided section or “division” should have 3-5 stems and a good portion of roots attached.
Optionally trim any excess roots or leaves before repotting. But don’t damage the root system.
Pot up each division in its own container using fresh potting soil and water them.
Grow on the newly divided plants in warm, humid conditions protected from direct sun.
Dividing overgrown Calathea every 2-3 years encourages new growth and healthier plants. And it’s an easy way to get more plants for free!
Propagate calathea by Stem Cuttings in Water
Many Calathea varieties can root successfully in water from stem cuttings. If you wanna propagate your Calathea plant in wwater, read on the following article.
Using a sterilized, sharp knife or shears, cut a stem with a few leaves. Remove lower leaves and cut just below a node.
Place the cutting in a small glass of clean water. Only submerge the lower portion of the stem – leaves should stay above water.
Change the water every 4-5 days to prevent rotting.
Provide bright, indirect light.
Look for new white roots emerging from the stem after 1-2 months. Allow the root system to grow to 2-3 inches long before potting.
Transplant the rooted cutting into a starter potting mix. Keep warm and humid while establishing.
Water propagation works for many Calathea species like zebrina, orbifolia, warscewiczii and others. Just switch water regularly and be patient for roots.
Propagate calathea by Stem Cuttings in a Potting Mix
Stem cuttings can also root directly into moist potting soil. Follow these tips:
Prepare a sterile seed starting mix moistened with warm water. Use small pots with drainage.
Cut 4-6 inch stem tips just below a leaf node using a clean, sharp knife.
Dip the cut end into rooting hormone powder to encourage root growth.
Poke a small hole in the soil and insert the cutting. Gently firm soil around the stem.
Cover pots with a clear plastic bag to maintain humidity, but don’t seal completely.
Place in indirect light and keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy.
Check for new leaf and root growth in 4-8 weeks. Carefully transplant into larger pots once rooted.
This method avoids the wait time for water rooting. Use rooting hormone and a sterile soil mix may get best results.
Are Calathea Plants Toxic to Cats ?
Calathea plants are generally not toxic to cats, but there are a few things to keep in mind regarding cats and Calathea plants:
The ASPCA lists Calathea plants as non-toxic to cats. That means they should not cause poisoning or serious illness if ingested. However, Calathea plants can cause minor gastrointestinal upset if cats ingest the leaves or stems. The leaves and stems can also be irritants to your cat’s mouth or skin. Cats that excessively bite or chew the plant may get mouth irritation or swelling.
So, for your cat’s safety, keep Calathea plants out of reach of cats to prevent unexpected ingestion. Monitor your cats around Calathea and stop them if trying to eat the plant. Provide alternative grass-like plants for them to chew is a good way. If your cat vomits after eating the plant, call your vet for advice. Vomiting should stop once the irritant is out of the body.
So in summary, Calathea itself does not appear highly toxic, but cats that eat a lot of the plant could get sick. Take precautions to limit access and contact if you have a curious cat!
Why is a Calathea called a prayer plant?
Calatheas are called prayer plants for a very interesting reason – the unique movement of their leaves! Here are detailed explanation:
Calathea leaves have a habit of raising and lowering throughout the day. They move up toward the light during the day, then lower down at night.
This daily movement resembles hands being lifted and brought together in prayer. It reminded people of devotees bringing their hands together to pray.
Hence the common name “prayer plant” was given to Calathea and the related plant genus Maranta that display similar leaf movements.
The proper botanical term for this movement is “nyctinasty”. It happens due to a structure in the leaves called a pulvinus.
The pulvinus controls distribution of water and nutrients, making the leaf raise and lower. More water pressure makes the leaves lift up toward light.
At night when light is gone, the water in the pulvinus moves out and leaves return to a lowered nighttime position.
So in summary, the daily raising and lowering of Calathea leaves looks similar to human prayer gestures, leading to these plants being called prayer plants. Don’t you think it’s a very cool behavior to observe in this unique houseplant genus ?
After reading this article, you must can take good care of your beautiful, charming calathea indoor plants. Hope this article will provide you with the information you want to know about calathea plants. If you have any idea to talk with us, welcome to leave your comments.