The Calathea plant (calathea), also known as the prayer plant is an indoor plant that adorns homes and offices with its brilliant array of colorful foliage, the leaves range in color from green, silver, and even predominantly pink leaves. It belongs to the Marantaceae family, and is native to the South American Jungles (Tropical Rainforest), it is commonly grouped with the Maranta Prayer plant since it is from the same plant family. It has over 300 species with over 60 now grown away from its habitat.
"A plant with personality, calatheas are called prayer plants because of the routine and rhythmic movement of their leaves. During the day and night, calathea leaves noticeably lift and dip in a circadian rhythm."
Other popular names by which the Calathea plant is known include prayer plant, peacock plant, zebra plant, cathedral plant and rattlesnake plant. Popular species include:
- Calathea Lancifolia
- Calathea Ornata
- Calathea Roseopicta 'Dottie'
- Calathea Makoyana
- Calathea Orbifolia
- Calathea Rosey or Rosy
The Calathea plant grows under larger plants in the rainforest. The transition for these plants into the home has been great as they can handle the reduced lighting but do still need some humidity. Certain varieties don't require as much of a tropical environment as others so make sure to ask when getting them if you live in a dry climate. While caring for them as a novice or beginner plant lover it may be daunting, taking the following steps is proven to help them thrive.
Light Requirement for Calathea Plants
Calathea plants grow well under shades, in their natural habitat. If you have one as a houseplant, it is a great idea to keep the plant under bright but indirect light. Excessive exposure may burn the leaves or cause discoloration. If you notice some scorched leaves it's a sure sign to move that plant.
Soil Requirements for Calathea Plants
Like most other houseplants, the calathea plant grows just fine in any top-quality houseplant soil. The most preferred option is peat-based soil, as it has high moisture-retaining ability. The ideal DIY soil blend will contain 6 parts potting soil, 2 parts bark, 1 part charcoal and 1 part perlite. You can also add one part compost or manure seasonally as they will need some nutrition to keep their leaves beautiful.
Potting Requirement for Calathea Plants
The Calathea plant grows fine in stoneware, terracotta or even plastic pots. However, your best bet will be planting it in a self watering planter since these like to be on the wetter side of plants. Bear in mind that planting Calathea in terracotta will require more water. The most important factor in selecting a pot for your Calathea plant is its ability to drain water, as excess water in the soil causes damage to the plant. No plants like to sit in water so always make sure to drain any excess.
Temperature Requirements for Calathea
As a tropical plant, Calathea's does not enjoy extreme cold. Temperature range of 65 to 80 degrees works just fine. Anything above or below this range could be detrimental to the plant. We have seen some get really cold and shed their leaves but due to their growth style they will revive if accidentally hit with a cold snap. Always check for where air vents or heaters are blowing to avoid damaging the plant by putting it in a spot that gets extra air flow from an air conditioner or heater.
Water Requirements for Calathea
Calathea plants may have grown in tropical rain forests but they do not like excess water. You can keep the plant hydrated with distilled and purified water. We have found that some variety of Calathea are sensitive to city tap water. They will develop spots on the leaves or edges in yellow or brown if they get regular tap water so make sure to use rain, distilled, or purified water.
Humidity Requirements for Calathea
A happy Calathea has an optimal humidity level of around 60% or more. It may be difficult to replicate the ideal humidity your Calathea desires, outside its original habitat. However, keeping it in the bathroom, using a pebble tray, humidifier and growing them in groups are great ways to maintain optimal humidity. You can also mist the Calathea plant as a quick fix.
Fertilizer Requirements for Calathea
If you apply regular houseplant fertilizer around summer, spring and autumn, especially when growing or flowering, your Calathea plant will be more than grateful. Outside that, Calathea plants hardly ever need fertilizers. We recommend a 10-10-10 NPK ratio (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) as an ideal fertilizer once every 3 months.
Pests and Pathogens
Unfortunately, pests and plants go together and it is very hard without preventive pest maintenance to keep any plant 100% pest free. We recommend using our Plant Shield & Shine spray on a regular basis to keep you plant looking its best while preventing pests. Regularly checking on your plants and the underside of leaves can help you detect any issues early on.
Calathea can possibly get the following pests and the spider mites are the ones we have the hardest time keeping at bay.
Fungus Gnats: these tiny insects do not cause harm but can get pretty annoying. The ideal way to eradicate them is sticky traps. You can also water the plant bottom up, leaving the first layer of soil dry.
Spider Mites: regular misting is effective against spider mites. You can just wipe them away when you see them.
Mealy bugs: change the soil often to get rid of the eggs. Sometimes in summer, you should take the plant out so other predators can eliminate the bugs. Else, giving the plant a wipe-down should do the magic.
Aphids: Your Calathea will benefit from a rinse, to get rid of the aphids. You can wipe down the leaves though, or place a ladybug around to feast on the aphid.
The beautiful Calathea plant lasts as long as fifty years in ideal conditions. However, if you are careless with it but provide these conditions for growth, the houseplant should last you a year.