Calathea

Learn how to care for most varieties of Calathea!

Calathea

Words by The Sill

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Learn how to care for most varieties of Calathea!

Calathea is a genus of neotropical rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plants that are known for the unique leaf movements of patterned foliage (more on that below). Calatheas are also considered pet-friendly, making them great plant picks for anyone that shares a space with curious pets. 

Calathea Dottie Houseplant

In the tropics (mostly Brazil), colorful calathea leaves are used for handicraft and food wrapping. Because of the diversity of the leaf shapes, baskets are weaved with the lanceolate leaves, and food is wrapped with the wider leaves. These  colorful leaf markings also make them popular houseplants, and their popularity has been growing. The Calathea veitchiana ‘Medallion’ (Medallion calathea), Calathea lancifolia (Rattlesnake calathea), Calathea ornata (Pinstripe calathea), and Calathea roseopicta 'Dottie' (Calathea Dottie) are some of the most popular species.

Calatheas are part of the 'prayer plant' family, Marantaceae. The 'prayer plant' nickname stems from the daily movements of the plants leaves, known as nyctinasty. Various plants in this family move their leaves up at nighttime, and lower them in the daytime in accordance to a circadian rhythm. They move their leaves by changing the water pressure in their pulvini, the swollen nodes at the base of the leaf, along the leaf stalk (petiole). It is believed that these movements are meant to follow the sun’s movement in the sky in order to maximize light absorption. Learn more about prayer plants here

Sunlight

Thrives in medium to bright indirect light, but can tolerate low indirect light.

Water

Water every 1-2 weeks, allowing soil to dry out half way down between waterings. Expect to water more often in brighter light and less often in lower light.

Humidity

Does better in higher humidity if possible. Consider incorporating a fine-mist mister or humidifier to boost humidity level indoors.

Temperature

Most houseplants prefer temps in the 65°F-85°F range (18°C-30°C). It’s best not to let it go below 60°F (15°C). 

Soil

Use a well-draining potting mix

Common Problems

The Calathea is an easy-going plant and is generally pest-free. Treat pests as soon as they appear with weekly sprays of a natural pesticide like neem oil and regular wipe-downs of the plant.  

SYMPTOM: Wilting, curling leaves, dry potting mix 
CAUSE: Underwatered

SYMPTOM: Yellowing leaves, black base 
CAUSE: Overwatered

SYMPTOM: Leaf spots 
CAUSE: Fungal infection or mineral build up from tap water. Use distilled water and water directly into surrounding potting soil. 

Precautions 

This plant is pet-friendly! But the best practice is always to keep houseplants out of reach of small children and curious pets. 

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