Calathea Orbifolia – How To Take Care

Calathea Orbifolia

The Calathea Orbifolia or Goeppertia has outstanding striped leaves with amazing curves that can give your indoor space some pretty nice grooves. So much so, they got me inspired to do that rhyme just now and with it, this article. Whether you are a seasoned plant owner or just a newbie like me, this plant is easy to go along with when it comes to caring needs.

To grow and care for a Calathea Orbifolia, keep in mind the following suggestions:

  • Watering: water it only when you notice the soil is getting dry. Try to keep it moist (but not soggy) as long as you can.  
  • Light: they prefer indirect bright light. Avoid direct sunlight exposure.
  • Temperature: the Orbifolia likes temperatures between 60ºF and 80ºF.

Whilst these simple tips will do most of the heavy lifting to grow any Calathea Orbifolia healthily, we know that if you love plants you’re always interested in going the extra mile and learning that extra cool stuff – like how fast does a calathea grow, or when should you repot it. So don’t worry, we’ve got your back, with all the info you’ll need.

In this guide, we’ve compiled some of the most popular advice regarding the Calathea Orbifolia, plus some learnings from our experience when growing this leafy beauty. So buckle up, let’s get going with the Goeppertia.

Growing a Calathea Orbifolia – What you Should Know

To take proper care of this plant species, you should consider the following basic plant care tasks to cover most of your bases:

  • Watering
  • Light and Placement
  • Temperature and Humidity
  • Soil and Repotting
  • Fertilization
  • Propagation
  • Pest Prevention

Let’s get started with watering.

When and How should I water my Calathea Orbifolia?

Similar to other calathea varieties, the Orbifolia likes its soil constantly moist but not soggy. This means that you should only water it when you notice that the soil is drying out and it needs some water to regain its ideal moisture level.

Ok, so you may be wondering what’s the ideal soil moisture level? 

Although the sweet spot is pretty subjective for most owners, I think that you can learn to identify it by taking into account the following aspects from your plant’s soil:

  • Color: normally, moist soil looks darker than dry soil, which has some sort of grey tone.
  • Texture: if you poke your finger, you will get some granular pieces of soil, and it’ll feel wet. On the other hand, dry soil will not leave much of a trace in your nails.

If you want to improve accuracy, you could use a moisture level indicator. However, I personally am a bigger fan of getting to know your plants and sense their needs.

Calathea Orbifolia leaves

That being said, the gist is: whenever you feel the soil is getting dry, consider watering it. As a good rule of thumb, this shouldn’t happen more than 1 or 2 times per week. However, there’s no one-size-fits-all recommendation here, since the specific watering frequency that your plant needs can be affected by the environmental conditions where you live and the placement of your plant inside your home.

Instead,we suggest that you develop a ritual of checking your plant on a daily basis to make sure its soil has the right moisture levels and then you can make adjustments on the watering frequency needed.

In terms of quantity, most of the time I pour from 8 to 10 ounces to keep the top layers of soil the right level of moisture. Sometimes I increase the quantity if I notice that the soil is drying out faster than I expected, or if I’m going to be out of home for a couple of days. In any case, make sure your plant has well-draining soil and that the pot has at least one functioning drainage hole, as this will help to keep the right moisture balance for your plant.

If there’s one key takeaway that I want you to get from this guide is that you should avoid overwatering your Calathea Orbifolia at all costs, since this can lead to plant sickness,rot rotting or even death.

How much light does a Calathea Orbifolia need?

Since this species is native to the South American jungles and tropical areas of the world, they are used to grow below big trees that filter the sunlight, meaning that they thrive under indirect bright light. I would say that the ideal placement is therefore balconies, living rooms, or windows that face north or south. 

Calathea Orbifolia in table

Avoid placing your plant in dark rooms or bathrooms since the leaves will quickly start drooping. On the other hand, you should also make sure you minimize the amount of direct sunlight exposure as the leaves can get quickly damaged or burned.

Temperature and Humidity

Calathea Orbifolia plants show a strong preference for warm temperatures and high humidity levels. Firstly, make sure that you can grow them in a temperature range between 60º F and 80º F (15º C and 27º C). As we mentioned before, these plants are native from tropical areas, so you will need to try to mimic those weather conditions to the best of your extent. With this in mind, you should aim to avoid exposure to cold drafts, especially during the winter.

Finally you should minimize abrupt temperature changes, so be mindful when changing the placement or the position of your plant in different parts of your home.

Additionally, you should keep in mind that Calathea Orbifolia plants need high humidity levels to thrive – authors suggest levels above 50% humidity. So if you live in a city that is highly humid, you won’t have any trouble.

However, if you live in a place where humidity drops or there is a lot of dry air then you might want to consider one of the following options to increase the humidity in its surrounding environment:

  • Placing your plant in a humid location like a kitchen or bathroom. If you choose this option, keep in mind that there should also be sufficient indirect light exposure for your plant. Otherwise, you will be impacting it in a negative way.
  • Misting your plant around. I personally do this every other day to enhance the humidity levels and keep the leaves hydrated.
  • Using a humidity pebble tray. You can fill a tray with perlite and water, place your plant on top of the pebbles, and it will start soaking the humidity that comes up.
  • Getting a humidifier. As these devices aren’t cheap, I would recommend this option as the last resource or if the air at your place is very dry for example during winter months.
  • Last but not least you can group your plants, especially if they are native from tropical areas, since just by being together will increase their overall humidity.

Soil, Fertilization and Repotting

It is crucial to highlight that Calathea Orbifolia plants need to be grown on a soil mixture that has excellent drainage properties. This will ensure that the roots can absorb the right amount of nutrients without accumulating excessive moisture that can lead to rotting. 

Calathea Orbifolia leaves outstanding

When it comes to the specifics, you can use standard potting mix combined with perlite or pumice to get the right balance between retention and drainage. Some owners recommend using other addons in the mix like peat moss, coco coir and orchid bark. These elements will help you mimic a jungle-like ground soil where orbifolds have been growing for centuries without any issues.

When it comes to fertilization, the Calathea Orbifolia is fortunately not a needy plant. This means that it won’t necessarily need any special fertilization schedule, or extra attention to keep in mind. However, you could go the extra mile and feed it once per month with a water-soluble fertilizer, diluted to a quarter of the suggested strength. Just make sure that you do not use a strong solution since you can potentially harm the root system.

On a final note, make sure to apply the fertilizer during the growing season. As with most plants, if you live in a place where winter hits, you might want to avoid fertilizing your calathea orbifolia as it enters the dormancy period (fall and winter).. 

When should I repot my Calathea Orbifolia?

Repotting is not strictly necessary. The anecdotal evidence that I found online signals that a Calathea Orbifolia can live on its original pot for more than 2 years. So, personally, I would follow the rule of thumb of repotting it every 1 or 2 years, but only if I notice excessive rootbound or an abnormal decrease in its growth rate. 

You can determine if your Goeppertia is rootbound by checking if the roots are pushing towards the walls of the pot. This will be very obvious if your plant is in a plastic pot – as it will start to deform. However, if your container is made of ceramic or similar material, you can check if the roots are starting to come out through the drainage holes, and that’s your signal for repotting.

To repot your plant you can follow these tips:

  • Choose a new pot that is no more than 2 inches longer in diameter in comparison to the previous pot it sat in. This will avoid the plant from drowning and will ensure that the roots remain compact.
  • Fill the new pot about ¼ or ⅓ of its volume with well-drained potting soil combined with a bit of  perlite.
  • Water your plant until you notice that all the soil layers are well watered, as this will make it easier to remove the root body.
  • It might be helpful to use a chopstick or stick to poke between the soil and the pot walls to slightly move the plant from its current settings.
  • Remove the plant from its original pot gently, so grab it near the stem base to avoid any branches or roots from getting hurt. Be especially careful with the roots.
  • Place the plant on its new pot and adjust its height so that the leaves and stems aren’t drowned (too low) in the soil.
  • With a shovel, fill the spaces between the plant and the new pot walls. Make sure your Calathea Orbifolia sits firmly on its new ground.

Pruning, Hygiene and Pest Prevention

The Calathea Orbifolia does not need to be pruned very often. Some owners even suggest that this caring task is not needed at all. The main reason for this is its single-leaf anatomy that doesn’t contain any thick branches or stems. In addition, since the Calathea Orbifolia does not bloom, there is no need to prune the remaining flower bracks that could drain the energy from the plant.

However, pruning can be done when you spot yellow or brown leaves. You can follow these steps to get the job done:

  • Plan your cuts: make sure to do this before getting started. 
  • Sanitize: make sure to apply some alcohol to your shears or knife to avoid infections.
  • When making the cuttings, make sure to aim for the stem base near the ground. This  will minimize the harm that the plant could suffer. 

Pests like mealybugs, aphids or spider mites can attack your plant at any moment and reproduce themselves very quickly., and suddenly, you are left with an infestation. That’s why we suggest that you quickly check the leaves from your plant every day once you are watering it. 

To do so, pay attention to unnatural color changes, brown spots, yellow patches or small cobwebs in the borders. If you plant presents any of these symptoms, it is very probable that a plant-sucking organism is having a feast. To get rid of them, you can spray your plant with a solution of water (8 ounces) and neem oil (1 ounce). Increasing humidity by misting some water around your plant can also help you in this pest prevention process.

To prevent any other undesirable pests from appearing, we suggest to regularly wipe the leaves with a soft cloth tissue.  

Finally, as Calatheas like to live in moist soil, this could be the perfect scenario for fungus to appear – so be sure to find the right water balance. But, if you had to choose, a fungus that comes from over watering is much of a lesser threat than what overwatering or underwatering could be. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How fast does Calathea Orbifolia grow?

The Calathea Orbifolia is considered as a fast-growing houseplant. Keep in mind that it won’t spread wide like other plants and it can reach a maximum height of 2 feet (60cm).

Is Calathea Orbifolia Toxic?

Similar to other Calathea Plants, the Orbifolia variety is not toxic to humans or pets. This is one of its most attractive features and why it is one of the most popular houseplants nowadays. 

Should you mist a Calathea Orbifolia?

Yes. Misting is recommended to increase your plant’s humidity level which is crucial to boost healthy growth and prevent pests from appearing.

Do Calatheas like to be root bound?

No, Calathea Orbifolia plants don’t like to be root bound. However, if it does happen, this won’t pose a fatal danger for your plant and repotting can be done once you notice that the roots need more space to expand.

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Martin Duran

Hey y'all! My name is Martin Duran and I am from Cali, Colombia. Since 2018 I have been learning about plants and how to take care of them. Here's is my journey... “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” ― John Muir

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