Calathea or prayer plants are by far one of the most popular species to grow indoors. You can choose from several varieties that have different shapes, color tones and leaf sizes.
To grow healthy Calathea Plants, you should keep in mind the following:
- Light: they show a strong preference for indirect bright light. Avoid prolonged direct sunlight exposure
- Watering: allow the soil to dry between watering rounds (1 or 2 times per week)
- Temperature: keep them between 60º F and 80º F (16º C and 27º C).
As you can see, if you are looking for an easy-to-care-for houseplant, look no further than a Calathea. In this guide, we will share with you all the details you need to know, plus we will review the most popular varieties so that you can choose the one you like the most.
Calathea Basic Caring Guidelines
For starters, it’s worth mentioning that Calathea plants are native to the tropics. This means they don’t need as much light as other plants do. Therefore, you can place your Calathea on the ground or in a partially sunny window where they can get medium and indirect light.
Just make sure to avoid prologued exposure under full sun. The markings on the Calathea’s leaves will fade with exposure to direct sunlight.
When it comes to watering, the Calathea is a houseplant that needs a considerable amount of water but not too much. This means it will thrive under moist but not wet conditions. Water frequency and quantity will also vary depending on where you live and the season of the year.
Moreover, the watering needs can vary depending on the Calathea variety you grow; for instance, I have seen that my Calathea Zebrina demands more water than a Rattlesnake plant.
Watering too much can cause the soil to get soggy and the roots will rot. To prevent this from happening, allow the soil to dry between watering rounds. Alternatively, you can poke your finger into the soil; if it feels wet, then you should skip watering and check back your plant again the next day.
So the key here is to keep the right water balance. Be aware that if you don’t water your Calathea enough, they will start to wilt and eventually die. A quick tip to counteract the risk of drought is to add pebbles to the soil around your calathea plant to keep the right soil moisture and prevent it from drying out.
Temperature and Humidity
Calatheas do very well in warm, but not excessively hot, weather. They do best in temperatures between 60 F and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (16º and 27º Celcius). It is also essential that there is good air circulation wherever you place your plant.
This plant species do better in high humidity if possible. That’s we suggest misting around your Calathea once or twice a week will keep the soil moist and prevent it from drying out. If you live in a place where the air is very dry or winter hits hard, you should also consider using a plant humidifier.
Soil and Fertilizing
You do not need to be concerned about your Calathea’s ability to thrive in a particular type of soil. You can use any type of potting mix that you like, as long as it’s well-draining. Calathea’s love potting mixes that have a good amount of organic matter in them.
If you want your calathea to have a better chance of success, mix in some potting mix that has a drainage hole in it. You can even add some peat moss to the soil to lighten it up.
Fertilize your Calathea during the growing season, about once a month, using a half-strength blend. Your Calathea will thank you for it.
It’s also a good idea to look at the size of the pot your calathea is growing in and make sure that it is spacious enough so that roots can expand without any constraint. When you notice excessive root bound, you should consider repotting your calathea to a bigger container. Repotting your calathea every few years is a good way to keep it healthy.
When you notice that your calathea is beginning to wilt, it’s a good idea to prune it back a little bit.
Spider mites are the most common type of pest that could attack your Calathea plant. The mites feed on the plant’s sap, causing it to wither and die. You can get rid of spider mites by spraying the leaves with water or diluted neem oil. We suggest wiping the leaves once per week to get rid of the dust that can build up.
Types of Calathea Plants
According to Wikipedia, there are more than 50 calathea varieties; we have compiled below the most popular types we have seen online and personally grow. Click on the links to check specific guidelines that will help you learn more about each variety.
Calathea Rattlesnake Plant (Calathea Lancifolia)
The Calathea Lancifolia, also known as the Rattlesnake Plant, was one of the varieties of calathea I got. It’s a hardy plant and I’ve had it for some months now. It is named after the rattlesnake, because the leaves of this variety resemble those of a rattlesnake.
I also have a splendid Calathea Roseopicta, Calathea Medallion, or Calathea painted rose, sitting on my balcony; it is one of the most beautiful kinds of calathea. The leaves are large and glossy, with a vivid green color on the top and purple underneath.
Also known as Calytaea Orbifolium, this is the most “rounded” of all the Calathea houseplant varieties. Its leaves are large and green, and they have brilliant light-colored stripes. You will find that in some nurseries, the Calathea Orbifolia will stand out as a much larger variety.
Calathea Makoyana (or Peacock Plant)
The Calathea Makoyana (Peacock Plant) is my personal favorite of the Calathea species. It is also the most showy of all the Calathea species. This is a short-lived variety of Calathea that can grow up to a foot tall and produce white flowers.
Please note that the Calathea Makoyana is similar to the Calathea roseopicta (rose-painted calathea) in that they both have bright green leaves and some of them have purple backsides.
Calathea Ornata (pin-stripe plant)
The absolutely beautiful stripes on the Calathea Ornata give it the name “pin stripe plant”. The leaves are dark green, oval in shape, with brilliant light-colored stripes. They can grow up to a foot in length.
Please note that there is a second kind of Calathea, the Calathea Sanderiana, which has stripes on the leaves.
Calathea Warscewiczii (Velvet Calathea or Velvet Jungle Plant)
The Calathea Warscewiczii, sometimes known as the Elephant Ear, is an evergreen shrub or small tree native to South America. The leaves of this plant are dark green above and purple beneath.
This plant is sometimes confused with the prayer plant Maranta Leuconeura. The leaves of the calathea droop a little and close up at night, just like the leaves of Maranta Leuconeura. I am looking forward to having one of these for a houseplant.
Also known as Zebra Plant, the Calathea Zebrina is a very common houseplant. It has thick stripes on its leaves, which give the name to this variety.
Why do Calathea leaves move?
Calathea leaves move up and down during the day and back up again at night. This phenomenon is also known as nyctinasty; this happens in response to circadian rhythms.
Do Calathea plants produce flowers?
Yes, some varieties like the Calathea Medallion or Warscewiczii will produce small white flowers. However, most owners agree that the leaves of the Calatheas are really the most valuable part of the plant.
What are the differences between Calathea Plants and Stromanthe Triostar?
The Stromanthe Triostar has a slimmer oval shape than the Calathea, while the Calathea appears to have a wider and longer oval shape. The alluring patterns of pink, red, white and green make the Stromanthe more appealing than other house plants such as the Calatheas.