How to Care for a Rattlesnake Plant (Calathea Lancifolia)


Rattlesnake Plant Leaves

The Rattlesnake Plant or the Calathea Lancifolia is another gem from the prayer plant’s family. Its pointed leaves with dark spots give this variety of Calatheas a strong personality that is hard to find in other houseplants. As with most Calatheas, the Rattlesnake Plant is a beginner-friendly plant, meaning good news for all plant amateurs.

To take care of a Rattlesnake Plant, keep in mind the following suggestions:

  • Watering: water only to keep the soil moist (but not soggy). Avoid overwatering.
  • Light: this plant thrives under indirect bright light exposure. Avoid prolonged sunlight exposure.
  • Temperature: grow it in temperatures between 60ºF and 80ºF (16ºC and 27ºC).

Due to its tropical origins, the Calathea Lancifolia plant will thrive around high humidity levels and needs to be grown in soil that drains well but ensures proper nutrient absorption from the roots. In this article, we cover these and all the other details and caring guidelines that you need to know to grow your Rattlesnake Plant healthily.

Rattlesnake Plant Care Guidelines

We have divided the most important caring guidelines into the following topics:

  • Watering.
  • Light and Placement.
  • Temperature and Humidity.
  • Soil, Fertilizing and Repotting.
  • Pruning, Hygiene and Pest Prevention.

Also, in the last section of this article you will find answers to frequently asked questions from plant lovers interested to learn more about the Rattlesnake Plant.

Let’s get started.

Watering – How often should you water a Rattlesnake Plant?

The key to watering a Rattlesnake Plant has a lot to do with the soil moisture and moisture levels. Ideally, the soil should remain moist most of the time. This means that your plant, as many others, should only be watered on-demand and only when you notice that the topsoil layer is getting dry.

A good way to determine this is by checking your plant daily and briefly poking your finger into the soil. If you are left with wet soil particles, then you can skip watering for the day. If your finger comes out almost clean or with minimum soil grains, then you should consider watering your Rattlesnake.

Rattlesnake Plant top soil layer

From our experience, as with all Calatheas, watering the rattlesnake plant shouldn’t be done more than twice per week. However, it is important to highlight that the precise frequency will be affected by other factors such as the place where you live, its temperature and light exposure.That’s why we suggest developing the habit of checking your plant daily and making any adjustments on the watering frequency (more or less) whenever it’s needed.

Light and Placement

We suggest that you keep your Rattlesnake Plant in a place where it can get indirect bright light. This covers a wide range of places in your home like windows, balconies, living rooms, kitchens and even bathrooms. Even though going by room generally works, you’ll need to be more specific  and additionally try to keep track of exactly how much direct sunlight hits your plant during the day.

The reason for this caution is that the Rattlesnake Plants leaves are very sensitive to direct sunlight, so while they can benefit from a short exposure period during the mornings, the potential downside of too much sunlight (more than 2 hours per day) can produce leaf burns or scorching. 

Temperature and Humidity

The origin of the Rattlesnake Plant is in the highly humid and warm Brazilian rainforest. That’s why, ideally, you should try to recreate as much as you can those environmental conditions to make sure it’s happy and healthy 24/7. For starters, the ideal temperature for growing this calathea variety ranges from 60º to 80º Fahrenheit (16º to 27º Celsius). Keep in mind that when the cold arrives, you should try to give it a proper shelter since it can be especially susceptible to changes in temperature.

Rattlesnake Plant Light

Also, as this plant shows a strong preference for high humidity levels, you should try  placing it next to other tropical plants, and you can even go the extra mile and give it some love by following one of these humidity hacks:

  • Misting: you can spray water around your plant, but avoid doing it to the leaves directly.
  • Using a Humidity Tray: you can pour some water and perlite on a plastic tray and then place your plant on it. As water evaporates, the humidity will be captured by the leaves and your plant will be happy. 
  • Getting a Humidifier: although this is the most expensive option, it is the most sure reliable source of humidity for your plant.  Especially if where you live gets very cold during the winter and naturally the air gets very dry.
Rattlesnake Plant Leaves

Soil, Fertilizing and Repotting.

Due to its strong preference for constant moisture, the Rattlesnake Plant should be grown in soil mixtures that have good drainage properties and good retention to allow the roots to absorb nutrients successfully. This balance can be achieved if you use a standard potting mix with perlite and peat. Avoid including materials that overly increase the drainage by much, as this will reflect on a higher water frequency need. 

As with most calathea plants, fertilizing is suggested to be done during the growing season (spring and summer). In order to do so, you can apply a water-soluble fertilizer diluted to about a quarter of its strength. Make sure the soil is moist when you apply the fertilizer to boost its absorption. Avoid fertilizing during the fall and winter months.

Fortunately for most plant beginners, repotting your Calathea might not be necessary to do very often. Only consider this process if the plant is visibly root bound or if you think that the stems need more space to grow. When repotting your Rattlesnake plant, keep in mind the following indications:

  • If you choose a new pot, check that it’s no more than 2 inches wider than its previous pot. This will minimize the chances of drowning your plant. 
  • Check that the new pot has proper drainage holes. While this might sound obvious, you want to make sure you have a backup drainage plan in case an accident happens  and you accidentally overwater your plant.
  • If you have plans for propagation, repotting might be the perfect opportunity to do so – as you can easily divide  the parent Rattlesnake Plant. When you remove the main plant  from the pot, you can then split the stems and roots carefully and place the daughters in separate pots filled with a potting mix like the one mentioned earlier. Once that is done, then water the new plants each week to avoid sogginess (or according to the parent plant’s watering schedule).

Pruning, Hygiene and Pest Prevention

Pruning your Rattlesnake Plant is suggested if you notice old and damaged leaves showing up that could be draining your plant’s energy. To begin, always make sure to sterilize your pruning shears or sharp knife before doing any cutting. To foster proper plant regeneration, perform the cuts near the stem base.

As with other calathea varieties, you should dust the Rattlesnake plant’s leaves at least once per week to get rid of the dust and prevent spider mites from placing their cobwebs. 

Pests can also appear and succeed in their expansion if humidity is low. If you notice them, then you should try to increase the humidity levels by doing  some of the suggestions described above. Alternatively, you can get rid of any plant-sucking organism by spraying your plant with a neemsoil  (1 ounce)  diluted in water (9 ounces) solution, and you should be good to go.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Do Rattlesnake Plants move?

The Rattlesnake Plant, like other Calathea varieties, also moves its leaves from day to night in accordance with its circadian rhythm. A wonderful little dance. 

Is the Rattlesnake Plant poisonous to dogs or cats?

No. The Rattlesnake Plant is not at all harmful to dogs or cats. That’s why they are very popular among owners that have pets in their homes. 

Why do my Rattlesnake Plant leaves have brown spots?

This could happen because there’s low humidity around your plant. You can fix this issue by routinely misting around your plant, placing it on a humidity pebble tray or next to a humidifier.

Why are my Rattlesnake Plant leaves curling?

Leaf curling can occur if your Rattlesnake Plant is underwatered or there’s too much dry air in the environment around it. We suggest to first discard it being a watering issue by checking every day that the soil from your plant is, indeed, moist but not soggy. However, if it does need more water, then you can increase humidity by performing one of the methods explained above.

If you are interested in learning more about other Prayer Plant varieties, check our guides:

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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