Even though complicated and fussy, Calatheas are loved by all because of their beautiful patterned leaves. Crispy Calathea leaves have always been a subject of complaints. The Calathea leaves will be the first to tell you if they are not getting the right growing conditions.
In this article, we shall learn why are your calathea leaves crispy and how you can fix the same.
The root causes of crispy Calathea leaves are low humidity, excessive sunlight, underwatering, and over-fertilization. Dry air can also lead to crispy leaves in the calathea plant. Use a humidifier and mist the plant occasionally to improve the humidity around the plant.
With early identification and immediate treatment, you can resolve the problem quickly.
The crispy leaves in Calathea indicate some problems, which I will be discussing in detail in this article. Read till the end to know and fix the issues.
Table Of Contents
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Crispy Calathea leaves
Usually, whenever the leaves turn crispy, the problem is narrowed down and declared lack of moisture. The leaves turn crispy because their cells don’t contain enough moisture to continue functioning, for which the leaves get wrinkled and crispy.
When the problem gets into the leaves, the whole leaves turn crispy and die. The leaves feel crispy, papery, and brittle when touched.
The actual problem is in the plant, and leaves show signs. So, you have to inspect every possible cause behind it and determine what is stressing your Calathea so much.
What are the causes of crispy Calathea leaves?
Now let’s read and learn the possible causes to fix the crispy Calathea leaves problem:
Too much Sunlight
Calatheas are tropical plants that can thrive in filtered sunlight. They grow under the tall rainforest trees and receive sunlight that penetrates through the leafy rainforest canopies in their natural habitat.
Thus, when the leaves receive direct sunlight, they lose their color and pattern, becoming crispy and sunburnt.
When the Calathea gets exposed to such direct sunlight, they tend to lose more and more moisture abruptly and result in dehydration, thus turning the leaves crispy.
Fixing the light levels for Calathea
The first thing to fix a crispy, sun-scorched Calathea is to relocate and shift it so that the plant won’t receive any direct sunlight.
But don’t keep them in the darkness. Also, remove the affected leaves.
If you have placed your Calathea near a window, bring it at least 4 to 6 inches backward.
Once your plant starts growing new leaves, you can keep them under the direct sun for a few hours, like 2-3 hours. You should do this in the morning, not in the mid-afternoon or early evening.
If you have kept your Calathea near a south or west-facing window sill, fix a transparent curtain, Venetian blinds, or window films in the window to create a filter so that the plant receives bright filtered sunlight. This can save the Calatheas from getting sunburnt.
You can place the Calathea near the north or east-facing window. This direction gives the same intensity light as filtered sunlight.
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Low humidity levels
As I mentioned in the previous point, Calatheas are tropical plants. They will love to grow in warm and high humid conditions. They require a humidity level of about 50-60% or above.
But a low humidity or dry air around your Calatheas can result in a faster loss of moisture from the plant’s leaf pores. Having thin leaves, they won’t have enough moisture for sparing.
As a result, when the humidity around Calathea drops below 50-60%, the leaves will lose moisture quickly and turn dehydrated, dry, and crispy.
It starts at the tips and edges and then slowly gets inside the leaves, ending with dying leaves.
How to increase humidity levels?
There are many alternatives to increase the humidity levels around Calathea. One common way is misting. It is not much effective, though, as the water gets dried up within 30 minutes.
You can relocate your Calathea near a bathroom or kitchen door as these places are warm and steamy indoors. However, you might not be able to keep the Calatheas in this location forever.
You can keep your plant near them for a few hours, for example, near a bathroom after you shower.
If you own many tropical plants, put them together. Grouping these plants can help them create humidity by the release of moisture. This will make a damp microclimate in their surroundings.
Make sure the plants are healthy and free from pest or fungus infestation.
Don’t put them too close. Allow good airflow through them.
Fill a tray with some pebbles and water and keep it under the pot to increase humidity. When you place this tray under the pot, the water will evaporate, and humidity will increase by 10-15%.
When the water level goes down, fill it again. The pebbles will stop the pot from sitting directly on the water to avoid dampness.
A very famous and efficient way to increase humidity is by fixing a humidifier in your room. They tend to create the exact humidity the plant used to get in its native land.
Temperature and crispy Calathea leaves
As you learned how excess sunlight and low humidity reduce moisture, resulting in dry and crispy Calathea leaves, temperature works somewhat the same.
If the temperature rises over 85°F, the Calathea will have quick perspiration to replace the losing moisture.
This problem goes side by side with excessive sunlight. The hot temperature caused by sunlight can make the leaves more susceptible to sunburn.
How to fix the temperature for Calathea?
You can fix the temperature by changing the location of the plant.
Relocate the Calathea to a place where the temperature is not too high. It should also not be too cold.
Instead of checking the temperature of the room, check the temperature around your Calathea. Make sure that the temperature ranges between 65°F and 80°F.
The temperature should neither exceed 85°F nor should it go below 55°F. You can alter the watering to manage the temperature.
If the temperature rises too high, you can water the plant more frequently to cool it down. But, in winter, you need to reduce watering as it goes dormant.
Calatheas need to remain evenly moist to remain healthy. The right amount of water will also encourage dramatic leaf movements in the plant.
If the plant doesn’t receive enough water, the roots and the leaves would be dehydrated, and the leaves will first turn brown at the tips and edges. Then they will become dry, crispy, papery, and brittle.
Sometimes less watering will also result in dry and crispy leaves.
If you water your Calatheas too little, the central portions in the plant will absorb maximum water, and it won’t reach the upper portions, i.e., the leaf cells. As a result, they will become crispy.
This doesn’t mean you should constantly keep watering the plant without checking the moisture level. Calathea needs to remain moist, not soggy or waterlogged.
In overwatering, the roots suffocate, thus failing to absorb water from the soil, and the leaves again remain dehydrated.
Other than crispy brown leaves, they will also cause drooping, wilting, and yellow leaves.
How to water the plant correctly?
Calathea needs to be watered once a week when the top 1 inch of potting medium dries out as a rule of thumb. During the winters, they don’t need as much watering because they go dormant.
Moreover, to water the plant correctly and avoid any watering issues, you need to use porous soil to retain moisture and drain excess water.
If you have underwatered your Calathea, you can immediately start watering. Once the soil gets soaked, the plant will be back to normal.
Keep the moisture level in check. If the top inch of soil gets dry, water the plant. You can use a soil moisture meter too to conduct the correct watering.
There are various factors upon which correct watering depends, like light, temperature, pot material, and plant variety.
For instance, in more light, Calathea will need more water as the soil dries quickly. In this way, you have to observe and alter the watering frequency.
If you have overwatered the plant, stop watering and relocate your plant to a sunny area for a few hours to dry up the soil. Avoid direct sun as that might damage overwatered plant cells.
Get rid of the affected leaves to conserve energy. If the problem is soil, add perlite or compost to absorb the excess moisture.
Bad water quality
Correct watering is not everything. Along with that, the right quality is of utmost importance. Calatheas are finicky, and they would react when you use water containing hard minerals.
Tap water contains a lot of chlorine, fluorine, chloramines, and bicarbonates, which the Calathea leaves will not enjoy.
With each watering, these dissolved salts accumulate in the soil instead of getting absorbed by the plant.
Slowly this gathering increases their concentrations and damages the root system and its ability to absorb moisture. Again the plant remains dehydrated with crispy leaves.
How to improve water quality?
Change the water and start using distilled or filtered water and rainwater.
If you don’t have any way to filter the tap water, keep the tap water idle in your watering can overnight to let the minerals evaporate.
Rainwater is free of all these kinds of minerals and is thus suitable for Calatheas.
You can flush the soil to remove all the accumulated minerals in the soil. Drench the soil thoroughly with filtered water so that the excess mineral flushes off the soil through potholes along with water.
You will need to use the water in the quantity of 3 to 4 times the actual volume of the plant’s pot.
Pour the water gradually and let all the hard minerals pass along with water from the drainage holes. However, before doing this, you should let the maximum of the plant soil dry out.
Excess salt accumulates in the soil, and the salts absorb all the water, leaving the plant dehydrated. This happens when you over-fertilize the Calatheas. They don’t need much fertilizing compared to other plants.
However, it doesn’t mean that you should not fertilize Calatheas.
Fertilizing Calatheas once a month in their growing season will work great for them.
If their growing conditions are exceptionally well and take up nutrients too quickly, you can fertilize the Calathea every 2 weeks with a well-balanced fertilizer.
If you are a beginner, you need to know that Calatheas don’t require fertilizer during the winters.
They stop growing in the cold and remain dormant. Thus, they don’t require any nutrients. Fertilizing them during the winters will result in over-fertilizing.
Leaf scorch due to over-fertilization has very similar signs like underwatering and bad quality water.
Excess salt accumulation causes moisture to too fast and turns the leaves dehydrated, dry, and crispy.
How to correct fertilizing issues?
Stop fertilizing the plant. Get rid of the affected leaves. This will help in conserving energy and stopping the pests from getting attracted.
The next thing you should do is flush the soil, just like in the water quality point. Flush the soil every month to keep the soil healthy and free from any salt accumulation.
What to do with the crispy Calathea leaves?
Changing the way of supplying the requirements and fixing the causes behind the problem can help stop the signs and the bad situation from further progress and deterioration.
But the leaves which are already crispy cannot be reversed back to healthy foliage.
You can prune them off. This will restore the plant’s energy instead of getting wasted by trying to reverse it back.
You can further use this energy to grow more healthy new leaves, provided you don’t further stress them.
If only the tips and edges have become crispy, you don’t need to remove them. They are still healthy and will continue doing their job to perform photosynthesis and give energy to the plant.
However, if you don’t like their sight, you can cut off the crispy tips and edges, following the leaf’s size, leaving the healthy green part undisturbed.
How to prevent further crispy Calathea leaves?
Preventing Calathea leaves will also help prevent other issues.
Make an ideal location
Remember, Calatheas don’t like direct sun. Thus select a place where they can get bright filtered sunlight. Fix a filter, like window films, to save them from the direct sun and give them filtered sunlight.
You can keep them in a north or east-facing window to help them get their ideal quality of sunlight.
Also, make sure the location has the exact temperature or nearly the required and tolerated by the Calatheas.
Water your Calathea plant at least once a week. Check the moisture level of the soil every 3 to 4 days. For using finger, poke inside the soil about 1 inch deep.
If the soil gets dry, water the Calathea. For the soil moisture meter, if the result shows between 1 and 3, water the plant.
Use only filtered or distilled water and rainwater to water the Calatheas. Avoid tap water.
Mostly, watering depends on the soil quality. Use soil that can both retain moisture and drain excess water. This will save the plant from being overwatered or underwatered.
The potting mix should be lightweight. I would like to recommend you use a soil mix with 40% perlite and 20% African violet potting soil.
You can use porous pots if you tend to overwater your plant every time or plastic pots if you always forget to water them.
The best solution is to use self-watering pots. You only need to check and fill up the reservoir once a month. The pot will do the rest work. This will save your plant from any water issues.
Fertilize the Calatheas only once a month and in excellent growing conditions with a balanced fertilizer every two weeks. Fertilize them during the growing season.
Decrease the frequency and amount when autumn arrives. Avoid fertilizing during winters. They will slow down their growth gradually when autumn arrives and become dormant in winters.
In root-bound conditions, the plant can become crispy as the plant grows too big and the soil is much less than the plants’ size. The roots keep growing, and barely any soil is left.
In such conditions, the plant will not be able to absorb enough water and remain dehydrated.
Repot the Calatheas when they outgrow the pots. Use a pot 1-2 inches bigger than the current one.
Remember some points:
- Calatheas need humidity ranging from 50 to 60% and temperature ranging from 65-80°F.
- Their roots are very delicate, so don’t stress them by overwatering, underwatering or over-fertilizing.
- You can mist the Calathea sometimes to increase their humidity.
Calatheas are fussy. So, you need to give them their requirements more or less like their native land. However, when the leaves become crispy, you can get back your plant healthy after a few days or weeks with quick fixations and prevention.
Don’t overwater or underwater the Calatheas. Keep them out of the reach of direct sunlight, give them a good amount of humidity and avoid overfertilizing. By following these, you can save your Calathea from crispy leaves and many other problems.
With proper care and love, soon your Calathea will be back to normal, and you will again see their beautiful leaves move all day dramatically.