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How Often To Water Calathea? (A Complete Calathea Watering Guide)

As Calathea can be a fussy plant based on its water requirements, you must water it correctly. But how can you determine the watering requirement of the calathea plant?

How often to water calathea? Let’s find out.

As a general rule, you need to water your calathea once a week when the top 2 inches of the soil starts to dry out. Watering once a week will keep a calathea consistently moist and prevent drought. However, the watering frequency may differ during the winters or low light conditions.

Calathea plants are sensitive to both underwatering and overwatering.

Calathea needs regular watering that will keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy. These plants do not tolerate dry soil. So, don’t let the soil remain dry for days. But don’t keep the soil soggy as well.

If you are curious about the watering needs of Calathea, follow this article till the end to understand it accompanied with the summer and winter water requirements. We will also cover information about the kind of water suitable for Calatheas.

water calathea

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When to water Calathea?

Calatheas need water whenever the top 2 inches of the potting soil dries up. 

As they prefer consistently moist soil, you should water immediately when the top 2 inches dry out. Else, your Calathea will start showing signs of stress.

There is no exact timing as to when you should water Calathea. Different factors determine the timing of watering the Calathea plants – the quality of the soil, proper drainage, or how fast the plant absorbs the water from the soil.

The best way to understand precisely when Calathea needs water is by checking the soil’s moisture level. Poke your finger inside the soil to know the moisture level. 

If soil sticks in your finger and feels wet, you can avoid watering. But if the soil feels dry, it is time you should water the plant.

It is always better to water Calathea in the morning, between 7 and 10 am. The plant will get a whole day to settle down. 

Calathea prefers their potting medium to be evenly moist but not wet or soggy.

While watering, every gardener makes two common mistakes: overwatering and underwatering. Do not stress. We will cover these two points later on in this article.

How often to water Calathea?

Calathea needs to be watered once or twice a week in the summers. During the winters, reduce both amount and frequency. The soil needs to remain evenly moist but not soggy.

Calathea is a bit finicky. They will neither like sitting in a pool of water nor tolerate drought conditions. 

Overwatering or underwatering the Calathea plant is very easy. That is why you need to water them with a proper routine.

The frequency and quantity of watering depend on many things. So, watering once a week can change depending on these factors:

Location and condition of your area: If you live in a region with warm, dry weather accompanied by high humidity, you will have to increase the frequency of water.

The size of the plant: A big plant will need more water amount and frequency than a small plant.

The variety of the plant: There are various varieties of Calathea plants having different absorption speeds. For instance, Calathea Zebrine absorbs water quicker than Calathea Ornata.

The type of soil: Find out whether the soil drains water too slow or too fast. Slow drainage will need less water compared to a fast-draining potting mix.

Seasons: During winters, Calathea will need much less water compared to summers because they will go dormant in winters.

Also read: How Often Should You Water Indoor Plants? (Indoor Plants Watering Guide)

Things to keep in mind while watering Calathea

Calathea drainage hole

Here are a few aspects that you must remember before you water your Calathea or come up with a watering routine for it.

Good drainage and retention

While watering the Calathea, ensure that the potting mix drains water well.

If the soil doesn’t drain the excess water, the roots will remain in wet soil, which can cause root rot. In that case, you will have to provide less water.

Along with that, the soil should also be able to hold enough moisture for good hydration and easy nutrient absorption. If the soil is draining water faster, you will have to increase the watering amount and frequency.

The absorption rate of the plant

While watering the plant, you need to consider how fast your Calathea variety is absorbing water. Some Calathea variety absorbs water faster. 

For example, the Zebrine variety absorbs faster than the Ornata variety. In such conditions, you might have to alter the frequency of watering. 

Factors affecting the water requirements for Calathea

Many factors influence how much or how often you should water your Calathea plant. These factors can change from time to time. 

Along with their change, you have to alter your watering schedule. Let’s look at the factors.


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Light

Calathea light requirements

When Calathea receives a lot of bright indirect sunlight, it will need more water. The sunlight will allow the water to dry up quickly. 

On the other hand, your Calathea will need less water if placed under low light conditions. They will also need less water during the winters due to low sunlight intensity.

In low light conditions and winters, the plant will not receive much sunlight, and the soil will take time to dry up. 

Moreover, the plant will go dormant during the winters. So, they will need relatively less water.

Also read: How Much Light Do Calathea Plants Need? (Calathea Plant Light Requirements)

Humidity

Being a tropical plant, Calathea requires high humidity, ranging between 50% and 60%. 

If the humidity of your room is lower than the ideal range, it will result in crispy leaves at the edges. Your plant will need more amount of water to remain healthy.

However, during the winters, watering will not help. Calathea won’t even accept if you water them more in winters. 

Instead, you will have to maintain correct humidity by fixing humidifiers, using pebble trays, or grouping.

Temperature

Calathea is very sensitive to cold weather. Hailing from the tropical regions, it will need warm weather to survive. 

If the temperature falls below 60°F, the plant will not grow much, common during winters. So at this time of the year, the Calathea will need less water.

Potting mix

One crucial factor determining how often you should water the Calatheas is the quality of the potting medium. 

Soil holding a large quantity of sand or perlite will have faster drainage. So, you will need to water the plant more often.

If the soil has heavy organic matter, it will retain moisture for quite a long time. You can water it less often in such conditions.

The type of pot

The material of the pot is also responsible for determining the frequency of watering in Calathea. 

Using porous pots like clay or terracotta will drain water faster. However, it is good to avoid overwatering the Calathea. 

But, you will have to ensure that the plant never stands in drought. You need to increase the watering frequency while using these pots.

If you use plastic or ceramic pots for your Calathea plants, your plant will need less water. They are non-porous pots, and they can help in retaining moisture for a long time. 

Calatheas prefer this kind of pot because they enjoy consistently moist soil.

Make sure that whatever pot you use has drainage holes for letting the excess water flow out. If not, drill a hole on your own.

Watering during summers

Calathea is a tropical plant belonging to the tropical regions of South America. This tells that Calathea will enjoy a warm and humid climate. 

Calathea will survive well in warm weather. Naturally, it will need frequent watering in the summers.

During the summers, the Calathea will need water more often, say once a week. You can also water them twice a week, depending on the soil’s moisture.

The bright light and warm conditions will increase the growth of Calathea. Thus, they will utilize more water for their growth. 

Watering during winters

As Calathea enjoys warm weather, It will stop its growth when the temperature drops below 55-60°F. 

Calathea will enter into a dormant stage. It will not need much water because it will not be growing anymore. 

In such a situation, you will have to reduce watering, compared to summers. Watering the Calathea once every 2 weeks will work well.

During the cold months, you will need to constantly give your plant more attention to check the soil’s moisture level.

If you fail to understand anything by poking a finger inside the soil, you can try using a moisture meter to determine the soil’s moisture.

Temperature and humidity will also affect the frequency and amount of watering in Calathea plants during the winters.

How to know if Calathea plants need water?

To know when your Calathea needs water, you will have to observe your plant regularly closely. However, some ways will help you understand when your Calathea needs water:

Finger test

To know if your Calathea needs water, poke your finger into the soil, about 2 inches deep. If these top 2 inches of soil feel wet, it means your plant doesn’t need any water.

It is time to water the Calathea if the top 2 inches feel dry.

Lifting the pot

The pot will feel light upon lifting if your plant is ready for watering. But, if the soil is yet to drain water, the pot will feel heavy. 

When the pot feels heavy, avoid watering.

Using moisture meter

If you do not want these natural methods to determine whether your Calathea needs water, a soil or moisture meter will help you grasp the soil condition.

Insert the testing probe minimum of 4-6 inches deep into the soil. If the reading in the probe shows the result between 1 and 3, it means that the plant is ready for watering.

After watering, get rid of the excess water from the cache tray. Calathea standing on the water can cause root rot.

Leaves not rising at night

Calathea plant is known as a prayer plant because its leaves rise and fold in the night.

When the leaves of your Calathea are not rising in the night, it means there is something wrong with the plant.

The praying behavior in the Calathea plant relies upon a particular joint under each leaf of the plant, namely pulvinus, which swells or contracts by water intake or water release. 

When the Calathea doesn’t get enough water, the leaves won’t rise. This indicates that the plant needs water.

How to water Calatheas?

Water the Calathea evenly from all sides, close to the soil and soil surface. This will help the roots get enough water from all sides.

Do not water the plant by leaving ice cubes to melt on the soil. Being a tropical plant, Calathea is sensitive to cold temperatures. Use room temperature water to water the Calatheas.

If your pot has a drip tray underneath, always empty the tray when the water stops dripping from the potholes. Staying over the standing water for prolonged periods will result in root rot.

Can you bottom water Calatheas?

Not only Calathea, more or less all houseplants benefit from bottom watering, provided it is done correctly.

For performing bottom watering, place your potted plant over a large tray and fill it with water until it looks higher than the sides of the pot. Now, wait. 

Check the water level on the tray every few minutes. Once the water level in the tray stops going down, it means that your soil is saturated completely. Take the pot out of the tray.

While performing this method, you will have to flush off the pot once in 1-2 months to eliminate all the accumulated mineral salts.

Now, here are some pros and cons of bottom watering.

Pros

  • It saturates the soil very well. 
  • It prevents dry pockets, which don’t occur during top-down watering.
  • It decreases the risks of fungal infections.
  • It encourages aeration in the soil.
  • The soil doesn’t trickle in water.

Cons

  • It does not wash out the accumulated salts.
  • Requires frequent checking until the soil gets saturated completely. It could take 10 minutes to 1 hour.
  • If you forget to check frequently and don’t pick the plant up, it will have root rot.


Water quality

Only knowing the watering frequency is not enough. The quality matters too. Tap water can be very harmful to Calathea.

Tap water contains a lot of harsh minerals, like chlorine, fluorine, chloramines, and bicarbonates. Calathea is very sensitive to such hard minerals. 

After continuous watering with tap water, these minerals’ concentration becomes high and harms the plant’s health.

Calatheas will show signs which resemble signs of fertilizer burns like yellow or brown spots or browning at the leaf tips. So, even if you keep your Calathea hydrated using tap water, you are harming your plant.

The water from municipals in a lot of regions is quite heavy in minerals.

Soft water, which is low in calcium or magnesium, also contains high levels of chlorine and fluorine, which can harm your Calathea.

Most houses nowadays use tap water or municipal water. So, what water is ideal? Don’t panic. We have answers for you.

The most efficient kind of water for the Calathea plant is rainwater or distilled water. 

Rainwater has low concentrations of minerals and possesses some quantity of organic nutrients, which benefits the Calatheas for healthy foliage growth.

Distilled or filtered water is also ideal for the Calatheas. It, however, does not contain the organic nutrients present in rainwater, but they don’t have any harmful impurities. 

If you want the distilled or filtered water to contain those organic nutrients, you can add organic fertilizers to boost the plant’s health.

In case tap water is your only option, you can filter and use it. 

Let it sit overnight for 24 hours at room temperature. All the minerals will evaporate into the air, leaving the water harmless for your plant.

What happens when you underwater your Calathea?

As a tropical plant, Calathea should never be left under-watered. Excess underwatering can cause dehydration and stop its growth.

Signs of underwatered Calathea

  • Droopy leaves and stems
  • Curly edges
  • Yellow leaves
  • Crispy brown leaves at the tips and edges
  • Not folding during the night

How to fix and prevent underwatering?

Forgetting to water a few times rarely harms the plant much. But keeping the plant constantly thirsty is worrisome. 

To fix an underwatered Calathea, you should start watering your plant immediately. To prevent underwatering:

  • Increase the watering frequency. Check the soil’s moisture by using a moisture or soil meter. If they are unavailable, use your finger. Daily practice will increase your experience, and dealing will become easier for you.
  • Check the quality of the soil. If the soil is too old, it won’t retain moisture for long. Besides, if the soil is too dry and compact, the soil will absorb no water.
  • If your plant has outgrown its pot, the soil will dry out quickly. Moreover, enough soil might not be left if it’s rootbound. Repot your Calathea to fix this condition.
  • If the pot is porous, such as clay or terracotta, moisture will wick away quickly. In that case, you must change the material.
  • You can use self-watering pots if you don’t have much time to follow a proper watering schedule.

What happens when you overwater Calathea?

Just as Calathea doesn’t like drought conditions, it does not like wet or soggy conditions either. The rule is to keep the soil evenly moist, not damp or soggy.

Moreover, we sometimes make the mistake of considering the daily movement of the leaves as a sign of weakness, like underwatering.

Instead of noticing the leaf movements, go for the leaf color or soil to identify problems.

Signs of overwatered Calathea

  • Yellow leaves
  • Droopy petioles
  • Mold or fungus on the soil surface.
  • Root rot in worse conditions, mushy roots, soil releasing foul smell.

How to fix and prevent overwatering?

  • Keep the moisture level in check. 
  • Don’t consider the daily leaf movements of Calathea as some signs of droopiness.
  • When the petioles are standing straight, then the reason behind droopy leaves is not water. Don’t randomly start watering by seeing droopy leaves.
  • If you tend to overwater Calathea, you should improve the drainage system for your plant. Add sand or perlite to your potting medium to increase the soil drainage. Use clay or terra cotta pots so that they can wick away moisture faster.

Also read: How To Fix Overwatered Indoor Plant? (Signs, Causes & Solution)

Final words

Correctly watering the Calathea will keep it strong, healthy, and appealing. Calathea can be fussy when it comes to watering, but maintaining the frequency considering the factors affecting the watering needs will prevent the watering issues.

You will have to change the watering routines depending on your region’s climate and the time of the year, like summers or winters. Along with that, give them other requirements properly.

Maintaining everything well and constantly using tap water will only harm the plant. So, along with frequency, you should also consider the quality. Doing everything right will make your plant happy and happening.

FAQ

Should you mist Calathea plants?

Calatheas are tropical plants that love humidity. Misting is one way of increasing humidity. But it won’t last for more than 30 minutes. 

Moreover, the damp leaves due to misting can encourage fungal infections. So you should avoid misting. 

For increasing the humidity, instead of misting, you can consider other ways like humidifiers, pebble trays, or overcrowding plants along with space.


Source: NCBI, University of Florida, Wikipedia,  Growing Indoor Plants with SuccessAgriculture, and Natural Resources, University of CaliforniaMissouri Botanical Garden.