Calathea is a tropical plant with patterned leaves and dramatic leaf movements. Calathea can be fussy as it is very particular with its needs. Even the slightest changes can stress out the plant. So, understanding the plant’s requirements will help you care for it better.
If you are a beginner at growing Calathea, you can make many mistakes if you don’t take out time to research the plant. But if you’re here, you don’t need to go anywhere else because, in this guide, you will learn everything you need to know about caring for a calathea plant.
Here are 7 simple steps to care for the calathea plant:
- Place the calathea plant in a spot where it gets medium indirect sunlight.
- Water the calathea plant when the top layer of the soil starts getting dry.
- Use a humidifier or other alternative to maintain a humidity level above 50%.
- Fertilize the calathea plant during the growing season and stop fertilizing them during the winter month.
- Calathea requires warm temperatures between 65-80°F, so try to keep them at a spot with a consistent temperature.
- Do not repot your calathea plant unless necessary.
- Prune the damaged foliage to encourage new growth.
Even if you take the proper care of your Calathea, you can’t expect it not to develop any problems ever. However, you must be prepared to deal with the problem and cure the plant as soon as possible.
In this guide, you will also learn about possible problems that can occur in your Calathea and how to fix them.
Table Of Contents
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Calathea, come with big patterned leaves that come from the tropical regions of America. These plants have different species, some of which have variegated leaves of different colors, such as red, white, orange, and pink.
Calathea is known for its unique leaf movements. Its leaves fold at night and open up in the morning. Since the leaves fold up at night, they resemble praying, so Calathea is the Prayer plant.
Some Calathea might grow flowers in the wild, but you don’t usually notice any blooms on them indoors. Some common and exotic varieties of Calathea are:
- Calathea Makoyana: Egg-shaped thin leaves and also called the Peacock Plant.
- Calathea Ornata: Dark green foliage with cream stripes, the Pin-Stripe plant.
- Calathea Orbifolia: Large green leaves with silver strikes on them.
- Calathea Zebrina: Light green velvety leaves with dark green stripes called the Zebra plant.
- Calathea Roseopicta: Large leaves with green borders and pink centers.
Is Calathea easy to grow?
Calatheas are not easy to grow as they can be fussy with their requirements. They will not react well to even slight changes.
However, if you learn what your calathea needs and care for it accordingly, you can grow Calathea and make it thrive.
If you are a beginner, try to gather as much information as possible about calathea as that will help you take care of the plant the right way.
Is Calathea indoor or outdoor?
Although Calathea comes from tropical regions, you cannot grow it outside if the climate is not suitable.
Finding a similar climate as the tropical regions is difficult where you live, and since Calathea is a sensitive plant, it will not react well to a different climate and will fail to survive.
You can call Calathea an indoor plant because it will do well in the controlled environment of the house.
Calathea is a beautiful tropical plant with variegated foliage giving an exotic look to the space where it’s placed.
Some Calathea varieties can even survive in low light conditions. However, these plants can be demanding and might die if you don’t take care of them correctly.
Let’s understand all the aspects you need to keep in mind while caring for your Calathea plant.
Calathea light requirements
Calathea requires bright and indirect sunlight for 8 to 10 hours every day. After this, it also requires 8 hours of darkness.
Many people state that Calathea can grow in low light conditions, but you might not see sufficient growth in such plants.
Never expose your Calathea to direct sunlight, as it will damage the leaves and dehydrate the plant. Even in its native land, Calathea is habituated to dappled sunlight.
If your house doesn’t get enough natural sunlight, you can use artificial lights without providing more than 16 hours of light.
Using artificial lights is a good idea even in the winter season as the natural sunlight reduces during this time.
Calathea water requirements
Calathea needs evenly moist soil at all times, but it is sensitive to overwatering and doesn’t enjoy drought conditions.
Getting the watering right for your calathea can be tricky. But to begin with, water the plant once a week and check the soil’s moisture before watering.
Never water your calathea if the soil feels moist. Wait for the top 2 inches to dry out before watering.
Reduce the amount and frequency of watering during the winter season as the calathea goes dormant during this time.
One more factor to remember is that Calathea is sensitive to harmful minerals found in regular tap water, such as chlorine, fluorine, bicarbonates, etc.
If you use tap water to water your Calathea, you must stop it and switch to rainwater or filtered water.
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Calathea soil mix
Calathea requires evenly moist soil at all times. But it hates waterlogged soil.
Therefore, using suitable soil is vital for keeping your Calathea healthy.
Make sure the soil retains enough moisture and doesn’t go bone dry, and drain the excess water so that the soil doesn’t get soggy.
Different soil recipes are available that are suitable for the Calathea. One such recipe is:
Try to maintain the soil pH level around 6.5 since Calathea prefers slightly acidic soil for best growth.
Calathea fertilizer requirement
Calathea is a light feeder, so it doesn’t require a lot of fertilizer. Feeding it with a well-balanced 10:10:10 fertilizer during the growing season will suffice.
You can dilute the fertilizers and make them half-strength to avoid overfertilization as calathea is sensitive to excess fertilizer.
Start by fertilizing your calathea once a month during Spring and summer. If the plant reacts well, you can increase the frequency and start fertilizing once in 20 days.
However, you must reduce fertilizing during fall and stop it entirely in winter.
During winter, the calathea rests and doesn’t focus on growth, so you must not stress the plant by giving it fertilizer during this time.
The ideal temperature for Calathea
Calathea is used to living in a warm climate with high temperatures. Even as a houseplant, it prefers high temperatures, so try to keep it between 65-80°F.
The plant will get stressed if the temperatures drop below 55 or 60°F. Calathea cannot tolerate low temperatures.
Even slight temperature fluctuations can damage Calathea. So keep it away from frosty windows, low temperatures, and cold drafts.
Don’t keep your Calathea close to doors and windows frequently opened and closed.
Also, keep it away from fireplaces, furnaces, or any heating source that can cause discomfort to your Calathea.
The ideal humidity for Calathea
In the tropical rainforests, the humidity levels remain high that lets the tropical plants thrive. Calathea is used to 70% humidity or above.
Although you can’t provide as much humidity to your Calathea inside the house, don’t let the humidity drop below 50%.
It becomes a little problematic to provide enough humidity to Calathea in winter, but you can take care of that with the help of:
- A humidifier
- A pebble tray
- Grouping your Calathea with other tropical plants
- Relocating to the bathroom
Calathea doesn’t require frequent repotting, but when it gets rootbound, it needs repotting.
A Calathea has a delicate root system, and every time you repot the plant, it goes through some stress before adjusting to the new pot and soil. So you should not let the plant go through that stress too often.
If the roots come out of the bottom of the pot or above the soil, you must repot the Calathea immediately as it doesn’t like being in the rootbound condition.
If you want to repot your Calathea, gently take it out of the pot. Be very careful as you don’t want to damage the roots. After taking the plant out, repot your Calathea in a new and bigger pot with fresh soil mix.
Consider repotting your Calathea in the Spring season as that is when it grows the most, so it can come out of the repotting stress faster.
Avoid repotting your Calathea in winter as the unfavorable conditions can shock the plant along with the repotting.
You can also repot the Calathea if it undergoes any severe disease such as the root rot disease.
You must prune the Calathea plant if you notice discolored leaves. Leaves that turn yellow or brown don’t become healthy again, so it is best to prune the leaves to allow the plant to focus on new growth.
You can prune the damaged leaves by making clean cuts with sharp pruners or scissors. Make sure the tools are disinfected before and after use.
Other than damaged or diseased parts, you must also prune the ones that have gone old.
If you want to grow more Calathea plants, you don’t need to buy them again and again from the nurseries or market. You can propagate the Calathea and get one or more new plants.
If your Calathea is mature and healthy, you can propagate it with the division method. You can’t propagate Calathea by taking a stem or leaf cutting.
First, you must take the Calathea out of the pot and examine the roots. Now, divide the roots and ensure that every division has enough roots for the plant’s growth.
You might need a sharp and sterilized scissor to divide the roots.
After this, take separate pots with potting soil and plant the divided plants. Take proper care of these plants by providing the ideal growing conditions.
One of the best things about Calathea is that it is neither toxic to humans nor pets, unlike many other houseplants.
You can keep your Calathea inside the house without worrying about your pet or children wandering around it. However, you should keep the plant out of the reach of your kids and pets if you think they might harm the plant.
You can use a tall shelf, hanging baskets, or a secluded room to keep your Calathea away from your pets and children.
Since Calathea is a finicky plant, it is not unusual to see it in a problem. The problem might arise due to unfavorable conditions or any wrong step on your end.
You must not panic if you notice problems in your Calathea, and instead, you should inspect the plant and its surroundings thoroughly to figure out the problem.
Once you figure out the problem, you should address it immediately to bring the plant back to health fast.
Yellow leaves on Calathea
Calathea is loved for its stunning exotic foliage with different movements throughout the day. However, these leaves turning yellow is not something usual.
While some yellowing indicates leaves getting old and dying, in many cases, yellowing means that the Calathea is undergoing some problem.
Check if you are watering your Calathea correctly. Calathea will not enjoy overwatering. So if you have an overwatered Calathea, it will develop yellow leaves as a reaction.
You should water the Calathea only when the top two inches are dry.
If the Calathea has been exposed to temperature fluctuations, it can get stressed, and its leaves will become yellow.
Some other reasons for yellow leaves are underwatering, repotting stress, cold drafts, or pests.
Brown leaves on Calathea
One of the main reasons behind brown leaves or brown spots on leaves is harmful minerals. If you water your Calathea with regular tap water, the harmful chemicals cause the browning of the leaves.
So, you must water your Calathea with filtered or rainwater. You can even let tap water stay outside overnight to let the minerals evaporate so that they don’t harm your Calathea.
Another reason for brown Calathea leaves is overfertilization. The excess salt of the fertilizer affects the leaves and causes browning on the tips and edges.
Calathea is a light feeder, so you should feed it with a diluted dose of a well-balanced fertilizer during the growing season. Don’t fertilize your Calathea in the winter season.
Some other reasons that can cause brown leaves are incorrect watering, direct sunlight exposure, or pest infestations.
You might have heard that Calathea is a low-light plant. Yes, Calathea can survive low light conditions, but it prefers bright indirect light.
Without bright light for a prolonged period, Calathea will become leggy. Without light, it will fail to produce enough energy for healthy growth. As a result, you will see tall stems with fewer leaves on them.
So, you must not deprive the Calathea of the light it needs.
Calathea tends to become leggy, especially in winter, as the intensity and duration of sunlight reduce during this time.
In low light cases, you can use artificial lights to provide sufficient light to your Calathea.
Calathea leaves curling
One main reason behind leaf curling in your Calathea is that you don’t water it well enough. When your Calathea doesn’t get enough water, it curls the leaves to protect whatever moisture is present in the leaves.
You must not keep your Calathea thirsty and water it whenever the top inches of the soil dry out. This will prevent curling leaves.
Like inadequate water, low humidity can also cause curling leaves in your Calathea. Calathea is a moisture-loving plant, and if you don’t give it sufficient humidity, its leaves will react by curling and give out a sign to you.
You must not let the humidity drop below 50%. You can either use a humidifier, group your Calathea with other moisture-loving plants, or even mist the plant to maintain the humidity.
Other reasons for curling leaves in Calathea are poor water quality, incorrect watering, or excess light.
Calathea leaves not closing
If you don’t know it already, let me tell you that Calathea closes its leaves at night. The leaves open again when they receive sunlight in the morning. This is a natural phenomenon that keeps Calathea healthy.
However, the leaves might not close at night if exposed to too much light. This can happen if you are using artificial lights. You might forget to turn it off, and the plant might get more light than it needs.
Remember, Calathea needs 8 hours of darkness, so don’t expose it to excess light.
Another reason behind Calathea not closing its leaves is overwatering. If you overwater the plant and make the soil soggy, the roots will suffocate due to a lack of oxygen.
The roots will not function properly, and the plant will not get enough water or nutrients, due to which the leaves will not function well and stop closing at night.
So, don’t overwater your Calathea, and water only after the topsoil feels dry.
If your Calathea is drooping significantly, you need to understand that this is not natural and something is wrong.
Usually, a Calathea droops when it doesn’t get enough water.
If the Calathea leaves are droopy and the soil is dry, water the Calathea immediately, and you might see them improve.
Even stress can be the reason behind droopy leaves in Calathea. If your Calathea is exposed to low temperatures or cold drafts, it can get stressed and hence start drooping.
Don’t leave your Calathea exposed to low temperatures. Keep it safe during winter by placing it in a warm room away from frosty windows and cold drafts.
Calathea crispy leaves
The leaves of your Calathea can become crispy if you keep them under direct sunlight. The harsh rays of the sun can make the leaves dry and crisp.
You will notice crispy brown spots on your Calathea leaves if the plant is exposed to direct sun. Keep your Calathea away from direct sunlight as the plant doesn’t prefer that.
Low humidity can also make the leaves of your Calathea crispy. If the surroundings of your Calathea can’t provide enough humidity to it, the leaves will become crispy due to lack of moisture.
You can keep your Calathea humid by using a humidifier or grouping it with other houseplants.
If you are growing a Calathea, you need to be aware of the pests that may attack the plant. The most common pests found in Calathea are spider mites.
Spider mites thrive in dry conditions, so if your Calathea is thirsty and dry, spider mites will tend to attack the plant. Pests can cause severe damage to the plants by feeding on them.
Other pests such as aphids and mealybugs can also attack the Calathea.
You must spray a neem oil solution on your Calathea every month to prevent pests. You can also use this to fight pests.
Calathea root rot
Since Calathea has delicate roots and doesn’t prefer soggy soil, it can easily develop root rot with extra water that makes the soil waterlogged.
If your Calathea develops root rot, the roots will start decaying due to a lack of oxygen and too much water. This makes the plant weaker and weaker, and it can die if you don’t take action soon.
The first thing to do is take Calathea out of its pot and check the roots. You must prune the affected roots and repot your Calathea in a new pot with fresh potting soil.
Water your Calathea only when the soil is dry. Don’t water if the soil is moist, as that will cause overwatering and root rot again.
Sticky Calathea leaves
Your Calathea leaves might be sticky if it has a pest infestation. Many pests feed on your Calathea and excrete honeydew, a sticky substance.
The honeydew makes the leaves sticky, which is not suitable for the leaves. So you must keep the Calathea protected from pests.
To keep the pests away, you can spray a neem oil solution on your Calathea. You can also wipe the leaves with insecticidal soap to remove the stickiness.
Calathea care tips
Calathea might be fussy, but it will thrive with the correct care routine, so here are a few tips in brief.
Light: Calathea does best in bright indirect light. Some Calathea species are known to survive in low light conditions. They will survive but might not flourish. So consider providing 8-10 hours of bright indirect light followed by at least 8 hours of darkness. Use artificial lights in case of low natural light and avoid exposing the plant to direct sunlight.
Water: Provide sufficient water to your Calathea to keep the soil slightly moist at all times. Water the Calathea once a week during the growing season but only after ensuring that the soil’s top layer is dry. In winter, reduce the amount and frequency of watering. Neither overwater nor keep the Calathea thirsty.
Soil: Calathea requires evenly moist soil, so you should use soil that retains enough moisture, but since Calathea doesn’t prefer soggy soil, you should add enough draining elements in the soil, such as perlite. You can add charcoal, bark, and perlite to the potting mix to make it suitable for the Calathea.
Fertilizer: Calathea is not a heavy feeder, so it requires little fertilizing, mainly during the growing season. Fertilize your Calathea with a well-balanced fertilizer once a month or once in 20 days. You can dilute the fertilizing dose to make it half-strength.
Temperature: Maintain temperatures between 65-80°F for your Calathea. Calathea comes from tropical regions with a warm climate suitable for it. Calathea can’t tolerate low temperatures and, therefore, keep it safe during the winter and don’t let the temperatures go below 50°F.
Humidity: Calathea thrives in high humidity. In its native land, Calathea is exposed to 70% or more humidity. When you grow Calathea as a houseplant, don’t let the humidity go below 50%. You can mist the plant or use a humidifier to maintain the humidity.
Pruning: Prune the Calathea only when required. You must prune the damaged, diseased, and dead leaves and parts of Calathea whenever you see these on the plant. Always use sterilized and sharp scissors to prune the leaves and stems.
Repotting: Calathea is sensitive to repotting. After repotting, it will always go through some stress, so you must only repot it if it is rootbound. Consider repotting during spring as it will recover faster during this time, and avoid repotting during winter as this will increase the stress and even shock the plant.
Propagation: Instead of buying new Calathea plants, propagate your Calathea by diving the root system and planting the Calatheas in different pots and fresh potting soil. Use a knife to divide the Calathea but be careful.
How often should you water Calathea?
Consider watering your Calathea once a week after ensuring that the top 2 soil layers are dry. If you don’t check the soil, you might overwater the plant. Also, make sure that the soil doesn’t go bone dry.
Where should I put my Calathea?
Keep your Calathea in a bright room where it can get enough indirect light. Make sure that the plant gets enough humidity. You can get a humidifier for your Calathea. If you have a south-facing window, you can place the Calathea near it but use a curtain to filter the direct sunlight.