Soil is the factor that determines the health and longevity of all your plants, including Calathea. Choosing the right kind of soil is vital as Calathea is a finicky plant that can develop issues easily.
So, in this article, we shall find out what kind of soil is best for calathea and how to use the same.
In general, a soil mix that retains moisture but drains equally well is suitable for a Calathea. A mix of one part of potting soil, one part cocopeat, and one part perlite, along with a handful of compost, works excellent. Calathes prefer slightly acidic soil with an average pH of 6.5.
Let’s dive deep into finding the most suitable soil mixes for calathea and how it affects the plant’s overall health.
Some links in the post are affiliate links and I get a commission from purchases made through links in the post.
Why is it important to choose the right soil for your calathea?
The most important thing you must remember while choosing the soil mix for calathea is that it can easily get overwatered.
This species cannot tolerate overwatering, so choosing a soil that can drain excess water instead of keeping the soil wet is what we should look for.
The next most crucial factor is calathea can easily get underwatered too, which means you need to ensure that the soil can retain the required moisture that the plant needs.
One factor that can cause issues in your Calathea is the lack of aeration in the soil. When the soil is not aerated well enough, it cuts down the oxygen flow, leading to root rot.
And the last but equally essential point that you cannot miss is that the soil should contain all the necessary nutrients to allow your calathea to grow and thrive.
Therefore, to sum it up, if you want a healthy calathea plant, you must choose the right kind of soil. And the right kind of soil for your calathea will:
- Drain excess water
- Retain the required moisture
- Be well aerated
- Have all the required nutrients
Signs you are using the wrong soil mix for your calathea
Before finding out the ideal soil mix for your calathea, let’s check out what wrong soil can do to your plant.
These are a few signs that your calathea will give out if planted in the wrong soil.
If your calathea is sitting in the wrong soil, it will either get underwatered or overwatered and in both cases, you will notice brown leaves.
If the soil cannot hold enough moisture, the plant will dehydrate, and the leaves will dry and brown.
But if the soil doesn’t drain the excess water and creates a wet environment, the plant will get overwatered, and the leaves will become soft and brown.
If you feel you are taking good care of your calathea and yet the plant is not showing sound growth, you might be using the wrong soil mix.
Without proper soil, you cannot expect your calathea to remain healthy or proliferate.
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Calathea losing leaves
If you are using ordinary garden soil for your calathea, it will create problems for the plant.
Regular garden soil is too heavy and will retain more water than required. This might give rise to root rot.
If your calathea starts undergoing root rot, it will soon start losing leaves.
Foul odor coming from the soil
This is a common sign of root rot. As I mentioned above, heavy soil such as garden soil will retain excess moisture.
If the soil you are using lacks proper drainage elements, the roots will sit in water for prolonged periods, ultimately leading to root rot.
Discoloration of leaves can indicate that you have selected the wrong potting mix for your calathea.
Without proper aeration or the elements that maintain the balance between retention and drainage, the unique leaves of your calathea will lose their color and turn pale and yellow or brown.
What kind of soil is best for calathea?
While choosing or preparing the ideal soil mix for your calathea, you need to understand its needs.
Once you know what this plant grows best in, it is unlikely that you will make the mistake of choosing incorrect soil.
Let’s try to understand what calathea appreciates in terms of soil.
I have already mentioned that calathea cannot tolerate soggy soil. Therefore, we need to give importance to the drainage capacity of the soil.
While preparing the soil, you can add elements like perlite, pumice stones, vermiculite, or barks to improve the drainage capacity of the soil.
If you do not emphasize this, the soil might retain a lot of water that can, in turn, cause root rot, pest infestations, or fungal infections.
Calathea is considered finicky because it neither tolerates excess moisture in the soil nor appreciates less of it.
If the soil you have prepared drains too much water that the plant wants more and gets dehydrated because of its lack, you need to work on the retention.
You can improve the soil’s water retention by adding compost to the soil. You can also opt for mulching as it works great in improving water retention.
When preparing the soil mix for your calathea, you must add as many nutrients to it as possible.
Adding the right amount of nutrients will help your calathea grow faster, even without the help of fertilizers.
You can add compost to the soil, which organically adds nutrients.
Once the soil starts losing nutrients, you can opt for fertilizers.
Aeration of the soil is often overlooked, which is why it creates trouble for the plants.
If the soil is not properly aerated, it will affect the roots, block the oxygen flow, and cause root rot.
But you can improve the aeration by mixing perlite or barks in the soil.
Maintaining the correct pH of the soil can be helpful for your calathea.
If the pH value is imbalanced, the plant will develop various problems.
Calathea prefers slightly acidic soil with a pH value of 6.5.
If you find that the pH level is much higher than that, you can add peat moss to balance it out. But if the pH value is low, you can add limestone to the soil.
Best soil mix for calathea
After understanding the basics of selecting the right soil mix for your calathea, it is time to look at some soil recipes.
You can use any one of these to plant your calathea.
Please note: I have linked the products I have used in the past alongside the recipe. Feel free to check them out.
While organic soil creates the base of the soil mix, the other ingredients work on the other essential requirements, namely drainage, retention, and aeration.
Organic soil – Adds nutrients to the soil.
Coco peat – It helps in moisture retention.
Perlite – It keeps the soil aerated and retains just the right amount of water.
Vermicompost – It works on all three factors, aeration, drainage, and retention.
Here is another soil recipe that you can use for your calathea.
Coco coir – It is an alternative to peat moss that can retain moisture.
Orchid bark – It improves the drainage system of the soil and the soil structure.
Worm castings – It helps the soil remain consistently moist without getting completely dry.
Activated charcoal – It helps the soil retain more nutrients and prevents them from flowing out during the plant’s watering.
This one is the easiest of all the recipes. If you do not have much time, you can go for this one.
You can buy any potting soil available in stores or online and add some perlite to it, mix it well and use it for your calathea.
What should I plant my calathea in?
Some say you can plant your calathea in any pot with drainage holes, while some state that calathea does best in clay pots.
Since calathea is prone to overwatering, the material of the pot can play a significant role.
If you opt for a porous pot, it will allow the soil to dry out fast. This is the reason many people suggest clay pots for calathea.
If you are using a plastic or fiberglass pot, you must be careful while watering the plant.
I suggest opting for these pots if you forget to water your plants on time. This will provide the soil with enough time to get dry.
Whichever pot you select, don’t forget the drainage holes. If you plant your calathea in a pot with no drainage holes, it will get overwatered.
Do I need to repot my calathea?
Yes, like all other houseplants, your calathea will also require repotting when it outgrows its current pot. In other terms, it becomes rootbound.
Keeping the calathea in a bright spot will outgrow its pot within 1-2 years. And this is when you need to repot the plant.
Some signs that tell you that your calathea requires reporting are:
- Roots coming out of drainage holes
- Roots popping up from the soil
- Slow growth
- Brown leaves
If you notice these signs, you need to take the plant out of its current pot and repot.
For repotting, you must choose a part that is one size larger than the previous one. You must also prepare fresh soil mix for the purpose.
However, if your calathea is placed in a low-light environment, it will take longer to show signs of being rootbound and will require repotting much later.
Can you use cactus soil for calathea?
Although calathea requires well-draining soil, it also needs a decent amount of moisture in the soil to remain healthy.
Cactus soil contains more drainage elements and might not support sufficient retention.
You can use cactus soil for your calathea, but you need to add regular potting soil and some elements to improve the soil’s water retention capacity.
You can add bark chips, sphagnum moss, or compost along with the potting mix and then use the cactus soil for calathea.
Different plants have different soil requirements. Calathea prefers moist soil but not wet.
While preparing soil mix for calathea, you must add materials that support drainage, such as perlite, bark chips, etc. You must also not forget the components that improve retention, such as peat moss, compost, vermiculite, etc.
You must repot calathea when it gets rootbound and shows you the signs. You must refrain from disturbing its roots otherwise. Prepare a fresh, well-draining, and moisture-retaining soil mix that is full of nutrients for the plant.