Calathea plants are popular houseplants because of their gorgeous and unique foliage pattern and colors. They are popularly known as payer plants because they move their leaves up at night and open up in the days to absorb the maximum light.
Some popular Calathea plant varieties include Calathea zebrina, Calathea ornata, Calathea makoyana, Calathea lancifolia, and Calathea Triostar. Most of these varieties require similar care and living environment, but some might do better than others in your space.
In this article, I will discuss the 11 most popular types of Calathea plants that are mostly grown indoors. I will also provide a detailed discussion about their care needs so that your Calatheas can happily thrive in your home.
Table Of Contents
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A little about the Calathea plant
If you are fond of houseplants with intricate leaf patterns, Calathea must be on your wish list.
Calatheas are a genus of flowering perennial plants that belong to the Marantaceae plant group.
They currently have over 60 species and are natives of tropical American forests.
The top of their leaves has geometric patterns.
In contrast, the underside has dark maroon or burgundy colors, and they have a highly decorative visual appeal.
These plants have a finicky reputation and are also known as drama queen plants among plant owners.
This is primarily because their leaf movements open and close as per the time of the day.
However, if your Calathea gets the perfect growing condition, you will be rewarded with bushy and fast growth with countless new leaves.
Another good thing about buying this plant if you are a pet owner is that it is non-toxic, and your pets and children have no risk if they accidentally bite or touch it.
Calatheas also bloom in the wild during the warmer season.
However, indoors isn’t ideal for blooms unless the conditions are perfect.
But the leaves themselves are so gorgeous that they overshadow the flowers.
11 Popular Calathea varieties for your home
Now, let’s look at the 11 most popular types of Calathea plants.
1. Calathea zebrina – zebra plant
With its striking foliage, Calathea zebrina is probably the most popular variety among the others.
These are perennial plants native to Brazil with large oval leaves, which are light green with dark green stripes like Zebra, which gives it the name.
They are popular as they are less demanding and thrive with adequate light, humidity, and temperatures.
The undersides of the leaves are purple.
They produce flowers though they are not much prominent and the leaves remain the primary attraction.
They love warm and moist conditions. Keep them at a spot with bright indirect light away from direct sunlight within a temperature range between 65-75°F.
In the growing season, keep the soil slightly moist but never wet.
They love getting misted and use humidifiers or any other ways to keep high humidity above 55%.
Prepare fertile potting soil that has excellent drainage.
The division methods can propagate them as they form in clumps.
2. Calathea orbifolia
Calathea Orbifolia is one of the largest variants of Calathea with its oversized large leaves with silvery stripes.
Though they distinctly catch the eyes of smitten plant owners, they are quite fussy.
They require consistently moist soil and high humidity.
For the best growth, you must keep it in jungle-like conditions with warm and humid surroundings.
The plant can reach up to three feet when grown indoors.
Its leaves are highly animated and move throughout the day.
Keep them out of the direct sun in bright indirect light or partial shade.
They can be grown outdoors in USDA zones 9b-11.
It suffers from cold damage if exposed to cold and goes into a period of dormancy.
It is advisable to bring them indoors in the fall.
They have a rhizome rot structure and are sensitive to rotting.
Add water when the top 2 inches of the soil looks dry.
Plastic pots are more recommended over terracotta as they tend to dry fast.
3. Calathea white fusion
They are one of the prettiest Calatheas but not the easiest.
This is strictly not a plant for beginners as it requires some maintenance.
The white fusion features a green leaf with contrasting white markings.
The undersides of the leaves have magenta shades that spread up to the stem.
Like other variants of Calathea, white fusion requires moisture and bright light, but too much sun can bleach the leaves.
You need to wipe and clean the large leaves to remove dust regularly.
This will help the plant to breathe and absorb light better.
Finding the right light is important as too much light can fade the marks of the leaves, and too little light will prevent the variegations from developing.
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4. Calathea Triostar
Popular for their incredible vibrant leaves with pink undersides, Calathea Triostar is a plant you will fall in love with immediately.
It has artistically detailed leaves splashed with green and white leaves with pink hues.
This plant demands attention, and it will be worthwhile if you can give it that.
Calathea Triostar needs potting soil that is well draining but retains moisture in it.
The plant must be watered with only filtered water and provided a temperature between 65-80°F.
The plant rearranges its leaves daily based on the light positions and requires high humidity and bright indirect light.
There is an enormous variety in its leaves, and no two leaves have the same color variegation.
The plant is happy in medium light and direct sunlight can bleach the leaves.
The leaves close at night, preventing the loss of moisture.
They produce white and pink flowers during spring.
However, the primary attention goes to the leaves.
This plant is demanding, and without proper care, the white variegation turns yellow and brown, and the edges become brown and crisp.
5. Calathea Ornata-Pinstripe
These are another striking member of the Calathea family with beautifully veined leaves.
On average they reach a height of about 2 feet in containers making them ideal for indoor gardens.
They like bright sunlight but no direct sun. Prepare peat-based soil for your pinstripes.
You can add two parts peat moss to one part perlite, or the soil used for African violet does quite well for them too.
They need high humidity to keep the leaves in good condition.
Keep the leaves evenly moist and do not let them stay bone dry.
They are sensitive to both overwatering and underwatering.
Fertilize them in the growing season
Calathea flame star has rich patterned foliage and a bushy body, making them eye-catchy.
Like the other types, they too require bright indirect like and humidity.
Keep the soil moist and cut down on watering in winter.
Keep the leaves clean to prevent dust and pest attacks.
They are moderately fast growers and are non-toxic to pets.
7. Calathea white star
They are also known as Calathea majestic and are well known for their white and green foliage.
This plant was discovered in 1822 by George Meyer and it proves to be a stunning indoor plant.
Historically the waxy leaves of these plants were used to make baskets to transport rice and fish, a method still used in many parts of South America.
As a houseplant, they can reach a height of 4-5 feet.
For best growth, you can keep it near an east-facing window.
Like the other variants, they too need humidity and moisture.
8. Calathea Makoyana – Peacock plant
Calathea Makoyana is popularly called the peacock plant o the cathedral window plant.
Natives to brazil, the peacock plant is slender and, if it gets the right care produces colorful leaves.
The plant gets its name from the elegant leaves similar to the peacock’s tail.
The leaves are light green with a dark green feathered effect in the center like the patterns on a peacock’s tail that run toward the outer edges of the leaves.
The undersides have a purplish-red color.
It loves humidity, and misting is important for its healthy growth.
9. Rattlesnake plant
They are known as Calathea lancifolia and are a recent trend in indoor plant collection and are a show stopper because of their bold pattern leaves and purple hues in the undersides.
The leaves of this plant are used for wrapping food and handicraft in South American regions.
These plants can survive in low light and enjoy warm moist areas.
They produce orange flowers in late spring and early summer outdoors, but indoors they generally do not flower.
The care tips for them are similar to the other Calathea variants.
10. Calathea Corona
Calathea corona is one of the most popular variants of the plant with its broad silvery green leaves.
New leaves, before unfolding, curl up in purplish red undersides.
Keep it away from direct sunlight in temperatures between 60-80°F.
Keep the soil moist and mist occasionally in the daytime.
11. Calathea medallion
Like other Calatheas, they do best in bright light but can grow in the medium.
Keep the soil moist and give it high humidity.
They have showy foliage with bright green leaves and solver markings on them that resemble medallions.
In low lights, the variegations may fade, and too much light can burn the leaves.
How to care for a Calathea plant?
Calatheas need specific growing conditions to thrive, so let us quickly discuss them in this section.
1. Light requirements
The best growth of Calatheas occurs in bright indirect light, but it can also tolerate medium to low light.
This is because, in nature, they grow on the forest floor, where they stay shielded from direct sunlight by big trees.
Calatheas are ideal for homes with medium or low light conditions.
It is important to remember that they cannot tolerate direct sunlight falling on their leaves, as they tend to scorch the leaves.
A rule with this plant, the darker the foliage, the lesser light it requires.
However, the variegations will not develop well if it does not get the required light.
2. Temperature requirements
Like most tropical houseplants, Calathea likes mild temperatures between 65-85°F, similar to the tropical habitat.
They do not like extreme summers or extreme winters.
Protect them during hot scorching hot summers or extremely cold winter frost.
Shield them from temperature fluctuations.
If your plant stays outdoors, it is best to bring them indoors during such weather.
Keep your Calathea in a spot where there are no vents, air conditioners, or drafts as they cause temperature fluctuations.
3. Water requirements
Water your Calathea with filtered water or rain water only as the minerals and chlorine in tap water can be harmful to the prayer plant.
Let the excess water run out and empty the cache at the bottom of the pot.
Calatheas do not like standing in excess water.
So you need to keep the soil just slightly moist and not wet.
The Calatheas are prone to root rot, so you need to get the soil dry in between watering so restrain from overwatering.
Do not keep the soil soggy nor let it get bone dry.
Water whenever you see the top two inches of the soil dry.
4. Humidity requirements
Humidity is very important for Calatheas.
They do best in a humid environment though some plant varieties can tolerate lower humidity levels.
Ideally, there must be a minimum of 50% humidity around the plant, sometimes even more, depending on the species and weather.
Lower humidity in Calatheas lead to numerous problems:
- Brown and yellow edges of the leaves
- Crispy leaves
- Stunted growth
Luckily though our natural homes are drier, there are multiple ways like misting, humidifiers, and pebble trays to increase humidity levels.
Also, grouping them increases humidity, and they enjoy the conditions as it’s similar to their natural habitat.
Calatheas especially enjoy getting misted, so they mist them in the summers and spring during the daytime.
Remember not to mist in the evening because wet leaves at night can lead to pest infestations.
5. Fertilizer requirements
Fertilizers are important as Calatheas enjoy fertile soil.
With regular watering, the soil fertility begins to drop with the nutrients washing away.
Feed Calathea during spring and summer with an all-purpose fertilizer with NPK 10:10:10 monthly.
You can also add a handful of compost once in march and once in September.
Do not over-fertilize your Calathea, as that can lead to problems like root burn.
6. Potting soil
Plants growing in containers get all their nutrients from the soil in the pot.
Thus the soil must be fulfilling all the requirements of the plant.
Calatheas need soil that is light and airy drains water fast but at the same time retains moisture.
Prepare a potting mix that holds moisture but lets the excess water run off.
You can mix two parts of potting soil with one part each of orchid bark, charcoal, and perlite to create the perfect soil for Calathea.
7. Pot material
Contrary to most beliefs, Calatheas do not do well in terracotta pots.
The breathable porous material dries off the soil quickly, making it lose its moisture.
So plastic or ceramic pots can retain more moisture and are more suitable for plants like Calathea.
But while choosing a pot, ensure that there must be drainage holes at the bottom of the pots.
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Calatheas do not require heavy pruning.
However, to maintain their appeal and encourage more growth, you need to prune off the dead and yellow leaves of the plant with a sterilized pruner.
Repot your Calatheas when they grow too big for the present pot in fresh soil, and a new pot no bigger than 2 inches from the present pot.
Repot during the growing season of spring and summer, as in winters, the plant’s growth reduces drastically.
10. Pest problems
Since Calatheas need a humid environment, these plants are susceptible to fungus gnats which thrive in moisture.
Apart from them, sometimes mealybugs or scales infest the calathea plant.
Using Neem oil spray daily keeps your plant healthy and repels all pests.
Also read: Calathea Ultimate Care Guide
Source: NCBI, University of Florida, Wikipedia, Growing Indoor Plants with Success, Agriculture, and Natural Resources, University of California, Missouri Botanical Garden.
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