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Calathea

Calathea, a beloved houseplant, mesmerizes with its striking leaf patterns and movements, adding a vibrant touch of the tropics to any indoor setting.

Calathea makoyana, peacock plant, brain plant, cathedral windows, Goeppertia makoyana

Calathea, known for its strikingly patterned leaves and unique movements, is a genus of plants that has captured the admiration of plant lovers worldwide. About 200 species formerly assigned to Calathea are now in the genus Goeppertia. Calathea currently contains around 60 species.

What to Know about Calathea – Goeppertia?

Calatheas are tropical plants celebrated for their beautifully patterned foliage, featuring various shades of green, white, pink, and purple. The leaves often have distinct markings, such as stripes, spots, or flame-like patterns, making them highly decorative. Additionally, Calatheas are known for their nyctinastic movements, where leaves move up at night and lower during the day, earning them the nickname “prayer plants.”

Native: This genus is native to the tropical Americas, particularly the rainforest floors of Central and South America, where they thrive in warm, humid conditions under the canopy. Calathea belongs to the arrowroot family (Marantaceae), along with the Prayer Plant.

Growth Habit: Calatheas are evergreen perennials that exhibit a clumping growth habit. They grow from rhizomes and can range from compact varieties to larger, bushier plants, depending on the species.

Size: The size of Calathea plants can vary significantly, with some species staying under 12 inches (30 cm) tall, while others can grow up to 3 feet (90 cm) in height and spread.

Flowers: Although grown primarily for their foliage, some Calathea species produce flowers. These blooms are usually small and inconspicuous, appearing in the warmer months. The flowers can be white, yellow, or purple, but the plant’s striking leaves often overshadow them.

Foliage: The foliage is the most striking feature of Calatheas, with patterns resembling brush strokes, feathers, or fish scales. The leaves are also known for their texture, ranging from smooth and glossy to velvety.

Hardiness: As tropical plants, Calatheas prefer indoor environments in most climates, thriving in temperatures between 65°F and 75°F (18°C to 24°C). They are not frost-tolerant and require high humidity to prevent leaf edges from browning. They are best suited to USDA hardiness Zones 11-12 if grown outdoors.

Uses: Primarily used as ornamental indoor plants, Calatheas enhance interior spaces with their vibrant foliage. They are also believed to purify the air, benefiting indoor environments.

Toxicity: Calatheas are non-toxic to humans and pets, making them a safe choice for households with children and animals.

rose-painted calathea, Calathea roseopicta, Calathea 'Roseo Picta', Goeppertia roseopicta

Calathea roseopicta – Rose-Painted Calathea

What is Special about Calathea?

Calathea stands out in the world of houseplants for several remarkable reasons, making it a special addition to any indoor plant collection:

Striking Foliage: Calatheas are celebrated for their visually stunning leaves, which feature unique patterns and vibrant colors. The variety of patterns, from stripes and spots to intricate leaf margins, is almost unparalleled in the plant world. Each species boasts its own distinct design, with some leaves having a velvety texture that further adds to their appeal.

Nyctinastic Movements: These plants are also known for their fascinating nyctinastic movements, where the leaves move up at night as if in prayer and then lower during the day. This movement is not only a delightful spectacle for plant enthusiasts but also a topic of interest in plant physiology.

Air Purification: Calathea plants have been suggested to improve indoor air quality by filtering out certain toxins, contributing to a healthier living environment. This makes them not just decorative but also beneficial for well-being.

Non-toxicity: They are non-toxic to pets and humans, making them a safe choice for households with animals and children. This aspect allows plant lovers to enjoy their beauty without worrying about potential health risks to their loved ones.

Humidity Loving: Calatheas can help increase humidity in their immediate vicinity, which can be beneficial in dry indoor environments. This makes them particularly suitable for spaces that could benefit from a little extra moisture in the air.

Tropical Ambiance: With their lush appearance, Calatheas add a touch of the tropics to indoor settings, enhancing the aesthetic of homes and offices. They can transform any space into a vibrant, green oasis.

Guide Information

Hardiness 11 - 12
Plant Type Houseplants, Perennials
Plant Family Marantaceae
Genus Calathea, Goeppertia
Exposure Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Winter
Height 1' - 3'
(30cm - 90cm)
Spread 1' - 3'
(30cm - 90cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Loam
Soil pH Acid, Neutral, Alkaline
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy, Evergreen
Landscaping Ideas Patio And Containers

Popular Calathea Types

Calathea Care

Caring for a Calathea plant involves creating a balanced environment that mimics its native tropical habitat.

Light: Prefers bright, indirect light. Direct sunlight can scorch its leaves, while too little light may cause them to lose vibrancy. A spot near a window with sheer curtains or an east-facing window is ideal.

Soil: A well-draining, peat-based potting mix is suitable. Incorporating perlite or vermiculite can improve drainage.

Water: Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Allow the top inch of soil to dry out slightly before watering again. Use distilled, rainwater, or filtered tap water to avoid brown tips caused by fluoride and other chemicals in tap water.

Temperature and Humidity: Thrives in temperatures between 65°F (18°C) to 75°F (24°C). Avoid sudden temperature drops and cold drafts. Requires high humidity levels, ideally above 60%. Low humidity can lead to brown leaf tips and edges. Use a humidifier, place the plant on a pebble tray filled with water, or group it with other plants to increase surrounding humidity.

Fertilization: Fertilize every 4 weeks during the growing season (spring and summer) with a diluted, balanced, liquid houseplant fertilizer. Reduce fertilization in fall and winter.

Pruning: Trim away yellow or brown leaves at the base to keep the plant looking tidy and to encourage new growth.

Cleaning: Wipe leaves with a damp cloth to remove dust and help the plant breathe.

Repotting: Every 2-3 years or when the plant becomes root-bound. Spring is the best time for repotting.

How to Propagate Calathea – A Step-By-Step Guide

Propagating a Calathea plant, like many other members of the Calathea genus, is best done through division. This method ensures the new plants have a good start with established roots and foliage.

Choose the Right Time: The best time for propagation is in late spring when the plant is in its active growth phase.

Prepare Your Tools and Workspace: Ensure you have clean, sharp scissors or a knife, pots for the new plants, and appropriate potting mix (peat-based or similar to what the parent plant is in). Sterilize your tools with rubbing alcohol or a bleach solution to prevent the spread of disease.

Remove the Plant from Its Pot: Carefully take your Calathea plant out of its pot. You may need to tap the pot’s sides or gently pull the plant by the base to ease it out.

Inspect and Separate the Rhizomes: Look for natural divisions in the root ball where the plant has formed distinct clumps or sections. These are your propagation points. Gently tease the roots apart with your fingers or cut through them with your clean, sharp tool if necessary. Ensure each division has a good amount of roots and at least one or two shoots (leaves).

Pot Up the Divisions: Fill your new pots with a suitable potting mix, making a hole in the center for the division. Place each division in its pot, ensuring it sits at the same depth as in the original pot. Fill around the roots with more potting mix, gently firming to support the plant. Water and

Care for Your New Plants: Water each new Calathea plant thoroughly after potting to settle the soil around the roots and eliminate air pockets. Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Place the new plants in a warm, humid spot with indirect light, similar to the parent plant’s preferred conditions.

Monitor and Maintain Humidity: To ensure high humidity, you can cover the pots with plastic bags to create a greenhouse effect. Ensure to open the bag daily for fresh air and check the soil moisture.

Be Patient: Growth may be slow initially as your Calathea plant adjusts and develops new roots and foliage. It can take several weeks to see significant growth. Calathea care, Houseplant care

Calathea: Pests, Diseases, Common Problems

Calathea is relatively resistant to major problems, but like all indoor plants, it can encounter some pests, diseases, and common issues.

Pests

Spider Mites: These tiny pests can be identified by the fine webs they weave on the plant. They cause yellowing or speckled leaves. Increase humidity around the plant and wash it with a strong stream of water. For severe infestations, use insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Mealybugs: These white, cottony pests tend to cluster in leaf axils and under leaves, sucking sap and weakening the plant. Remove with alcohol-dipped cotton swabs or apply neem oil.

Aphids: Small, soft-bodied insects that can be green, black, brown, or pink, aphids typically feed in groups on the undersides of leaves. Combat them with a gentle spray of water, neem oil, or insecticidal soap to protect the plant’s health and appearance.

Scale insects: Hard or soft-bodied insects that attach themselves to the stems or leaves, causing yellowing and growth stunting. Scrape off with a fingernail or use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. Insecticidal soap or neem oil may also be used.

Diseases

Root rot: Often a result of overwatering, leading to brown, mushy roots and wilted leaves. Prevent by ensuring good drainage and letting the soil partially dry between waterings. Affected plants may need repotting with fresh soil after cutting away any rotten roots.

Leaf spot: Fungal or bacterial infections causing spots on leaves. Avoid wetting foliage when watering and improve air circulation. Remove affected leaves and treat with fungicides if necessary.

Common Problems

Brown Leaf Edges/Tips: Often a result of low humidity or fluoride in tap water. Use distilled water or rainwater and increase humidity around the plant.

Curling Leaves: Can indicate under-watering or too low humidity. Ensure consistent soil moisture and raise humidity levels.

Fading Leaf Color: Insufficient light can cause the vibrant patterns of your Calathea to fade. Provide bright, indirect light, but avoid direct sunlight, which can scorch the leaves.

Discover These Helpful Guides for Further Reading

While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

Guide Information

Hardiness 11 - 12
Plant Type Houseplants, Perennials
Plant Family Marantaceae
Genus Calathea, Goeppertia
Exposure Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Winter
Height 1' - 3'
(30cm - 90cm)
Spread 1' - 3'
(30cm - 90cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Loam
Soil pH Acid, Neutral, Alkaline
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy, Evergreen
Landscaping Ideas Patio And Containers

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