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    How to Grow and Care For Calathea Orbifolia

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    Calathea orbifolia, also known as Round-leaf plant, is a unique species of tropical foliage. Bearing vibrant, green oval-shaped leaves with wide light green stripes, it’s no wonder why this plant has received so much attention in recent years. Calatheas can be grown as a houseplant or outdoors during the summer months but needs to be protected from frost. Read on to find out how these plants have captured the imagination of horticulturists and home hobbyists alike.

    What is a Calathea Orbifolia?

    Calathea orbifolia (now Goeppertia orbifolia), commonly known as the Orbifolia prayer plant, is a neotropical rhizomatous perennial native to Bolivia. It is an herbaceous, low-maintenance plant that is commonly grown indoors as a house or office plant. This plant is a member of the Calathea genus (now Goeppertia) and belongs to the family of Marantaceae.
    Calathea orbifolia is one of the bigger prayer-plants growing up to 2-3 feet tall and wide when given the right water and light conditions. It’s known for its dramatic pale silver-green, rounded oval-shaped leaves lined with thick and thin light-green striping with pale green undersides. The leaves themselves can grow up to one foot to two feet in length in the wild!
    Another characteristic that makes Calathea orbifolia unique is its nyctinastic movement where the leaves rise and fall with changes in the light making them seem as if they're praying.
     This plant is primarily grown for its decorative foliage as it rarely blooms flowers and is a favorite among collectors and hobbyists due to its interesting shape and vibrant color.

    Calathea Orbifolia Care Guide

    Calathea Orbifolia (now known as Goeppertia Orbifolia)
    Orbifolia Prayer Plant, Round-leaf Plant
    Marantaceae
    Intermediate
    Neotropical rhizomatous herbaceous perennials
    Up to 3 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide
    Balanced, water-soluble liquid fertilizer (10-10-10, 20-20-20 diluted)
    Bright indirect light, partial/dappled shade - need at least 6-8 hours of medium to bright light
    Moderate - keep soil slightly moist (topsoil may dry); 1-2x a week watering rough
    well-draining, acidic
    Acidic, 5-6
    From rhizome division, no seeds or cuttings!
    65-75 degrees Fahrenheit
    South-facing, West-facing preferred. East-facing ok. Avoid north-facing (low light).
    10, 11 (hardy)
    Aglaonema, Bromeliad, Spider Plants, Arrowhead
    Not toxic to pets and humas
    Botanical Name
    Common Name
    Family
    Difficulty
    Plant Type
    Mature Size
    Fertilizer
    Sun Exposure
    Water
    Soil Type
    Soil pH
    Propagate
    Temperature (Ideal)
    Window Locations (Ideal)
    USDA Hardiness Zone
    Companion Plants
    Toxicity

    How to Grow Calathea Orbifolia Plant

    Although calatheas can be fussy, Calathea Orbifolia generally is easy to care for once you get the proper light and water conditions. It simply needs enough light and consistently moist, well-drained soil to thrive. Calathea orbifolia loves bright, indirect light for at least 6 hours each day, but can tolerate low to medium light conditions. Like most calatheas, consistently lightly moist soil is key, but it must also drain well to prevent fungal diseases, the most common being root rot. 
    You can most easily purchase a healthy, young calathea on Neverland or at your local garden center. Unfortunately, you can’t propagate calathea orbifolias through stem cuttings, only through rhizome division.

    Growing Calathea Orbifolia In Your Garden (Outdoors)

    Calathea Orbifolias are most commonly grown as indoor houseplants but can be grown as ornamental, bold foliage in your landscape or garden outdoors. They grow well in areas that are dappled in shade/part shade but still receive a few hours of bright light a day. If they get overexposed to light, their beautiful patterned foliage will start to fade.
    They plant well with peace lilys, arrowhead, spider plants, bromeliads, and other tropical foliage plants. 
    If you’re growing outside of USDA hardiness zones 10-11, you’ll need to overwinter the plant when temperatures drop below 30-40 degrees Fahrenheit as they are not frost-tolerant. You can either bring the plant indoors and grow it as a houseplant or you can attempt to cover the area in mulch to help shield the calathea from cooler weather. 

    How to Care For Calathea Orbifolia

    Calathea orbifolia like most calatheas are finicky plants requiring specific water and light conditions to thrive. Although the stunning tropical foliage is eye-catching and draws all levels of plant parents in, we don’t recommend this plant to beginners as your first plant due to its unique, fussy nature.
    Calathea orbifolias thrive best in warm, humid environments with access to at least 4 hours of bright, indirect light.
    It’s important to maintain a consistent watering schedule and lightly moist soil, but avoid watering too muc,h which is why it’s important to plant your calathea in well-draining moisture-retentive soil. Following these basics will ensure your calathea orbifolia grows well! 
    Woman watering calathea orbifolia on a plant shelf.
    Image Source:Photo by Kuziki from GettyImagesCalatheas prefer slightly moist soil, but generally you can allow the topsoil to dry out between watering. Calatheas are susceptible to fungal disease and root rot if their soil is left soggy.

    💧 Water

    The right water care is one of the most critical functions in ensuring your calathea orbifolia grows well. Being tropical plants, calathea orbifolias love consistently, but lightly moistened soil.
    During their active growing season, you’ll likely want to water your calathea once or twice a week. However, since calatheas go dormant in the winter months, you should reduce your watering frequency during colder months 
    Leaving your soil soggy or excessively wet will leave your calathea susceptible to yellowing leaves or fungal diseases like root rot, so be careful to not overwater your calathea. A key to preventing fungal diseases like root rot is to plant your calathea in well-draining, moisture-retentive soil. You can supplement with perlite, pumice, or vermiculite to increase the aeration and drainage of your soil.
    Pro Tip Icon
    Pro Tip: Use distilled, bottled, or filtered water!
    Calatheas are sensitive to chemicals like fluoride in tap water. A build up of these chemicals can cause root burn and other issues. If you’re regularly using tap water to water your plant, we recommend flushing your soil fully with rainwater, distilled water every once in a while to drain out these chemicals.

    ☀️ Sunlight

    In the wild, calathea orbifolias grow under the canopy of tropical jungle trees and vines which provide them with dappled shade and some sunlight throughout the day. To mimic this, it’s best to grow calathea orbifolia in bright indirect light to medium light where it receives at least 4 hours of bright light a day.
    You can also place your calathea near west or east-facing windows. North-facing windows receive the least light, so we don’t recommend planting there. Without enough light, your Calathea will start to lose its beautiful foliage pattern. 

    🌡️ Temperature and Humidity

    Calathea orbifolias are tropical plants native to the jungles of Bolivia. They thrive in warm temperatures and high humidity environments similar to the jungles. 
    Most ambient room temperatures will do, but calathea will thrive in temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. 
    Orbifolias are sensitive to changes in their environment including temperature. If it’s too hot, you may notice calathea’s round leaves curl up. If it’s too cold, calathea’s leaves will start to droop.
    The lowest temperature calathea orbifolias can tolerate are 30-40degrees Fahrenheit, but we recommend you bring your plant indoors if it drops below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. 
    Like other calatheas, orbifolias love high humidity levels – an average humidity of 50% or more is most ideal. If your home doesn’t have much humidity, you can use a small humidifier, group your tropical plants together, or place your plant on top of a pebble tray filled with water.

    🌱 Soil

    Calathea orbifolia needs to grow in well-draining soil that also retains moisture and nutrition in the right amount. Commercial potting mix will work but to increase drainage you can supplement with perlite, pumice, or peat moss which will encourage moisture retention while aerating the soil at the same time. African violet potting mix is also a great match for calatheas because African violets also require airy, moisture-retentive soil that is well-draining. 
    For DYI potting mix, you can mix two coco coir/peat and one perlite. Coco coir helps retain moisture while keeping the soil airy and light, while perlite helps with drainage and wicking away excess moisture.
    It’s important to make sure you plant your calathea in a pot with drainage holes to encourage excess water to drain from the pot.

    🌻 Fertilizer

    Calathea orbifolias aren’t heavy feeders. In its active growing season during spring and summer, you can fertilize with liquid, balanced fertilizer (10-10-10, 20-20-20) to boost foliage growth and enhance color. We recommend diluting in a quarter to start and see how your plant responds first. Overfertilizing can lead to root burn and stunt the growth of the plant! (Opposite of what fertilizer is intended to do ironically).
    Coffee grounds are also an option, but you have to be careful due to their acidic nature. Coffee grounds are nitrogen-rich (the N in NPK fertilizer ratio). We don’t recommend placing coffee grounds directly on the soil, but rather adding coffee grounds to compost or soaking coffee grounds in water for one to two weeks and mixing with water like you would apply a regular liquid fertilizer.

    😎 Pruning and Maintenance

    Calathea orbifolia doesn’t require frequent pruning. You may need to prune off any dead, brown or yellowing leaves to upkeep its healthy, glossy appearance on occasion. If you need to prune your plant, use sterilized garden shears and wear gloves!
    Since Orbifolia’s round leaves can get large in size, we do recommend wiping them with a wet cloth to remove any settled dust and rejuvenate the glow. 

    How to Propagate Calathea Orbifolia By Division

    Unlike other houseplants, you can’t propagate calathea orbifolia through stem cuttings. They can only be propagated by rhizome division similar to Elephant Ear/Alocasia plants. The best time to propagate is while repotting and during its active growing season so the plant has best chance at recovery.
    When you’re ready, follow these propagation steps:

    01

    Softly remove the plant from the pot and detangle the root ball. 

    02

    Using sterilized gardening shears, make a shoot cutting off of the mother plant. You want to make sure that the cutting has roots, stem and leaves (like a mini plant’).

    03

    Plant your new cutting in a pot with drainage holes and fresh well-draining potting mix. 

    04

    Deep water your new plant and keep it in a humid, warm and lower light area.

    05

    Once your plant has settled in and you start to see new growth, you can move it into a brighter area and let your plant adjust.

    When and How to Repot Calathea Orbifolia

    Calatheas shouldn’t be repotted frequently as they are sensitive to environmental changes and prefer to be rootbound. On average, you should repot your calathea every two to three years.
    You’ll know you need to repot when you see roots coming out of the drainage hole of your pot. If you’re seeing stunted or slow growth, these are also symptoms your plant doesn’t have the space it needs to breathe. 
    When you’re ready to repot, follow these steps:

    01

    Prepare a new, larger container than your last. Generally 2 inches bigger.

    02

    Wearing gloves, fill your new container with calathea orbifolia-friendly soil mix recommended above. You want to fill it up to roughly ⅓ of the pot. 

    03

    Gently remove your old plant and softly release the root ball and the rest of the soil.

    04

    Now is a good time to inspect the roots and do some root pruning. If you see any dead or mushy roots (sign of root rot), trim them with sterilized garden shears. 

    05

    Place your plant in the new container and backfill with soil. Deep water your plant to allow it to settle into its new environment.

    Common Calathea Orbifolia Pests and Disease

    Calatheas love warm and damp climates, making them susceptible to common pest attacks and fungal diseases. Improper watering is the most common reason plant parents have issues with Calatheas. Improper watering can cause leaves to droop, turn yellow or brown, and cause leaf spot, and root rot. Orbifolias can attract thrips, aphids, spider mites, and mealybugs.
    Below, we’ll cover how you can identify and treat these common issues.

    Calathea is Drooping

    Calatheas droop when they don’t receive enough water or air moisture. Check to make sure your humidity is high enough. This may also be a sign of dropping temperatures. Make sure to keep your calathea away from cold drafts that can come from exterior doors and windows and air conditioners. 
    If your soil is consistently dry, drooping leaves can be a sign of underwatering. Your leaves might also start to have brown, crispy edges. In this case, make sure you’re giving your calathea enough water and increase your watering frequency.

    Calathea Leaves Are Turning Yellow

    Yellow leaves are a sign of overwatering your calathea. Your soil is either soggy, waterlogged or too moist. You will want to adjust your watering schedule and ensure the topsoil is dry in between waterings. We recommend that you plant your calathea in well-draining soil supplemented with coco coir, peat, or perlite. 
    Calathea orbifolia with brown leaf edges.
    Image Source:Photo by Firn on GettyImagesCrispy brown leaf edges are usually a sign of lack of moisture or underwatering. Make sure to keep the soil consistently lightly moist.

    Calathea Leaves Have Brown Spots

    If you are seeing your leaves develop brown crispy edges rather than spots, this is a sign that your environment is too dry (low humidity) and that your plant isn’t receiving enough water. We recommend making sure you’re following the appropriate watering schedule and keeping soil lightly moist between waterings (only letting topsoil dry).
    You can also increase humidity around your plant by grouping them with other plants or placing it on top of a tray filled with pebbles and water. 
    Another common cause of brown spots is fungal leaf spot disease. In this case, you’ll see spots that have a yellow halo surrounding them in uniform size. Sometimes these spots can grow and merge into what are called “blights”. This is often caused by having too much moisture on your plant leaves. If you’re misting, we recommend you stop misting the plant as water that’s left on the leaves creates an attractive environment for fungus. 
    To treat, we recommend you prune and trim diseased leaves and spray with a fungicide like neem oil or baking soda (1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon of liquid, non-detergent soap, and 1 gallon of water). Ensure that you have good air circulation and don’t mist your calathea frequently. 

    Root Rot

    If this is your first time experiencing root rot, read our full guide on root rot.
    Root rot is a common issue with most houseplants including Calathea Orbifolia. It’s usually caused by moist or waterlogged soil for prolonged periods. Symptoms can include rapidly yellowing leaves, stunted growth, and a rotten brown base. If you see these symptoms, here’s how to treat root rot.

    01

    Remove the plant from the pot and gently remove the soil so you can see the root system. Clean off the roots with sterile water.

    02

    If the roots are brown and mushy, you must take action immediately.

    03

    Take sterilized scissors and trim any mushy roots.

    04

    You can use a diluted hydrogen peroxide solution to disinfect the roots.

    05

    Once cleaned up, repot your plant in fresh houseplant soil mix.

    Fungus Gnats

    Fungus gnats are tiny fruit-fly-sized insects that infest moist soil, potting mix, and other mediums. They are gray to black-gray in appearance and their long legs and antennae can give them a mosquito like appearance. Because Calatheas love humid environments and moist soil, they can be particularly susceptible to fungus gnat infestations. Although harmless to humans, fungus gnats love to feed on the plants’ thin roots. 
    How to spot fungus gnat infestation on my calathea orbifolia?
    You’ll find them primarily on the surface of your potting soil. In an early infestation, fungus gnats are unlikely to do much damage. But because fungus gnats reproduce rapidly, laying up to hundreds of eggs on the soil surface, what was once a small infestation can turn into a severe infestation fairly quickly. Symptoms of a fungus gnat infestation include stunted growth, and yellow, or dropping leaves.The best way to rid of fungus gnats is to use sticky card traps, cider-vinegar traps, or flypaper. These are similar methods to contain fruit flies. 

    Spider Mites

    Spider mites are ectoparasitic arthropods that feed on plants. They prefer hot weather along with dry conditions, and they feed on a wide range of plants. Depending on the species, spider mites can be red, yellow, or orange. They are tiny, but they can be seen with the naked eye.
    Spider mites attack plants through their leaves, sucking the nutrients out of them. They leave stalks behind as they feed. While feeding, spider mites create webbing, and drain the life from plants causing leaves on infested plants to turn yellow and brown. They can cover and kill an entire plant if left uncontrolled in your garden within a week or two.
    If this is your first time managing spider mites, read our in-depth guide on how to get rid of spider mites on indoor plants.
    How to spot a spider mite infestation on my Calathea orbifolia?
    Spider mite damage is different from that of cutting insects. There won’t be a hole in a leaf, but rather large discolored areas made up of tiny dots or stippling. You may notice that your plant leaves are covered in a web-like substance as previously stated or you may notice small specks on the leaves, or if the infestation has gone further you might see leaves or whole portions of your plant start to curl and wither.

    FAQs on Calathea Orbifolia


    Can calathea orbifolia grow in low light?
    Although it prefers bright, indirect light for at least 6-8 hours, calatheas are tolerant of lower light conditions. However, in low light, their beautiful patterned foliage will start to fade.
    How often does Calathea orbifolia need water?
    Calathea orbifolia likes consistently moist soil that’s not waterlogged. We recommend you allow topsoil to dry in between waterings. During the active growing season in spring to summer, you could roughly water 1-2x a week.
    How do you propagate calathea orbifolia?
    You can propagate calathea orbifolia through division of the rhizome. You can’t propagate via stem cuttings.
    Where do I put calathea orbifolia?
    We recommend you place your calathea where it’s able to receive at least 6-8 hours of bright, indirect light. You can place them a few feet away from south-facing windows or near west or east-facing windows which receive sunlight for part of the day. Avoid north-facing windows as they receive the least light.

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