How to Grow and Care For Calatheas
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Are you looking to grow your houseplant collection? If so, the calatheas will be a perfect addition to your home if you don't already have one. Belonging to the prayer plant family, the Calatheas are perhaps one of the most beautiful and stunning creations you can house inside bearing lush, tropical foliage.
Calatheas, also commonly known as marantas, are part of the Marantaceae family with more than 300 species of plants that thrive in warm and humid environments and USDA hardiness zones 8-12 when grown outdoors. Because of these requirements, they are oftentimes grown indoors as beautiful centerpieces.
Calatheas come in different shapes and sizes with foliage that varies in patterns from dark green to lime green to white and even pink and purple. They also carry varied and eye-catching undersides of deeper green and purple colors. Most Calatheas have the incredible ability to open during the day and fold up as if in prayer at night, hence the prayer plant nickname.
If you have furry friends at home, the good news is that calatheas are pet-friendly plants!
Calathea Care Guide
Unlike other tropical plants, the Calatheas might be challenging to grow and keep alive as a houseplant. They need more perseverance and attention than average indoor plants do. For example, plants are picky about humidity levels and water quality, and they are commonly over-fertilized.
Tip 1: Water consistently
Calatheas require a consistent watering schedule, especially during their growing season from spring to early fall. However, you’ll want to let the topsoil dry between waterings. Allowing too much water to accumulate can lead to root rot and fungal diseases such as leaf spots.
It's important to plant your calathea in well-draining, loamy soil and in a pot with a drainage hole at the bottom so excess water can leave the soil.
If your calathea leaves are curling or wilting, it’s likely a sign that you are underwatering. Make sure to water regularly, but do let the topsoil dry.
Can you water Calatheas with tap water?
Watering with tap water can cause a salt and chemical build up in the soil. Calatheas in particular are sensitive to fluoride which is found in water. You’ll want to use distilled or rainwater. If you’re unable to, you should flush the soil out with distilled water or rainwater regularly and make sure you replenish with fertilizer.
Can I water calatheas everyday?
We do not recommend watering calatheas everyday. They love consistently moist soil, but you should let the topsoil dryout between waterings to preven troot rot.
Tip 2: Place in Bright Indirect Sunlight
Native to the tropics and countries like Brazil, Calatheas love bright indirect light to medium light. In fact, most calatheas require a good 6-8hrs of bright light in order to grow rapidly and healthy. The most ideal placement indoors is a south-facing window that receives the most direct light throughout the day. You can also place them near west or east-facing windows that receive bright sun for half of the day. Avoid placing near north-facing windows as they receive the least amount of sunlight.
Avoid direct sunlight as that can cause calathea leaves to scorch and turn crispy brown. On the other hand, if they aren’t given enough light, they can lose their beautiful leaf colors.
You can also use artificial grow lights if your space doesn’t receive enough light. If you’re using artificial light to grow, make sure you’re not going over a 16-hour limit.
How many hours of light do calatheas need?
Calathea plants need 6-8 hours or more of bright, diffused light a day. Place them near south-facing windows for optimal light conditions.
Does Calathea need sunlight?
Yes calatheas need lots of bright indirect light for healthy and fast growth! Avoid direct sun as that can burn the leaves.
Can you place calatheas next to windows?
Although calatheas love bright, diffused light, overexposure to direct sunlight such as next to a south-facing window can cause their leaves to scorch. If placing near a south-facing window, we recommend placing a few feet away. You can place closer to the window when planting near west or east facing windows.
Tip 3: Grow in Warm Temperature and Humidity
Being tropical plants, calatheas prefer to grow in warm and high humidity environments. The most ideal temperature range for Calatheas is between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit similar to their native habitat. Try not to let the temperature go below 60 degrees Fahrenheit as they are not frost tolerant plants.
They also love moderate to high humidity. We recommend having a small humidifier, grouping tropical houseplants together, or placing your plant on top of a pebble tray with water. You can also place your plants in a commonly humid part of the house like the kitchen, laundry room, or bathroom. Make sure these spaces have enough light!
Should I mist my calathea?
You can mist calatheas, but we recommend being cautious because accumulation of water on leaves can lead to fungal disease such as leaf spot.
Tip 4: Use Well-draining Soil
Although calatheas love moist, slightly acidic potting soil, they are susceptible to root rot and fungal diseases if their soil becomes soggy and waterlogged. It’s best to plant calatheas in a well-draining and aerated potting mix that’s rich in peat and organic matter that will retain nutrition. Most commercial houseplant mixes will work, but you can supplement with sand, perlite, or vermiculite to encourage drainage and prevent “wet feet”.
Is Calathea acid loving?
Calatheas prefer slightly acidic soil with pH of around 6.5
Do Calatheas need perlite?
Calatheas prefer well aerated draining soil. You can supplement with orchid bark or perlite to encourage drainage.
Tip 5: Fertilize during growing season
Calatheas like other houseplants love fertilizer during their active growing season from late spring to early fall to support their foliage growth. You can use a balanced houseplant fertilizer with equal NPK (Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium) ratios. Slow-release or liquid fertilizers will work well. If you prefer more natural fertilizer, you can add compost tea, liquid kelp, or a fish emulsion.
When in doubt, don’t fertilize. Over-fertilization is a common problem with calatheas and can cause root burn which stunts growth.
What is the best fertilizer for calatheas?
Best fertilizer for calatheas is one higher in nitrogen than phosphorus and potassium. A ratio of 3-1-2 (NPK) will work well, but a balanced fertilizer will also do.
Are coffee grounds good for calatheas?
Coffee grounds are high in nitrogen which can be beneficial in supporting foliage growth of a houseplant. Coffee grounds are also acidic and calatheas like slightly acidic soil. However, we don’t recommend placing coffee grounds on the soil directly due to their acidic nature which can cause root burn leading to wilting. Instead, let coffee grounds sit in water for a few days and mix this with water the next time you water your calatheas.
Tip 6: Pruning and Maintenance
If you’d like to encourage a bushier or fuller appearance for your calathea, regular pruning will do that. You will want to use sterilized gardening shears and snip off any damaged, yellow, or wilted growth. For leaves that have partial damage (part brown or yellow), it is ok to prune off a leaf edge and you don’t have to snip off the entire leaf.
Should I cut dead leaves off of a calathea?
Yes, calatheas like a regular pruning especially if you’re removing dead foliage.
Should I cut off brown leaf tips?
Yes, we recommend trimming leaves. You don’t have to cut them all off as they’ll continue to grow.
How do you encourage new leaves to grow on a Calathea?
You can cut the leaves at the bottom of the stem to encourage new growth in your Calathea.
How to Repot Calatheas
Calatheas grow fairly quickly but it's recommended that you repot every year to two years to replenish the nutrients in the soil. Calathea roots can be sensitive to changes in the environment, so you want to avoid repotting unless absolutely necessary. Repot when completely rootbound. If you see roots coming out of the bottom of the drainage hole and your calathea is showing stunted growth, it's time to repot!
When should I repot my calathea?
You should repot once every one to two years to replenish the soil and its nutrients.
Should I mist my calathea after repotting?
You can mist the calathea after repotting to help it adjust to its new environment. Be cautious of allowing water to build up on the leaves which can lead to fungal disease.
Should I water my calathea after repotting?
Yes, you’ll want to water your calathea after you’ve repotted.
Steps to Repot Your Calathea:
Pick a container that’s 2” wider in diameter to allow space for your calathea to grow.
Gently remove your calathea from its original container and softly loosen up the root ball.
Inspect your roots closely for dead, brown or mushy roots which are a sign of root rot.
Using sterilized garden shears, trim away dead roots.
Fill your new container with well-draining, nutrient-dense soil with perlite.
Place your calathea in your new container and backfill with soil.
Make sure to water your calathea afterwards to let it settle into its new environment.
Common Calathea Pests and Disease
Calatheas are most vulnerable to diseases caused by improper light or water conditions such as root rot, leaf drop, leaves turning yellow or crispy brown, fungal leaf spot, etc.
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 <<PLANT NAME HER>>. It’s usually caused by moist or waterlogged soil for prolonged periods of time. Symptoms can include rapidly yellowing leaves, stunted growth, and a rotten brown base. If you’re seeing these symptoms, here’s how to treat root rot.
- Remove the plant from the pot and gently remove the soil so you can see the root system.
- If the roots are brown and mushy, you must take action immediately.
- Clean off the roots with sterile water.
- Take sterilized scissors and trim any mushy roots.
- You can use a diluted hydrogen peroxide solution to disinfect the roots.
- Once cleaned up, repot your plant in fresh houseplant soil mix.
Why are my calathea leaves turning yellow?
If your Calathea leaves turn yellow, it’s a sign of overwatering. Let the first inch or two of topsoil dry between waterings.
Why are my calathea leaves turning brown?
This is usually a sign of underwatering, especially if leaf edges are turning crispy and brown. You may also see your calathea leaves start to curl inwards. Ensure you water consistently and pot your plant in nutrient-dense, well-draining soil with perlite.
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?
You’ll find them primarily on the surface of your potted 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 are ectoparasitic arthropods that feed on plants. They prefer hot weather along with dry conditions, and they feed on a wide range of plants. Spider mites can be red, yellow or orange, depending on the species. 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 infected plants to turn yellow and brown. They can cover and kill an entire plant within a week or two if left uncontrolled in your garden.
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?
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.
How do I get rid of spider mites on my Calathea?
To treat spider mites, quarantine your plant to prevent spread. You can wash your plant with water to clear our some of the infestation initially and then use insecticidal soap or neem oil to spray your plant and wipe off spider mites. Repeat this process daily until the infestation is gone.
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