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    Ultimate Rattlesnake Plant Care Guide

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    Top level view of Rattlesnake plant foliage.

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    If you have a love for all things unusual or exotic, you may find yourself drawn to the world of indoor house plants. While most people tend to shy away from these types of plants due to their perceived difficulty in care, the truth is that they can be just as easy to maintain as any other plant if you know what you’re doing. 
    One of the more unusual house plants that you can add to your home is rattlesnake plant. The rattlesnake plant isn’t actually related to rattlesnakes at all, but rather it gets its name from the appearance of its leaves. The veins along the leaves look like fangs and give it its unique appearance. 
    If you’re interested in caring for a rattlesnake plant of your own, read on for more information!

    What is a Rattlesnake Plant?

    The Rattlesnake plant is a tropical perennial native to Brazil and part of the Marantaceae family. Although often times confused with prayer plants (Maranta spp.), Rattlesnake is a Calathea (now Goeppertia) and a completely different genus of plants. The Rattlesnake plant gets its name from its patterned foliage which bears tear drop-like spotted leaves with deep, purple undersides.
    Growing under the canopies of tropical rainforests, the Rattlesnake plant prefers dappled sunlight, moist and warm environments, and fertile soil. Although they rarely bloom indoors, in the wild, they produce bright, orange-yellow flowers from late spring into early summer. 
    Like other calatheas, the rattlesnake plant’s leaves also move up and down depending on the time of the day. 
    Rattlesnake plants are an unusual variety of calathea plants that make for great centerpieces or additions to your office desk or windowshelf. 

    Rattlesnake Plant Care Guide

    Goeppertia insignis (formerly Calathea lancifolia)
    Rattlesnake Calathea, Rattlesnake Plant, Prayer Plant, Calathea insignis
    Marantaceae
    Intermediate
    Tropical perennial foliage
    Moderate
    Balanced houseplant fertilizer every month during growing season in spring and summer.
    Partial shade or indirect sunlight
    Moderate water needs. Keep soil slightly moist.
    Nutrient-rich, well-draining soil (perlite) | Acidic to Neutral
    By division
    Ideally 65-85 degrees Fahrenheit
    East, West or North facing windows. They don’t require direct sunlight.
    11b, 12a, 12b
    Not toxic to dogs and cats
    Calathea Orbifolia, Peacock Plant (Geoppertia makoyana), Zebra Calathea, Calathea Medallion, Calathea Ornata
    Botanical Name
    Common Name
    Family
    Difficulty
    Plant Type
    Growth Rate
    Fertilizer
    Sun Exposure
    Water
    Soil Type & Soil pH
    Propagate
    Temperature
    Window Locations (Ideal)
    USDA Hardiness Zones
    Toxicity
    Where to Buy
    Other Calatheas
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    How to Care For Rattlesnake Plant

    Like most other Calatheas (now known as Goeppertias), Rattlesnake plants can be finicky when it comes to their care needs. They aren’t always the best plant for beginners because their water and light care can be tough to get correctly.
    Since they are tropical plants, they prefer high humidity environments and consistently moist soil, yet soil that’s not overly waterlogged. They thrive best in bright, indirect light similar to the dappled light and shade of the tropical rainforests. This delicate combination of light, humidity, and watering needs can make Rattlesnake plants susceptible to fungal diseases and root rot.
    It’s a must to get the balance of these factors right, which is why we’re going to cover how you can find that balance below!

    Growing Outdoors

    Rattlesnake plants can grow year round in USDA hardiness zones 11b, 12a, and 12b. These zones include the likes of Hawaii, southern Florida, and Puerto Rico since these regions have tropical climates, warm weather, and a generous amount of rain. 
    If you’re opting to grow your Rattlesnake plant outdoors, we recommend you plant it in a container if you’re growing outside of the hardiness zones we specified above. This will allow you to overwinter your plant when the temperature drops below a certain threshold. 
    When growing outdoors, find a spot that gets partial sun and partial shade avoiding overexposure to direct sunlight especially during the hot, summer months. 
    Depending on the season, you’ll want to regulate your watering outdoors. In the summer, you’ll water more regularly since the heat evaporates water quickly. In the winter months, you’ll want to reduce your watering schedule.

    💧 Water

    Rattlesnake plants, like other Calatheas, prefer consistently but slightly moist soil. As a general rule of thumb, if you want to be cautious about overwatering, you can let your topsoil dry in between waterings.
    During the summer months, when the temperatures are warmer, you’ll want to increase your watering. During the dormant, cooler winter months, reduce watering to prevent waterlogged and soggy soils.
    Overwatering can lead your rattlesnake plant to be susceptible to fungal diseases, root rot, and invite unfriendly pests. 
    Pro Tip Icon
    Avoid using tapwater!
    Make sure to use distilled water or rain water especially for calatheas like rattlesnake plant. Fluoride and other minerals found in tap water can build up and cause root burn and stunted growth in your plant.
    If you notice your plant leaves curling or turning brown, this is a sign of underwatering. On the other hand, if your plant leaves are yellow, this is a sign of overwatering.
    Potting your rattlesnake plant in the right soil is also key to prevent waterlogged soils. Ensure that you plant in well-draining soil and in a container with drainage holes.

    ☀️ Sunlight

    Rattlesnake plants thrive best in bright, indirect sunlight for 4-6 hours a day. You’ll want to avoid overexposing to direct sunlight since that can scorch the leaves.
    Although the Rattlesnake plant can tolerate lower light conditions, if it’s not getting enough light, its leaf pattern can start to fade. 
    If growing indoors, consider placing either a few feet away from a South-facing window (to avoid direct sunlight) or place near an East-facing window that receives morning sunlight or West-facing window that receives afternoon sunlight. 
    Avoid prolonged exposure to direct sun as that can cause your leaves to burn.

    🌡️ Temperature and Humidity

    Rattlesnake plant is a tropical plant that grows in warm and humid environments. Most ideal temperatures for your Rattlesnake plant are at least 65 degrees to 85 degrees Fahrenheit so most ambient room temperatures will do. If your room temperatures start to drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, we recommend monitoring your rattlesnake plant.
    You will want to ensure high humidity levels in your home for your rattlesnake plant to have healthy growth. If your space has dry air, you can increase your humidity levels by using a small humidifier or by grouping your tropical plants together. You can also consider placing a pebble tray filled with water near your plants. 
    Because of their humidity requirements, Rattlesnake plants make for great options for large terrariums or in greenhouses.
    Alternatively, you can also grow your Rattlesnake plant in areas that are naturally humid in your home like the bathroom, kitchen, or laundry room.
    Pro Tip Icon
    Avoid exterior doors, windows, and air conditioners!
    Avoid drastic temperature changes and avoid exterior doors, windows, and air conditioners.

    🌱 Best Soil for Rattlesnake Plant

    The best potting soil for your Rattlesnake plant will include on that is well-draining. Most commercial houseplant potting soil will do, but you can always amend with perlite, vermiculite, or other gritty substances to encourage proper drainage.
    Since Rattlesnake plants also prefer slightly acidic soils, you can amend with peat moss to increase acidity, moisture retention, but keep the soil airy and light.
    Always make sure to pot in a container with drainage holes to avoid soggy soils.

    🌻 Fertilizer

    We recommend you use an organic, balanced houseplant fertilizer once a month during its growing season in the spring and summertime. 
    Fertilizer isn’t a required option for this plant, but we do recommend replenishing your soil nutrition especially if you’ve had your rattlesnake plant for a while.

    😎 Pruning and Maintenance

    Rattlesnake plants are moderate growers, but don’t need a lot of pruning and maintenance. If you want to encourage new growth or a bushier appearance, you can prune every once in a while. The most ideal times to prune are during the growing season in the spring and summer so your plant can recover quickly.
    Since Rattlesnake plant’s leaves can get quite long and collect dust, we do recommend you wipe them with a damp cloth every once in a while as part of regular maintenance.

    How to Propagate Rattlesnake Plant

    The most common way to propagate a Rattlesnake plant is by division or separating a new plant from a mature plant. To do this, you’ll need to remove your Rattlesnake plant from its pot, shake off the soil and undo the root ball. 
    You’ll then want to inspect and identify a piece of the plant that has a separate root system where you can make an easy division. 
    You can then separate at this spot potentially using a sterilized knife or scissors to help. Plant your new plant in a fresh potting mix in a new container and deep water your plant. Follow a proper care schedule and your new plant will start to develop over a couple of weeks.
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    How to Repot Rattlesnake Plants

    You won’t need to repot your Rattlesnake plant frequently – we recommend every one to two years once your plant’s roots become pot bound. If you start to see roots climbing out of the drainage hole in the pot, it’s a sign to repot. Repotting is also a great time to consider propagating yoru Rattlesnake plant by division.
    It’s also important to refresh your soil and the nutrients in it every couple of years especially if you aren’t using fertilizer to supplement your plant’s macronutrient needs.
    If you’re ready to repot, just follow these steps:
    • Prepare garden gloves and a new pot at least 2 inches wider in diamated.
    • Remove your plant and softly shake off any remaining soil. Unbundle the root ball and inspect the roots.
    • You’ll want to lookout for mushy, black or brown roots as this is a sign of root rot. If you see this, act immediately by using sterilized shears to trim these roots off.
    • Prepare your new container and fill it up with fresh, well-draining potting mix.
    • Place your plant into a new pot and backfill with soil.
    • Water deeply to allow your plant to settle in and follow proper care.

    Common Rattlesnake Plant Disease

    Close up of a Rattlesnake plant leaves with soil and terracotta pot.
    Image Source:Rattlesnake plants are finnicky to care for and are susceptible to common issues like root rot, brown leaves, etc.
    Rattlesnake plants are finicky ones to care for and encounter common issues especially with improper water and humidity care. Most often, Rattlesnake plants will develop fungal disease issues like leaf spot and root rot, etc. We’ll cover how you can solve each of these issues below.

    My Rattlesnake Plant Has Brown Leaf Tips

    If you’re seeing brown leaf tips on your Rattlesnake plant, this is a sign of dehydration. Either your air is too dry or you’re note following a proper water schedule.
    Make sure to keep your soil consistently moist. If your plant is located in a dry area, we recommend getting a humidifier, sparingly misting your plant, or placing a tray filled with pebbles and water near your plant to encourage higher humidity levels. 

    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 Rattlesnake plant. 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.
    Root Rot Treatment - Step By Step
    • 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.

    Common Rattlesnake Plant Pests

    Top level view of a rattlesnake calathea plant.
    Image Source:Rattlesnake plants can attract pests like fungus gnats, spider mites, thrips, and more.
    Like other tropical plants, Rattlesnake plants can attract a variety of houseplant pests like fungus gnats, spider mites, scale, mealybugs, and more. We’ll cover some of the more common pests, how to identify, and how to treat them below.

    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 Rattlesnake plant?
    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, 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 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 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.

    FAQs on Rattlesnake Plants


    Should you mist Rattlesnake plants?
    Yes and not. Rattlesnake plants love high humidity, but they are susceptible to fungal disease. You can mist your Rattlesnake plant to briefly increase humidity, but we recommend you use a small humidifier or a tray filled with water and pebbles instead. Too much moisture on the leaves can attract pests and fungal disease like leaf spot.
    How big can a Rattlesnake plant get?
    They can grow up to two to two and a half feet tall when grown indoors.
    Should I trim dead leaves off of my Rattlesnake?
    Yes! We recommend regular pruning of dead foliage to encourage your plant to focus its energy on healthy, active growth.
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