Honestly, The Calathea is a bit of a Drama Queen. Many of us have a love hate relationship with the Calathea group. The Marantaceae family has over 500 species including the Calathea gang. The Calathea is native to Brazil where their foliage is used for food transporting and basket weaving. No one knows how many different types of Calathea there actually are. Some have suggested over 40 different types. I am sure there are plenty more in Brazil that we haven’t even discovered yet!
It’s undeniable, the foliage of any Calathea is out of this world beautiful. Candice the Calathea Warscewiczii is a perfect example. She can grow up to a metre high and her foliage is stunning. These houseplants are usually the first to grab our attention when we are on the lookout for plants.
When thinking about adding a Calathea to your plant collection, you may have thought to yourself ‘this plant looks so beautiful but I have no idea how to take care of it’. It’s true, they can be off putting for houseplant beginners because the foliage looks so complicated. Many of us worry that we’re going to kill such a beautiful plant.
The Calathea group is a fussy bunch. They will not hesitate to throw a tantrum, when they are not getting the proper care. Similar to toddlers when they are upset.
It will take a bit of time getting to know the best possible care for your Calathea. This could include a bit of trial and error. Once your Calathea is happy, they are definitely worth having in your home.
Basic care is important for many houseplants, and the Calathea group need an extra bit of love and attention. Here are some helpful tips to help you care for the Calathea in your home. Keep in mind every home environment is different. These specific care tips for the fussy Calathea will go a long way in caring for your plant.
Delicate leaves will burn in bright light
Picking the right light is crucial. Any bright direct sunlight will burn and damage its stunning foliage. Many people choose a spot away from any big windows. You want to create the lighting of a jungle. Filtered light is perfect for this. If you have blinds or shutters on your windows, this can be great for letting in a good amount of light. Through experience, the Calathea can be happy in low/medium light. Think Jungle!
Ollie the Calathea Orbifolia is a fast growing Calathea, place him in the perfect light and he will thank you for it.
Is this water right?
The Calathea is very unforgiving when it comes watering. They are less likely to bounce back from improper watering like a Pothos. Tap water contains a lot of harsh chemicals and salts that fussy houseplants will react very badly to. This can cause spotting or burn looking marks on your Calathea.
It is highly recommended to use rainwater for watering and humidity purposes. If you live in a rainy climate, such as England, collecting rainwater is easy. If you live in a dry climate, use filtered water when possible.
Why is my Calathea getting brown edges?
From my plant care experience, I would say this is the number one problem that I face with my own Calathea gang. It is possible that brown edges are a sign of either improper watering, burnt leaves from the sun or too much fertiliser. However, the most common reason for brown edges is humidity stress. The Calathea group is hugely fussy when it comes to humidity.
These houseplants will have no problem telling you that the air is too dry. Unfortunately, just misting your Calathea will not cut it in terms of humidity.
Fixing the humidity in our homes can be helped in many ways. Depending on your own home environment, the solution could vary.
Firstly, if you can, group your Calathea houseplants together. This will help raise the moisture in the air around the plants. You can also use a humidifier and pebble tray for extra humidity.
Another way to raise humidity in your home is by placing cups or vases of water around your Calathea. The water will help keep the air around the Calathea moist.
Furthermore, drying your laundry in the same room as your Calathea can actually increase the humidity levels by 10%!
The Calathea is an ideal bathroom plant. They will love the moisture that comes from a hot shower. This environment is very similar to their natural habitat.
Why are the leaves curling?
The curling leaves are usually a sign that your Calathea needs more watering (unless this is a new leaf that is a tube and starting to uncurl). As I mentioned before, this group of houseplants is unforgiving when it comes to the right type of water and the right amount of water. In the summer months, the Calathea may need to be watered twice a week. You will notice the top soil getting dry very quickly in the warmer weather. Unfortunately, if the Calathea is not getting enough water the leaf will curl up and may die off. Talk about a dramatic exit.
In the summer, keep feeling the soil for moisture. If the first few inches of soil is dry, it's time for a small drink. To my surprise, the Calathea group is a thirsty bunch and will let you know when it needs watering. These guys are not drought tolerant and are less likely to bounce back once the damage has been done. It might sound like a lot of work, but the beauty of a Calathea is worth it.
Did you know?
The Calathea is also well known as the Prayer plant. The name comes from its leaves which move up and down throughout the day. They move outward during the day and stand up tall during the night. It has been said they do this to get optimal sunlight throughout the day.
Take Catherine (the Calathea Medallion) here, she is certainly popular amongst houseplants owners. People love her unique patterned leaves. This is definitely a plant you’ll want to keep away from any bright light. Protect that foliage!
Calatheas are a work of art. There is no doubt they can be fussy, but once they receive the right care, they will add so much beauty and style to your home. With over 40 different colours, shapes and sizes, it will be easy to find one to fall in love with.