Calathea Care - Houseplant 101

Calathea Care 101: How to Care for a Calathea

Ruby Flora is a plant shop that promotes communication and conversation surrounding houseplants and their care. I seek to educate and inspire all the plant lovers who enter through my doors.


Scientific Name: Calathea
: Marantaceae

Common Variety Names: Beauty Star, Orbifolia, Musaica, Rattlesnake, Ornata, Vitatta, Roseoptica and more.
Nicknames: Peacock plants, zebra plants, prayer plants

You say Calathea out loud in a plant store and it may be like saying "shark!" when you're on the beach. Mentioning the plant Calathea can sometimes send shockwaves of panic through the mind of any plant lover, but in all reality they just need attentive care to live their best life. In this blog post, I'll talk about the Calathea foliage but also breakdown their main care and some tips and tricks you can do to make sure they look their best.

Calatheas offer some of the most amazing patterns on their foliage. They are seriously stunning plants that'll make you fall in love with them when you're browsing at a plant shop. They are great for adding bold color and texture to any area of your home. And bonus points for pet lovers out there, Calatheas are considered pet friendly via the ASPCA.

Calathea are sometimes nicknamed prayer plants, similar to the Maranta houseplant, they have received this nickname through their unique up and down movements, known as nyctinasty or circadian rhythm.
Definition of nyctinasty: a nastic movement (as the opening and closing of some flowers) that is associated with diurnal changes of temperature or light intensity.

Calathea Leaves up and down
The leaves move throughout the course of a day. The theory is that the movement allows the plant to best capture the sun's rays. Pretty cool if you ask me. 

Alright, let's get to the nitty gritty and the whole reason why you're actually reading this blog post, you need the deets on how to keep these dang things alive!

Calathea plants have fairly high water requirements, meaning, these plants like to be thoroughly watered often. Consistently semi-moist soil is a good way to describe their water needs but you can absolutely let them dry out for a day before watering again. I feel that bottom watering calathea's is one of the best techniques for them. Another tip I'd like to mention when it comes to these houseplants is the water you use can make a HUGE difference! Tap water contains high alkalinity, chlorine and strong minerals that can be damaging to their delicate leaves. If you're seeing brown edges on the leaves of your Calathea, that can be an indication that the water is too high in these minerals. Best practice is to water using filtered, rain or distilled water.

The ideal, picture-perfect spot for a Calathea will receive medium indirect light. Calathea can tolerate low light, but bright light will help maintain the vivid colors and patterns on the foliage. Harsh direct light can be damaging and may cause burn marks on your foliage or faded color. Do not place these plants in a south-facing window, this is too much sun for them.

Calathea Prayer Plants

YES! High humidity is a must-have for Calathea's, they will not tolerate average household humidity or low temps. The leaves will probably begin to curl inward and the edges will turn brown and dry out if they do not receive enough humidity. A humidifier is a must for these guys. 

Fertilizing can help promote new growth, can keep them looking great and perhaps even make them bloom! Follow your liquid fertilizer instructions for houseplant maintenance, usually diluted in water, to make sure you're using it correctly.

Issue: Yellowing leaves / soil never dries out
Cause: Overwatered

Issue: Thin white webbing under leaves
Cause: Pests such as spider mites seem oddly attracted to Calatheas. Treat ASAP with a homemade insecticidal soap spray

Issue: An array of oddly-colored leaf splotches
Cause: Mineral build up from tap water 

Interested in Calatheas? Browse my inventory here

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