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There’s no way around it—calatheas have a bit of an attitude and can be tricky plants, but the payoff of their beautiful foliage is well worth it! In this post, I’ll review a complete guide to calathea care as well as calathea propagation.
Calatheas are native to parts of South America. They are a genus known for their particularly showy foliage, ranging from deep greens to light greens to purples to pinks to white, all in different shapes, sizes, and patterns for each species.
Where Can I Buy a Calathea?
You can easily find many different species of calathea to purchase on Etsy! Check out this awesome rattlesnake calathea (one of my favorite species!) from one of my favorite Etsy shops.
What is the difference between Calatheas and Marantas?
Sometimes, “calathea” and “maranta” are used interchangeably, and the nickname prayer plant is used for calatheas. On certain species, the leaves of calatheas and marantas look similar. However, they ARE different plants.
“Prayer plant” is another name for maranta plants—not calatheas. Calatheas and marantas are under different genera but both a part of the Marantaceae family.
Do Calatheas need sunlight?
Whether it comes from grow lights or natural sunlight, yes, calatheas do need some light. Calatheas’ ideal lighting requirement is medium to bright, indirect light. Do not put them in direct sun which can burn the leaves.
While these plants are tricky, one easy part of calathea care that draws so many people in is that they also make great low-light plants. Just keep in mind they won’t grow as fast in lower light. Lighter varieties need more light, as is typical with most houseplants.
For more help determining the light levels in your home, check out my easy guide to natural light for indoor plants.
How often should you water a Calathea?
You should water your calathea when the top two-or-so inches of the soil is dry. How often that is depends on other factors like how much light the plant receives or the time of year. Plants need less water in lower light, and also in the winter when they’re not actively growing.
Calatheas like to remain somewhat moist. Do not let them sit in a sopping-wet pot, but don’t let them completely dry out. The leaves may start to curl when the plant is too dry.
It’s important to note calatheas are finicky in that it’s best to water them using distilled water, filtered water, or rainwater. (This goes for providing humidity, too!)
For more helpful tips for watering your houseplants, check out this post.
Should I mist my Calathea?
Yes! Calatheas love humidity and misting is one way to provide this. If you choose to mist, mist your calathea in the morning. Letting water sit on the plant and its potting mix overnight can cause fungus.
There are other methods of providing humidity for your plants, like using a pebble tray or a humidifier. I go over more methods like these in my post on how to create humidity for houseplants.
Why are the leaves on my Calathea turning brown?
Brown leaf tips are a common problem with calatheas. Usually, this indicates the plant isn’t getting enough humidity. It can also indicate you are watering your plant inconsistently (letting it dry out or overwatering it.) Brown leaf tips are another sign of this plant’s high-maintenance attitude!
Since calatheas like to remain moist, but not wet, they’ll need a potting mix that holds some moisture but is also well draining. A mix such as two-parts indoor plant potting soil and one-part perlite will work fine (although I tend to just eyeball this!).
You can fertilize your calathea using a general indoor plant fertilizer. Fertilize once a month during the growing season (spring and summer).
Calatheas do not like to be rootbound, so repot your calathea every one to two years depending on its growth rate.
You can confirm if a plant is rootbound by checking if roots are coming out of the drainage holes, checking for sad-looking or stunted growth, and slipping the plant out of its pot and checking if the roots are all heavily coiled around the outside of the soil.
Choose a pot that’s the next size up from its current pot and has drainage holes. It’s best to repot in the spring or summer, if possible.
Remove any dead or dying leaves from your calathea once they can be gently plucked away from the plant.
If your calathea has brown tips—this is a common, but yes, annoying, part of calathea care—there’s no need to remove the entire leaf. You can trim off the tips using a sterilized pair of scissors or pruning shears.
Propagating a Calathea
The best way to propagate calatheas is through division of a mature plant. This means you’re separating one or more parts of the plant from the original plant.
To do this, simply remove the plant from the pot and identify a piece of the plant that has a separate root system. The roots should be decently developed, not baby roots, and each piece you plan to divide should have at least one leaf on it. Use your fingers to, very gently, separate the roots of each part.
If the roots are too tangled and you absolutely cannot untangle them by hand, use a clean, sharp knife or scissors to cut them away from each other, but try to keep as much of the root system intact as possible.
Plant the part you have separated into an appropriately-sized pot that fits the plant, using the same potting mixture you used for the original plant to help it adjust. Water it thoroughly.
Keep your new plant in the same light level as the original plant, as long as it’s not too bright. Keep it moist (same as you normally would), and help your new plant along by providing it with high humidity. The newly separated plant should start to show growth in a few weeks.
Note that it’s best to divide your plant in the spring or summer if you can help it, and even better to just do this at the same time you repot your plant so as to not cause unnecessary stress.
Are Calatheas Toxic to Cats and Dogs?
Calatheas are non-toxic to cats and dogs, but keep in mind it’s best practice to keep all of your plants out of your furry friends’ reach.