Calatheas are a genus of tropical plants native to Central and South America. These plants are known for their striking leaves which feature brightly colored stripes and patches. With proper care, you can expect the plant to grow reasonably fast and reach up to 2 feet in size.
Calatheas display a fascinating phenomenon called nyctinasty. This means
they move their leaves from day to night as a part of their circadian rhythm. They get their
nickname “prayer plant” from this phenomenon because their leaves open during the day and fold up at night like praying hands. The Calathea is known for having ornately patterned leaves that tend to look unnatural or painted on.
Historically, the plant has had practical uses as well. Narrow leaves were used to weave baskets, while wider leaf varieties were utilized as food wrappings.
The Calathea plant thrives in locations that receive low to medium, indirect light.
Low-light replicates the Calathea’s natural tropical environment where canopies create
large shady areas. They need some light in order to fully open their leaves during the day, but keep them out of direct sunlight, which can fade their leaf pattern.
To keep your Calathea happy and healthy, keep its soil moist but not soggy. It should never be in sitting water. If your calathea’s pot has a drip tray, fill it with a layer of pebbles to prevent the drainage holes from soaking up excess water.
The amount of water a Calathea needs will depend on how much sunlight it receives and the temperature of its environment. More light and higher temperatures will require more frequent watering. A good rule of thumb is to water the plant when the top inch or two of the soil becomes dry. Yellowing leaves or a black base are signs of overwatering, while wilting or curling leaves are signs of dehydration.
In order to replicate its tropical homeland, Calatheas need warm to high temperatures
ranging from 60 – 85 degrees fahrenheit. Make sure it is never exposed to temperatures
lower than 59 degrees fahrenheit.
When it comes to humidity, it is almost impossible to have too much. Since they enjoy high humidity, your Calathea would be happy in a bright bathroom. The steam from your shower will provide the humidity it craves. Alternatively, placing your calathea among other plants, in a greenhouse, or near a humidifier will simulate the tropical environment it prefers. Small Calatheas would also thrive in a well-maintained bottle garden or terrarium.
Choose a well-draining potting soil for your Calathea. The potting soil should have
ingredients such as compost, pine bark, worm castings, perlite, and
coco coir. These ingredients provide the perfect balance between moisture and drainage while providing your calathea with the nutrients it needs to grow.
Most calathea varieties are non-toxic to pets and humans, making them an ideal houseplant for people who have young children, cats, or dogs.