Calathea (Prayer plant) - Expert tips
How to care for Calathea: Expert Tips for Thriving Plants
Calathea plants, also known as prayer plants, are popular indoor plants due to their unique and stunning leaves. These plants are known for their oval-shaped leaves, often patterned with intricate designs and shades of green, pink, purple, and yellow. Prayer plants are so beautiful that it's hard to miss one in a plant shop!
Calatheas are also known for being fussy, so finding the proper watering regime and the humidity level may take some time. Thus, it's perfect for someone more experienced or willing to spend some time on it.
Fun fact! Prayer plants got their nickname from the unique movement of their leaves, called nyctinasty. They fold their leaves upward (resembling praying hands) when they go to ‘sleep’ at night and open their leaves again in the morning.
Due to her human-like daily circadian rhythm, the Calathea has even been nicknamed the ‘Living Plant’. All Calatheas move their leaves to some extent, but some do it more dramatically than others. When it is really quiet, and you’re lucky, you might even hear a rustling sound when your Calathea plant moves her leaves!
Calathea care: 10 expert tips for growing it successfully
- Keep your Calathea in a spot with indirect, bright light. Avoid direct sunlight, as it can burn those beautiful leaves.
- Be careful not to overwater. Wait until half of the topsoil has dried out before watering it again. Soil should be evenly moist but not soggy.
- Keep air humidity high! You need high humidity for Calathea to look good. Think about putting a humidifier near the plant or setting it on a tray filled with water and pebbles.
- Watch out for brown leaf edges. This can tell you that your air humidity is too low or you need to change your watering schedule.
- Use a well-draining potting mix, as Calathea are prone to root rot if the soil is too moist.
- Pinch off any dead or yellowing leaves regularly to keep the plant looking healthy and encourage new growth.
- Avoid placing your Calathea near drafts or heat sources. Sudden temperature changes can cause the leaves to turn brown or yellow.
- Monitor regularly. By checking your plant regularly, you can catch any infestations early and take steps to get rid of the pests or other problems before they do too much harm.
- Avoid touching the leaves too often, as the natural oils on your skin can damage the plant's delicate leaves.
- Repot your Calathea every one to two years to give it fresh soil and encourage growth. Choose a pot slightly larger than the previous one and make sure it has drainage holes.
Calathea care tips
Despite their fussiness, Calatheas are relatively easy to care for. It is a very expressive plant that quickly makes it visually clear when she is unhappy.
Is your Calathea not uncurling her leaves anymore, or is she no longer closing her leaves at night? Then she is probably not feeling too well. Calathea follows the movements of the sun in order to absorb the correct amount of light, but when she gets too much sunlight, she closes her leaves to reduce the amount of sun she is exposed to.
Leaf curling can, however, also be temperature-related: if she gets too cold, the Calathea will close her leaves to keep herself warm. Aww, that’s actually pretty cute, isn’t it?
Light & placement
Being used to growing at the base of trees in the dense tropical rainforest, the Calathea can tolerate low lighting conditions pretty well but thrives best in filtered sunlight. Direct sunlight can permanently damage and fade her delicate leaves, so be careful not to place her too close to a sunny window. Use a sheer curtain or blind to filter and give the plant indirect light.
The Calathea likes to sit in moist – but not soggy – soil. She doesn’t like wet feet for too long, so giving her small amounts of water regularly and not too much at once is best. You can let the top layer of the soil dry out slightly between waterings, but when you stick your finger deeper into the soil, it should never come out completely dry. Too little water can make her leaves dry out and curl up.
She absorbs moisture through her big, wide leaves, so you can boost humidity by misting her leaves. Remember that the Prayer plant leaves are quite sensitive, so make sure to adjust the nozzle to the finest mist setting.
Calatheas do benefit from regular fertilisation, as it can help them thrive and keep its leaves beautiful. However, they do not require heavy fertilisation and can be sensitive to excess nutrients. Over-fertilising can also affect that beautiful leaf pattern. We suggest you use PLNTS Nutrition plant food for the best results.
You can boost your Calathea with some plant food every one or two weeks during summer. Avoid fertilising during the winter months when the plant is dormant, as it is not actively growing and does not crave any extra nutrients.
As a tropical plant, Calatheas love warm weather. Temperatures between 18 and 27°C, minimum of 16°C, are best for it. Keep your Calathea away from temperature fluctuations.
Is it safe to take it outside in the summer (Europe)?
If you keep your Calathea away from extreme temperatures and strong winds, you can take it outside during the summer. Place it on a shady terrace or patio where it can enjoy the warm summer weather. Don't forget to bring it in before the nights get chilly.
Calatheas really love high humidity. Keep the air humidity levels around 50-70%. They tolerate a minimum of 40% but may still become stressed. If the humidity in your room fluctuates, this can also stress your Calathea. Learn more about air humidity and how to raise it.
There's no doubt that we've all heard or experienced that Calathea leaf tips are turning brown. One of the most common causes is too dry air. It's especially noticeable during the winter, when homes get very dry. Try grouping plants together, using a humidifier or misting the leaves often to increase humidity in your home.
Repotting should be done at least every other spring to give it fresh soil and some new nutrients. Avoid disturbing the roots too much, and handle the plant gently to minimise stress. Our houseplant repotting guide has plenty of tips for you!
Nutrient-rich and well-draining soil is best for them. Ideally, the pH should be between 6.0 and 6.5, which is slightly acidic. It's important to avoid soil that becomes too soggy, as Calathea plants do not tolerate moist conditions and may struggle to grow in poorly draining soil. For the best results, we suggest using PLNTS organic potting soil.
Calathea plants can be propagated through several methods, including stem cuttings and dividing the plants. Keep in mind that they are sensitive to temperature fluctuations and low humidity and, thus, they do not always root easily.
Step-by-step guide propagating with stem cuttings:
- Choose a healthy, mature stem with at least one leaf on it.
- Cut the stem just below a leaf node using a clean, sharp knife or scissors.
- Remove the lower leaves from the cutting, leaving two or three leaves at the top.
- Prepare a pot with well-draining soil.
- Dip the cut end of the stem cutting into rooting powder, if desired. It promotes the growth of new roots.
- Plant the cutting in the pot, making sure that the leaf nodes are buried under the soil.
- Water the soil and cover the pot with a plastic bag or dome to create a humid environment.
- Place the pot in a warm location with bright, indirect light and water it regularly.
Step-by-step guide propagating by rootball division:
- Choose a healthy, mature Calathea plant that has become overgrown or has multiple crowns.
- Carefully remove the plant from its pot and gently separate the crowns or clumps of roots.
- Plant each crown in a separate pot filled with well-draining soil. Ensure that all roots are covered with soil.
- Water the soil,l and place the pots in a warm location with bright, indirect light. Avoid direct sunlight.
- Keep the soil moist and monitor the plants regularly to ensure they get the moisture and humidity they need.
After a few weeks, the cutting should begin to produce new roots. Once the roots are established, you can transplant the cutting to a larger pot. The best way to tell if your cutting has rooted is to gently pull it; if it feels more stable, then it probably has a root system that is well developed.
Calatheas are not known for their flowers but have unique flowers. Calathea Crocata is the only one that is known for its flowers. Other species bloom infrequently in indoor conditions.
Inflorescences with showy modified leaves (often confused for flowers) are generally hidden under foliage. Modified leaves can be coloured white, green or pinkish. Three-petalled flowers appear from between the modified leaves. They're modest and small, usually white.
To encourage flowering, you must make your plant happy and healthy. This means you need to provide it with high humidity and enough filtered natural light and feed it regularly to ensure it has enough nutrients.
Most common pests and diseases on Calathea
Calathea plants are generally resistant to pests and diseases but can be prone to a few common issues. Thrips, spider mites, and aphids are some of the most common pests that attack them and can cause yellowing and wilting.
The PLNTS Doctor helps you with that! On this page, you will find all the tips and tricks you need if your Calathea shows signs of pests.
Calatheas are a stunning and unique addition to any indoor plant collection and are sure to impress with their beautiful and vibrant foliage. One of the most popular types of Calathea is the Calathea Yellow Fusion, which is known for its colourful leaves. Other popular varieties include the Calathea Lancifolia Insigne, Calathea Warscewiczii and Calathea Makoyana. Some varieties of Calathea are known for their unique movements, with their leaves folding up at night and reopening in the morning.
Calathea frequently asked questions (FAQ)
Are prayer plants toxic to pets and children?
Calathea is a non-toxic plant, so she is the perfect match if you are into both plants and pets.
Is Calathea a good indoor plant?
Calathea, aka Prayer plant, is an excellent houseplant. Even though it's tougher to take care of, homes with high humidity are good for it. They have gorgeous foliage that fits into a wide range of interiors.
Is Calathea hard to care for?
It is easy to take care of Calatheas, they just need a high humidity level and a proper watering routine. Most homes have low air humidity (especially in winter), which causes Calathea to have leaf problems and stunted growth.
How to save a dying Calathea plant?
The first step is to figure out why it's drying. Observe your plant, examine the soil moisture and lighting conditions, check for pests or diseases, and use a hygrometer to determine the air's humidity level.
If you understand the problem, you can make a small change to the plant (such as relocating it, repotting or changing your watering schedule). Cut off all damaged leaves and give them time to recover. It may be more difficult to save it if the damage is too great and there are no healthy leaves left, but you can try repotting it and providing it with high humidity; perhaps some new leaves will appear.
Why are my Calathea leaves curling?
One possible issue is dry air, as these plants prefer high humidity. In low humidity conditions, plant leaves start to roll up to reduce transpiration, i.e. water loss. You can try misting the plant with water or using a humidifier to increase the humidity in the surrounding air.
It's also possible that the plant is being overwatered or underwatered, so be sure to pay attention to the moisture levels in the soil. Additionally, ensure that the plant gets enough indirect, bright light, but not direct sunlight, as too much sun can cause the leaves to curl (leaves are again protecting themselves).
Lastly, keep an eye out for pests such as aphids, mealybugs, and thrips, which can also cause leaf curling. By addressing these potential issues and properly caring for your Calathea plant, you should be able to resolve the problem.
Why is my Calathea turning yellow?
Overwatering is a common cause of yellowing leaves in these plants, as they are prone to root rot if kept too moist. Also, too little water can be the cause of yellow leaves. Make sure half of the soil dries out between waterings, but don't let it dry out completely.
A nutrient deficiency can also be the cause, so fertilise the plant with a balanced, all-purpose plant food. You should also ensure that your Calathea gets enough indirect, bright light but not direct sunlight, as too much sunlight, can turn the leaves yellow. Aphids, mealybugs, and thrips can also cause yellowed leaves, so keep an eye out for these pests. Proper care of your Calathea plant should resolve the issue.
How fast does Calathea grow?
Calathea plants have a moderate growth rate and are not considered as fast growers.
Why do my Calathea leaves have brown tips?
Dry air is usually the cause, as Calathea is sensitive to low humidity levels. Overwatering, underwatering and temperature changes can also cause this problem. The best way to avoid brown tips is to water your Calathea consistently, maintain high humidity levels and avoid sudden temperature changes.
Should I mist my Calathea every day?
Calathea plants prefer high humidity levels, so misting the leaves can be beneficial. However, it's not necessary to mist the leaves every day. Misting the leaves once or twice a week should provide the plant with the necessary moisture.
Can I water my Calathea with tap water?
It's generally okay to water your Calathea with tap water, but it's essential to consider the quality of your water depending on where you live. If you have hard water, it may be a good idea to use filtered or bottled water for your Calathea. Hard water with high mineral levels can build up in the soil and cause brown tips on the leaves.
Buy Calathea online at PLNTS.com
At PLNTS.com, you can buy different types of Calathea prayer plants, like the Calathea Zebrina, the Calathea Orbifolia and the Calathea Medallion. With so many varieties to choose from, there is a Calathea for everyone!
Whether you like your Calatheas big from the start or prefer to grow them from tiny BabyPLNTS into full-grown PLNTS - buy Calathea online at PLNTS.com!