Calathea Care 101
Calatheas are some of the most stunning tropical plants in the indoor gardening world and they are the undisputed queens of foliage patterns. The entire family of plants is also sometimes referred to as prayer plants owing to their leaf movement that mimics the movement of the sun, the leaves close up at the end of the day like hands in prayer earning them this name. Plants in this family move their leaves up at night-time and lower them in the daytime in accordance with a circadian rhythm by altering the water pressure in their stem nodes. Calatheas are also pet-friendly, making them a perfect plant pick for plant parents.
The calatheas are true tropical plants and love filtered light through the day. Place it in you north- or east-facing balconies or on the windowsills in the same direction for bright indirect light through the day. If your window or balcony is south- or west-facing then keep them a few feet away from the light source (out of direct light) to prevent the leaf from scorching. The darker the leaf the lesser the light it needs.
The calatheas are very particular about moisture – both for their leaves and their roots. Maintain a moist soil, the wetness of a wrung out sponge, but take care to not have soggy soil. It is also a good idea to let the top inch of the soil to dry out before rewatering the plant. The calathea doesn’t appreciate having wet feet and will convey their displeasure with rapidly yellowing bottom leaves.
Maintain at least 50% or higher humidity to maintain the stunning foliage by either creating microclimate in plant clusters, using a humidifier, misting them from bottom up (take care to not fill water in the ravelled straw that new leaves make) or placing a container of water next to your calathea to increase humidity through surface evaporation.
Some calatheas are finicky about the quality of water they get. Let your tap water sit overnight to evaporate dissolved chlorine or use filtered water.
Soil is the make or break for your calatheas. They need a rich soil that is also extremely well-draining. Use a mix of equal quantities of garden soil, cocopeat, perlite and compost. To avoid the hassle of mixing soil you can just go ahead and use Ugaoo’s Pot-o-mix.
Ensure that the soil is lose enough for the roots to get enough air, retain the right amount of water, while also giving it structural support and enough nutrition for a healthy growth.
Calatheas are purely indoor plants but can be kept outdoors in north facing balconies if it doesn’t get direct sun. Place it in areas that receive medium to bright indirect light, more practically speaking the plant should have a direct view of a direct source of light. Nevertheless, avoid direct sunlight at all costs.
Fertilise your calathea every 20 days with a generic and well-balanced plant fertiliser or use compost to feed your plant. Asses the soil that your calathea came in from the nursery, whether the soil is loamy or well-draining and for initial few days, asses how frequently the topsoil dries out for watering.
If the soil dries out too much, the leaves will start browning, yellowing, or curling. There is nothing to fear though, the plants have a tendency to bounce back once their requirements are met. Too much water can also result in root rot, so consistency and moderation are important.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Why are my Calathea’s leaves drooping?
Wilting or drooping leaves is a result of underwatering, in other words the plant being thirsty. Nevertheless, don’t confuse this with the natural movement of its leaves to mimic the movement of light. Always check for the moisture level in your soil before watering.
- Why are the edges of my Calathea’s leaves are turning yellow and brown?
The prime cause for this is inconsistent watering schedule. For Calathea, and almost any tropical plant, yellowing and browning can be signs of both over and underwatering. Keep checking the soil to find the right watering schedule of your plant. Do the finger test to check if the topsoil is dry or not and proceed for a through watering only when it is.
- Why is my Calathea losing the colour and variegations in its leaves?
The leeching of colour from you leaf, is most likely due to too much sunlight. Calatheas love bright to medium light, but indirect light or else the leaf lose all colour.
- How often should I fertilize my plant?
Houseplants love nutrition, they will thrive when they are fertilized in the growing season from till right before winter. Use either a generic well-balanced organic houseplant fertilizer, or an organic compost.