Native to tropical Americas and Africa. Ornamental leaves, beautifully marked in shades of green, white, and pink, arranged in basal tufts. Flowers of most are inconspicuous. Need high humidity and warm air (not under 55F). Succeed outdoors in south Florida; elsewhere, they are greenhouse or indoor plants that can be brought outdoors in summer. Need porous soil, perfect drainage, frequent misting in dry air. Repot as often as necessary to avoid root-bound condition. Calatheas are often mistakenly called marantas.
C. crocata. ETERNAL FLAME. Zones TS; USDA 10-11. Grows to 10 in. high, 1 ft. wide. Leaves to 6 in. long, 1112 in. wide, dark green above, purple beneath. Spikes 2 in. long, consisting of bright orange flower bracts that look like little torches. Clump has several shoots; each shoot dies after blooming, but new ones appear to keep up the show. Variable performance as houseplant; subject to mites in low humidity. Does better in greenhouse.
C. lancifolia (C. insignis). RATTLESNAKE PLANT. Zones CS, TS; USDA 9-11; To 112212 ft. tall, 2 ft. wide. Narrow, wavy-edged, 1- to 112-ft. leaves are yellow-green banded with deep olive green.
C. louisae. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11; To 3 ft. tall, 112 ft. wide. Foot-long dark green leaves heavily feathered with gray-green along midrib. Can be used as a ground cover, but may die back to ground in winter in Lower South.
C. majestica (C. ornata). Zones TS; USDA 10-11. Sturdy plant can reach 6 ft. tall and 3 ft. wide. Leaves 23 ft. long, rich green above, purplish red beneath. Juvenile leaves usually pink striped between veins; intermediate foliage striped white. 'Roseolineata' has pink and white stripes at an angle to midrib.
C. makoyana. PEACOCK PLANT. Zones TS; USDA 10-11. Showy plant to 24 ft. high and wide. Leaves have areas of olive green or cream above, pink blotches beneath. Silver featherings on rest of upper surface, corresponding cream-colored areas underneath.
C. zebrina. ZEBRA PLANT. Zones TS; USDA 10-11. Compact plant to 13 ft. high, 12 ft. wide. Elliptic leaves reach 12 ft. long, almost half as wide. Upper surfaces are velvety green with alternating bars of pale yellow green and olive green extending outward from midrib; undersides are purplish red.