How To Grow And Care For Calatheas

Their tropical foliage is some of the prettiest we’ve seen.

We're always on the lookout for pretty houseplants with eye-catching foliage. Some of our favorites are calatheas (Calathea veitchiana), also known as prayer plants, which can thrive indoors with minimal maintenance. They do best in bright, indirect light but can also handle low-light scenarios. 

Calatheas are also called prayer plants because of the movements of their leaves. During the day and night, calathea leaves noticeably lift and dip in a circadian rhythm. During the day, a calathea will have leaves stretching horizontally from their stems. Check on it at night, and you will likely see the calathea's leaves standing straight up. Different varieties have different characteristics.

Plant Attributes

 Common Name:  Calatheas, Cathedral Plants, Peacock Plants, Zebra Plants, Rattlesnake Plants, Prayer Plants
 Botanical Name:  Calathea veitchiana
 Family:  Marantaceae
 Plant Type:  Perennial, Herbaceous
 Mature Size:  1-2 ft. tall, 1-2 ft. wide
 Sun Exposure:  Partial, Indirect
 Soil Type:  Loamy, Moist, Well-drained
 Soil pH:  Acidic to Neutral (6.5-7.0)
 Bloom Time:  Spring, Summer
 Flower Color:  Yellow, Purple, White
 Hardiness Zones:  Zones 11-12 (USDA)
 Native Area:  South America, Central America

Calatheas Care

Calatheas like medium to bright indirect light, but if all they receive is low light, they can often adapt and tolerate that condition too. They don't need frequent watering. It's recommended to water calatheas every one to two weeks at most. Allowing the soil to dry out between waterings is essential to keep the plants from waterlogging. They also love humidity, mimicking their native tropical environments.


When growing indoors, use a garden lamp to provide indirect sunlight. Outdoors calatheas thrive in filtered sunlight, such as under a tree canopy. Calatheas grown in direct sunlight will burn, leaving the foliage less vibrant. Consider moving calatheas grown indoors depending on the time of the day. 


Calatheas thrive in soil rich with organic matter. These plants need loamy soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH to prevent the roots from burning. Add gravel or peat moss to calatheas grown in containers to help maintain well-draining soil. 


Water calatheas every one to two weeks, but wait until the top few inches of soil are partially dry. Maintain a well-draining soil to avoid root rot. Calatheas require a balance of consistent watering to prevent leaves from browning and avoid waterlogged soil.

Temperature and Humidity 

Calatheas thrive in temperatures similar to their native climates. Keep plants in an area with temperatures ranging from 70°F to 85°F (avoid temperatures 60°F or lower). Calatheas love humidity and thrive in spaces with humid conditions. You can give them the occasional spa day by bringing your calatheas into the bathroom when you shower so they can soak in an approximation of tropical conditions or placing plants near a humidifier.


Calatheas benefit from a balanced 10-10-10 or liquid fertilizer in the spring and summer. Avoid over-fertilizing in the fall and winter by using a fertilizer at half-strength every three months.

Types of Calatheas

Calatheas are available in a wide variety of beautiful leaves. Finding the best calathea for you comes down to the conditions of your space, as each has specific care requirements. Here are a few eye-catching selections to know:

  • 'Pinkstripe Plant' (Calathea ornata): A popular and easy-to-grow selection with glossy, deep green leaves and pink or white pinstripes. It is also known as the pinstripe plant. 
  • 'Prayer Plant' (Calathea orbifolia): A plant with luminous, bright green leaves with lighter green stripes across the surface. 
  • 'Rattlesnake Plant' (Calathea lancifolia): Also known as the rattlesnake plant, this variety has a striking pattern on its leaves.


Calatheas are easy to maintain and do not require a lot of pruning. Prune dead or damaged leaves by removing them with scissors or pruning shears at the intersection of leaves and the plant's stem or base. Removing spent foliage is unnecessary because wilted or brown leaves will eventually fall off, but doing so helps maintain a healthy appearance.

Propagating Calatheas

Propagate calatheas at least two years old through root division during the spring or summer when the plant's growth is active. Here's how to propagate calatheas through division:

  1. In the spring or summer, start by watering calathea to provide roots with ample moisture. Gently dig up roots without damaging them. 
  2. Use your fingers to pull apart the roots and remove excess soil. Mature root clumps should easily separate. Use a garden fork or sharp knife to help separate roots if necessary.
  3. Repot separated roots into individual containers filled with compost. Containers should be larger than the root ball, leaving a few inches around the perimeter. 
  4. Keep newly planted roots well watered while establishing.

How to Grow Calatheas From Seed

Growing calatheas from seed is more challenging than through root division. Start growing calatheas in the spring using a seed-starting tray filled with potting mix. Make sure the tray provides plenty of drainages. Water the soil before planting the seeds by lightly pressing them into the mixture. Wait until for water to drain before adding the seeds. Use a plastic bag to cover the tray and encourage humidity. Place the tray in a warm location with bright, indirect sunlight near a window or using a garden lamp. Continue caring for seeds for two to four weeks by maintaining moist, well-draining soil until germination. After roots establish, transplant new growth into larger containers. 

Potting and Repotting Calatheas

Similar to propagating, repotting calatheas is best done in the spring when growth is vigorous. Choose containers larger than the root ball with plenty of drainage holes. Containers at least eight to 10 inches deep provide enough space for roots to expand. It is only necessary to repot calatheas every one to two years. Before moving plants, water deeply.


Calatheas thrive in weather conditions similar to their native environments, so maintaining temperatures above 60°F is essential. Bring plants indoors before the threat of the first frost to avoid cold damage. Check for garden pests before transporting calathea indoors, and use an insecticidal soap if required. Continue weekly waterings throughout the winter since these plants are not drought-tolerant. Add humidity to the calatheas growing conditions by using a humidifier or terrarium or placing the plant in the bathroom when showering. It's best to wait until the spring to fertilize.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases 

Calatheas are susceptible to pests, including spider mites, whiteflies, scales, mealybugs, thrips, and fungus gnats. Allowing the soil to completely dry before watering helps to prevent pests from attacking, but treatment includes spraying calatheas with neem oil and regularly wiping down leaves.

Diseases that impact calatheas include root rot and bacterial leaf spots. Using clean water and well-draining soil helps to avoid these problems.

How to Get Calatheas to Bloom

When grown as houseplants, calatheas rarely bloom. To encourage outdoor plants to bloom, use clean, distilled water in proper amounts—do not over-or-underwater plants. Avoid drops in temperatures and make humidity.

Common Problems With Calatheas

Calatheas are easily maintained when meeting this plant's care conditions, but neglect or imbalanced water, soil, and light can cause problems. Here is what to know about growing calatheas: 

Curling Leaves

Wilting or curling calathea leaves occur when underwatering plants and the potting mix is dry. Underwatered calatheas or low humidity levels cause the plant to dry out and die back, which you cannot reverse. Avoid this issue by removing calatheas from direct sunlight.

Leaves Turning Yellow

There are several reasons why calathea leaves turn yellow, including overwatering or an infestation of spider mites, whiteflies, or thrips. Root rot is a disease that occurs when calatheas are overwatered, first noticeable in older leaves. Eventually, calatheas will wilt and drop if the soil does not dry out. Additionally, use clean, distilled water for calatheas to avoid exposing plants to specific minerals that can cause yellowing foliage.

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