The genus Calathea includes some of the most beautiful and striking tropical foliage plants in the world. Closely related to the similarly gorgeous Maranta, Calathea species generally have boldly marked, upright, oblong leaves in a dazzling array of colors held on long, upright stalks. As true tropical plants, they are somewhat fussy about their conditions, but a well-grown Calathea is worth the effort.
There are over 300 different types of Calathea plants, as various cultivars and hybrids have been developed by researchers worldwide. Calathea species come with beautiful leaves that have different, bright, colorful patterns on the top side. The leaves have red or purple undersides. Sometimes, they are green with a red-violet flush on the undersides. Unfortunately, several species are threatened with extinction, mainly due to habitat destruction.
Light: Light shade or dappled light indoors. Do not expose to direct, noon sun as it will fade the leaf colors.
Water: High humidity. Keep soil continuously moist throughout spring and summer, and reduce watering in the winter.
Temperature: Prefers warm and humid conditions. Keep above 60oF if possible.
Soil: A well-drained potting mix.
Fertilizer: Feed regularly with liquid fertilizer throughout growing season.
Propagation is possible by division at repotting time. Keep new divisions warm and moist by covering the pot with plastic and providing reduced light until active growth starts again.
Repot every year or every other year into fresh potting mix. Divide at repotting time. Repot your zebra plant in spring or early summer during its active growing season. Water it thoroughly the day before repotting to help lessen stress on the plant.
There are many varieties of Calathea:
C. makoyana. Features purplish coloring on the undersides of leaves, with white and green on top. Known as the peacock plant.
C. zebrina. The zebra plant has green markings on the leaf top and purple leaf undersides.
C. crocata. Plain leaves, but displays of upright oragen-red flowers.
C. ornata. Reddish marking on leaf tops with purple undersides.
Calathea Grower’s Tips:
Calathea have a reputation as a greenhouse plant, and it’s easy to see why. They re highly sensitive to cold, drafts, and sudden temperature fluctuations. They grow best in warm, humid and bright stable conditions, but not direct sunlight. Calathea thrive in bottle gardens and terrariums due to their high humidity. Plants grown in arid conditions are frequently attacked by mites and scale.
Pests: Check for red spider mites every now and then. Use a magnifying glass as the mites are small and are hard to spot.
Browning leaves: As mention before, this is a result of a wrong watering.
Withering leaves: The leaves can wither at the edges. This might be caused by too much calcium in the water (a good solution to this is to use rain water for watering), the air in the room is too dry, or the plant hasn’t had enough, or has had more than enough of water.