Like with all other plants from this family, calathea rufibarba care comes with its quirks. In general, however, this one is easier to care for than most.
If your home is already filled with calatheas with patterned leaves and you want something more subtle, this one is the plant for you. Fitting for a calathea, it still has unique foliage – it’s furry.
The Calathea rufibarba (Goeppertia rufibarba) is a native plant of the Amazon rainforests in Brazil. Unlike most Calathea varieties, this plant is more subtle when it comes to patterns.
This plant has long, slender, and wavy leaves that are light green when young. As the leaves mature, they transition into darker green upper side and maroon to burgundy below. The stems of a rufibarba are long and slender and are burgundy in color as well.
What makes this plant unique is that the stems and the leaves’ underside are covered in hair-like fuzz. This has led many gardeners to give it nicknames such as “the fuzzy/ furry feather Calathea,” “velvet Calathea,” “furry Calathea,” and many more.
The velvety Calathea grows up to 3 feet / 1 meter in height and can form clusters of leaves in no time.
Learn how to maintain the lavish look of this plant all year round.
How To Care For Calathea Rufibarba
- Bringing the plant home
- Light conditions
- Toxicity Information
- Pests and other common issues
Plant name: Calathea rufibarba /Goeppertia rufibarba
Common names: Fuzzy/Furry calathea, velvet calathea, Calathea ‘Wavestar’
Native to: Amazon rainforests, South Americas, tropical countries
Lighting: Bright, indirect light. Can tolerate and still grow well in shaded areas.
Care: Keep soil moist most of time – without being soggy, maintain high humidity, keep away from drafts, do not place directly under the sun, avoid using water with high mineral content.
Common problems: Browning or scorching leaves, yellowing leaves, root rot, tip burn
Toxicity: Considered non-toxic to both humans and pets.
Bringing the Plant Home
It may be a bit harder to inspect this plant for pests before bringing it into your home as it has dense and furry foliage. Despite this, this is still an important thing to do.
Keep it away from other plants for two weeks at least.
It is common for a plant to have unhealthy leaves here and there, do not be afraid to give your new plant a trim.
The environmental change might also cause your new plant stress, so it might not looks its best as it gets accustomed to its new home (up to a month).
Calathea rufibarba ideally needs bright indirect light, avoid direct sunlight. If you plan on bringing this plant to your office or house, make sure that it sits at least 3-4 feet from your window to give it enough light.
Despite needing a lot of diffused light, your rufibarba will survive in a shadier area too.
How often should you water Calathea Rufibarba?
Most labels on plants sold will say to water them once a week. If you want your plant to thrive, ignore that “rule.”
Your calathea needs lots of moisture, but don’t let the soil get soggy! Depending on the size of the plant and pot, the soil, and the conditions in her new home, this will mean you will have to water it multiple times per week or less than once per week.
The pot you use will also affect your watering routine. Terra cotta pots are porous while plastic are not. This only means that moisture will escape the system faster in a terra cotta pot than in the plastic pots.
Calatheas do not enjoy receiving too little attention. That is, never let their soil dry out more than an inch from the top. The surface of your potting media should ideally always feel damp but never soggy.
Trial and error
It might take you a while to figure out the best watering routine for your Calathea plant. Checking the soil often, as well as the state of the foliage, will point you in the right direction. Even though this plant needs moist soil, it won’t tolerate overwatering – these are quick to develop rot root.
You will most likely need to water your plant less during winter (this depends on how fast your plant drinks up water). Avoid using cold water for your plants; room temperature water is best.
Calathea Rufibarba is no exemption to the rule of dramatic calatheas prefering filtered water. The minerals in tap water can negatively affect the leaves of the plant. Burnt tips and leaf edges may be a sign of mineral burn. If your tap water is heavy on minerals your plant might not like that at all.
Use filtered, distilled or rainwater, if possible. If using tap water, let it sit for 24 hours before watering.
Humidity and Temperature
The velvety Calathea loves high humidity. It is best if the humidity is over 50%. It will tolerate periods with lower air humidity, however if the humidity is too low for too long, the plant can dry out. You’ll soon see the tips of the leaves drying up, leaves drooping and the plant generally looking unwell.
If you live in a home with a lower than ideal air humidity and want to ensure that the plant receives adequate humidity without giving it too much attention, place your rufibarba in the kitchen or the bathroom. The humidity levels are usually consistently high in those rooms and if the light is also right, your calathea rufibarba will thrive.
If those aren’t an option, you can always invest in a good humidifier to increase the humidity if you notice your plant is struggling.
In terms of temperature, C. rufibarba prefers temperature around 65°F to 90°F / 18°C to 30°C. It can tolerate temperatures slightly below 65°F / 18°C but will eventually suffer at lower temperatures.
Cleaning and Maintaining
In terms of cleaning, you may have to put more effort into rufibarba due to the leaves’ fuzzy nature and density.
The occasional lukewarm shower will keep the leaves dust-free. Be careful with how you shower the plant, mind the water pressure, and avoid washing out the soil.
Misting the plant will also help to keep it clean; however, if possible, use distilled water as tap water can leave mineral deposits on the leaves (white chalky deposits).
Using a soft, damp cloth with a drop of dish soap added to water can also be used to clean the plant. The soap solution will also get rid of some pests (and keep new ones at bay). If using soap, test your solution on just a couple of leaves first. If you add too much (this also depends on brand), your plant might not like it.
Give your plant a good trim if you have some dried leaves. This will also help the plants focus their energy on sprouting new growth.
Does Calathea Rufibarba Need Fertilizing?
Calathea rufibarba does not really require fertilizers to grow well. It can be over-fertilized, so it’s better to fertilize less.
We recommend using half the strength of recommended dosage of general houseplant fertilizer during the growing season.
While not necessary, feeding this plant with fertilizers will benefit their foliage’s color and growth.
When should you repot Calathea Rufibarba?
As time passes, your fuzzy calathea might outgrow its current pot, or the soil might become depleted of nutrients, especially if you opted for not fertilizing your plant.
Generally, if your plant is healthy and growing, you can repot it every 2 years or so. Fresh soil brings a fresh supply of nutrients, keeping your plant happy.
If the plant is growing like crazy and pushing roots so much it becomes root bound, repot it, even if it has only been a year. Choose a pot that is a size or two bigger.
What kind of soil?
This plant needs soil that drains well and retains moisture. As calatheas and other plants with similar requirements have become popular you can get a decent pre-mixed soil specialized for said plants in most gardening stores.
You can also mix up your own. Adding moss, rice hull, orchid bark, and perlite to your soil – these additions will retain moisture and keep the soil aerated at the same time.
Propagation is done by division at repotting. Gently separate the plants, detangle roots with fingers and repot into new pots.
Is Calathea Rufibarba safe for cats, dogs, or humans?
These plants are considered non-toxic to pets and humans.
Be advised, though, due to the shape of the leaves, these can be magnets for cats to play with. Ingesting any plant in larger quantities, even if non-toxic, can cause problems – to cat and plant.
* There have been no negative health issues reported with prayer plants. Keep in mind toxicity information on plants can change. This is something that is best talked about with your veterinarian. Even with non-toxic plants, nibbling plants should be avoided, and keeping plants away from pets, especially if they like to eat them, is best.
What pests and problems should you look out for?
Generally, if you maintain high humidity, you should not have problems with pests. Spider mites, mealy bugs, and leaf scales can still be an issue, however these pests generally dislike high humidity.
You can use a diluted alcohol solution to treat visible mealy bugs or colonies of spider mites (this might burn the leaves). Apply a solution of insecticide and remove heavily infested leaves.
Fungal diseases are another issue you might see on this plant. It can present isteslf as spots on the leaves.
Spots on Calathea Rufibarba Leaves
If your calathea rufibarba was exposed to direct sun, and you misted it – the water drops on the leaves with a combination of sun can burn the leaves. These spots can’t be removed if you rub them and are permanent.
Calathea Rufibarba Leaves Drooping or Pointing Down
Leaves drooping at a certain part of the day is part of its natural movement cycle. If the leaves on your plant are constantly pointing down and drooping – your plant is most likely not getting enough water.
Calathea Rufibarba Leaves Turning Yellow
A yellow leaf occasionally is natural, as leaves die off they will become yellow (usually leaves at the bottom of the plant). Yellowing leaves are also a sign of overwatering – which can kill the plant so be mindful of that.