This is a general article on how to care for Calathea plants. As there are many different plants in this wonderful group, we also have specific articles for some plants to showcase their quirks. The care is generally very similar for most plants from this group; some are more sensitive than others.
Calatheas are grown indoors and are loved for their gorgeous foliage that comes in many shapes and patterns.
While they do bloom in their natural environment, and their blooms are also pretty, it is very unlikely they will bloom indoors. The exception here being Calathea Crocata which is one of the rare Calatheas that will happily bloom indoors.
As mentioned, the leaves come in various shapes and patterns; there are many different types of calathea plants, so you can easily fill your home just with these and still have a lot of diversity.
Calathea is a perennial plant from the tropics. Most members of this group have recently been reclassified as geoppertia, so this means you might see either the Calathea or Geopertia name on the plant’s tag.
Part of the Marantaceae family, Calatheas, are prayer-plants, so you will notice them move the leaves during the night and day cycle (the movement is called nyctinasty). Some do it more dramatically than others.
How to Care for Calathea Plants
Pretty much all members of the Calathea family have the same basic care needs. The difference from variety to variety is just how forgiving and strict they are when it comes to you meeting their needs (or not met).
While C. Rattlesnake is pretty forgiving, White Fusion might die on you if you look at it funnily. We are a bit dramatic here, but so are Calathea plants.
They are plants with personality and are hands down one of the more fun plants to care for.
Calatheas enjoy bright indirect light. They will benefit from morning sun exposure but won’t be happy with the afternoon sun. If you place them near a window that gets strong afternoon sunlight, it’s best to filter the light. Strong afternoon sun might damage their foliage or make the patterns fade.
They will tolerate lower light too, but won’t grow as happily.
They enjoy moist soil but hate to sit in water. Over-watering will hurt them fairly quickly.
Allow the first inch of soil to dry out or become slightly damp between watering. Do not let the soil dry out completely.
Calatheas aren’t fans of tap water. If using tap water, let it sit at least overnight. Using rainwater, filtered water, or even distilled water is best.
If you are using tap water that is heavy in minerals, you might start noticing the edges and tips of the leaves burn (becoming brown and dry). How this issue affects the plant varies from type to type of Calathea, some are more susceptible than others.
Care for Calathea plants comes with a requirement for high humidity. They require a humidity level of at least 50%, but higher is better. Closer to 60, and they will be happy. Most of them, at least. Some will prefer humidity that is even higher than that.
If you have a very hard-to-care-for Calathea (White Fusion is the best example), you might even need to place your plant in a glass dome for it to have its own microclimate with high humidity.
There are many ways you can increase humidity for your plants in your home.
Average warm temperatures. As an indoor plant, Calatheas will enjoy the temperatures you enjoy (probably) – keep the temperatures above 60°F / 15°C and lower than 85°F / 30°C.
Are they kid friendly? Safe for Cats, dogs?
Yes, there have been no known adverse health reactions caused by prayer-plants. That said, these are not salads, so they should not be consumed. Bitting off larger quantities of any plant that is not meant for consumption isn’t a good idea.
Even if there are no known health reactions, you should still be careful and deter children and pets from plants.
*toxicity information can change over time
Common Calathea Problems and Pests
When caring for Calathea plants, it’s almost a guarantee you will come across an issue or two. Some aesthetic only, others serious.
Wilted, curled leaves
If you notice the leaves on the plants are curled, and are drooping check the soil to see if it is too dry. More often that not the cause is underwatering.
Spots on Leaves
This too can be caused by tap water. It could also be a sign of fungal infection, pests, or a result of the plant reacting too severely to chemicals used to treat an issue (pesticides, alcohol…).
Brown spots, edges
If you only notice these here and there and your plant is otherwise healthy, there are no pests signs, and you see new growth. This is normal for Calathea; it could be due to humidity not being ideal or watering with tap water. More often than not, they are hard to keep in picture-perfect condition.
A yellow leaf here and there is probably a leaf that is dying of old age. However, if you see more of these, you are probably overwatering your plant.
Spider mites are especially fond on Calathea plants. And so are fungus gnats.
Care for Calathea Plants – Specific Guides
Unique long and fuzzy foliage. Be careful if you mist this plant as fuzzy plants, in general, don’t like to have water on the foliage for longer periods of time.
Read: C. rufibarba care guide
Too much light? Too little light? The pink stripes hold the key to answer to these questions.
Read: Calathea Medallion Care
C. White Star
Similar to ornata but oh so different.
Not the most common variety, but has large striking foliage.
Read: Flamestar care
One of the most popular zebra plants out there. Wonderful pattern on foliage and a velvety texture.