Maranta vs. Calathea – What is the Difference?

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You’ve fallen in love with prayer plants and now want to know more about these plants with gorgeous foliage. Read the maranta vs. calathea differences, how to care for these plants and why they are often confused with one another and mislabelled at stores.

Maranta vs Calathea What are the Differences and how to care for these plants

Are Calathea and Maranta the Same Plants?

These two plant groups are closely related. Both calathea and maranta plants belong to the family Marantaceae and have quite a few things in common. Both are often called prayer plants due to their leaves’ movement during the day, the movement being more prominent with maranta plants.

The most prominent members of the maranta genus are the maranta leuconeura var kerchoveana and herringbone plant. Unlike calathea plants, these will grow well both in a planter on the floor/shelf and from a hanging basket. Other varieties are generally just different coloration or variegation of the mentioned plants. Once you know these two, you won’t be having any issues with recognizing a maranta plant.

Maranta Plants
Maranta Plants

When it comes to calathea, things get a bit trickier. There are dozens of calathea types, with huge differences in the look of their foliage. Many of the plants that are known as calathea will also be labeled as genus Goeppertia (considered by some as a synonym name for calathea). So you might see this plant labeled by different names in different nurseries.

Calathea Plants
Selection of Calathea Plants

Add to that the genus Ctenanthe and Stromanthe, also members of the Marantaceae family and close relatives to maranta and calathea, often mislabeled as Calathea plants (Stromanthe Triostar is commonly labeled as Calathea Triostar), and it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

Can you tell them apart?

So Calathea vs. Maranta… How do you know the difference? If you are starting your plant parent journey – focus on Maranta plants. The plants from this group are easy to learn and a lot easier to care for. They have signature leaves and patterns, and they can’t be mistaken for a calathea.

When it comes to Calathea, now that you already know how to separate them from Maranta plants, you also won’t have any issues identifying some of the more prominent members of this group. Varieties such as Ornata, Makoyana, Orbifolia, Rattlesnake, and Medallion are trendy and rarely mislabeled in stores (should never be mislabeled in nurseries).

Maranta vs Calathea Comparision

When it comes to caring for these two plant groups, the basics are the same; both require similar conditions; however, Maranta plants are generally far more forgiving than Calathea are.

Here is the table showing a comparison of key care areas and some other aspects and characteristics of both plant groups.

MarantaCalathea / goeppertia
Ease of careFairly EasyCan be challenging
LightIndirect brightIndirect bright
Moving leavesYesYes
Leaf shapeOvalMany diffrent shapes
PropagationStem cutting in water
Stem cutting in soil
Dividing plant when
From Seed
See prayer plant
propagation guide
Dividing plant when
ToxicityConsidered safe for
humans and pets
(not to be ingested)*
Considered safe for
humans and pets
(not to be ingested)*
*ASPCA lists the whole Prayer Plant family as non-toxic

Are both Maranta and Calathea Prayer Plants

They are both commonly labeled as prayer plants. However, plants from the maranta genus are considered “true” prayer plants – the name being most strongly associated with these plants.

As they are commonly labeled as prayer plants, and both are from the family Marantaceae, you will often see any plant from this group marked just as “prayer plant,” Maranta prayer plant, Calathea prayer plant, and similar names.

Both groups move their leaves during the day.

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