Calathea (syn. Goeppertia) is an herbaceous perennial from the family Marantaceae (Maranta). These plants hail from the tropical Americas (Brazil and Colombia).
The plant genus name comes from the Latin calathus, which means “basket.” This is a reference to the fact that the flowers of the plant resemble flowers in a basket.
Calathea leaves are broad and long. Depending on the variety, may sport stripes and other markings in shades of green, maroon, purple, and/or cream.
Most Calathea varieties have leaves that close during the evening hours and open during the daylight hours, a process known as nyctinasty.
The nightly closing of the leaves has earned the Calathea family the common name “Prayer Plants.”
These plants reach a height ranging from 1′ to 3′ feet with an equal spread.
Calatheas are winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 11 through 12. They are seasonal bloomers producing flowers in shades ranging from white to purple.
Their main calling card is their attractive, colorful evergreen foliage.
How Many Species Are There Of Calathea (Goeppertia)?
There are several dozen varieties of this pretty houseplant. No matter which variety you choose, they all require pretty much the same care.
You’ll want to provide a well-draining, fertile soil and keep it evenly moist. For plants to look their best high humidity is a must for all varieties, along with consistent warmth. Take care to protect your plants against cold drafts.
Calathea Care Notes
All types of Calathea do best in shaded settings ranging from full shade to partial shade. Bright light but, indirect light is the best light setting for Calathea.
All varieties do well in a setting with bright, indirect sunlight. Some varieties prefer slightly more or less sun.
Because Calatheas are tropical plants, they need warm indoor temperatures between (60° – 80° degrees Fahrenheit) and humidity. But, they do not need heavy watering.
They have moderate watering needs and do well with a soak and dry watering method. This involves watering thoroughly and waiting for the top inch of soil to dry before watering again. No soggy soil!
Excessive watering can lead to problems with pests such as spider mites, scale, and aphids. Low humidity levels can lead to problems with tips on leaves drying up, brown edges, leaf curling, and turning brown.
Fertilize every two weeks during the active growth season (late spring to early fall) with a half-strength water-soluble houseplant fertilizer.
Calathea does well when planted in well-draining fertile soil. For a rich soil base mix 25% extra peat moss to bagged houseplant potting soil to make an ideal soil mix.
Propagate Calathea by division when repotting. Thickened tubers are clearly defined on the roots. It’s best if the tubers have a leaf or two. Plant the divisions in a pot a couple of inches below the soil surface in a rich, well-draining soil like the soil mix above. Keep the soil slightly moist and warm.
Calathea is a popular houseplant and grown for use indoors. They can be planted outdoors in tropical and semi-tropical settings.
Some Of The Most Popular Calathea Varieties
Calathea Lancifolia (Rattlesnake Plant)
Calathea Lancifolia is also known as Rattlesnake Calathea. This popular variety features very narrow, long leaves in shades of light and dark green. The background of the leaves is light green, while darker green shades make up interesting markings.
Calathea Ornata (Pinstripe Calathea)
Calathea Ornata is commonly called “Pinstripe Plants.” This tall, impressive plant has deep green leaves measuring approximately 12″ inches long. The stunning leaves are marked with bright, pinkish-white stripes. The long stems are a medium shade of burgundy.
Calathea Ornata Sanderiana
Calathea Ornata Sanderiana is an attractive variety with deep green glossy leaves bearing creamy rose pinstripes. The undersides of the leaves have a dark purple color leaf coloration.
Calathea Roseopicta is also called Rose Painted Calathea or Corona Painted Calathea. This pretty plant and popular cultivar has very shiny, bright green foliage with attractive creamy markings. It is unusually sensitive to cold drafts.
Calathea Makoyana (Peacock Calathea)
Calathea Makoyana is also known as the Peacock plant or Cathedral Calathea. Its leaves are quite slim and grow in attractive shades of deep green and purple with lime green markings. The patterning on the leaves resembles that of a peacock feather, hence the common name.
This is a pretty plant to keep in a setting that has very bright indirect sunlight coupled with very high humidity.
Calathea Zebrina is also called Zebra Calathea. As the name implies, this variety has striped leaves. The base leaf color is a nearly black shade of purple, and the stripes are bright green. The stems of this plant are also green. The best light setting for this variety is filtered sunlight.
Calathea Medallion is also known as Calathea Veitchiana. This plant has very large, oval-shaped leaves in shades of deep green on the top and deep purple undersides. The top side of the oval leaves features a feathery center and verge of medium olive green. The feather-shaped center marking is surrounded by darker green with an outline of cream.
Calathea Orbifolia is also known as Round Leaf Calathea. This type of Calathea has leaves that are 8″ to 12″ inches wide and are marked with distinctive light green and creamy stripes.
Calathea White Fusion
Calathea White Fusion is a strikingly pretty plant with lance-shaped, dramatically variegated leaves. The top sides of the leaves feature broad, deep green stripes alternated by wide, nearly white stripes. The leaf undersides are a soft shade of lavender.
Calathea Freddie has very narrow, pale green leaves featuring feathery, deep green veining. High humidity and bright indirect sunlight provide the best setting for this plant.
Calathea Warscewiczii comes from the jungles of Nicaragua and Costa Rica and is also known as Jungle Velvet. The plant has lance-shaped, deep green, velvety leaves with a lighter green leaf pattern. Humidity is of special importance to this plant, and the use of a humidifier is recommended.
Calathea Beauty Star
Calathea Beauty Star is an unusually attractive hybrid that has very deep green leaves sporting both pink stripes and pretty bright green feathery markings.
Calathea Rufibarba is also called Velvet or Furry Calathea. This plant has Lance-shaped leaves that are green on the top and purple and fuzzy on the underside. The stems are rather long and are deep burgundy in color. This Calathea is a good choice for low-light settings.
Calathea Concinna (Calathea Leopardina)
Calathea Concinna is also known as Calathea Leopardina. You may commonly hear it called Zebra Plant. As the name implies, the markings on the plant resemble an animal print.
The long, lance-shaped leaves are light green with deep green, leaf-shaped markings radiating from the central vein. The leaves stand atop long, light green stems.
In a year, Calathea concinna blooms white flower repeatedly. An attractive plant to birds, bees and butterflies.
This plant is an excellent groundcover and for indoor use that requires constant water and never let the soil dry out between waterings.
One of the beautiful plants you can find in nurseries and garden centers during the spring and early summer is Calathea rotundifolia.
The calathea name came from the Greek word kalathos which means basket; while rotundifolia means rounded leaf.
From the name of the plant itself, you will easily know that calathea rotundifolia is a stocky plant with large and round leaves.
Each leathery-textured leaf is veined with light green and generally shows alternating bronze-green bands.
Calathea rotundifolia is usually grown for its foliage. Because of its short or stocky form, rotundifolia makes a suitable indoor plant as well as a container plant.
Outdoors, rotundifolia should be grown under semi-shade or indirect sunlight.
Calathea Louisae hails from Brazil. This plant has broad, ovate, dark green leaves with an attractive, pale greenish-white feathery marking running along the central veining of each leaf.
This is a compact plant grows about a foot high. These grow well as a ground cover in a tropical setting.
These plants are hardy in USDA zones 8-11 and can be grown in the non-tropical southern US, but may die back during the winter months.
Calathea Crocata is commonly called Eternal Flame. This Brazilian plant has dark green, lance-shaped, ruffled leaves that are especially long-lasting and very pretty with the plants’ unusual yellow orange flowers. Eternal Flame does especially well with lots of very bright indirect sunlight. In fact, it is appreciative of nearly direct morning sunlight.
Calathea Roseopicta Dottie
Calathea Roseopicta Dottie has foliage that is so deep green that it almost looks black. The leaves are outlined in a bright shade of fuchsia. High humidity is especially important for this variety, and frequent misting is recommended.
Calathea Vittata is a remarkable variety that features very attractive and bold lines and patterns on the leaves. The large, teardrop-shaped leaves sport deep green and bright yellow striping. The leaves dramatically fold up during the nighttime hours and open again in the morning. Good exposure to bright, indirect morning sunlight will help enhance this feature.
If you love foliage plants but cannot afford collector’s plants, Calathea Corona may answer to your needs.
Corona is grown its stunning patterned foliage. The shiny leaves are generally olive green in color with dark green edges. Bright silvery gray highlights the center of each leaf.
Each round leaf is generally broad in size and taper to a point. Young or new leaves are usually curled and as they emerge they show off their purplish red undersides.
Like other “prayer plants” the leaves fold at night appearing like hands clasped in prayer. Calathea Corona does well as a potted specimen plant.
Because of its dense foliage, it has this mysterious effect as it conceals its stems when put indoors to accentuate any spot it occupies.
Calathea Lutea is a very large variety of Calathea that is best suited for growing outdoors in tropical settings. This plant is native to the coasts of Peru, Brazil, and Mexico. The plant can grow to be 16′ feet tall, and its large leathery leaves are quite useful in its native settings for projects ranging from thatching roofs to wrapping items one wishes to keep waterproof.
Calathea Lubbersiana (Never Never Plant)
Calathea Lubbersii (Ctenanthe Lubbersiana) hails from Brazil and features strikingly beautiful, variegated leaves in shades ranging from very deep green to very bright yellow.
Calathea Oppenheimiana (Ctenanthe Oppenheimiana) from Brazil oppenheimiana has long, leathery leaves of deep, luminous green, striped, and patched on top in white and pink. The undersides are a deep wine. On young leaves, the color shows through to give a red glow. A lovely plant for use as a table centerpiece.
Calathea Burle Marx
Calathea Burle Marx (Ctenanthe Burle Marx) boasts a very busy patterning of pale powdery green alternated by deep green striping on its thickly growing oval-shaped leaves.
Discovered by the botanist Linden, the leaves impressed him so much he added the Latin word amabilis, meaning ‘worthy of esteem’ as the species name.
Burle Marxii is named after the Brazilian landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx.
The plant grows into a dense clump. The undersides of the leaves are bright maroon, on top the oblong leaves with dark green to blue-green sit atop broad silver bands. Mass them several together for a dramatic effect.
Other Calathea Relatives Stromanthe
Calathea Picturata has pretty, very deep green leaves on the top and deep purple on the bottom. The marking on the top side has a striking silvery colored midriff and veining.
Calathea musaica’ PP0005′ is also known as “Network.” This is a very pretty cultivar whose small leaves feature attractive variegation. Bright, indirect sunlight will bring out the most attractive patterning. Western or Eastern exposure is recommended.