Why Calathea Makes the Most Beautiful Decorative Houseplant

Why Calathea Makes the Most Beautiful Decorative Houseplant

Irene Rashid
10 minute read

The Amazon rainforest is the biggest tropical rainforest in the world. With 6,000,000 square kilometers of forest from the Andes in the west to the Atlantic Ocean in the west. Among the millions of species of birds, animals, insects, and plants is the beautiful Calathea plant.

Would you like to bring a little of the Amazon's exotic beauty into your home? Read on to learn why Calathea makes the most beautiful decorative houseplant.

Calathea in your homes

Calathea plants, grown for their beautiful foliage have been adorning homes for decades. With flashes of bright colours such as neon green, deep purples, bright pinks, and more, their striking leaves would certainly grab attention. There is a wide range of different varieties, each with fascinating and bold patterns on their leaves. These big beautifully patterned leaves, with an array of colours is the main reason why Calatheas are wildly popular decorative plants. 

Calatheas originate from the tropics, natives to the Amazonian rainforest in countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, their natural environment is very humid and warm. In the wild, they tend to grow at the forest floor. Being so far below the canopy, only shaded light gets to the plant. Also at that level only drizzling rain can reach the plants. As a result, the plants have large broad leaves  for capturing water and light, and shallow roots needed for the plant to produce food.

Calatheas are also famous for their fascinating night time habit. They fold their leaves together at night, like raised hands in prayer, then opening up again during the day to follow the sun's movement. For this charming display, Calathea plants are also known as Prayer plants. If you pay close attention you might be able to hear the rustling of the leaves as they move.

Why Are Calatheas so Popular?

Their gorgeous foliage and charming playful habit are not the only reasons why Calathea plants are so popular amongst indoor gardeners. These ornamental plants are also beneficial for your health. Calatheas are a natural air purifier, they absorb and break down toxic substances and purify the air you breathe. With Calatheas, not only do you get to decorate your home with the Amazon's exotic beauty, you also create a healthier environment to live in.

Unlike many indoor plants which are toxic to human if digested, Calatheas are among those few indoor plants that are safe for children. So if you have a little one at home, you can safely have these around the house. Though it is not guaranteed that the plants would be safe from the little ones. Calatheas are also safe for pets. If you have a four legged friend at home, it's important to make sure you have safe plants that won't harm them if eaten. 

Caring for Your Calatheas

Though Calathea can be a bit picky with their environment and tricky to look after initially, they are not that difficult once you find the right place and rhythm. They are also well worth the effort. A well looked after Calathea will not only bring unparalleled beauty to your home, you would also get some amazing insta worthy photos.

Calatheas do well in warm, moist conditions away from changes in temperature caused by drafts or cold air. While some Calatheas can tolerate low light, medium to bright light is ideal for them. They definitely need to be away from direct sunlight, too much light will fade the leaves. They also like well drained soil and high humidity. Therefore misting your Calatheas every few days, especially in dry winter months, would keep them looking healthy and help with dry edges.

Plant them in well-draining potting compost and keep it slightly damp. A little less watering in winter is fine but don't let it dry out. Establish a routine of watering to avoid drying out. Feed the plants regularly using a liquid houseplant fertilizer throughout the summer and spring.

Calatheas are slow growing and would only grow to about 2 feet in height. They will not grow over their pot and become a messy so they don't usually require pruning unless the shape gets unbalanced. Re-potting the plant annually or every two years is needed until the plant reaches the full height. When that happens you can keep the plant in the same planter, just by refreshing the current planter with new potting mix with some fresh potting compost. Calatheas have shallow roots therefore a squat planter is much more suitable for the plant than a deep planter.

Due to Calatheas need for moist soil and high humidity, they can have fungus and bacterial problems. Prevention is the key to maintaining a healthy plant. Therefore make sure the plant has well-drained soil so water doesn't clog, monitor your watering to keep the soil moist but not soggy, keep the leaves dry by watering on the soil and not on the leaves, mist the plant every so often to create humidity. Create ideal temperature by keeping the plant indoor in winter and away from windows and doors when the temperature drops at night. Remove any old or withered leaves to keep it clean. The key is to keep an eye on the plant and pick up any problems early. Clean your plant regularly, at least once a month. Keeping plants dust-free not only helps them stay healthy and attractive, it also helps to rid them of insects. You can use the kitchen sink or the shower to run lukewarm water over the plant to wash the leaves. Dust built up can stop the plant from making sufficient food needed for it's health.

If leaves go brown, curl or go crispy the problem is probably underwatering or low humidity. If the leaves yellow, go mushy or fall apart the cause generally relates to overwatering. Treat any infestations of spider mites or mealybugs with insect sprays. Calathea plants generally struggle during winter months and can be some what dormant, so don't dispair if they look a bit worn for weather. They do recover, as soon as the weather starts to get warm the plant will have plenty of new shoots. 

Choose Your Calathea Carefully

When choosing your Calathea plant, take some care to get the right plant for you. You should consider the place you wish to put the plant. Does the plant fit the space you have in mind?

Think about the conditions you will be creating for the plant. Different Calathea varieties differ somewhat in their needs for light and humidity. If you are unsure about how much care you will be able to bestow on the plant choose a more robust variety.

For example, if you have plenty of space and it's in a bright location, Calathea Zebrina is ideal for you. If you are looking for a show-stopping smaller plant and are prepared to take special care of it, Calathea Makoyana is right for you. They are also more likely to tolerate low light. 

Doing a little research on the Calathea varieties, their habits and needs is a good idea. This will save money and disappointment as well as result in lovely, healthy plants.

Calathea Zebrina

This dramatically striped plant is also known as the Zebra plant. It can grow to an impressive one metre high. The dark green stripes on a pale green background are very attractive.

The leaves are velvety and the undersides are purple. The large leaves can be up to 40cm long. Keep this sensitive plant warm and moist especially during the summer.

They like bright conditions but hate direct sunlight so choose its location carefully. A little extra care is needed but the rewards are fabulous.

a close up of a plant

Calathea Lancifolia

Calathea Lancifolia is also known as the Rattlesnake plant. This is a plant with a striking leaf pattern. The leaves have strong dark green markings on a pale background growing to about 75cm tall.

There are undulating edges that add to the interest of the markings. They have slender leaves with a distinctive lance-like shape, hence the name. Under the leaves the colour is purple.

It's only when the plant produces its light-coloured flowers that you can see why its common name references the rattlesnake. They look like the famous "Rattler's" tail. They rarely flower indoors but with the right climate and conditions, they do flower from late spring to early summer.

Calathea Lancifolia is among the easier Calatheas to grow with a preference for medium to bright but indirect light. Just keep the soil moist during the summer but not sopping wet. A little less watering in winter is best but do occasionally mist the plant if it's dry.

a vase of flowers on a plant

Calathea Orbofolia

Calathea Orbifolia's large rounded leaves have stripes of light green suggestive of a peacock's tail. It is sometimes known as the Peacock plant but be careful not to confuse it with the Calathea Makoyana, also known as the Peacock plant, which has much stronger green feathery stripes. The undersides of the Calathea Orbofolia's leaves are pale green.

A native of the Bolivian rainforest, this plant needs some special care. Keep the soil moist and reduce watering in the winter but don't let it dry out. Rainforest-like humidity is essential so mist it regularly.

Protect the plant from direct sunlight. Simulate the rainforest with plenty, bright indirect light.

a vase of flowers on a table

Calathea Makoyana

Calathea Makoyana is also known as the Peacock plant because its leaves look like a peacock's tail. Its leaf pattern is more striking than it's Bolivian cousin, Calathea Orbifolia even though it's sometimes also described as the Peacock plant.

Calathea Makoyana comes from the eastern side of Brazil and is used to a tropical climate with plenty of light and humidity. This makes it a little more of a challenge to care for.

If you care for it well you are rewarded with broad leaves with dark green stripes over a pale green background that is reminiscent of a peacock's tail. A glimpse of the underside of the leaf reveals a striking dark pink. The plant will grow to about 60cm tall, making a dramatic statement on its own or with other plants.

Keep the soil moist at all times and avoid direct sunlight. Medium or even low lighting levels are best.

Calathea Misto

Calathea Misto is rather less common than other Calathea varieties but it's hard to see why. It is a very attractive dark green plant with a light variegation down the centre of each leaf. The underside of the leaves is a striking purple colour.

Keep it watered regularly over the summer keeping the soil moist. A little less watering in the winter is advisable but don't let the soil get too dry. A little misting will be rewarded with healthy growth.

Medium or even bright sunlight is fine but avoid direct sunlight.

The Joy of Calatheas

The rich greens, bold patterns, and occasional flashes of the underside of leaves make for a beautiful display. Combine this with their contribution to creating a healthier home with clean air, more humid and less drying atmosphere, they help with your wellbeing too.

Learn more about caring for your houseplants by clicking here.

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