Calathea: How To Care For This Lovely Plant

So beautiful leaves like those of the Calathea or basket marante you rarely get to see. We answer the most important questions about location and care of the decorative houseplant.

The care of the genus Calathea from the arrowroot family (Marantaceae) is admittedly not quite easy. But if you look at the strikingly beautifully drawn leaves of the plant, also called basket marante, you are willing to put in a little effort: they look as if they were painted with a brush and show a unique pattern. The leap of the tropical plant from the rainforests of Brazil into our living rooms is therefore absolutely understandable.

Calathea, with its striking foliage and vibrant patterns, is a popular choice for indoor plant enthusiasts. To care for this lovely plant and keep it thriving, you’ll need to provide the right environment and attention. Here are some essential care tips for Calathea:

1. Light:

Calatheas prefer bright, indirect light. Avoid direct sunlight, as it can scorch their leaves. A location with filtered or dappled sunlight is ideal. North or east-facing windows are usually the best spots.

2. Temperature:

Maintain a consistent temperature range of 65-80°F (18-27°C). Protect the plant from drafts and sudden temperature fluctuations.

3. Humidity:

Calatheas thrive in high humidity. Aim to keep the humidity level around 60% or higher. To achieve this, you can use a humidity tray, a room humidifier, or mist the plant regularly. Grouping plants together can also create a microclimate of higher humidity.

4. Watering:

Keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged. Water when the top inch (2.5 cm) of soil feels slightly dry. Use room-temperature water and ensure that the pot has good drainage. Overwatering or letting the plant sit in water can lead to root rot.

5. Soil:

Use a well-draining potting mix that retains some moisture but doesn’t become soggy. A mix formulated for tropical or indoor plants is suitable.

6. Fertilization:

Feed your Calathea with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer during the growing season (spring and summer). Apply the fertilizer at half strength every 4-6 weeks. Reduce or eliminate fertilization in the winter when the plant is not actively growing.

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7. Pruning and Grooming:

Regularly remove yellowing or damaged leaves to promote a tidy appearance. Pruning also encourages new growth.

8. Repotting:

Calatheas generally don’t need frequent repotting. Repot when the plant becomes root-bound, typically every 2-3 years. Choose a pot that’s 1-2 inches larger in diameter than the current one.

9. Calathea-Specific Care:

Some Calathea varieties have unique care requirements. For example, Calathea orbifolia prefers lower light levels, while Calathea medallion has striking foliage and appreciates extra humidity.

10. Pest Management:

Keep an eye out for common houseplant pests like spider mites and aphids. If you notice any infestations, treat the plant with appropriate insecticidal soap or neem oil.

11. Night Routine:

Calatheas have a unique characteristic known as “prayer plant” behavior. At night, their leaves may fold or rise. This is entirely normal and not a cause for concern.

Caring for a Calathea can be rewarding, as you’ll enjoy its stunning foliage. With the right conditions and regular attention, your Calathea should thrive indoors.

Calathea: growth and appearance of the plant

The Calathea, botanically Calathea makoyana, grows to an average height of 30 centimeters, so it does not take up too much space as a houseplant. Its picturesque leaf pattern, which stands out in white, bright yellow or delicate red against the dark green leaf base, is what makes the plant so decorative. The petioles and leaf bases of the plant are sometimes reddish in color as well.

There are joints between the leaves and the petioles, allowing the plant to curl its leaves at night and open them again during the day. The flowers of the Calathea play only a minor role – they are rarely seen on houseplants anyway. They stand from January to February in upright, yellow spikes.

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Even rarer indoors are the fruits, which form after flowering in the form of tiny capsules.

The right place for the basket maranthea

Calatheas make high demands on their location in the house. It expects

  • constant temperatures of 23 to 25 degrees Celsius during most of the year,
  • should be minimally cooler in winter, but never below 18 degrees Celsius,
  • requires a high humidity in the room of over 60 percent and
  • a semi-shaded place without direct sunlight. Light is important, but blazing sun causes brown leaves.

So, a permanent location for calatheas is a display case, an enclosed flower window, or a place in a heated conservatory or greenhouse. However, it also feels comfortable in bathrooms with windows. If its wishes remain unfulfilled, there is a quick threat of unsightly curled leaves or pest infestation. Spider mites and scale insects are particularly at work if the air in the room is too dry, and they can also spread to the houseplants in the vicinity.

The right care for the Calathea

What kind of soil does the basket maranthea need?

It is easier to choose the right substrate for the Calathea. Put the houseplant in normal potting soil. It is nice and fresh, rich in nutrients and has a high humus content.

How to water the calathea?

When watering, everyone must find the right measure himself, the rhythm varies somewhat depending on the ambient temperature. In addition, the plant prefers water with low lime content. The soil of the Calathea should always be moist, but never wet: a small challenge for potted plants. To prevent waterlogging in the first place, it has paid to fill in a so-called drainage layer at the bottom of the pot. For this you can use, for example, expanded clay from the garden center. Otherwise the Calathea reacts quickly with rotting roots and threatens to die. Tip: Since the Calathea prefers high humidity, you can also spray it with water occasionally.

Do I have to fertilize the Calathea?

In the period from March to August, you should supply the plant with liquid fertilizer every two to three weeks through the watering. This way, it will have sufficient nutrients available during its growth phase.

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How often should the Calathea be repotted?

In the case of the Calathea, repotting is done annually in spring. Carefully shake off the old soil from the plant and check the root ball for rotten spots or dried root parts. These are removed with scissors.

Propagate Calathea

At the same time as repotting, you can also propagate the plant by dividing the rootstock. However, when propagating, only separate cuttings that have sufficient roots of their own. They are planted, as usual, and for the initial period placed in a very warm place with high humidity and temperatures between 27 and 30 degrees Celsius. Propagation has another advantage: no matter how well you care for your Calathea, over the years the attractive leaf pattern will fade, so that the leaves will eventually appear pure green. So if you provide for offspring in good time, you’ll always have colorful foliage in your home. Tip: Always use directly a pot that is at least 20 percent larger than the original.


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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