Growing Calathea Plants: How To Care For Prayer Plants

The calathea plant (ka-lush-thee-uh) is a tropical plant known for its leaf movements and patterns.

Calatheas are part of the Marantaceae (mar-an-ta-ce-ae) family and are of the Calathea genus. 

Growing CalatheaPin

Calatheas make for stunning house plants because of their brushstroke-like patterned leaves and their pet-friendly nature.

Calatheas foliage usually is red on the underside, and the top has different patterns of green and red. 

From the floor of tropical rainforests, Calatheas love humidity, medium indirect light, and plenty of water.

However, they can cope with low light levels if the humidity is high.

As a result, calathea leaves will move towards the light throughout the day, a common trait of many native tropical plants. 

The calathea genus contains about 60 different plants, each with distinct leaf patterns. 

Consequently, each calathea has gained its own nickname, dependent on its leaves.

Common calathea nicknames are: 

  • Peacock plant
  • Window plant
  • Zebra plant
  • Rattlesnake plant
  • Furry feather
  • Pinstripe plant
  • Eternal flame

Calatheas are most commonly known as prayer plants because they can close their leaves at night and open them during the day. 

Quick Facts On Calathea

  • Family: Marantaceae
  • Light: Medium-indirect light 
  • Temperature: 65º to 80º degrees Fahrenheit
  • Water: Keep the soil moist (top 2” inches of the pot to dry out)
  • Fertilizer: 10-10-10 Balanced fertilizer
  • Propagation: Divide the plant and repot the bulbs
  • Common Problems: Yellowing leaves, brown and brittle leaves, curling leaves, root rot, limp leaves, stunted growth, spider mites, mealybugs.

Calathea Care

How Big Do Calathea Plants Grow?

Calatheas growth is dependent on the conditions it is living in.

In optimal conditions with the right amount of light, water, and humidity, a calathea can grow to be at least 2′ feet tall. Once it reaches 2′ feet, a calathea will stop growing. 

If a calathea is getting low light and is doing okay in its environment, its growth will be slower and may not reach as high as 2′ feet. 

When Does The Calathea Bloom? Are The Flowers Fragrant?

In its native environment, a calathea plant can flower. However, when they are grown indoors as houseplants, they are less likely to bloom unless the conditions are close to perfect. 

There are calatheas like the eternal flame calathea, which flower indoors and in their native environment.

The flowers are bright orange-colored, which creates the name. 

A calatheas flowers are not fragrant but normally bright in color. 

What Are The Lighting Needs And Temperature Requirements?

As for lighting and temperature needs, a calathea can be quite picky. A calathea needs medium bright indirect light to grow.

This comes from their native tropical environment, where light can be limited on the forest floor. 

Calatheas thrive near a west or south-facing window. If a calathea gets too much light, the leaves will burn, and it will lose its bright colors on its leaves.

If a calathea does not get enough light it will stop growing or grow very slowly. 

Prayer plants do not tolerate a cold environment. Since they are from a tropical environment, they must be at a temperature between 65° and 80° degrees Fahrenheit. 

If they are not at the right temperature, either above or below the requirements, it will cause damage to the plant.

The first evidence of this damage is when the leaves begin to curl.

How And When To Water And Fertilize Calatheas

Calatheas need purified or distilled water. A calathea will not be vibrant or happy if it receives tap water. 

The soil for a calathea should be moist but not too soggy. So watering them a few times a week with a small amount of water will do. Overwatering it will cause root rot. 

To check when to water a calathea, check if the first 2″ inches of the soil are wet or dry. If the top 2″ inches are wet, you do not need to water it, but if it is dry, you will need to water it. 

Do not water a calathea in a way where it will be sitting in standing water. Ensure all the water is drained before placing it back into its pot or normal place. 

Calatheas do not need too much fertilizer. However, fertilizing a little during spring and summer will encourage growth.

If your calathea ends up flowering, it is important to use a 10-10-10 houseplant fertilizer in the spring and summer. 

What Is The Best Soil For Calatheas And When Should You Transplant?

Calatheas thrive in a potting mix that holds moisture but is also well-draining.

A good combination for a calathea is using 60% percent houseplant potting mix with 40% percent perlite. This allows your soil to hold moisture but also drain out excess water. 

The plant should be rootbound when it is time to transplant your calathea. Repotting your calathea is needed around every two years.

When repotting, it is best to do so in early spring, and you must do your best to avoid disrupting its root system.

For a calathea, you will need a pot that is only 1″ to 2″ inches bigger than the last one, and add fresh mix around the plant. 

When you place the calathea in its new home, water it lightly. 

Do Calathea Plants Need Special Grooming Or Maintenance?

Calatheas need to be pruned if they have yellow leaves so you can encourage growth. You should also use a damp cloth to remove any dust. 

To keep the humidity and moisture at a good level, it is important to evenly mist the leaves throughout the plant. 

How To Propagate Calathea?

Just like repotting your prayer plant, you should propagate it during the early spring. As you remove the plant to repot it, carefully separate the plant where it has created its own natural divisions in the plant. 

The calathea plant has sensitive roots, so it is important to be as gentle as you can be when dividing the plant. This way, you do not cause any negative or irreversible damage to the roots. 

After dividing the plant, you will have to repot them in new small pots with fresh soil. 

Make sure they are in a warm and moist environment. You will have to ensure they are as humid as possible to encourage growth. 

Once your calatheas are repotted, reduce the amount of light you are giving the plant. 

Then, when your propagations have successfully grown, you can give them a normal amount of light a calathea needs. 

Calathea Pests And Diseases 

Common pests that affect prayer plants are:

  • Spider mites
  • Scale
  • Thrips
  • Whitefly
  • Mealybugs

You will notice the pests on the underside of the leaves, yellowing leaves, and dry spots.

To treat the infestation, you cannot simply wash them away. Instead, you will need to wash the plant with insecticidal soap with a damp cloth every week until there are no insects.