Caring for Calathea Prayer Plants: Complete Care Guide

Calathea plants are renowned houseplants for their vibrant, diverse foliage and unique “praying” behavior, where the leaves close at night and reopen during the day.

While calatheas are often considered fussy and challenging to care for, observing your current calathea’s needs and preferences can make them surprisingly easy to maintain.

Once you understand their specific requirements, you’ll be amazed at how manageable and rewarding these plants can be.

What are Calathea Plants?

calathea plants

In addition to the Marantha family, Calathea plants are often called “prayer plants.” This nickname stems from their leaf behavior, as they fold resembling praying hands at night, closely mirroring the characteristic of Marantha leaves.

The Clathea prayer plants are loved for their beautiful and colorful foliage. The plant has bold marks with various colors on the oblong leaves. The genus is one of the most stunning tropical plants found.

The eye-catching stripes with detailed veining are nicknamed the zebra, rattlesnake, or peacock plant, but it is also referred to as the prayer plant. Yet, you will find many other species going by the same name.

The Calathea can be found growing outside their typical environment of Africa, but they are not cold-hardy plants. Hence, you typically grow them indoors. The zebra plants belong to the Marantaceae family, herbaceous and perennial.

While they seldom bloom indoors, you have exceptions like the Calathea crocata. As a mature plant, the peacock plant can reach up to two feet tall in a year.

Prayer Plant Care

calathea plants

Calathea are a bit fussy and grow as indoor plants. The reason is that when you care for Calathea, they need specific needs, and you cannot neglect them. Still, they can thrive as outdoor plants when in their natural environment.

It can flourish with proper care as an indoor plant by mimicking its climate. A big note is that peacock plants are susceptible to cold drafts. But the best part is they do not take up much space. You can place your Calathea plant in any room close to a bright window away from heat/cooling vents.

Still, the best place is the bathroom because of the humidity requirements.

Prayer Plants Preferred Soil Mix

calathea potting mix

For many plants in the Marantaceae family, moist, rich soil is essential, and it helps to use a blend that can retain water while allowing excess water to drain freely. Unfortunately, the Calathea plant is very susceptible to root rot.

So, the peaty potting mix works well as it is lightweight yet airy and made for your African violets that are just as fussy. Alternatively, you can mix 2:1 soil-based compost with some perlite.

Bright Indirect Light for Calathea Plants

calathea plant with medium light setting

Calathea grows in a humid environment with indirect light as they tolerate low light settings.

Too much light can result in the leaves burning, and those vibrant patterns will start to fade. So, the best place for indoor spaces is in an east, west, or south-facing window. It also helps to rotate your plant in lower light, allowing the sun to reach it evenly.

You will also notice movement in the leaves throughout the day, and at night, the leaves close up as if in prayer. The plant does this to maximize the sun’s absorbency.

How Often to Water Indoor Plants

As much as you need to avoid direct sunlight, the root system of most plants in the Calathea genus remains thirsty. So, the soil needs to stay moist but not soggy. You can often water to prevent leaving the soil dry.

If you notice brown edges on the leaves or it is withering, it is a sign your plant needs water. Water Calathea plants with filtered or distilled water as they are picky about their drink. Tap water has more chemicals than distilled water that can turn the leaves yellow.

We recommend leaving the tap water outside overnight for the chemicals to evaporate. Another important note is to allow the excess moisture to drain through the drainage hole and throw it out to prevent your plant from sitting in water.

Fertilizing Your Calatheas

liquid fertilizer for calathea plants

If you want a luscious plant, it helps feed your beauty at least once a month using a liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength. You can do this in spring, summer, and fall. Still, hold off from feeding in the winter months as your Calathea grows less.

Temperature and Humidity Level Needs

The light requirements must be suitable to keep your Calathea happy, but it also needs high humidity. So, if you are concerned that the moisture levels are incorrect, it helps to keep a humidifier near your plants.

Or you can fill a tray with pebbles and water, filling it up without it touching the pot. Another great option is a terrarium to create the right humid conditions. For Calathea’s care, temperature also plays a huge part.

The spot you choose must be toasty in temperatures ranging from 65°F to 80°F. The temperature can drop to 60°F but not below. Another helpful thing is to keep your Calathea away from cold drafts or excessive heat.

During the summer, you can leave your plants outside if the temperature does not drop below 60°F at night, and the climate is best if it has higher humidity levels. Also, it helps provide them with the exact light requirements indoors.

The important thing is that your Calathea must not receive direct sun and always provide moist soil. If your Calathea does receive rainfall, you can skip the watering. When you notice a temperature drop, bring your Calathea inside.

Pruning and Maintenance

One fantastic thing is that your Calathea does not prune much. You only do this when removing brown leaves or those that naturally die. Then, with a trim, it keeps your indoor plant looking tidy as the Calathea’s leaves fall off by themselves.

For repotting, you can expect to do this every few years, but your Calathea must not become root-bound as it can lead to fungal infections. The best time to repot your baby is in spring and summer, the active growing season.

It helps to water the pot a day or two before the time to help lessen stress on your prayer-plants.

Propagating Calathea Plants

The best way to propagate your Calathea is through division, done in spring or summer when repotting.

  1. Water your Calathea the day before to help reduce stress, making removing it from the container easier.

  2. Prepare a new pot with enough drainage holes and fill it 1/3 with 2/3 peat moss mixed with 1/3 perlite.

  3. Tip your Calathea on its side to help it slide out of the container and brush away the soil to separate the root ball.

  4. Then, look for a natural division to separate the roots carefully. Work the roots free using your fingers.

  5. Trim any damaged roots and divide them into two sections.

  6. Now, plant each division into a new pot and fill it with soil to the same level on your Calathea.

  7. Water your Calathea and offspring with filtered water to keep in moisture but not soggy.

  8. Next, cover the pot with a clear plastic bag until you notice new leaves growing.

  9. But keep opening the bag to allow fresh air into the bag and remove it when new growth begins.

Famous Calathea Varieties

As seen here, you can find some popular Calathea varieties to add to your home. Depending on your taste or choice of calathea plants, whatever they are, they’ll make a lovely addition to your indoor garden.

Calathea lancifolia (Rattlesnake)

calathea rattlesnake

The rattlesnake calathea has thin, wavy leaves resembling a snake with a maroon underside. The top of the foliage is green with darker green spots.

Calathea ornata (Pinstripe Calathea)

calathea ornata

The pinstripe you can easily recognize on the Calathea ornata has pale white stripes parallel to the dark green foliage with purple bottoms.

Calathea makoyana

calathea makoyana

Calathea makoyana, or Peacock plant, has light green patterns, thin dark lines on the oval leaves, and maroon undersides. It looks like peacock feathers, hence giving it the name peacock plant.

White Fusion

calathea white fusion

The white fusion has a cream or white variegation on the foliage with a dark purple underside.

Calathea medallion

calathea medallion

The foliage on the Calathea medallion looks like medallions with a green pattern found on top with a deep burgundy hue underneath. This prayer plant calathea, folds its leaves at night and opens up during the day.

Calathea Orbifolia

Calathea orbifolia

Calathea orbifolia is the most famous and most sought-after calathea in the plant community. It has a beautiful round, evergreen leaf with white stripes on them.

Common Pests and Diseases

When caring for Calathea, you can still encounter some problems that are not too serious. For example, you may find the leaves curl and look wilted. We recommend checking to see if the soil is dry if you notice this. The likeliness is that it is underwater and needs more moistness.

Another concern is leaf spots resulting from tap water, which can also be a fungal infection. At the same time, brown spots and edges are due to humidity or tap watering. On the other hand, yellow leaves can result from age, or if more leaves turn yellow, it can also be from overwatering.

Common pests you can find are spider mites and fungus gnats, which you can treat using neem oil.

Frequently Asked Questions

The best place for your Calathea plants is in a spot with low light or bright indirect light.

Yes, the Calathea is an outdoor plant but grows best inside in certain parts of the world as it is not a cold-hardy plant. Instead, it needs a lot of humidity with enough air circulation and watering without getting soggy.

If you notice the entire leaf turning yellow to brown and its wilted appearance, these are symptoms your plant is dying. Yet, we recommend checking the soil to see if it is too dry or too wet. Also, check if there are pests on your plants. You can also remove your plant and remove any damaged roots and foliage to replant in a container with a fresh potting medium.

One thing about the Calathea is that it is a non-toxic plant and thrives in indoor spaces. You can find the plants sold at local nurseries or Plantly online.

Whether you want to buy, sell or simply reach out to other plant enthusiasts, Plantly is the right place to be!

Plantly Menu