PRO TIP: Calathea have very expressive foliage, and will begin to curl inwards when the plant is thirsty. It's best to feel the soil if the leaves begin to curl and water if it's dry. Calathea bounce back very quickly from underwatering.
Though they come in all different styles and shapes, the oblong, braid patterned leaves are what earn the most commonly found variety of Calatheas (Calathea lancifolia) its nickname: The Rattlesnake plant.
Place your Calathea where it will receive bright indirect light, and watch its leaves move up and down with the sun! Make sure to avoid direct sunlight though, as this will scorch the delicate leaves.
If you are unsure about the lighting conditions in your home or office, read our guide for how to measure light in your space.
The leaves of a Calathea change their spread and angle throughout the day depending on the orientation of the sun. Don’t be startled if you catch it moving out of the corner of your eye.
PRO TIP: Keep your Calathea away from hot and cold air drafts. This includes window breezes, heaters, and air conditioning. Maintain a temperature between 70 and 85 degrees fahrenheit. Supplemental humidity is highly beneficial to keeping Calatheas looking their best.
Always be sure to assess your plant’s watering needs upon receiving it. Before giving your plant a drink, it is best to check the moisture level in the soil first to ensure it isn’t moist right beneath the surface. Also, consider aerating the soil of your plant before the initial watering.
The best way we have found to obtain an accurate moisture reading throughout the soil is with a soil probe, which allows you to check your plant's moisture level at the root level and can also be used to aerate the soil if ever overwatered. Our Monitor Brass Soil Probe is an elegant option.
Calathea prefer soil that is consistently evenly moist at all times but not soggy. If the top 2” of the soil become dry then your plant is ready to be watered. If you let the soil dry out too much, you may see browning, yellowing, or curling leaves, but don’t fear. These plants are hardy and can bounce back after a good drink! Too much water can also result in root rot, so consistency and moderation are key.
Calathea love to drink from below where the water is delivered at the root zone, but the top of the soil is somewhat dry. Consider using a self-watering planter for best results. We have seen amazing growth when these plants are in self-watering planters or allowed to drink from a saucer below the pot.
Native rainforest dwellers, Calathea appreciate added humidity from a humidifier, pebble tray, or regular misting. When misting, try to spray the entire plant even the underside of the leaves as this can also help to discourage pests, especially spider mites which seem to particularly attack calathea plants. Our Airless Fine-Spray Mister is a great tool to have in your Calathea care arsenal since it is able to spray at 360 degrees.
Rotate your plant periodically to ensure even growth on all sides and dust the leaves often so the plant can photosynthesize efficiently. When dusting the leaves, also take the opportunity to inspect the undersides and keep an eye out for pests.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are my Calathea’s leaves drooping?
- Wilting or drooping leaves is typically a result of the plant being thirsty. However, the leaves of this plant move up and down following the light, so be sure to feel the soil to ensure you're not mistaking your Calathea's natural movement for needing a drink before giving your plant water.
The edges of my plant's leaves are turning yellow and brown. What can I do?
- Most often this is caused by inconsistent watering. With Calathea, yellowing and browning can be both signs of over and underwatering. Be sure to read over the care instructions and see if anything in your care regimen needs adjusting. Often just checking the soil more frequently to find a rhythm with your plant will produce the best results.
Why is my Calathea losing the saturation in its leaves?
- This is most likely caused by too much direct sunlight. Calathea love bright light, but it must be ambient light or else the leaves will lose their color and eventually burn.
How often should I fertilize my plant?
- In general, houseplants will thrive when they are fertilized spring through fall. Fertilize once a month with an organic houseplant fertilizer, following the package instructions for dilution and administration. Greenery NYC uses an organic potting mix with a slow release fertilizer in the soil, so your plant will not need fertilizer within the first 6 months of receiving it.
How often does my plant need to be repotted?
- For smaller desktop plants, we suggest repotting once every 12-18 months. Typically you want to choose a potting vessel 1”- 2” larger in diameter to allow for growth. Don’t choose a pot much larger than the previous as this could drown the plant's roots. If you prefer to maintain the current size of your plant, repot into the same vessel, providing new soil and trimming away some roots and foliage. Spring or summer is the ideal time for repotting as the plant is at its strongest.
Standard Planter Instructions
All of our Standard Planters include a removable drainage plug to give our customers the option of drainage. While no drainage is sometimes preferred for its aesthetic simplicity, we don't recommend this option for beginners as watering mistakes can be hard to rectify.
Whether you choose to use drainage or not, we always recommend using a layer of drainage (such as our Aeration Stones) at the base of the planter. A drainage layer allows the plant's roots access to oxygen in the pockets between the drainage medium, and a lack of drainage can cause anaerobic damage to your plant.
If you decide to utilize the drainage hole for your pot, make sure to include a Plant Saucer beneath your pot to collect excess water. For most plants in standard planters, we recommend watering about once a week. Water the soil mass until water begins pooling in your Plant Saucer.
With no drainage hole, you will need to be more precise in your watering. While we would love to give you a specific measurement of water to provide for your plant, the reality is that a plant's water requirements vary wildly depending on factors such as light exposure and the overall health of the plant. You will need to learn to tell when the plant is thirsty based on how its foliage looks. Droopy foliage is usually the first sign: when your plant looks a little slumped over that's usually a visual indicator that it's thirsty.
The best solution for checking your plant's moisture level, drainage hole of not, is to use a Soil Probe to determine the moisture content of the soil at the bottom of the planter.
Self Watering Planter Instructions
The Self-Watering Planters require a deep and thorough watering of the topsoil after they are first planted. This is important because the roots of the plants first need to grow into the reservoir in order to drink from it. Water your plant from the top for two to four weeks before using the reservoir. During the dormant seasons, or for plants that have slower growing habits, consider top watering for longer.
TEST: After the initial top water period, fill the bottom water reservoir. If the water in the reservoir is absorbed into the planter, it means the plant is ready for regular reservoir servicing. If not, be sure to continue top watering for a few more weeks until the plant has started drinking from the reservoir.
RESERVOIR SERVICING: Once the reservoir empties on its own, do not refill the reservoir right away. Similar to how humans need a breath of air between gulps of water, most plants require a drying out period. Allow for the reservoir to empty all the way between watering. All plants are different in their needs so the amount of time the reservoir sits empty will need to be determined, but know that for most plants this period is between 1-3 days.
From here on out, you should rarely topwater the plant while using the reservoir system. Watering from below allows the plant to drink at its own pace, and can help combat certain issues like fungus gnats by allowing the top layer of soil to dry out more. Please note that if your plant's soil dries out too much, it can impair the wicking ability of the Aeration Stones in your planter. If your soil becomes too dry, we recommend giving it a thorough watering.
For more information on our Self Watering Planters include planting instructions, visit our blog post on How to Use Our Self-Watering Pots.
Aeration Stones promote healthy root growth by creating air pockets in the soil and absorbing excess water in the basin of your planter. These porous clay stones are a natural, efficient and invaluable material to set your plant up for success. We always suggest using these when working with a planter without drainage holes.
Stainless Steel Pruners
Salts and moisture from potting soil wreaks havoc on cheaper metals. Stainless steel is one of the most durable metals available on a consumer scale, and these heavy duty pruners are built to take a beating. Great for pruning jobs large and small.
Neem Oil is an all purpose insecticide, miticide, and fungicide used for organic gardening. It's systemic, which means the plant will absorb the neem oil into its circulatory system and poison pests from within. Be careful not to overuse, as this can weaken plants and cause discoloration.
Plants do poorly without air to the roots. Overwatering causes the air to be pushed out of the soil, compacting the soil around the waterlogged roots of the plant. Using the Soil Probe aerates the soil as it checks for moisture.
Watering cans come in all shapes and sizes, and the perfect one for your home is the one you're happiest living with. Look for long spouts and a container volume that's appropriate for your plant collection.
Fox Farm Ocean Forest contains all the features we look for when aiming to ensure the long term health of a plant: excellent water retention, breathability, texture, and is made from organic materials.
10-4-3 fertilizer is a great, gentle choice for indoor foliage. Simply mix this in to your watering can using the supplied directions every other week. Ensure that your plant is receiving a good amount of light, otherwise it won't have the energy to process the nutrients and burnt tips may occur on the foliage.