How to Grow Calathea: Essential Tips for Calatheas


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Struggling to keep your Calathea alive and thriving? Stick with me, and together, we’ll unlock the secrets to cultivating lush, healthy Calatheas that transform your space and soothe your soul! These tropical plants need proper care – I will teach you all the fundamentals, including light, water, fertilizing requirements, and any special needs. Let’s get started!

Understanding Calatheas: Calathea Plant Profile

My journey with Calatheas began when I first laid eyes on this indoor plant and it’s stunning foliage – I knew I had to have one! Calatheas, known for their striking leaf patterns, are more than just another houseplant. They make a statement in any indoor garden with leaves that flaunt intricate designs in various shades of green and often a beautiful burgundy underside. Commonly referred to as peacock, zebra, or rattlesnake plants, each Calathea variety brings its unique drama and appeal.

Similar to the prayer plant with their shared family roots, Calatheas stand out as they keep their leaves extended day and night. This ever-present display showcases their full glory around the clock. Adapting to low light conditions, these tropical natives are forgiving to those new to the indoor gardening realm. However, understanding and replicating their natural environment of warm, moist, and shaded areas is imperative for their well-being.

Calathea Freddie potted in white pot
Calathea Freddie: Buy Now from The Sill

Ideal Growing Conditions

Creating an environment that resembles Calathea’s natural habitat is essential for its growth. The Calathea is a plant from the jungles of South America that grows under the shade of large trees with little to no sunlight. These tropical beauties flourish in bright, indirect sunlight, so positioning them in a spot where the sun’s rays can gently filter through sheer drapes works wonders.

However, beware of direct sunlight as it can scorch their stunning leaves – this is a very common issue! And, during the cooler months, shielding your Calathea from chilly drafts and heating vents is crucial, as they prefer a stable, warm environment.

Bathrooms can often provide the ideal setting and right conditions as they tend to be the most humid rooms in a home and usually have diffused lighting, making them a haven for these moisture-loving plants.

If your bathroom isn’t an option, fear not! You can boost the vicinity’s humidity by placing a tray of water filled with pebbles near your plant, ensuring the pot rests above the water line. This acts as a personal humidifier, as the water evaporates around the plant.

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Remember,  Calatheas have a tolerance for lower light conditions but need to catch enough rays to maintain their vivid foliage patterns. Bearing this in mind, finding that sweet spot away from direct light but still in a well-lit room is crucial. Keep a watchful eye on your plant’s leaves, as they will signal if the light is too harsh or too scarce. With these considered steps, your Calathea can thrive, exuberantly showing off its natural beauty.

Watering and Humidity: Calatheas’ Thirst for Care

One could say that Calatheas have a charismatic charm, which extends to how they prefer to be watered. These plants demand consistent moisture to mimic the humid, tropical environments they originate from. It’s important to keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged. As a tip, before watering, I usually check the top inch of the soil; if it’s dry, it’s time to water. In terms of frequency, this usually translates to watering once a week, though I advise adjusting this based on the light and temperature conditions in your home.

Diligently using filtered, distilled, or rainwater for your Calathea can prevent the build-up of minerals that might lead to brown leaf tips, a common complaint among those new to Calathea care. Indeed, the quality of water cannot be overstated; tap water, particularly if it is hard, can contain fluoride and other substances that Calatheas detest. Hence, I’ve found that Calatheas are less prone to stress when provided with water that’s as pure as possible.

Humidity is another critical factor. Strive to maintain high humidity around your Calathea to keep it blissfully happy. One of my favorite methods is placing the pots on a tray filled with water and pebbles, ensuring the bottom of the pot isn’t submerged. This setup allows water to evaporate around the plant, boosting the ambient moisture. What’s more, regular misting with tepid water can be beneficial, particularly during the dry winter months, or alternatively, employ a humidifier to achieve the same effect.

It’s by providing these optimal watering and humidity conditions that we enable our Calathea to thrive and showcase their lush, vibrant foliage truly. Remember, it’s about balance; too little water and your Calathea could wilt, too much, and you risk root rot. So keep a watchful eye and react to your plant’s needs, and you’ll be rewarded with a robust and radiant companion.

Feeding, Propagating, and Troubleshooting

Calathea are not only visually stunning, but they also have simple dietary needs. To support their healthy growth, a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer should be applied every couple of months, especially during the growing season. This regular feeding schedule ensures your Calathea receives all the necessary nutrients without the risk of over-fertilization—less is more is a good mantra to follow here.

When it comes to propagating Calathea, division is the way to go. The best time to undertake this is when you repot your plant in the spring. Carefully separate the plant into smaller sections, each with several stems and a healthy root system, and pot them into fresh soil. This method rewards you with new plants to share and enjoy and rejuvenates your original Calathea, encouraging more vibrant growth.

As with any houseplant,  Calathea may face some challenges. Underwatering and overwatering are the usual suspects, often signaled by wilting or yellowing leaves. A sunburn might manifest as faded or crispy leaves if your Calathea is exposed to too much direct sunlight, while too little humidity can lead to brown, curled leaf edges. Additionally, keep an eye out for signs of pests like red spider mites, especially if the air is too dry. These issues are typically preventable with the right care and quick to remedy if caught early. With a vigilant eye and a tender touch, you can ensure your Calathea remains a healthy, dramatic centerpiece in your indoor garden oasis.

beautiful potted Calathea Rattlesnake on beige background
Calathea Rattlesnake: Buy Now from The Sill

Most Popular Varieties of Calathea Houseplants:

Calatheas come in many shapes and sizes, with distinctive leaf patterns that range from vibrant to subtle. Below are some of the most popular varieties available: 

Calathea Prayer Plants Live House Plants photographed from above on white
Calathea Prayer Plants Live House Plants Kit Buy Now on Amazon


Growing Calatheas successfully is all about understanding and replicating their natural conditions as closely as possible in your home. ? Here are your key takeaways for nurturing these stunning tropical beauties:

  • Calatheas thrive in bright, indirect light—so place them in a spot that mimics the dappled sunlight of their native jungle canopy.
  • Keep your Calathea away from direct heat sources and cold drafts to maintain a consistent, comfortable temperature.
  • Emulate the high humidity of a tropical environment. Calatheas love bathrooms where steam from showers can increase the moisture in the air.
  • Use filtered or distilled water or rainwater to avoid the chemicals often found in tap water, which can harm sensitive Calathea leaves.
  • Provide a soil environment that is moist but never waterlogged, ensuring you have a well-draining pot and soil mix.
  • Propagate by division during the spring—a perfect time to increase your collection or share with fellow enthusiasts.
  • Watch out for pests like red spider mites and promptly address any issues like leaf spots or sunburn to prevent further damage.

By sticking to these guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to seeing your Calathea flourish, bringing the warmth and vibrancy of the tropics right into your living space. ? Remember, patience and consistency are key. Treat your Calathea with care, and it will provide you with its glorious foliage for years to come.

How to Grow Calathea FAQs

Where is the best place to buy Calatheas?

What is the ideal light for growing Calatheas?

Calatheas thrive in bright, indirect light, which you can achieve by placing them near a window with a sheer curtain. This mimics their natural environment under the canopy of tropical forests. Direct sunlight should be avoided as it can scorch their leaves, while too little light can cause their stunning leaf patterns to fade.

How often should Calatheas be watered?

Water Calatheas enough to keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy. This typically means watering when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. Adjust your watering frequency based on the humidity and temperature, as these plants are sensitive to both over and under-watering.

What type of water is best for Calatheas?

Calatheas are sensitive to the chemicals commonly found in tap water, which can lead to brown leaf tips and edges. Using distilled, filtered, or rainwater at room temperature is best. If you must use tap water, let it sit out overnight to dissipate some of the chemicals.

How do I increase humidity for my Calathea?

To increase humidity for your indoor plants, consider placing a humidifier nearby, misting the leaves regularly with tepid water, or placing the pot on a tray filled with pebbles and water. Calatheas love moisture in the air, which is why they thrive in bathrooms where steam from showers naturally raises the humidity.

When is the best time to propagate Calatheas?

The best time to propagate Calatheas is in the Spring when they start to show new growth. Gently divide the plant at the roots and repot into separate containers, ensuring each new plant has an adequate root system attached. This allows the new Calatheas to establish themselves during the growing season.

What common problems should I look out for when growing Calathea?

When growing Calathea, watch for signs of pests like red spider mites and fungus gnats and issues such as brown leaf edges, which could indicate low humidity or poor water quality.

Yellow leaves may suggest overwatering or excess water in your planter, while faded leaf color can be a sign of insufficient light. Be vigilant, and you can catch many problems before they become serious. Make sure you have your Calathea potted in well-draining soil in a planter with a drainage hole. They love a humid environment but not soaked soil, so water dries out when the top of the soil dries.

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