Home > Great Big Greenhouse Blog > June 2015 > BEAUTIFUL FOLIAGE: CALATHEA


This genus of beautiful foliage plants has several species and cultivars available for indoor use.  Relatives of the prayer plant, these members of the Marantaceae family are grown for their ornately patterned leaves.  While they tolerate lower light levels, they are very sensitive to soluble salt damage as well as being sensitive to fluoride and chlorine in the water.  Nevertheless, calatheas are well worth the effort of collecting their irrigation water 24 hours ahead of time.

My own favorite is Calathea lancifolia, Rattlesnake plant, with long erect wavy-edged spear-shaped yellow-green leaves marked with alternately small and large dark green ovals, the underside of the leaf a showy maroon red.  My choice for easiest would be C. concinnia, “Freddie”, its leaves yellow-green with bands of dark green.  It seems to be less sensitive to poor water quality than other calatheas.

Other pretty species and cultivars include C. makoyana (Peacock plant) with leaf markings resembling a feather, C. roseopicta with a red mid-rib and a band of red near the leaf margin, and C. zebrina, with large leaves boldly striped in dark and light green.  For most calatheas, the flowers are hidden beneath the leaves, but Calathea crocata has very showy erect orange flowers that sit above its dull green foliage.  And, like their relatives the prayer plants, calatheas fold their leaves upward at night.

Calatheas do best with higher humidity, so pebble trays or regular light misting will help.  Water thoroughly with day-old, distilled, or rain water, and do not allow roots to stand in water.  Soil should surface-dry between waterings.  New growth comes from underground rhizomes, so if leaves become unsightly, cut them off at the soil line and wait for new ones to push up and uncurl.

While the calatheas are not an easy houseplant, you might take advantage of their beautiful leaves by including them in a container for a shady spot in your summer garden.
Posted: 6/24/2015 by Margot | with 0 comment(s)
Filed under: MargotGunn, TheGreatIndoors
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