Also known as prayer plants, calatheas are stunning and popular houseplants known for the unique and intricate patterns on their leaves. They come in a variety of colors and patterns, each with its own distinct look and personality. These tropical plants have become increasingly popular among plant enthusiasts due to their striking appearance and ease of care. Calathea plants basically need minimal attention to thrive!
For starters, the calathea plant belongs to a family of plants known as Marantaceae, which is a species of flowering plants from tropical areas such as South America. These plants are famous for their wide, green, colorful leaves which make them popular for growing in areas of low light. As is common knowledge, low-light plants tend to have broad leaves allowing them to absorb and use as much light as they can. In their natural settings, such plants are found in jungles, growing under taller trees.
7 Cathalaea Plants That Will Look Great in Your Plant Collection
It just takes one look at the eye-catching and elaborate foliage to realize why calatheas are such popular houseplants. Best of all, there are so many calathea types to choose from, each with its own uniquely colored foliage to fall in love with. These 7 calathea varieties from Evanthia will make you fall in love with calathea plants:
Calathea Medallion - aka Calathea Veitchiana - is arguably one of the most beautiful low-light plants. They are pretty popular with plant enthusiasts because of their large, medallion-like leaves: a brilliant green pattern on top, and a deep burgundy underneath. Their leaves fold up slightly in the evening, as if in prayer – causing them to be mistaken for Maranta Leuconeura at times.
Calathea Concinna Freddie is a spectacular, tropical foliage plant with an upright, bushy habit and a fresh appearance. Freddie has highly contrasting light green leaves and dark green stripes. As a typical calathea, Freddie too earns its nickname as ‘living plant’ because it closes or rises its leaves at night and uncurls or lowers them again in the morning.
Calathea Concinna is native to tropical areas of Brazil, where it grows as an evergreen perennial in the shady, damp understories of rainforests. It makes for an elegant and easy houseplant. Calathea Concinna Freddie is commonly known as Goeppertia Concinna Freddie, Zebra Plant, or Peacock Plant, because of its significant, exotic leaf pattern.
Calathea Makoyana is a colorful, tropical foliage plant with a bushy habit. This stylish calathea plant has broad, oval leaves. The green leaves have a fun pattern of contrasting stripes and oblong blotches. Even the undersides of the leaves are adorned with this pattern, but then in a cool pink/reddish color. Calathea Makoyana is commonly known as Goeppertia Makoyana, Cathedral Windows, or Peacock Plant, because of its typical leaf pattern.
Calathea Orbifolia is a beautiful houseplant highly sought after due to the exquisite beauty of its large, round leaves and its air-purifying qualities. This beautiful foliage is subtly striped with pale silver-green markings, with the undersides of the leaf also being a pale silver-green. All types of calatheas have strong air-purifying properties.
This means that the plant not only produces extra oxygen but also filters harmful substances from the air. You can learn more about Calathea Orbifolia in the article 'The Highly Sought-After Houseplant Calathea Orbifolia'.
Calathea Ornata is an elegant (ornate) tropical foliage plant with a compact, upright habit. This calathea variety has thick and shiny, oblong dark green leaves. The leaves have an extraordinary, baby-pink pinstripe pattern. As the leaves mature, this baby-pink color will eventually turn more yellow to white.
The undersides of the leaves are deep purple to dark green. Calathea Ornata is commonly known as Goeppertia Ornata or Pinstripe Calathea, because of its fine-lined leaf pattern.
The Calathea Rufibarba is a native plant of the Amazon rainforests in Brazil. Unlike most calathea varieties, this plant is more subtle when it comes to patterns. This plant has long, slender, and wavy leaves that are light green when young. As the leaves mature, they transition into a darker green upper side and maroon to burgundy below. The stems of a Rufibarba are long and slender and are burgundy in color as well.
What makes this plant unique is that the stems and the leaves’ underside are covered in hair-like fuzz. This has led many gardeners to give it nicknames such as 'the fuzzy/ furry feather calathea', 'velvet calathea', 'furry calathea', and many more.
Calathea Vittata is a gorgeous tropical foliage plant with a low-growing habit. This calathea prayer plant has elongated, pointy dark green leaves with light green, elliptic stripes. Calathea Vittata is native to tropical areas of South America, where it grows as an evergreen perennial in the shady, damp understories of rainforests. It makes for a compact and easy houseplant that doesn’t need a lot of space. Calathea Vittata is commonly known as Goeppertia Vittata, Calathea Elliptica Vittata, and Pinstripe plant.
Calatheas Care: How to Properly Take Care of These Beauties
If you're wondering "How to care for a prayer plant?" then you should know that calatheas are easy houseplants to take care of. These beauties do not require as much attention as other houseplants would demand. Nonetheless, there are a few guidelines that you can follow to ensure effective calathea plant care. If comprehensively followed, these calathea care tips and instructions can keep your prayer plant healthy for longer.
Calathea Plant Lighting Requirements
Calathea plants prefer bright, indirect light. Direct sunlight can damage their leaves. It is therefore essential that you avoid placing them in direct sunlight. Calatheas thrive well in relatively low-lighting conditions.
Calatheas like to be kept moist but not soaking wet. Therefore, there is no precise answer to how often to water a prayer plant, but you can water them when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. Make sure to use room temperature water and avoid water that is chlorinated. You can also mist the leaves once in a while to increase humidity.
Calathea Humidity Needs
Calathea plants prefer high humidity. You can achieve this high humidity by placing a humidifier near the plant or putting a tray of water nearby. You can also plant your calathea plant alongside other plants to create a mini greenhouse effect.
Prayer Plant Temperature Requirements
Prayer plants prefer temperatures of between 60-75°F (15-24°C). This is because these plants tend to be rather sensitive to temperature changes. It, therefore, is ideal to avoid placing them near drafty windows or doors.
The best soil for a calathea is well-draining and rich in organic matter. To achieve such good soil conditions for your houseplant, you can use a mix of peat moss, perlite, and potting soil.
Calathea Fertilizer Regime
While fertilizers may be an important input in a plant's growth and development, they may be so to a lesser extent in prayer plants. You can, therefore, fertilize your calathea plant every two weeks during the growing season -in spring and summer- with a balanced fertilizer. However, do not fertilize during the winter months when the plant is dormant.
Prayer Plant Pruning
The calathea plant needs to be pruned every now and then to remove any leaves that are yellowing or turning brown to keep it looking ever healthy and vibrant.
Calatheas Propagation: How To Propagate Prayer Plants?
We can propagate a prayer plant through division. This is the process through which the plant is separated into smaller sections and replanted. Effective calathea propagation follows a set of guidelines:
First, choose a healthy calathea plant that has multiple stems or a clumping habit, then water the plant a day before propagation to make it easier to separate the roots. Then gently remove the plant from its pot and remove any excess soil from the roots.
Carefully separate the stems from the root ball, making sure that each section has roots attached. Then, using a clean sharp knife or scissors, cut the sections apart, if necessary, then repot each section in a container with fresh potting soil and water thoroughly.
Place the newly potted prayer plants in bright, indirect light and keep them consistently moist. Provide sufficiently humid conditions to these newly propagated plants by covering them with a clear plastic bag or placing them in a terrarium until they have developed new growth. After new growth appears, gradually minimize direct sunlight and fertilizing.
If these guidelines are appropriately followed, calathea plant propagation through division is often successful and results in multiple new plants from one original plant.
Are Calathea Plants Toxic to Cats and Dogs?
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) calathea plants are not considered toxic to cats or dogs. They are deemed to be nonharmful to pets. It is however, important to note that ingesting any plant material can cause digestive issues in pets. These issues include vomiting or diarrhea.
It, therefore, is best to keep your Calathea plants out of reach of your pets to prevent any accidental ingestion. In addition, it is always a good idea to monitor your pets around any plants.
Why Prayer Plants?
Many plants get nicknames because they are generally a little easier to pronounce than their botanical names. In the case of calatheas, it's the prayer plant. While with some houseplants it's hard to figure out how and why they got their nickname, for the calathea it has everything to do with the movement of the leaves.
During the day and night, calathea leaves noticeably lift and dip in a circadian rhythm. This means that during the day, a calathea will have its leaves stretching out horizontally from its stems. But check on it at night, and you will likely see the leaves stand up straight as if in prayer for evening vespers.
And thus, calathea plants, are also commonly known as prayer plants, because of the unique way their leaves fold up in the evenings as if mimicking human hands during prayer.
This is a natural phenomenon called nyctinasty, where the leaves of the plant fold up in response to changes in light and temperature. It is caused by changes in the turgor pressure within the leaf cells, which results in the leaves rising and falling.
Other than this interesting feature, calathea types are popular for their striking, beautifully patterned foliage, which comes in a variety of colors and shapes. They are also known for being relatively easy to care for, as long as they are kept in the right conditions, such as bright, indirect light and consistently moist soil.
Prayer Plants Have a Host of Additional Benefits
Not only are prayer plants grown in homes for their aesthetic appeal but also for their calming effect. There are studies that imply that having plants in the home can help reduce stress and promote relaxation. In some cultures, calathea plants are even believed to have spiritual significance and are used in rituals or as offerings.
Additionally, calathea prayer plants are beneficial in improving air quality. Like many houseplants, calatheas can help purify the air by removing from it harmful toxins including formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene.
Prayer plant propagation is also relatively easy the more reason they are a popular houseplant. Calathea plants can easily be propagated through division, making them a great choice for those who wish to expand their calathea plant collection. Calathea propagation through division is a cost-effective way to produce new plants, and it's a great way to share the joy of owning these beautiful plants with others.
That said, from their dark green velvety leaves to leaves with geometric patterns and maroon undersides, calatheas fashion some of the most highly-decorated foliage found in nature. Regardless of the variety, all calatheas require similar care for healthy and problem-free growth.
However you look at it, calatheas are a wonderful addition to your plant collection because they not only look incredibly pretty but are also able to thrive indoors with pretty minimal maintenance. You can pick any of the prayer plant varieties for your house, and experience the beauty that these beauties have to offer.