How Often to Water Calathea?

  • Many Calathea species are popular as pot plants indoor because of their decorative leaves and colorful inflorescences. Since they are not the easiest for plant care, we tackled the best tips to keep your Calathea happy and make this tropical plant full of pinstripe part of your family. 
  • Calathea Ornata, Medallion Calathea, Calathea Lancifolia, Calathea Roseopicta, and other Calathea types are known as prayer plants. This name comes from the Calathea specific movements of the night ― the leaf of this houseplant changes its posture in the lack of sunlight. The leaves of this houseplant assume a position resembling the praying hands. Read the explanation of this magical process in the article below.  
  • Water your Calathea with the proper amount of distilled water (no tap water on board this time). Keep the sunlight right ― go for low light, indirect light. Stay away from the direct sunlight as it leads Calathea leaves to burn. Arrange a proper humidity level indoor ― a relatively humid environment will work wonders for this plant’s growth (consider using a decorative and helpful pebble tray). Choose a suitable soil mix menu and control indoor air temperature. Consider these factors to be blessed with beautiful, pet friendly plants the whole year. 

What is Calathea?

This evergreen, low-ground tropical plant is famous for its fascinating 6-12 inches long, large, colorful leaves, which are its top decorative quality.

In countries with humid and warm climates, people grow Calathea as a garden plant. 

However, under less favorable conditions of the environment, it’s cultivated as an indoor plant. 

In nature, the young leaves and bracts of Calathea plants retain pools of water (we call them phytotelmata). These pools provide a habitat for invertebrates.

We often grow Calathea as an ornamental plant. 

Yet, some Calathea species have edible tubers. 

Also, we harvest and use Calathea Lutea to make waterproof baskets because of its durable, waxy leaves.

Did you know Calathea is considered friendly to pets in the family?

If you share the indoor space with curious pets, choose these plants for your household.

Search for the image of Calathea Ornata online to see how amazing it would be to have this elegant plant at home.

Calathea leaves

Keep in mind that prayer plants are some of the most highly decorated natural foliage.

Calathea leaves range from dark green velvety to geometric patterns and maroon undersides.

Calatheas are evergreen perennials. 

They have long-tailed, large, multicolored leaves of various shades of: 

  • green, 
  • pink, 
  • white, 
  • purple, 
  • chestnut, 

They are usually purple on the underside.

Important: What makes Calathea stand out? The so-called joint pillows on the petioles of the leaves. They allow for rapid changes in the position of the leaf blade concerning the angle of sunlight. At noon they are almost horizontal, and in the evening, they line up vertically. 

Calathea flowers

Calathea plants have a chic tropical exterior, but they’re also quite popular and easy to purchase. 

Consider that, unlike their wild counterparts, many indoor-kept plants of Calathea will not flower.

Fortunately for us, the flowers are less decorative than Calathea leaves, so we still have the best part to admire for free. 

Calathea flowers are gathered in clusters with white or differently colored bracts. Sometimes they are partially hidden under the leaves, and one has to search for them to see them.

Why ‘prayer plants’?

Calathea is known for the unique movements of its patterned foliage. 

Some say the prayer plant at night is a natural spectacle; the plant leaves raise and close up at night, folding upwards to give the appearance of praying hands. 

During the day, the leaves quietly and subtly drop down again. 

This movement is known as nyctinasty. 

Sometimes, we can even hear the leaves of the Calathea houseplant as the leaves rub each other when moving.

Prayer plants is a ​common name for:

  • Calathea, 
  • Maranta, and 
  • other Marantaceae (similar but not identical plants);

How does this process work at the roots of the idea?

Calathea moves its leaves by changing the water pressure in their enlarged pulvini. 

Pulvini are fattened joint-like structures on the leaf stalk (petioles), the swollen nodes at the base of the leaf. 

Calathea leaves movements are meant to follow the sun’s movement in the sky to maximize light absorption.

When the leaves are to be raised, the cells within the structures swell with water.

Tip: When your Calathea isn’t getting the care it needs, or the conditions aren’t optimal, the leaves stop moving at night. Use this tip to search for reasons your plant has deteriorated and get your houseplant healthy again. 

Plant care

Many of us wonder how to keep Calathea healthy and provide this prayer plant with the best plant care.

When we invest in the growth of this indoor plant, it’s essential to be mindful of its origins and needs. 

Consider that Calatheas aren’t the easiest houseplants to take care of.  

In the article below, we will review the best free care tips for all types of Calatheas.

Sunlight

The light that Calathea needs to grow is as important as how moist and how often to water this indoor plant. 

Let’s consider:

  1. How does Calathea like to be lit? 
  2. What changes in the summer and winter?

This plant thrives in medium to bright indirect light, not liking too much direct sun.

Calathea growth is also possible in lower light (low indirect light).

It means that these plants don’t like full light (direct) and favor it when it’s a bit hidden (indirect). 

That’s why these low light liking plants will fancy growing far from the window in summer (away from too much direct sunlight) and will feel better in a well-lit place in the winter (enough direct sunlight with low intensity). 

The light isn’t bright in the winter, so it’s okay when it’s direct. Feel free to place your Calathea next to the window in the winter.

Important: Small nursery plants with browning leaf edges or poor leaf color probably won’t make it into a full recovery. Get your Calathea better by placing it in low light and humid environment.

The specific needs regarding light come from the Calatheas natural environment. 

They like less light as they would normally grow on the floor of jungles and forests.

There, they would get little light through the tops of the trees. 

Direct sunlight would burn the leaves of a Calathea or turn its vibrant colors pale.

The darker the foliage (such as in the Calathea Ornata), the lower the light requirements.

Humidity

Calatheas like an environment with higher humidity, so as houseplants, consider keeping them in the kitchen or bathroom.

Calathea loves high humidity at a level of 60 percent.

Their soil should stay consistently moist if you genuinely care for your plant. 

No matter the cultivar of the Calathea houseplants you’re growing, providing humidity is the key to their optimum performance. 

How to make it happen?

  1. Place bowls of water around the plant. 
  1. Placing Calathea’s pot over a tray filled with pebbles (pebble tray) and water is also a well-known way to provide them with humidity. 

The pebbles will keep the pot from being submerged in water. The natural evaporation of the water will help keep the air around the plant moist.

  1. Another tip is frequent misting, as it offers some humidity. Yet, it’s not enough to provide 60 percent humidity to a plant in a dry, heated room. 

Tip: Don’t mist Calathea directly on the top of the leaves. Instead, spray from the bottom up. Also, mind that these plants prefer higher overall humidity over misting.

  1. Keep in mind that to take care of Calathea roots, you need to include frequent, lukewarm showers. Use a spray attachment near a sink or put them in the shower.
  1. Fashion a humidity tent to use at night, or cover with a cake cover.
  1. Group plants together (it increases the overall humidity),
  1. If you’re done with DIY methods, go for a good old humidifier to provide your place with humidity. It’s an excellent investment if you want your Calathea to thrive. But, of course, it will benefit human inhabitants as well.

We tackle the subject of watering the Calathea in the paragraph below. 

If you notice your Calathea having some brown tips, it is most likely because of a lack of moisture within the air.

Another reason may be that you use water contaminated with unnecessary minerals (think tap water). 

Temperature

Prayer plants like temperature above 60°F (about 16°C), up to between 65-80 degrees. 

Since it’s a bit too chilly for most people, you may not provide your Calathea with precisely the temperature degree level it needs. 

Also, since Calathea plants come from tropical areas, they dislike the cold. 

Temperatures above and below 65-80 degrees can cause damage to the plant, easy to notice by the curling of the leaves.

Potting medium

How about mixing:

  • 50 percent potting soil, 
  • 20 percent orchid bark, 
  • 20 percent charcoal, and 
  • 10 percent perlite?

It’s an expert soil recipe to make your Calathea happy, starting from the very roots. 

Remember that Calathea enjoys moist soil but not wet soil, so we’ve got another puzzle to tackle. 

Never let the soil get dry because your Calathea hates these conditions. 

Fertilizer

You can also use high nitrogen non toxic houseplant fertilizer when feeding the Calathea plant with the best care.

Houseplant fertilizer will help you avoid pests, pale leaves, or brown spots on the edges of the leaves. 

Mind that these can also occur when using too much fertilizer high in phosphorus.

To remove salts left from fertilization, leach the soil now and then.

How often to water your Calathea?

How to take care of Calathea when it comes to moisture? How to water your Calathea precisely as it needs? 

Water with fluoride can damage the foliage of the Calathea, so forget tap water if you want to keep your Calathea healthy. 

Tip: Collect rainwater for watering Calathea houseplants, or use bottled, distilled water without fluoride. 

We need to water Calathea regularly.

It’s not a type that fancies drying out between waterings. 

Tip: Stick your finger in the top two inches of soil. When it feels dry, it’s time for your plant to have a sip of water. Use a moisture meter if you find it hard to figure these things out by yourself. Don’t allow the soil of a Calathea to reach 1 or 2 (too dry). The meter should read around 3. At this point, it’s time to water again.

Most probably, watering once a week works great for your Calathea during the summer months.

In the winter, you can water your plant less frequently.

Yet, consider that each plant is different, and these indications may vary. 

Calatheas are pretty delicate. 

These plants like to be watered often, yet they don’t want to sit in soggy soil. 

Calatheas don’t like to be kept too wet for too long.

When choosing the right pot for this prayer plant, go for a ​pot with a wide drainage hole and porous soil.

Don’t overwater your plants.

Important: A typical sign of overwatering is yellowing leaves.

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Frequently Asked Questions

The Calathea family has several dozen species. The family members vary from slender, reedlike stalks to leafy spreading herbs to dense bushes nearly 2 m (about 6.5 feet) high. The two most common cultivars are Calathea Veitchiana ‘Medallion’ (Medallion Calathea) and Calathea Lancifolia. The latter is also known as the Rattlesnake Plant because of the unique markings on the foliage resembling the reptile. There are also Calathea Ornata, Velvet Leaf Calathea (with dark green symmetrical and soft leaves), Calathea Zebrina, Calathea Rufibarba, Calathea Roseopicta (also known as Rose Painted Calathea, thanks to the striking foliage and bright patterns), and many others.
These rhizomatous perennial herbs are native to moist or swampy tropical forests, particularly in the Americas (South America, Central America, and the Caribbean). They are grown in parts of the Caribbean, Australasia, and sub-Saharan Africa and used for their easily digestible starch known as arrowroot and ornamental foliage.
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