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Behind the Calathea

Behind the Calathea

Calathea, the Peacock plant.

What a plant, grown for beautifully patterned leaves!

Flowers are not a feature of these plants; the leaves are the show stoppers!

Leaves are paddle-shaped, some have interesting toothed or wavy margins combined with contrasting light and dark markings. Some Calathea have lurid pink or red markings as if to say ‘Look at me!’ 

Don’t expect Calathea to be a snap to grow; inexperienced growers can struggle.

Here are some growing and care tips- 

  • Light- keep your Calathea in a bright position out of direct sunlight. If outdoors keep in a bright shaded position.
  • Watering- only one rule here, just moist is just right! Not wet, not dry, just constantly moist. If the soil surface looks dry, then that’s the time to give the plant a little drink. Make sure it’s not sitting in water! Winter requirements will be less.
  • Humidity- this genera comes from humid climates so where you can replicate, do so. Mist the leaves frequently and avoid keeping in air conditioned spaces.
  • Warmth- once again, Calathea occur naturally in tropical climates so it follows that they grow best in warm environments; a minimum temperature of 15 deg C will be required.
  • Fertilising- Fish/seaweed emulsion on a regular basis will keep your plants looking good. We suggest a light spray with half strength solution every two weeks.
  • Draughts- avoid placing your babies in draughty places. 

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If you stick to these guidelines, your plants will do well, so well that you may even consider repotting each spring.  Upsizing will require a larger container and good quality potting mix. Avoid cheap bagged mixes! Buy the best that include slow release fertilisers.

Sometimes plants don’t look healthy. Lets see how we can help!

Crispy leaf margins indicate either drying out of soil or low humidity. Think about the location and your watering regime and adjust. Snip off sad leaves.

Curled leaves, lacklustre appearance comes from insufficient water. The plant is trying to tell you something and that message is ‘give me water’. Not to be confused with overwatering where the roots are drowning and gas exchange is impaired. The soil surface is wet and possibly green with algae. 

Rotting stems, yellow leaves. Overwatering is the likely cause. Back off buddy!

Try a different position, one that is brighter and warmer.

Burnt tips, faded appearance. You put it out to catch the rain and then forgot it right? The rain was great but the sun has scorched it. Place it back where it belongs and try not to do it again. Don’t remove the leaves, they will continue to make sugars for new leaf production; once these appear, cut the old leaves.

Calathea are wonderful species to have, providing horticultural joy in every home. Mix them with other indoor plants to give yourself a tiny touch of Amazonia.