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Starr 080716-9470 Calathea crotalifera.jpg
Calathea crotalifera
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Zingiberales
Family: Marantaceae
Genus: Calathea

Numerous, see text

Calathea is a genus of flowering plant belonging to the family Marantaceae. They are commonly called calatheas or (like their relatives) prayer plants. About 200 species formerly assigned to Calathea are now in the genus Goeppertia.[1] There are several dozen species in this genus. Native to the tropical Americas, many of the species are popular as pot plants due to their decorative leaves and, in some species, colorful inflorescences. The young leaves and bracts can retain pools of water, called phytotelmata, that provide habitat for many invertebrates.[2]



During the night, the leaves fold up.[3] In the morning, the leaves unfurl in search of the morning sun. This phenomenon is made possible by a small "joint"[3] the plant possesses between the stem and leaf.


The following species are accepted:[4]


Like the shady floors of the tropical canopies, this genus prefers low to medium light.[5] Too much direct sunlight can damage their fragile leaves. Signs of too much sun exposure may result in sunburn or dullness in the color of the leaves.[5] Along with light preferences, these plants require high humidity to mimic their natural habitat.[5] However high humidity does not necessarily equate to a lot of water. Calatheas should be kept moist but not wet. Over or under watering these finicky plants can lead to brown dry leaves. With tropical plants, temperature is a very important part. Calatheas prefer temperatures 60° F / 15°C and above to support healthy growth.[6] In ample conditions, Calatheas can grow up to three feet in height with wide leaves.[5] Though they are slow growers, once they reach their ultimate height they will stop growing.[6]


The genus Calathea is expansive and is not short of many cultivars. Cultivars include:

  • Calathea 'Beauty Star'
  • Calathea 'Eclipse'
  • Calathea 'Freddie'
  • Calathea 'Misto'[5]

Growing medium[edit]

Since Calatheas are susceptible to many outside factors, it is important to have them in the right soil. Ideal soil conditions for Calathea should be porous and well draining.[6] Drainage is very important for Calatheas due to root rot. Root rot is a common problem with many house plants that do not have effective drainage and ultimately kills the plant. A light porous soil will ensure that the plant's delicate root system is not ‘drowning’.


Over the years, Calatheas have become a very popular houseplant[7] because their attractive leaves grab the attention of many plant owners. With so many species to choose from it has become one of the most popular houseplants to own. When growing Calatheas indoors, even some of the most experienced plant owners find them difficult,[citation needed] so it is important to be mindful of their native origins and what care they require. Unlike their wild counterparts, many if not most indoor-kept Calathea will not flower.[7] When choosing the right pot for a Calathea, it is important to be mindful that they do not like to be kept too wet for too long. A pot with a wide drainage hole and porous soil is ideal.


Propagation is the process of creating an offspring of a plant through a mother plant.[8] A very common way of propagation is through taking a cutting of a plant that exposes a node. Unlike Philodendrons or Pothos who can propagate from just cuttings, Calathea achieve propagation through division.[7] In order to successfully propagate a Calathea, one needs to have a healthy established mother plant. Calatheas shoot out new leaves all the time that are waiting to unfurl their beauty. Therefore, upon un-potting a mother plant it is evident that you can gently separate the plant into smaller parts.[7] Once the Calathea has been successfully divided, each new grouping needs to be potting in its own (well draining) pot. The newly established Calathea will soon shoot out new leaves and continue to grow.

Native uses[edit]

In its native range, the large and tough leaves are popular for holding small items. Sometimes, they are used unprocessed, e.g. to wrap fish for transport in parts of Brazil, such as the Benevides region of Pará. In other places, the leaves are used in handicraft to produce containers, such as the quivers of the Nukak people of Colombia. Most famous, perhaps, are the decorative Calathea-leaf rice containers produced in some villages of Thailand, especially in Ban Huak (Amphoe Si Bun Rueang) where they are an important source of income and sold to locals and tourists alike.

Calathea foliage is of importance to some herbivores, such as the caterpillars of the purple owl (Caligo beltrao) which feed on C. zebrina. For a list of Calathea diseases, see List of foliage plant diseases (Maranthaceae).

Due to habitat destruction, several species are threatened with extinction.


  1. ^ Borchsenius, Finn; Suárez, Luz Stella Suárez; Prince, Linda M. (2012). "Molecular Phylogeny and Redefined Generic Limits of Calathea (Marantaceae)". Systematic Botany. 37 (3): 620–635. doi:10.1600/036364412X648571. S2CID 84276716.
  2. ^ Jalinsky, J., T.A. Radocy, R. Wertenberger, & C.S. Chaboo. 2014. Insect diversity in phytotelmata habitats of two host plants, Heliconia stricta Huber (Heliconiaceae) and Calathea lutea Schult (Marantaceae) in the south-east Amazon of Peru. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 87(3): 299–311.
  3. ^ a b "Calathea". Air So Pure. Retrieved 2019-04-25.
  4. ^ "Calathea G.Mey". Plants of the World Online. Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 2017. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Calathea". Costa Farms. Retrieved 2019-04-25.
  6. ^ a b c "How to Grow Striking Tropical Calathea". The Spruce. Retrieved 2019-04-25.
  7. ^ a b c d "Calathea: A Guide to Collecting Calathea". Leaf and Paw. 2018-11-09. Retrieved 2019-04-25.
  8. ^ "What is Propagation? - Definition from MaximumYield". Retrieved 2019-04-25.