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Calathea crotalifera
Scientific classification Edit this classification
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 plants 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] Calathea currently contains around 60 species. 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]





Calathea leaves are often large and colorfully patterned.[3] The leaves are often variegated with bright colors such as pink, orange, red, and white.[4] The underside of their leaves are frequently purple.[4] During the night, the leaves fold up.[3] In the morning, the leaves unfurl in search of the morning sun.[3] This phenomenon, known as nyctinasty,[3] is made possible by a small joint the plant possesses between the stem and leaf, called a pulvinus.[4]



Calathea flowers can be yellow, purple, and white and bloom in the summer.[3] The flowers have an asymmetrical structure with three petals and three free sepals.[4] Calathea bracts are often more attractive than its flowers.[4]



In ample conditions, calatheas can grow up to three feet in height with wide leaves. Though they are slow growers, once they reach their ultimate height they will stop growing.



Like the shady floors of the tropical canopies, this genus prefers low to medium light.[3] 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.[3]

Temperature and humidity


Along with low to indirect light preferences, these plants require high humidity to mimic their natural habitat .[3] Some calatheas are placed in bathrooms, kitchens, and other areas with high-moisture levels.[3] Calatheas prefer temperatures 60 °F / 15 °C and above to support healthy growth.[3] These plants are also sensitive to cold air. The ideal temperatures range for these plants is 75 °F / 23 °C to 85 °F / 29 °C.[3]



Calatheas should be kept moist but not wet, never fully drying out between waterings.[3] Over- or under-watering these plants can lead to root rot or brown, dry leaves.[3] Calathea are sensitive to chemicals and certain heavy metals and minerals found in tap water, mainly chlorine and fluoride.[3] A buildup of excess salts and chlorine solids can also be seen with brown leaf-edges, as the plant may be unable to expel all of its absorbed minerals, post-watering. Therefore, many collectors recommend only watering these plants with distilled water, and being gentle on fertilizer, as well; still, despite the plant’s chemical sensitivities, other gardeners advise against solely using distilled water, as it is devoid of all possible nutrition, and recommend alternating between distilled, reverse osmosis and spring water.

Growing medium


Ideal soil conditions for calatheas should be porous and well draining.[3] Drainage is very important for calatheas due to root rot. A light porous soil and pot with a drainage hole will ensure the plant's delicate root system is not over-watered. Calatheas prefer the soil to be moist but not overwatered. The species also prefers an acidic soil pH.



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

  • Calathea 'Beauty Star'
  • Calathea 'Dottie'
  • Calathea 'Eclipse'
  • Calathea 'Flame Star'
  • Calathea 'Freddie'
  • Calathea 'Indri'[4]
  • Calathea 'Leopardina'
  • Calathea 'Mia'[4]
  • Calathea 'Misto'
  • Calathea 'Pinstripe'
  • Calathea 'Rattlesnake'
  • Calathea 'Roseopicta'
  • Calathea 'White Star'
  • Calathea 'Zebrina'[3]



The species was first introduced as a houseplant in the 1970s and 1980s.[4] Over the years, calatheas have become a popular houseplant because of their attractive leaves.[3] Calathea are also grown outdoors in Hawaii and southern Florida.[3] Unlike their wild counterparts, few indoor-kept calathea will flower.[5]



Plant propagation is the process of creating an offspring of a plant through a mother plant. Calathea achieve propagation through division.[5] To successfully propagate a calathea, one needs to have a healthy established mother plant. After removing the mother plant from its pot, one can gently separate the plant into smaller parts.[5] Once the calathea has been successfully divided, each new grouping must be planted in its own (well-draining) pot. The newly established calathea will soon shoot out new leaves and continue to grow.

Native uses


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 [citation needed]. In other places, the leaves are used in handicraft to produce containers, such as the quivers of the Nukak people of Colombia [citation needed]. 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 [citation needed].

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

Due to habitat destruction, several species are threatened with extinction [citation needed].

Native regions


Calathea are native to parts of tropical Latin America and were introduced in Hawaii.[6] The genus is native to the following countries and regions:[6]

List of species


The following species are accepted:[6]


  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 c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "How to Grow Striking Tropical Calathea". The Spruce. Retrieved 2019-04-25.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Van Huylenbroeck, Johan; Calsyn, Evelien; Van den Broeck, Andy; Denis, René; Dhooghe, Emmy (2018), Van Huylenbroeck, Johan (ed.), "Calathea", Ornamental Crops, Handbook of Plant Breeding, Cham: Springer International Publishing, pp. 301–318, doi:10.1007/978-3-319-90698-0_13, ISBN 978-3-319-90698-0, retrieved 2021-11-16
  5. ^ a b c "Calathea: A Guide to Collecting Calathea". Leaf and Paw. 2018-11-09. Retrieved 2019-04-25.
  6. ^ a b c "Calathea G.Mey". Plants of the World Online. Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 2017. Retrieved 6 May 2021.