Plant Notes | Calathea
Ranking high among the lucky plants that have surfed the explosion in popularity of indoor plants is the Calathea, from the Marantaceae or arrowroot family. Combining vibrant leaf pattern and stunning colour combinations for maximum visual clout, they are among the most easily recognised houseplants, as well as being relatively easy to care for.
Originally a rainforest plant they are found in the tropical areas of the Caribbean, the Amazon and Africa. Loved for their richly ornamental leaves which are variegated in shades of green, white, and pink in stunning patterns that can vary widely between varieties. They can also display a beautiful velveteen leaf surface that looks surprisingly matt and powdery soft.
Popular in the UK since the 70's, they are a relative of the Maranta or Prayer Plant and will also respond to light levels, causing the foliage to rise upright and open in the morning, as if in prayer.
With a few impressive large leaves being supportable from a small plant, to the leaf size and bright colour stripes, the calathea is made for the trend for grouping small plants in small pots.
Deriving as they do from the gloomy floor of dense moist jungle, they can tolerate dappled or low light levels and appreciate steady damp air and temperatures between 15 to 23 degrees celsius. Calathea plants do not like the cold very much. Temperatures above and below that can cause damage to the plant, first evident in the curling of the leaves.
A calathea needs to be kept moist through the summer months and intermittently sprayed with water. Do not water it so much though that the plant ends up sitting in standing water. In winter a Calathea copes with a bit less water and if you need to repot, do so in spring.
Calathea do not need a lot of fertilizing, but they will flower and do well with standard houseplant fertilizer during spring, summer and early autumn. They especially need fertilization when they are growing and flowering
Like many plants, calatheas are very good at removing toxins from the air, caused by cleaning products, modern furnishings made of synthetic materials and so on.