Calathea vittata – A Complete Care Guide

Calathea vittata or the prayer plant is an immediate eye-catcher. If you are a plant lover, it’s nearly impossible to not fall in love with the striking green foliage of this plant. Native to South America, various species of Calathea vittata can be found growing in Brazil and Columbia.

The lime green leaves of the plant contain beautiful white/cream stripes giving it a picturesque appearance. The leaves of the plant curl within during the night and open up upon seeing the sun, giving it the name- prayer plant.

Some people also refer to it as the office plant because they are easy to care for and are often used for decorating indoor spaces such as offices. Although rarely available, Calatheas are not very tricky when it comes to maintenance and propagation. 

Under the optimum conditions (Light, temperature, humidity, etc.) the plant lives a long and happy life. Calatheas are not toxic and pet-friendly plants which make them an ideal candidate for indoors.

If you are new to the world of plants, the evergreen Calathea vittata can be an easy option, to begin with.  To know how to properly care for your Calathea vittata, keep reading!

Let’s begin with a quick summary of all the optimum conditions that are necessary for the health of your plant.

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General Care for Calathea vittata

Calathea vittata

Summary:

  • Light: Bright indirect sunlight
  • Water: Use filtered/distilled water. Water 1-2 times a week
  • Soil: Peat/perlite mix
  • Fertilizer: Once a month (with a diluted nitrogen rich fertilizer), only during the growing season
  • Size: 18 inches tall (45 cm)
  • Size: Leaves grow up to 8 inches long (20cm)
  • Temperature: Between 65 and 75℉ (18-25℃)
  • Humidity: Best above 60%
  • Cold hardy: Not cold hardy
  • Propagation: By stem division
  • Toxicity: Non toxic to humans and animals

General Care for Calathea vittata

Calathea vittata can live a long healthy life if they are given the optimal light, temperature, humidity, and fertilizer.

Below we have given a detailed explanation of each factor affecting the growth of Calathea vittata.

Water

Native to tropical rainforests, Calathea is used to getting lots of water, therefore make sure to water your water regularly.

However, take care not to overwater the plant as it can lead to root rot and other fungal diseases.

You can check the moisture level of the soil either by sticking a finger 2” into the soil or by using a moisture meter. If the soil feels dry, it’s time to water the plant.

Stunning Zamioculcas zamiifolia 360...
Stunning Zamioculcas zamiifolia 360° View

Try watering the plant at least twice a week during summers. However, the plant does not require frequent watering during winters.

Calathea vittata is sensitive to the chemicals used in tap water. Prefer giving distilled or filtered water to keep the soil moist.

You can check if your plant is sensitive to tap water by looking for the following signs:

  • Browning of leaf edges
  • Spots on leaves

If you don’t have access to distilled water, a simple solution is to leave the tap water at room temperature for 24 hours. 

This allows the chemicals to settle down and the water can now be used for the plant.

You will know whether the plant is adequately hydrated or not by looking for the following signs:

  • Yellowing of leaves-over watering
  • Root rot-over watering
  • Curling of leaves-dehydrated
  • Drooping leaves /brown spots-dehydrated

Light

Light is a vital factor for the healthy growth of any plant. It helps a plant to photosynthesize, produce flowers and grow rapidly.

Owing to its natural habitat, Calathea vittata are not used to getting direct sunlight.

Their short height allows only indirect sunlight to reach them, which is filtered through the canopy of bigger trees.

While keeping indoors, you must choose a place that is bright but does not receive direct sunlight.

Place your Calathea near a west-facing window or use curtains to diffuse direct sunlight.

Exposing your plant to direct sunlight for long periods can result in:

  • Burning of leaves
  • Color fading
  • Leaves will turn brown

However, the plant loves well-lit environments and f kept under low light conditions it can:

  • Make the stems grow lean and less sturdy
  • Affect the overall growth of the plant
  • Cause discoloration of leaves

Soil

Calathea vittata loves warm, adequately moist, and well-aerated soil. 

To maintain the optimum conditions you should look for a soil mix or prepare it at home by using perlite, peat, and potting soil in a ratio of 1:2:2.

Peat moss allows the soil to be loamy whereas the perlite helps in maintaining the aeration.

Using charcoal or orchid bark in your soil mix can also be a good option. Charcoal can help improve the soil quality by:

  • Maintaining the pH of the soil
  • Encourages water absorption
  • Helps in the growth of a healthy microbiome
  • Eliminates toxins and purify the soil

Keep the soil well hydrated. The plant needs more water on bright, summer days and in the growing season as compared to low-light enter days and during dormancy.

Don’t overwater! Soggy soil encourages fungal diseases and root rot. To avoid that, make sure your soil drains well. 

Perlite helps in better drainage, also, you can pot your Calathea vittata in pots with drainage holes. 

Drainage holes prevent the plant’s roots from sitting in water. You can also keep pebbles in your water tray for this purpose.

Replace the topsoil during spring so that your plant can have the most (nutrients) out of it.

Potting

Under optimum conditions, Calathea vittata is a fast-grower. 

This means that you will probably need to repot your plant every 6 months to 1 year, depending on its growth rate.

If the roots of your Calathea are coming out of the drainage hole of your plant, it is time to repot your plant.

For repotting, follow the following steps:

  • Add the usual soil mix into a bigger pot.
  • Dig and move the soil around the plant and gently pull it out.
  • Now transfer the plant into the new pot.

If you are planning to re-pot your plant, make sure to consider the following:

  • It is better to pot your plant at the start of the spring season.
  • Prefer a day when the temperature is neither too hot nor too cold, to avoid extra stress.
  • Take special care to keep the plant well-fed and adequately hydrated, without overdoing it.

Repotting every 2 years is necessary because the plant can outgrow its old pot. This can lead to root tangling, thus causing root damage. 

Also, clumped and tangled roots will hinder drainage and can lead to root rot and related diseases.

Fertilizer

Fertilizers are a major source of nutrients and therefore play a key role in the health and long life of your plant.

Calathea loves a weak, nitrogen-rich fertilizer. You can adjust the strength of your fertilizer by diluting it in half. 

Both over and underuse of fertilizer can harm your plant. When fertilizing, observe your plant closely to check how it responds to the fertilizer.

In growing seasons i.e Summer and Spring, the plant can be fertilized twice a month, depending upon its growth requirement.

However, in the dormant winter season, the plant does not require frequent feeding.

Overuse of fertilizer can cause the salts to accumulate in the soil, thus increasing its acidity.

The hostile growth environment can result in the yellowing/browning of leaves.

A well-fed plant, on the other hand, appears as a vibrant green and rapidly growing Calathea.

Humidity

Naturally, being an inhabitant of tropical forests, Calathea vittata loves humidity.

60-70% humidity is perfect for a Calathea, however, they can thrive at 50% humidity levels too.

To maintain the humidity levels, you can either:

  • Buy a humidifier.
  • Keep the leaves misted using a spray bottle, now and then.
  • Use a water-filled pebble tray under the pot.
  • Keep the plants together (if you’ve more than one).
  • Place your plant in the kitchen or bathroom.

If the environment is too dry for the plant, the leaves will start wilting.

Temperature

Calathea vittata is a tropical plant and therefore loves warm temperatures and high humidity.

They thrive best at a range of 65-75℉ (18-25℃), which makes the indoor environment quite suitable for them. 

In summers, when the temperature increases, the plant can accommodate up to 85℉, easily. However, it is not cold-hardy and can not tolerate temperatures below 50℉ (18℃).

If you live in the cooler region, make sure that your plant is placed away from the windows or vents where cold air can harm it.

If you are using a heating system for your plants, take proper measures to maintain the humidity levels, as artificial heating systems can dry the air out.

It is best to take your plant out for some fresh air and sun warmth during summers and spring, for better results.

Pruning

When it comes to pruning, Calathea is a low-maintenance plant and does not require it very often.

Pruning is only required if you see browning of leaf edges or dead brown leaves.

Leaf browning is generally not a matter of concern but is a result of a natural, ageing cycle.

However, if you notice that this is occurring quite often, there might be an underlying cause to it.

Discolouration of leaves or browning of edges can also be because of:

  • Too much or too little watering
  • Direct exposure to sunlight
  • Low levels of humidity

Shifting your plant to a new location and maintaining optimum growth conditions can help it grow back, in no time.

Prune the leaves, if the whole leaf is dead or trim their edges (in case of browning of edges) using sterile scissors, to avoid infection.

Other than pruning, clean the leaves of your Calathea vittata often. 

Use a damp cloth to wipe the upper and the underside of the leaf. This wipes off any bacteria or dust on the surface allowing the plant to breathe properly.

Avoid using artificial cleaners or shiners as they can harm the plant.

Diseases

The plant, if not cared for properly, can develop certain diseases, such as: 

  • Root Rot- caused by overwatering and poor drainage.
  • Fungal diseases- caused by overwatering and poor drainage
  • Yellowing of leaves- Direct exposure to the sun, overfeeding, or too much watering.
  • Curling of leaves- Dehydration
  • Brown leaf edges- Low humidity, over-fed

Fusarium:

This is a soil-borne fungus that can result in:

  • Yellowing of leaves
  • Wilting of leaves
  • Browning of stems

You can treat your plant starting with a copper-containing fungicide. However, for future prevention, it is best to:

  • change the potting soil
  • sterilize the pot
  • wash the roots and 
  • re-pot the plant

Cucumber Mosaic Virus:

This is a viral disease that is not fatal but can be readily transferred from one plant to another. 

The symptom includes:

  • Irregular yellow patterns on the leaves

Because this is a transmittable disease the only solution is to discard the affected plant immediately, sterilize the pots and disinfect other plants thoroughly.

Pests

Due to their love for humidity, Calathea vittata attracts a lot of pests.

Some of the most common pests include:

Spider mites

  • Cause webbings on the underside of the leaves.
  • Can cause yellowing and browning of leaves.

Aphids

  • Tiny sap-sucking bugs.
  • Causes curling of leaves and weakens the stems.

Mealybugs

  • Appears as white, powdery masses on the leaves.
  • Loves nitrogen-rich environments
  • Cause yellowing and wilting of leaves

Scales

  • Immobile. 
  • Appears as small brown bumps.
  • Can attract sooty moss

Fungal gnats

  • Appears as swarms of mosquitoes
  • They can cause bites and holes on leaves.

To avoid infestation, make it a habit to keep your plants clean. Cleaning the upper and inner side of leaves with warm soapy water and spraying them with neem oil or other pesticides can help eradicate infestations.

How to Propagate Calathea vittata

Propagating Calathea vittata is a pretty easy job. All you need are smaller separate pots filled (one-third) with soil mix and the appropriate timing.

It is best to propagate your Calathea vittata in Spring i.e end of  March-start of April.

This is important because spring is the growing season for Calathea and also the temperature during Spring is moderate i.e., not too hot nor too cold, which reduces the stress.

Division:

The best method of propagating Calathea is through root division. The process goes as follows:

  1. Moving the soil around, gently pluck out the mother plant from its pot.
  2. Make sure the stems and roots of the mother plant are healthy and clean.
  3. You can dust off any excess dirt on the root ball to make it more accessible.
  4. Separate the stems, according to the number of propagations you desire to make.
  5. Trace down each stem to the root ball and separate the roots accordingly.
  6. Cut the stems using a sterile scissor.
  7. Pot the stems into already prepared, separate pots.
  8. Once you are done with the potting, place the daughter plants under optimum conditions.
  9. These newly propagated plants require adequate watering, lesser light but relatively higher humidity than the mother plant.

Once the stem starts growing you can shift it under the same conditions as its mother plant.

Humidity levels can be maintained by covering your newly propagated stems with a thin sheet of plastic.

Most common problems with Calathea Vittata

Why are the leaves of my Calathea Vittata turning yellow?

Yellowing of leaves is quite a generic symptom and can result from any of the following reasons:

  • Over-watering
  • Extreme temperature changes
  • Dehydration
  • Direct exposure to sunlight
  • Too much fertilizer
  • Pest infestation
  • Aging

Yellowing in the centre of the leaf is generally more of a concern than that of the edges.

However, Calathea almost immediately bounces back, given the optimal conditions.

Why are the leaves of my Calathea Vittata brown?

Most probably the fault lies in the water source. Tap water contains salt and minerals that can accumulate within the soil and change its pH.

As a result of which leaves can crimple and turn brown. Use distilled or filtered water to avoid this issue.

Another reason can be inadequate humidity. Low levels of humidity and overdried soil can also lead to the browning of leaves.

Prune any such leaves using a clean sanitized scissor.

Why is my Calathea Vittata wilting?

Dehydration is the most common reason behind the wilting of any plant. However, if you are sure that your plant is adequately hydrated rule out the following causes:

  • Overwatering– Soggy soil can lead to root rot which can result in wilting.
  • Extreme temperature changes- can stress the plant to wilt out.
  • Transplantation stress- If your plant has started to wilt just after being repotted, there is a big chance that it is under transplantation stress. 
  • Make sure to maintain the humidity and hydration to avoid it.

Why are the stems of my Calathea Vittata mushy?

Mushy or pulpy stems are a telltale sign of root rot. This occurs if the plant is getting too much water.

If your plant is mushy, dig it right away and clean out the rotting roots. After getting rid of the affected roots you can repot your plant in new soil and it may revive.

However, if the rot has grown up to the stems, there is not much you can do with the plant.

Why are Calathea Vittata leaves curling?

The curling of leaves is a kind of defence mechanism against the hostile environment.

The plant can be curling its leaves to:

  • Retain water (decreasing transpiration) in dehydrated soil.
  • Avoid direct and prolonged exposure to sunlight.

Curling or crimping can also occur due to low humidity, too much fertilizer, or the use of tap water.

Maintaining optimum light, temperature, humidity, and nutritional requirements can revive your plant.

FAQ:

Is the Calathea Vittata toxic?

Calathea vittata is non-toxic and completely safe to keep in homes. This is what makes it an ideal candidate for decorating indoor spaces if you are a parent to pets or toddlers.

However, the pesticides that are sprayed to keep Calathea healthy are not good for children.

How do you revive a dying Calathea Vittata?

If the Calathea plant is not looked after properly it can start to die. However, there is always a chance to revive your dying plant, if you pay attention to it as soon as the symptoms start showing.

Below is a table that summarizes plant symptoms and how to revive Calathea in those conditions:

SymptomsRevival
Drooping or browning of leavesRegular watering. Maintain humidity. Place under bright indirect light. Replace tap water with distilled water.
Yellowing of leavesCheck for overwatering. Maintain proper drainage and aeration. Overfeeding.
Crimped/Curled leavesMaintain high humidity. Avoid direct exposure to the sun. Adequately hydrate the soil.