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Calathea Care Guide: How to Tend This Leafy Houseplant

Virtues: Calathea are bold-looking houseplants, thanks to their large leaves, which are often colorfully marked. These slow-growing beauties can be a little picky about growing conditions, but their care is easily mastered and they’re well worth the effort.

'Medallion' is a classic calathea cultivar with green and silver accents on its foliage.

'Medallion' is a classic calathea cultivar with green and silver accents on its foliage.

Common name: Calathea

Botanical name: Calathea species and cultivars

Exposure: Bright or low light, but never direct sun

Season: Year-round as a tropical foliage houseplant

Foliage: Details vary among the many named cultivars, but in general calathea plants boast broad, wavy-edged leaves with stripes, splotches or other markings in shades of green or white. The underside of the leaf may be pink or purple, too.

Habit: These are generally upright, bushy growers that fit well on a tabletop while they’re young. They can mature into a floor plant about three feet tall.

Origins: The floor of tropical rain forests

How to grow calathea: Site in a location with bright to low light but not direct sun, which can scorch the leaves. Provide high humidity by standing the pot on a tray of moist gravel and/or clustering your calathea amid other houseplants. Water regularly, never allowing the soil to dry out but instead keeping it evenly moist. Be sure that the soil drains well; this plant likes even moisture but not sogginess. Brown leaf edges indicate the plant is not getting enough water and/or humidity, while curling leaves suggest the plant is being kept too cold. Calathea prefer warm temperatures, ideally between 65 and 80 degrees F.