Skip to Content

Keep Your Calathea Alive! The 1 Secret to No Crispy Edges

Share this post!

Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links.

Last Updated on

There is nothing like the stunning foliage of Calathea plants! If you can keep them in good condition that is! There are a few things to keep in mind to keep these plants in beautiful condition and avoid the dreaded brown, crispy edges!

Keep reading to find out all about Calathea care, including light requirements, repotting, and how to prevent your Calathea from dying.

calathea care

And by dying, most people tend to overreact to every little crispy leaf, but you can quickly kill a Calathea if you are not aware of a few things!

In this post, I will provide my personal experience with Calathea. In particular, I will show my Calathea lancifolia (also known as Rattlesnake Plant) and Calathea orbifolia.

However, the care and advice will apply broadly to all plants in the Calathea genus.

Some other gorgeous Calathea species include Calathea makoyana, Calathea ornata, and Calathea roseopicta, among many others!

I will go into the care very shortly, but let me show you my plants. Here is my Calathea lancifolia.

calathea lancifolia

I absolutely love the stunning patterns on the leaves! And here is my Calathea orbifolia. These plants can grow HUGE. A friend actually sent me a tiny orbifolia in a mail and she is starting to grow into a beautiful specimen.

calathea orbifolia

I would encourage you to read this entire post because you can’t really separate elements of houseplant care. You have to look at them all together to get a good picture of how to take care of your plants!

By the end of this post, you will understand how to care for your Calathea and how to do your best to keep them in great shape and minimize those crispy leaves and edges that plague many people.

HUMIDITY FOR CALATHEA

I wanted to start out first by talking about humidity. There are MORE important topics than humidity actually, but I will get to those very soon.

If you can provide higher humidity for your Calathea plants, please go ahead and do so. It is NOT the most important factor in keeping most of your Calathea species in good shape, but it can help.

First of all, misting will do nothing to increase humidity! Humidity is a measure of moisture in the air. You are just wetting the leaves by misting.

That being said, Calathea can be prone to spider mites and misting can actually help deter spider mites (since spider mites like very dry conditions). There is one benefit to misting!

However don’t expect misting to increase your humidity. There are better ways. If you do have a spider mite infestation, read my blog post on Spider Mites: 3 Things You Can Do to Stop Them.

Back to humidity. One great way to increase humidity for your Calatheas and other plants is to simply get a humidifier. I honestly only run mine in the winter time when our indoor air is super dry.

My absolute favorite humidifier, and the one that I personally use is the Levoit Humidifier. It honestly is the best one I’ve used and I’ve used a lot.

It will cost a little more but is well worth it. It has many features including cool and warm mist, and is quiet and very effective. Not to mention, it is built very well and will last you much longer if you take care of it!

I run it all winter long in my sunroom. Not only is it good for my plants, but it is also great for my dry skin and my dry winter nasal passages! 😀

The Levoit Ultrasonic Humidifier is by far the best humidifier I’ve tested and I will not use any other.

Another way to increase humidity is to group plants together. Plants naturally release water into the air by a process called transpiration. The more you group together, the more the localized humidity will increase.

I’ll stop now about humidity so if you want to read more, I’ll refer you to my How to Increase Humidity for Houseplants blog post.

WATERING CALATHEA

There are no secrets in houseplant care. A lot of people ask me frequently “what is your secret” for taking care of [insert plant of the day here].

The only “secret” is just proper houseplant care techniques, like proper watering. If you have proper watering down, in conjunction with proper light, you are most of the way there in ensuring that your plants are healthy.

Those dreaded Calathea crispy leaves and edges, more times than not, are due to inconsistent watering and/or improper watering! NOT humidity.

Proper watering is a much bigger factor in ensuring that your Calathea leaves are in great condition. If you have good humidity on top of all that, all the better! Think of it as a bonus.

You must get your watering practices down and have proper light first. THEN focus on increasing humidity. If you have all 3, you are golden.

That being said, PROPER AND CONSISTENT WATERING is the key to avoiding excessive crispy and brown leaf edges in Calathea (and other plants!)

There are so many watering myths concerning houseplants in general and the word overwatering is terribly misunderstood.

Be sure to read these two blog posts that I just linked to above after you’re done with this post. They are critical to growing beautiful houseplants.

calathea crispy leaves

Take my Calathea lancifolia plant above. This plant was in great condition for a long time when I was very attentive and consistent in watering.

But sometimes, something called life happens, and I either get too tired or busy and I let my plants dry out more than I normally do. If you keep doing this over and over, you will get crispy leaves.

Your Calathea is not dying if you have one crispy leaf. Keep that in mind. But neglect watering over and over again, and it just may die!

So how much do Calathea like to be watered? How often should you water your Calathea? The short answer is that it DEPENDS!

People ask me all the time how often to water plants. And it really just depends. Don’t go by your calendar!

Go by your soil moisture instead! Everyone’s conditions are different. The size of your pot, the type of pot you have (terra cotta vs. plastic for example), the temperature, type of soil, all play a role in how quickly the soil dries out.

So forget that calendar schedule for watering and use your finger instead. Calathea plants like to be on the moist side, but they do NOT like to dry out completely.

Calathea lancifolia

A good rule of thumb that I like to use for these plants is to allow the surface of the soil to dry out, and then water again. Maybe the top inch or so smaller pots. If you have a huge pot, maybe allow the top 2 inches to dry out.

But when do you water, water thoroughly! Let all the water drain out of the drainage hole, and you are done.

Then just keep observing and repeat. It really is as simple as that! By having good watering practices and never allowing your Calathea soil to completely dry out, you will avoid those ugly crispy and brown leaves.

Calathea crispy leaves

On the other end, make sure that your plant is never sitting in watering for extended periods of time and always ensure that you have a drainage hole. Like most plants, you can have root rot if this continues.

Once you have root rot, you can start to get yellow leaves and also brown tips as well.

You may still get very small brown tips on the leaves even with good care, but seriously…don’t stress about those. As long as the rest of the plant looks healthy and vigorous, you have come a long way!

CAN CALATHEA GROW IN LOW LIGHT?

This is a loaded question too! Let me talk a little about “low light” and what Calathea like.

Low light is just too vague and everyone interprets it differently. Let me just tell you what works for me.

Calathea are among the “lower” light plants if you would like to call them that, but they still need to be in front of a window for best results. And by in front of a window, I mean within a couple feet (in most cases).

Light intensity decreases DRAMATICALLY the further you get from a window. You would be shocked!

Calathea do not like a lot of direct sun. The most I would do is some morning sun (which Eastern windows provide) but no more than that. Northerns windows will work well.

Calathea orbifolia
Calathea orbifolia

If you have any windows that are very sunny, you can either move your plant back a little, or use a sheer curtain to diffuse the direct sun so that the plants are not getting direct sun on their leaves.

Too much direct sun, or even short periods of hot, intense sun, can burn their leaves.

That’s it! You’re most of the way there now. Giving your Calatheas proper light and proper watering will go a long way in ensuring a beautiful plant.

There is more to consider though that is very important so keep on reading!

WHAT KIND OF SOIL DOES CALATHEA NEED?

Plants can really grow in a variety of mediums and soil mixtures, but the most important thing that you need to keep in mind is that the soil should be well drained.

There is no one “magic” soil mixture.

Many pre-packaged soil mixes can use some help though in the area of drainage!

As a general potting mix, I love using Miracle Gro potting mix and I do amend it a bit to make it fluffier and lighter, depending on what plants I’m growing.

For Calathea, I like to add perlite to mix.

calathea soil

I like to use my wheelbarrow outside for this to keep the mess down and keep it easy! My ratio will vary, but 2 to 3 parts of Miracle Gro potting mix to 1 part of perlite is a good rule of thumb!

The reason that you want good drainage all has to do with oxygen to the roots. If you incorporate things like perlite, which I buy often all the time from Amazon, it will increase drainage and oxygen to your plant’s roots.

This is very important for all plants.

Just mix everything together well and you are good to go. That being said, let’s talk about how to repot Calathea now.

CALATHEA REPOTTING

Are you ready to repot your Calathea? How do you know when to repot Calathea, or any other plant for that matter?

Has your plant been in that same small pot for a long time? You can simply slip your plant out of its pot to see if it is root bound. If it is, it is time to repot.

Maybe you see roots coming out of the drainage holes. Time to repot.

Or maybe you just have a lot of surface roots, and the pot just seems to dry out really quickly. Much more quickly than before.

These are all indications that you may want to repot.

Let’s take a look at my steps that I used to repot my Calathea lancifolia. This applies to almost all houseplants.

calathea repotting

If you have a flexible plastic pot, you can just squeeze the pot gently to loosen it so you can take it out. I had mine in a ceramic pot so I just used a metal chopstick and passed just inserted it around the whole perimeter of the plant.

You can also use a knife to do this as well. Once you do this, gently see if the plant comes out of the pot. If it doesn’t, keep using the chopstick or knife until it does.

calathea repotting

You can see from the photo above that it is pretty potbound. It could be worse though!

Then the next thing you want to do is to loosen the root ball. Gently take both hands and loosen the bottom and the sides of the rootball.

If you break a couple roots, please don’t worry. This step is necessary! Your plant will thank you!

calathea repotting

If you don’t do this step, your plant’s roots will find it much more difficult to grow into the new soil in your new pot.

Once I had a peace lily that I didn’t do this do, and years later when I repotted it again, none of the roots had grown into the new soil! The original pot-bound look was still in-tact!

calathea repotting

I ended up combining two plants into one pot. When you add your soil mixture, be sure that there are no air gaps. You want the roots to have contact with the new soil.

Gently press down to ensure that this occurs. Then give your plant a good watering, and you are done!

CALATHEAS HATE THE COLD

Lastly, I’d like to talk a little bit about temperature. Calathea plants HATE cold temperatures! Aim to have temperatures no lower than 60F (15.5 C)

Numerous people have written to me about their Calatheas suddenly having these issues:

  • Leaves are starting to curl.
  • The plant is no longer upright and leaves seem to droop.
  • The plant is no longer “praying.” Healthy Calathea plants should move their leaves upward at night and then lower them during the day.

I’ve come to find out that many of those plants with these issues have been exposed to cooler temperatures. Calatheas prefer temperatures in the 65F-80F range (18C-27C).

Temperatures much below 60F (15.5C) will cause many of the issues described above. So try your best to avoid cold drafts, or cooler temperatures as described above!

That’s all folks! Do you have any Calathea? What is your experience in growing them? Please comment below. I’d love to hear!

Please do me a favor and share this post to social media because it will help me spread the Ohio Tropics houseplant care tips to the masses! Also, check out my shop on Amazon for all your houseplant care needs:

OHIO TROPICS PLANT CARE STOREFRONT

Christmas cactus
Previous
Foolproof Way to Get YOUR Christmas Cactus to Bloom!
monstera adansonii
Next
How to Grow a 10 Foot Long Monstera Adansonii

Share this post!

Gab

Monday 6th of July 2020

Hi! Enjoyed reading your article!!

I recently bought a Calathea prayer plant and Cali (that's her name) hasn't been in the best of shapes. Most of her leaves are turning yellow on the edges. And I don't know what's happening.

I've been monitoring soil moisture to prevent overwatering and had recently bought a humidifier.

I've been thinking that the causes might be 1. I placed Cali near a doorway in my room without much sunlight, so I'm guessing she lacks indirect sunlight?

2. It gets too humid especially during afternoon, here in the Philippines, we reach 32C or more during afternoons and my room is enclosed.

What do you think I should do? Thank you and more power!

Raffaele

Tuesday 7th of July 2020

From what you're describing, the only thing I could think of is maybe the lack of air circulation if the room is enclosed. But also, if you just purchased it, I would give it some time to adjust. Make sure you're watering properly as I describe in the post because this is really important!

Rachel

Thursday 11th of June 2020

My Calathea medallion is not doing to well. Over a week ago the leaves started to droop and curl. Now all the leaves are like this. At first I tested the soil and it was pretty wet. I left it for a few days. No change to the plant condition. I’ve since repotted it, with a mixture of potting soil and perlite, and bottom watered the plant. It’s gotten even worse. Any suggestions ? It’s not in direct sunlight and is in a plastic pot with holes.

All the leaves are dropped over the side of the pot and they have curled up on both sides, some are looking crispy/brown.

Raffaele

Wednesday 17th of June 2020

Hi Rachel. Sorry to hear this! How long have you had your plant? Did you let your plant get cold by any chance? Also, when you said the soil was wet, can you elaborate? Do you know how long it remained wet for?

MIKE PUI

Thursday 11th of June 2020

thank you for sharing this! I do find this article helpful especialy on the watering frequency. Crispy edges of calathea always give us headache and we won't know what's the problem. such symptomp could be due to excessive watering, less watering, low humidity, too much sun, pests, and even ferterlizing issue. I live in a tropical country Malaysia that has temperature average from 27 to 35c and high humidity up to 87%. I have all my calathea placed indoor and some are doing so well, including the lancifolia and orbifolia but the one driving me nuts are triostar and white fusion, so fragile and so susceptible. i also have them placed near to each other. How oftern should calathea be fertilized and sprayed with pesticides? i used neem oil and i use green boster kind of liquid mixed with filtered water to spray on them. first thought to do this twice a week but i thought to cut down once a week or even once in every 2 weeks.

Raffaele

Wednesday 17th of June 2020

Hi Mike! Many species of Calathea are a pain to keep indoors, but I find the lancifolia is among the most forgiving ones! As far as fertilizing and the neem oil, I would just follow what the manufacturer instructs on the label. Good luck!

Donna Marchlewski

Tuesday 9th of June 2020

I just have to say that I really adore you. You have given generously of your time in explaining ALL THINGS PLANTS. I feel much more comfortable adding new plants to my home. Thank you. I'm passing the word along.

Raffaele

Tuesday 9th of June 2020

Thank you for such a kind note Donna! I'm so happy that you enjoy my site :-).

Christa Russell

Sunday 7th of June 2020

Hi there!

I have an orbifolia and it’s quite large. When I brought it home from the plant store many of its leaves had brown edges and I cut them down to the base as I figured they would be taking up energy the plant could be using to grow new, healthier leaves. It still has a good amount to produce energy but I’m wondering if new shoots will grow up from the ground? Also, will it eventually get larger and produces more shoots than it originally came with?

Thanks so much!

Raffaele

Monday 8th of June 2020

Yes it will probably force new growth from the roots. Just give it a little time!