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

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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!

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:

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Eva Voulgaridou

Thursday 26th of March 2020

Hello Raffaele,

I have a calathea rufibarba which is not doing very well, I've sent a photo to your email for reference.

The leaves were burning closer to the window so I moved it a bit further back, it was doing well for some time but now most of the leaves are turning brown. The soil -when I test it with my finger- feels moist so I wouldn't water again. Should i re-pot in a smaller pot with only the healthy leaves? Should I water more regularly or less often? Or should I just remove the dead leaves and wait for sunnier days? I live n Scotland so no much sun sees my plants unfortunately. Please help me I'm afraid I cannot help it :(

Thank you,

Eva

Raffaele

Sunday 29th of March 2020

Hi Eva, I'm sorry if I didn't see your email. I can't seem to find it. Would you mind resending the photo? It would help to see the plant.

Talia Crockett

Friday 20th of March 2020

Hi there! Desperately seeking help for my beloved calathea rufibarba. "Barb" was growing extremely well until I made the mistake of moving her to sit with my other calatheas. Her leaves started discoulouring; instead of a uniform purple underside, they are now speckled and brown. She no longer "prays" at night and is sad and droopy. Once I noticed something was amiss, I moved her back to her old spot, but she is not bouncing back. Should I trim off the discoloured leaves? Is she a goner? Happy to send a pic. Thank you so much for any recommendations you may have.

Talia

Sunday 22nd of March 2020

@Raffaele, Thank you kindly! Can you please point me in the direction of your email contact address? Thanks again.

Raffaele

Friday 20th of March 2020

Hello Talia! Yes, photos would help and I also have questions. Please include in the email how the conditions changed from where you used to have Barb to where you moved her. Light, temperature, etc. Anything that you can observe that changed. I will try my best to help!

Pauline

Wednesday 18th of March 2020

I have a calathea where a new stem was sprouting but now has dried out at the tip. Plant is next to a humidifier at all times and the usual humidity is 60-70%. The top of the new stem is now all dry. Is there a way for the new stem to recover or should I remove it altogether?

Raffaele

Thursday 19th of March 2020

Hi Pauline. I would just cut off the brown tip and leave anything that it still green. It's hard to say without seeing a photo. Are you maintaining good soil moisture? Not to dry and not too wet? It could be watering related.

Aric

Friday 6th of March 2020

What should I do with the leaves that have brown edges?

Cut off the whole leaf? Leave them? Or something else?

Raffaele

Saturday 7th of March 2020

If the leaves really bother you, you can cut them off. If you can stand them, just leave them on! If you have a lot of leaves with crispy edges, you don't want to cut all of them off your plant. If it's just one or two, it's fine to do that.

Jennie

Friday 28th of February 2020

I recently acquired a calathea rufibara (fuzzy feather) a few weeks ago, and for a while it was doing quite well. I accidentally let it dry out a bit too much in the beginning, but watered it throughly and it didn't cause much fuss from there. I had it in our Eastern bedroom window where it only caught bits of morning sun, but can get somewhat chilly in the winter evenings ~15 degrees Celsius at the very lowest at night likely. It seemed quite happy- I also have it with a small pebble humidity tray underneath it to help give it a little extra humidity. It even has started throwing out a little flower bud at the base of the plant! However, last week I accidentally let it dry out a bit, and noticed a few leaves curled at the base of the plant. I immediately watered it quite thoroughly and filled up the humidity tray again. However the leaves continued to curl and its getting worse every day! I'm usually quite adept with plants, and keeping them happy and alive, but I've tried everything with this plant... At one point I thought it might've gotten mealybugs and gave it a quick spray of my usual houseplant insecticide. Yet it is not getting any better, despite misting it, making sure the soil is moist since I last watered, I've even tried it in different windows, and it continues to get more and more unhappy. Every single leaf is now curled (no brown crispy edges), and the stems are starting to fall and lean over from where they used to stand tall. I've scoured the internet and can't seem to find any real diagnosis for all the leaves curled yet still fully coloured, only finding mostly articles about brown edges, which is not the problem. It's going on a week of being like this now.. Please help!!

Raffaele

Saturday 29th of February 2020

Hi Jennie, can you please email me some photos of your plant? It will help if I can see it. Also, let me know in the email the size pot that it is in, if you have drainage holes, and how exactly do you water when you water.