Calathea Burle Marxii: Learn Fishbone Prayer Plants Growing and Care

Featuring striking, striped foliage, Calathea Burle Marxii [kal-uh-THEE-uh] is an interesting houseplant and perfect for rooms without direct sun.

As an evergreen plant, the leaves remain on display throughout the year.

It is part of the Maranta family (prayer plant) and native to Brazil and also an easy-care plant.

‘Burle-Marxii’ is named after the famous Brazilian artist and landscape designer – Roberto Burle Marx, who I had the pleasure of once meeting.

The Burle-Marxii Calathea plant goes by several other identities:

  • Stromanthe amabilis
  • Calathea amabilis
  • Ctenanthe Burle-Marxii
  • Fishbone prayer plant

Calathea plants need two things – shade and humidity.

Interesting leaves of the Burle Marxii Calathea aka the fishbone prayer plant

Calathea Burle Marxii Care

Size and Growth

Due to the region where this plant comes from, it grows best in humid conditions. Calathea is recommended for USDA hardiness zones 10 to 12, for outdoor growth.

Outside of these zones, grow the plant indoors or in a greenhouse.

It is a slow-growing plant and may take two seasons to reach its full height.

The leaves grow in fan-like clusters and may reach up to 12″ inches in length.

The leaves are the most interesting feature of this plant. The striped, fishbone pattern is dark green on top of the light, gray-green leaves. The underside of the leaves is often red or grayish.

Flowering and Fragrance

While these plants are not known for their flowers, they do produce clusters appearing at the ends of long stalks that reach through the thick foliage.

The flowers do not produce a fragrance and typically bloom in the winter or early spring. The tiny white flowers rarely grow longer than half an inch and produce cherry-red bracts.

Light and Temperature

The Stromanthe prefers shade. Do not place this plant in direct sunlight, as the bright rays can scorch the leaves.

If growing the plant outdoors, find a spot with some morning or late day sun. When grown indoors, consider placing it in a room with an eastern-facing window.

The plant can tolerate a wide temperature range, but it still needs to avoid freezing temperatures.

The biggest environmental concern is humidity. This plant needs moisture throughout the year. If your home doesn’t get very humid, mist the plant daily.

Watering and Feeding

Regular watering is needed, even during the winter. Water regularly during the warmer months while relying on rainwater whenever possible. In the winter, keep the soil moist.

NOTE: Add liquid fertilizer during the summer. Feed the plant once every two weeks to supply it with extra nutrients.

Soil and Transplanting

Stromanthe requires moist, fertile soil with good drainage. Use a mixture of regular potting soil with some peat moss and a little sand.

If you move the plant indoors during the winter, consider placing it in a large pot, instead of growing in the ground. It makes moving the plant easier and reduces stress on the roots.

Repotting is recommended every two years, as the roots can start to crowd out the pot. This is also the perfect time to divide and propagate the plant.

TIP: Dividing the plant every three years helps the leaves grow fuller.

Grooming and Maintenance

Grooming is not needed. However, like most plants, removing the withered leaves is always a good idea.

Propagating Stromanthe Amabilis

Propagate Stromanthe plants by division in the spring. This is the season when the plant starts developing new growth.

Use a peat-based soil or regular potting soil combined with peat moss. Add a little sand to help with drainage.

For the new divisions, use 4″ inch pots and follow these steps:

  • Carefully remove the plant, using extra caution when handling the roots.
  • Loosen the soil and separate the new growths.
  • The rhizomes you separate should have two or three good-sized stems.
  • Place the divisions in individual pots and lightly press the soil.
  • Cover each pot with plastic, but make sure that there are holes for ventilation.
  • Set the pots in a warm, shaded area for several days.
  • Remove the plastic cover and water the new plants using the suggested Calathea care tips.

Calathea Burle Marxii Pests or Diseases

This plant isn’t an invasive species or considered toxic when ingested. The main threats include fungal rot, mealybugs, spider mites, and direct sunlight.

If the leaves appear discolored or scorched, it’s receiving too much light and will eventually result in prayer plant dying.

Move the plant to a shaded area to let it heal.

Remove pests with pesticides or soapy water.

Fungal rot is a common issue, due to the high humidity these plants demand. If you detect any fungal growth, cut back on the watering frequency and cut away the infected areas.

Suggested Uses For Fishbone Prayer Plants

Outside of the warmer, humid regions, Ctenanthe Burle Marxii is best suited for life in a room without lots of direct light.

Either place it in a room with an eastern-facing window or a windowless room (bathroom) with a lot of moisture.