Calathea orbifolia (ka-LAY-thee-uh or-bee-FOH-lee-uh) is also known as Prayer Plant and is one of the prettiest of the Calathea plant family.
Calatheas are members of the Marantaceae or arrowroot family of plants and are related to Maranta, Ctenanthe, and the Stromanthe plant, and are often confused with the species of plants.
NOTE: Calathea orbifolia is now known as Goeppertia orbifolia.
This tropical, perennial jungle plant hails from South America and the Amazon.
Calathea Orbifolia Care
Even though Calathea is very attractive, they are often overlooked as foliage plants. This may be because as indoor plants they do take some measure of care. They need some extra maintenance.
Although these plants can be quite fussy, the result is well worth the trouble.
Size & Growth
These plants can become quite large and have beautiful silvery-green leaves that grow in a fan configuration. Plants kept in ideal growing conditions grow quickly and enthusiastically and should be kept in a space that allows plenty of room for growth.
Prayer Plants are so-called because they close their leaves as if in prayer at night. The leaves unfold again in the morning light.
Flowering & Fragrance
These plants are grown for their striking foliage. They bloom in the springtime in the wild, producing clusters of tiny, white, star-shaped flowers. You are very unlikely ever to see flowers on a Calathea kept as a houseplant.
Light & Temperature
Keep your Orbifolia Calathea in a setting that provides indirect medium light. Although these plants can tolerate lower lighting conditions, they will not grow as well. They are unable to take full, direct sunlight.
These plants need plenty of moderate, indirect bright light. Too little light will result in leaf bleaching and necrosis on leaf tips. If kept in direct sunlight, you will find that your plant suffers from a great deal of leaf burning and damage.
These tropical plants like a consistently warm temperature (65° – 75° degrees Fahrenheit). Don’t keep your Calathea in a cold room or near a window or door where it may be subject to cold drafts.
Set your plant several feet away from a window with good lighting. This will ensure ample light without the sun’s damaging rays or the possibility of extremes in temperature. Don’t place your Calathea near a heater or air-conditioner.
While immature plants tend to do well in a very hot and humid setting, as they mature and grow, larger Calathea become quite sensitive to heat.
Avoid exposing your mature plants to temperatures higher than 90° degrees Fahrenheit for extended periods.
Watering & Feeding
As with most plants, Calathea does not like to sit in standing water that can lead to root rot. But, Calatheas need regular watering to keep the soil moist. Water thoroughly whenever the top inch or two of soil dries. Never allow the soil to become completely dry.
It should be noted that Calathea is sensitive to chemical content and water. Especially avoid using water that is heavily fluoridated.
Take care to use water that does not contain fluoride or chlorine.
These chemicals will cause leaf burn. Instead, use distilled or filtered water, or at a bare minimum, allow tap water to sit out for at least 24 hours so that some of the chemicals will dissipate.
These tropical plants like a reasonably high level of humidity. Dry air will cause damage to the leaves, and while misting can help some, you may also wish to set up a pebble tray beneath your plants.
Fill a drainage tray with pebbles and pour in a little water. Set your plant on the pebbles, taking care not to allow any of the water to touch the bottom of the container. As the water evaporates, your plant will receive steady humidity.
Calathea also needs a generous amount of nitrogen to maintain its color and attain good growth. In cooler temperatures, the amount of nitrogen should be reduced.
During hot times when watering is heavy, you may need to increase the amount of nitrogen. Too little nitrogen causes Calathea to lose color and develop leaf spots. Your NPK rating for Calathea fertilizer should be 3–1–2.
Avoid high potassium levels. Too much potassium will also reduce color and cause leaf spotting.
Just as your Calathea is sensitive to chemicals in water, it can also be sensitive to too much fertilizer. Excessive fertilizer will cause leaf scorch.
Allow at least three months after repotting with fresh soil before you fertilize. When you do, be sure to water thoroughly first and then use a standard liquid houseplant fertilizer mixed half strength to give your plant a light meal. Fertilize monthly during the growing season, and do not fertilize during the winter months.
Soils & Transplanting
Be sure to use a well-draining soil (peat-based) and keep the plant in a container with ample drainage holes. A combination of equal parts of good quality potting soil, perlite, and peat is a perfect substrate for your Calathea.
Generally speaking, you should report Calathea in the springtime if it seems to be outgrowing its pot. These plants prefer a soil pH of about 6.5.
Grooming & Maintenance
Mist your Prayer Plant 3 or 4 times a week, and wipe the leaves with a damp cloth once a week. These steps help maintain humidity levels and keep the leaves clean, glossy, attractive, and efficiently absorb moisture.
Trim off dead leaves as needed throughout the year.
Other Popular Calatheas
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How To Propagate Calathea Orbifolia
The best way to propagate Calathea plants is through rhizome root division. As your matures the plant produces “pups” (usually in the springtime) as its roots spread and grow. When this happens, it is a sign that your plant needs repotting.
When you repot, separate these young plants at the root, using a very sharp, sterile blade. Give them their own pots. The young starts should be kept in a moderate, indirect light setting. Mist frequently to maintain humidity. [source]
Calathea Orbifolia Main Pest or Disease Problems
Because these plants like humidity, they are also prone to the fungal maladies and pest infestations that go hand-in-hand with humid conditions. Watch out for:
- White Soil Mold
- Powdery Mildew
- Leaf Spot
The correct watering technique, good humidity, and keeping the plants at a warm, stable temperature can help prevent these problems.
Suggested Calathea Orbifolia Uses
Orbifolia prefers warm temperatures and medium to high humidity levels. They like to grow in medium to very bright indirect sunlight, and they do well with frequent watering. For these reasons, Calatheas are an ideal choice as a bathroom plant.
In a tropical setting, these plants can be grown outdoors, under trees that provide high shade, year-round.