Calathea warscewiczii (ka-LAY-thee-uh vark-zeh-wik-ZEE-eye) has been through quite the identity crisis compared to other popular houseplants.
Going by the common name Calathea jungle velvet (or just jungle velvet), the plant has had multiple scientific names, including Maranta warscewiczii and Phrynium warscewiczii.
It was recently officially renamed Goeppertia warszewiczii, although this newest name still hasn’t fully caught on.
It shares the common name of prayer plant with other Calathea varieties and is a member of the Marantaceae family.
Other common names include:
- Calathea Velvet
- Velvet Calathea
- Velvet Touch
Jungle velvet is a native of Central and South America (more specifically, the rainforests of Costa Rica and Nicaragua), so it can be tricky to grow, despite being low-maintenance in general.
This is due primarily to the perennial evergreen’s tropical origins, which give it higher heat and humidity requirements than the average home provides.
The plant is prized for its velvety fishtail-patterned leaves and conical, color-changing inflorescences.
Calathea Warscewiczii Care
Size & Growth
Under the right conditions, velvet touch will grow to a maximum height and width ranging from 20” to 40″ inches.
Each lanceolate leaf’s undersides are maroon-purple, while the dark green tops have a fishtail pattern of mid to light green.
These leaves move via nyctinasty, responding to both temperature and light in a way that gives the impression of a praying figure.
Flowering and Fragrance
While not the primary reason for owning a Calathea velvet, the inflorescence is quite striking.
The bracts, which emerge in a spiral pattern along the cone, begin as a creamy white before turning yellow and eventually gaining a pinkish hue.
The cones resemble roses when viewed from above due to the way the bracts fold over the edge.
It can take very careful care to get the plant to bloom indoors, but it is worth the effort, as a well-tended plant will continue to produce new 3 to 4-week blooms throughout late winter and early spring.
Light & Temperature
The leaves of Warscewiczii are thin and prone to burns when exposed to direct sunlight.
Ideally, a velvet Calathea will get medium to bright indirect light.
NOTE: It can be normal for the leaves of Calathea to droop at certain times of day, depending on the plant orienting itself for the best lighting.
- Being a tropical plant, your Calathea must be kept at temperatures between 65° and 85º degrees Fahrenheit, far from any sources of drafts.
- This can be reduced to 60º degrees Fahrenheit in winter, although you will also need slightly brighter light during this time.
You should only attempt to grow this plant outdoors in USDA hardiness zone 11.
This should be combined with a humidity level of 50% percent or higher to maintain healthy foliage.
Too little humidity, especially in brighter light, can cause the leaves to turn brown.
In the event you cannot keep the plant in adequate humidity levels, you should sit the pot on a pebble tray filled and water, as frequent misting can only do so much.
Watering and Feeding
Keeping a Calathea warscewiczii properly watered can get tricky because it has different requirements based on season and temperature.
You should only use distilled water at room temperature on Calathea plants, as it’s highly sensitive to the chemicals in tap water.
Make sure the soil remains damp but doesn’t get waterlogged, adding water as necessary.
A good rule of thumb is to water when the top half-inch of soil (or one inch if the plant is enjoying higher humidity levels) is dry during the warmer months and top two inches in the winter.
There’s always water in the morning, so there’s no moisture on the plant by nightfall to help prevent fungal infections.
Having a pot with good drainage holes and flushing the soil every three months will also help ensure there’s no buildup of toxins in the soil.
Soil & Transplanting
Calathea velvet needs a moist, well-draining soil mix.
An ideal homemade mix should consist of two parts peat or coconut coir and one part perlite.
You can feed the plant a dose of any organic, balanced fertilizer diluted to ¼ or ½ strength once per month, but you should make sure to flush the potting mix every few months, so there’s no residual buildup from the fertilizer.
If there’s one thing that velvet Calathea hates, it’s having its roots handled.
As a result, you should only repot this plant when it becomes root-bound.
Choose a container one size larger, gently removing it from the previous pot in spring.
Handle the roots as gently as possible, and avoid tamping down the new soil, as this can damage the root system.
The first watering will help settle the new soil, and it’s best to start slow on the waterings, so you don’t accidentally overwater.
Grooming And Maintenance
This Calathea plant will benefit from gentle pruning occasionally to remove yellowed or damaged leaves.
Light pruning will also help stimulate the growth of new leaves.
You can cut it back in the fall to help shape it, although it won’t do well if aggressively pruned.
Other Calathea Varieties To Collect and Grow
How To Propagate Calathea Velvet
There are a few good ways to propagate your velvet touch.
The safest but less guaranteed method of propagating is through stem cuttings.
You will need a 3 to 4″ inch long cutting containing three or four leaves.
Place this cutting in an equal mix of peat and sand, watering lightly and covering in plastic to ensure the cutting won’t dry out.
Since the cutting has no root node, it can take a while for roots to appear, but keeping it moist and in bright, indirect light should allow small roots to form.
Carefully pot the plant once a small root system has formed and switch to your normal care routine.
Division, while popular, can be risky due to Calathea’s sensitivity to having its roots handled.
The best time for division is when the plant becomes root-bound, dividing it in spring as part of the repotting process.
Gently tease the roots into sections containing at least one leaf.
Place each new section in its own container using the same soil mix as with the parent plant.
Water the plantlets and cover them in plastic to keep the humidity in, placing the pot in indirect bright light.
Make sure the plant is regularly misted, stays warm, and has adequately moist soil until you begin to see new growth (usually after a few weeks).
At this point, the plastic can be removed, and you may begin caring for the plant normally.
Calathea Warscewiczii Pests or Diseases
Several diseases are known to affect this prayer plant, usually as a result of overwatering.
These diseases include: cucumber mosaic virus, fusarium, and leaf spot.
A handful of pests can also affect your Calathea, such as mealybugs, mites, and scale.
It is highly susceptible to spider mites when the ideal temperature and humidity isn’t present.
This plant is non-toxic to humans, cats, and dogs.
Suggested Jungle Velvet Uses
Due to its higher heat and humidity needs, this plant is best reserved for terrariums or greenhouses where the proper levels are more easily maintained.
The plant does well in a tropical-themed garden.
Indoors, it’s popular in rooms that have multiple light sources, as the leaves will slowly reorient themselves towards the active light source over several hours, allowing occupants to enjoy the variation in its leaves.