Calathea Ornata – How To Care For And Grow The Pinstripe Plant

calathea ornata

Calathea Ornata is a tropical plant with shiny and colorful stripes across the leaves, earning it the moniker “Pinstripe Plant.” It’s also sometimes known as the Peacock Plant, Zebra Plant, or Cathedral Plant. 

The Calathea Ornata is often confused with the Prayer Plant, as the two look very similar. Both have large leaves that rise and fall with the sun, just like a person might raise their hands in prayer. However, Prayer Plants vary slightly in appearance and care instructions, so be sure to confirm which one you’ve purchased!

The Pinstripe Plant (part of the Marantaceae family) is prized for its round, brightly colored leaves. These plants typically grow as large as two feet tall and two feet wide, making them excellent for growing inside at home.

This evergreen perennial can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11. And while Pinstripe Plants may seem low-maintenance, they actually require quite a bit of work to stay healthy. You could transport your Calathea outside to your patio, porch, or deck if the conditions are right– though it’s best grown inside, where you can regulate the growing conditions.

The Pinstripe Calathea is a gorgeous house plant that filters the air while enhancing the aesthetics of your home and your health.

Scientific Name: Calathea Ornata

Common Name: Pinstripe Plant, Pinstripe Calathea

Family: Maranta

Plant Type: Perennial 

Native Region: Colombia, South America

Mature Size: Up to 2 ft (60 cm)

Blooming & Flowers: Rare – Orange flowers, oval-shaped. Grow on spiral bracts.

Sun: Bright, indirect sunlight

Water: Keep soil moist, never dry or wet

Humidity: 60 – 70% relative humidity, year-round

Temperature: 65 – 80°F (18-27°C) year-round

Soil: Well-draining, peat-rich potting mix, African violet mix

Fertilizer: Monthly, spring through fall. Balanced (10-10-10 N-P-K) water-soluble fertilizer.

Soil pH: Slightly acidic, about 6.5

Hardiness Zones: USDA Zones 10 & 11

Pests & Diseases: spider mites, fungus gnats, aphids, mealybugs, root rot

History

Calathea Ornata, most often known as the Pinstripe Plant, is a Marantaceae or ‘arrowroot’ family member. Plants in this family, such as the Rabbit Tracks Plant (Maranta leuconeura), are often called Prayer-Plants, though the title has been tied to many.

Calathea is a Greek name that means “basket,” referring to the plant’s floral form as it opens and closes. Ornata is a Latin term that means “ornate,” referring to the plants’ striking appearance. Perhaps ‘Beautiful Basket’ should be added to its long list of names!

As a jungle plant, the Calathea species is native to the tropical Amazon rainforests in Brazil, Peru, and southern Columbia. When in their lush, natural tropical climates, Calatheas are perennial plants that may die back during the dry season only to reappear following the monsoon season.

Calathea plants, more generally, come in over 300 varieties, including hybrids and widely cultivated species. They tend to feature beautiful leaves with colorful designs on the top, and a crimson or purple underside. However, appearances vary depending on the variety and growing environment. Indoor Calathea Ornata plants often feature green leaves with violet bottoms.

Size & Growth

When grown as a houseplant, the potted Pinstripe has leaf stalks that can reach one to two feet in height, while spreading just as wide. It doesn’t grow particularly fast and is sensitive to your attention (or lack thereof). Don’t expect this plant to thrive apart from your care!

Calathea varieties are known as ‘living plants’ because their leaves open and close at night and day. The shifting light activates a reaction between the leaf and stem, causing this movement. Your Calathea Oranta leaves may even rustle as they expand and contract.

What do you do if the leaves aren’t unfolding? Well, Calatheas that keep their leaves folded up at night and day are most likely underwatered or not getting enough light. This rainforest native prefers the wetness, so don’t forget to water it and keep the environment damp. Letting the soil dry out between waterings is unnecessary.

Pinstripe Plants generally grow in one direction, so you won’t have to worry about unruly expansion. When given plenty of damp soil, it will grow most actively from March to October.

Photo by: Smart Garden Guide

Flowers & Foliage

The leaves on a Pinstripe Plant are vibrantly colored and intricately detailed. Young dark green leaves are typically topped with stunning bright pink streaks that run between the lateral veins. However, the lines lose their pink tint as the plants mature and turn white. 

Lined leaves are uncommon in fully grown, blooming plants. Alternatively, the white lines might vanish and be replaced by yellowish-green brush patterns.

Purple is the color of the undersides of the leaves on younger plants. However, mature plants may also lose the purple color on the bottoms of their leaves, which can turn a deep green.

Although this is a popular plant with lovely leaves and hues, it doesn’t really flower indoors. Though, I think its light feathery design contrasted on a dark canvas is a great alternative to flowers. When the plant ages, the pink design turns white.

Pinstripe Plant – Calathea Care

The Pinstripe Calathea is distinguished by its dark glossy green leaves striped with pastel pink and white lines that appear to have been painted. The underside of the leaves has a deep mauve color, allowing the plant to absorb as much light as possible in its natural habitat, the forest floor. But with such good looks comes a lot of maintenance!

The tropical Pinstripe prefers indirect light, as too much direct sunlight will scorch the leaves of most Calatheas. Your Calathea will prefer temperatures between 65-85°F, so avoid cold drafts and rapid temperature changes.

Calathea Pinstripes, like many tropical indoor plants, also prefer high humidity. A humidifier or a pebble tray might help keep leaf edges from curling or browning. This plant thrives in humid areas like the bathroom and kitchen. The top 25% of the soil should remain damp at all times. 

Feed your Calathea once a month in spring and summer with half-strength all-purpose fertilizer. Winter, when plant development naturally slows, requires no fertilizer.

Light & Temperature

Calathea Ornata requires bright indirect light and is quite picky when it comes to light requirements. A good location is near a south-facing window with indirect sunlight or behind a set of sheer curtains. Make sure the Calathea doesn’t get too much direct sunshine, or the lovely leaves will fade. Bright light is good. Direct light is bad.

Some people tend to overcorrect, though, and consider the Pinstripe Plant a low-to-no light plant. But this is untrue! If your plant keeps its colors but starts to droop– or never closes its leaves– it’s likely dying (literally) for some Vitamin D.

This plant prefers warm temperatures of 65 to 85 °F (18 to 29 °C), so keep your interior temps above 60°F (15.5°C) and watch where you position your plant. Generally speaking, if you’re comfortable, so is your plant.

Remember that any houseplants, especially tropical ones, can be damaged by cold drafts or other temperature changes. Keep an eye on your plant for any signs of change and move it to a more stable location if necessary.

Want more control over your lighting options? Check out our resources on artificial grow lights:

Drying Calathea leaf without enough water. Photo from Houzz

Water & Humidity

Calatheas, especially the Pin-Stripe Calathea, can be particular about the quality of their water. Hard water, soft water, and fluoridated water (if you live in the United States, your tap water has fluoride) can all cause your Calathea to get irritable. Distilled water, rainwater, snowmelt, or dechlorinated filtered tap water are all excellent options. 

In fact, your tap water might be to blame for burned Calathea Pinstripe tips and crispy leaf edges. Remove yellow leaves and brown tips to keep your plant healthy. Avoid using shine products on the leaves; instead, wipe them with a wet cloth.

Dechlorinating your water may sound like a chore, but it’s just leaving the filtered water on your counter for 24 hours in a clear container before using it to water your plants. All the unwanted components, like chorine and fluoride, will evaporate.

The Pinstripe Plant needs to remain damp and moist at all times. Fill your plant’s pot with water until the drainage holes at the bottom of the vessel leak. There’s no need to let the soil dry out between waterings. However, make sure the plant and pot have good drainage, as sitting water will cause root rot. Finding the right balance between ‘moist’ and ‘soaked’ is critical.

Beyond regular wearing, these tropical plants prefer humid environments. Calatheas can be misted about twice a week with room temperature water or placed in a naturally damp area. Place your Calathea Ornata in the kitchen or bathroom for best results. And rather than guessing whether or not you have the proper humidity levels, use a humidity gauge near your Pinstripe Plant.

If you have a particularly dry home, place a humidifier near the plant. A humidifier will assist the Ornata in retaining moisture even if a radiator or other drying source is close. Also, consider using a tray with pebbles underneath the potting vessel. Adding water to the stones will keep the roots moist without rotting them.

While you can cut back on watering throughout the winter, you must still provide higher humidity to battle the dry air.

Soil & Fertilizer

The Calathea Ornata prefers moist soil, so look for a mix that holds a lot of water. When using soil with high water retention, the Pinstripe can stay in the dirt for an extended period, and you might not have to water it as frequently. However, it’s not a problem if you don’t have any dirt that’s meant to retain water. Simply wet and water the plant more regularly to keep the soil moist.

Since the soil must be damp most of the time, use soil that can ‘breathe’ when wet. If your dirt becomes particularly heavy and compacts, you may want to try a different one, as it won’t allow any air to reach the roots, slowly suffocating the plant. Soil with larger chunks and peat moss mixed in is an excellent choice since it stores water and allows air to pass through.

When you notice new plants, fertilize them. When fresh leaves appear (resembling tightly curled scrolls), feed your Calathea with a diluted houseplant fertilizer. You should reapply every 4-8 weeks during the spring and summer, depending on how quickly your plant grows. Of all the particular needs your Pinstripe Plant has, fertilizer is not one of them. An all-purpose, well-balanced houseplant fertilizer is fine.

An accumulation of mineral salts from fertilizers can sometimes cause leaf burn and dried leaves and stems. You might also see white crusty deposits on the soil’s surface. If you’ve overfertilized your plant, ‘leach’ it by slowly pouring lukewarm water over the soil several times and letting the excess water drain through the drainage holes. Leaching once or twice a year will prevent unattractive leaf damage; it’s simple and takes only a few minutes. 

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Repotting & Placement

Your Calathea Ornata will likely need to be repotted every two years or so. When repotting, choose a slightly larger container (no more than a third larger than the previous pot) and avoid increasing your plant pot too much since such might cause shock, or the plant can develop pests.

When repotting, inspect the Pinstripe Ornata thoroughly for any potential damage or disease. Even if the plant appears to be in perfect health, keep it away from other plants in your home to avoid the spread of pests or diseases. If you do find any issues, pick a spot with plenty of indirect sunlight and monitor the plant for a week or two to notice any of these common problems.

Location is key to Calathea success. If your plant is new to your home, the Pinstripe will need time to adjust to its new surroundings, so don’t be alarmed if it doesn’t look its best right away. As much as you can, consider the rainforest and tropical areas as inspiration for your growing conditions: warm temperatures, high humidity, bright but filtered light, and plenty of water.

When it comes to Calatheas, the Ornata is the best at indicating overexposure to light. If it’s exposed to too much light, its lovely pink stripes will fade and turn white. Simply relocate the plant to a room with less direct sunlight.

Propagation & Pruning

Calatheas, unlike other aroids and many succulents, cannot be propagated by stem cutting. Instead, use the division method for propagation. 

When it’s time to repot, separate clumps of leaf stalks and leaves with roots and divide the plant at its roots into individual plants at the start of the growing season (i.e., spring). Cover the plant and pot with plastic wrap to simulate the greenhouse effect and encourage fresh sprouts. Then remove the cover as new growth occurs.

After dividing and repotting, take care not to overwater the Pinstripe Plants. Each plant will require less water since it’s smaller than the original.

Your Calathea plant may occasionally have brown leaves. Don’t be alarmed! It’s pretty standard and might just indicate that it’s time to prune your plant. To do this, just remove any unwanted leaves using your fingers or a sharp set of pruning shears. Removing dead growth will aid in the maintenance of a healthy growth pattern and the overall size and flourishing of your Pinstripe Plant.

Pinstripe Plant Problems

Pests

It may be fussy, but the Pinstripe Ornata is not particularly pest-prone. However, you might occasionally encounter spider mites, mealybugs, or aphids. For general houseplant pest control, I like to use insecticidal soap and Bonide Systemic Houseplant Insect Control.

Webbing between leaves is frequently the first sign of spider mites. Spider mites are drawn to dry environments, posing a more significant threat during the winter months. Raising the humidity will aid in their prevention.

Calatheas can be affected by mealybugs and other scale insects. To treat, combine one cup of rubbing alcohol, a few drops of dish soap, and one quart (32oz) of water. Fill a spray bottle halfway with the solution and spray the entire plant, not just where the mealybugs are visible. Spray the leaves (top and bottom) and the stems thoroughly. Neem oil is also helpful against these pests, but you can try Safer Soap on the surface of the soil too.

Aphid infestations can develop rapidly as they are highly mobile and fast-movers. These pests can even spread to your other houseplants by flying or crawling. The safest and easiest way to kill Aphids is by using Neem oil. Spray your Pinstripe Plant generously, and wipe away any visible bugs.

Aphids suck(!) sap from new growth on plants, causing the new foliage to look crinkled or stunted. If left untreated, the leaves begin to drop.

Diseases

The best way to care for a Calathea Ornata is not to let the soil get too wet or too dry. Too much moisture in the soil can cause root rot and various fungal diseases, and bacterial infections. On the other hand, when the soil dries out, the leaves wither and begin to get crinkly. Many insects prefer drier conditions, too.

One of the main difficulties of maintaining a healthy Pinstripe Plant is that it loves moisture, but just too much, and you could introduce a host of diseases. Ensuring well-aerated soil is absolutely necessary. 

Too much moisture is the most prevalent cause of bacterial or fungal illnesses. Pseudomonas  Blight and Fusarium Fungal illnesses can be caused by excessive dampness. If you suspect that your plant is infected, remove all the soil from the roots, disinfect the pot, and repot in fresh sterile soil.

Toxicity

According to the ASPCA, Calathea Ornata is not poisonous to humans, cats, or dogs. The Pinstripe Plant has not been linked to harmful health effects. Even with non-toxic plants, avoid ingesting them and keep them away from dogs, especially if they’re inclined to eat them.

Keep in mind, though, that plant toxicity information is subject to change. If you’re concerned about a pet, discuss your houseplants with a veterinarian. I have a rabbit, for example, and they are sensitive to foreign diets, so I just avoid the risk!

Summary – Calathea Ornata Care Guide

At this point, you might just want to do anything possible to keep your plant looking lovely and bright– So, how do you clean your Calathea Ornata? All you need is a damp towel to accomplish the job. Gently wipe the leaves whenever you discover dust on them. Because the leaves have a natural sheen, you should avoid using any polishing products on this plant.

You can also use misting as an excuse to restore your plant’s natural shine. Use lukewarm water and work your way over the leaves with caution.

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I’ve simplified everything you need into a grab-bag of tips:

  • Avoid Direct Sunlight: Your Pinstripe Plant’s leaves can get bleached by direct sunlight. Medium to low light is ideal.
  • Water Often: The Calathea Ornata prefers moist but not wet soil. Keep it damp but well-drained.
  • Use Good Water: Pinstripe Calatheas are very sensitive to water quality. Use distilled water, rainwater, or filtered tap water that has sat on the counter for 24 hours.
  • Maintain High Humidity: Group multiple Calatheas together, use a pebble tray, or place them near a humidifier.
  • Mist Regularly: Misting will not solve the humidity issue, but it can help prevent bugs.

Adding plants to your home can raise oxygen levels and improve air quality since Photosynthesis, for example, absorbs CO2 and releases O2. Houseplants, especially the purple waffle plant, can also eliminate Volatile Organic Compounds like benzene and formaldehyde from the air. Houseplants help remove VOCs, making your environment healthier and happier.

The Calathea Ornata Plant, in particular, is a beautiful plant for improving the look and feel of your home. This magnificent tropical plant can even help you focus. Studies reveal that students and other professionals are twice as attentive when working in a plant-filled space. They can help you sleep better, feel less tired, and prevent colds, dry skin, sore throats, and coughs.

The Pinstripe can even help reduce tension and anxiety. In a recent Dutch study, hospital patients with houseplants like Calathea Ornata showed less stress than those without. After reading this, why wouldn’t you want to grow one of these in your home?

For more home plant guides, check out these links:

Brent Hellendoorn

Brent is excited about all things minimal, and thus environmentally sustainable. From kitchen-scrap composting to indoor herb gardens and air-purifying houseplants, he enjoys continual learning and innovation. In simple, eco-conscious living, there is always room to… grow!

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