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If you’re looking for a stunning houseplant that’s also a challenge, the Calathea orbifolia (a species of Prayer Plant) may be an excellent option for you. This beautiful indoor plant is known for its massive leaves with stunning white/silver-green bands. Proper Calathea Orbifolia care will take some work and some patience – you might say a green thumb is required. But all the extra TLC is entirely worth it. In this post, we’ll review top tips for keeping your prayer plant alive and thriving.
Calathea Orbifolia Overview
The Calathea Orbifolia is a species within the Calathea (Prayer Plant) genus that belongs to the Marantaceae family. The Calathea Orbifolia is native to Bolivia. This plant is known for its massive oval leaves with dark green and white stripes.
Calathea Orbifolia Plant Details
This complete Calathea Orbifolia care guide is a bit lengthy, so we included some quick facts about it below. If you need more of an explanation, you can reference the longer sections later in the article.
And if you have specific questions about raising this houseplant, please send us your thoughts in the comments!
- Scientific/Common Name: Calathea Orbifolia, Prayer Plant, Rattlesnake Plant, Maranta Orbifolia
- Genus: Calathea (This is a bit of a misnomer. Recently, it has been reclassified as Goeppertia orbifolia, but most nurseries and garden centers still call it a Calathea)
- Scientific Family: Marantaceae
- Origin: Bolivia
- Mature Height: About 2′ (.6 meters), but some Calathea Orbifolia can grow taller than this.
- Distinguishing Features: Large glossy oval leaves with silvery gray and green bands
- Home Placement: Keep this plant in a place away from direct sunlight (no south-facing windows!). Also, keep it away from any cold drafts caused by an air conditioner.
- Growth Speed: medium growth rate
- Light Requirements: This prayer plant can survive in low-light conditions but thrives in bright indirect light. Avoid direct sunlight, which can cause scorching or brown leaves or brown edges.
- Watering Requirements: Calatheas prefer medium moisture levels, but soggy soil can cause root rot. Overwatering creates many issues for this plant. Once the top of the soil dries out, water thoroughly. Let excess water run freely through the drainage holes in the pot. Make sure your soil allows for good drainage.
- Soil Requirements: A standard houseplant potting mix works well. You can supplement part of it with perlite or sand to improve drainage.
- Temperature: 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit (18-24 degrees Celsius). Standard indoor temperatures work well for the Calathea Orbifolia. Beware of hot or cold drafts, though, which could damage the plant.
- Fertilizer: Add a balanced diluted fertilizer (about half strength or less) monthly during the growing season.
- Humidity: Humidity needs to be – at a minimum – 40%. But high humidity – 70% or so – is the ideal amount for this prayer plant. If you need to supplement humidity levels in your home, do so with a humidifier. You can also mist the plant with water in a spray bottle.
- Flowering: While rare and short-lived, the Calathea Orbifolia has a small white flower that blooms near the base of the plant. It only lasts a few days, though, and it’s not guaranteed that your plant will flower at all.
- Pruning: You mainly need to prune off damaged or infected leaves. Prune at the base of the plant.
- Propagation: Cut off about 2″ or 3″ of a stem with leaves still attached and buried just beneath the surface of the topsoil. A rooting hormone or fertilizer can help develop roots faster. Do not overwater!
- Repotting: Repotting can stress the plant, which means you’ll have slow growth. When reporting, consider lowering your water levels.
- Diseases and Pests: This plant is prone to infestations and pathogens. Be on the lookout for root rot, thrips, whiteflies, mealybugs, spider mites. Use insecticidal soap to kill pest eggs and spray neem oil to prevent them from coming back.
- Toxicity: Non-toxic to pets!
Where Can I Buy Calathea Orbifolia?
You can purchase Calathea Orbifolia through a nursery, or you can just get it in an online store like Amazon or Etsy. Currently, Etsy is one of our favorite places to buy houseplants online. Here are some of the top-rated sellers of this prayer plant.
Calathea Orbifolia For Sale:
- Epic Tropics and Exotic ($15.00)
- My Happy Plants ($18.00)
- The New Plant Co. ($20.00) – Bestseller
- Dadogard1 ($12.99) – Bestseller
Calathea Orbifolia is one of many Calathea varieties. Here are some of our favorite cultivars in the Calathea genus:
This calathea is a tender herbaceous perennial evergreen. Also called the Calathea Jungle Velvet, this indoor plant has lance-shaped dark green leaves in an interesting pattern. The undersides of the leaves are a rich purple.
The best part about the Calathea Crocata is undoubtedly the flowers, which have bright orangish-yellow petals that look like small embers on your plant. The blooms of these plants will last 2-3 months. And then, after the flowers fade, you still have the attractive Calathea leaves to admire the rest of the year.
Often called the pin-stripe plant, the Calathea Ornata is one of the most classic Calathea options out there. The pinkish-white pinstripes give the leaves an almost feather-like look. This, matched with the glossy green leaf color, makes this tropical plant a fan favorite.
This stunning prayer plant has the most interesting optical illusion. The leaves look like they have leaves painted on them. It’s a stunning option that will add a pop of color to any home.
Much like the name suggests, the medallion-like leaves of this houseplant look like they’ve been painted with green and off-white watercolors. This relatively fast-growing plant can reach up to 2ft tall.
Calathea Fasciata vs. Orbifolia
Calathea Fasciata is commonly confused with Calathea Orbifolia. As close cousins, they have several similarities. While their leaf tops have slightly different colors, the Fasticata cultivar has a burgundy underside, while the Orbiolifa has a lighter purple.
Calathea Orbifolia: Family & Origin
Calathea Orbifolia originates from Bolivia, though some sources say that it could have come from Brazil. Calathea Orbifolia is part of the Marantaceae family known for its ornamental houseplants with glossy foliage. Since Calathea Orbifolia is a tropical plant, it should be raised in indirect light and high humidity conditions.
Calathea Orbifolia Plant Care
Plant care for Calathea Orbifolia can be a bit tricky. Both overwatering and underwatering can seriously damage this houseplant, and it needs to be in a location with bright, indirect light, high humidity, and no hot or cold drafts. Even if you care for it as you should, it’s susceptible to several kinds of pests and pathogens. In this care guide, let’s take a more in-depth look into the care options for this prayer plant, so you know how to help your plant stay alive and thrive.
Light For Calathea Orbifolia
As a tropical plant, Calathea Orbifolia would grow on the forest floor, meaning the canopy blocks it from direct sun. If you blast your Calathea with direct sunlight, it will likely scorch your plant, which causes a loss of color and brown edges on your leaves.
Instead, this Calathea prefers bright indirect light but can also tolerate low light situations. You should consider placing this houseplant in an east or west-facing window, which – in most cases – would give it the light it needs to thrive.
Soil For Calathea Orbifolia
When choosing a soil for Calathea Orbifolia, start with a simple houseplant potting mix or potting soil that supports good drainage. You can supplement your soil with perlite or sand, which will also help with drainage. Orchid bark and charcoal also make useful additions. A good ratio to follow is 50% potting mix, 10% perlite, 20% charcoal, and 20% orchid bark.
Houseplant Potting Mix We Recommend For Calathea Plants
- Miracle-Grow indoor Potting Mix
- Espoma Organic Potting Mix
- rePotme Houseplant and Tropical Classic Potting Mix
Calathea Orbifolia Watering
Just because Calathia plants live in and near rainforests doesn’t mean they thrive in soggy conditions. You want to only water when the top 1-2″ of soil dries. Typically, you’ll only need to water every 1-2 weeks. In higher light, you may need to water slightly more.
If you repot, it will likely cause the plant stress, meaning it won’t absorb water at the same rate. Water slightly less right after a repotting to protect this indoor plant from soggy soil.
Overwatering can cause severe problems for this Calathea. It is highly susceptible to root rot, so be sure that your pot has adequate drainage holes. Excess water also invites pests and pathogens, so don’t overwater!
Potting For Calathea Orbifolia
Orbifolia likes its roots to remain unmoved. Repotting too often can cause a lot of stress to the plant. Only repot your houseplant if you see slower growth, which may be a sign that it’s rootbound. At most, you want to move the plant every 1-2 years.
When choosing a container, a simple terracotta pot will do fine. Be sure that whatever container you choose has adequate drainage holes. We can’t say it enough – you can let the soil become soggy with Calathea Orbifolia! A drainage tray under the plant is fine, but empty it immediately if water accumulates there. You don’t want the soil to reabsorb that water and harm the roots of the plant.
Calathea Orbifolia Fertilizer
You’ll only need to fertilize your Calathea once a month during the growing season, typically from spring to fall. An organic diluted general houseplant fertilizer works well. We like a balanced liquid fertilizer (NPK of 10-10-10), but that’s not necessarily a requirement for growing this plant. You will want to dilute the fertilizer to half or even 1/4 strength.
Calathea is sensitive to build-up from old fertilizers, which can cause the leaf tips to turn brown. Be sure not to over-fertilize.
Here are some of the fertilizers we recommend:
Calathea Orbifolia Humidity
Calathea Orbifolia is native to tropical areas, so it needs high humidity, typically between 50-70%. That said, it can typically survive in 40% humidity, but it won’t tolerate anything lower than that.
If your home lacks sufficient humidity, you have a few options. Misting the leaves (every two-three days) can improve humidity, as can having a humidifier or placing a pebble tray filled with water next to the plant.
Another option is to group several of your plants, which will increase the overall humidity of the space.
Top Humidifiers for Indoor Plants
Propagating Calathea Orbifolia
Unlike most houseplants we discuss, Calathea Orbifolia is fairly difficult to propagate. Propagating from seeds or cuttings is challenging, and even when you propagate with rhizome division, it’s not always successful.
The video below offers some useful tips for propagating this Calathea:
A few things to note if you’re attempting to propagate. Orbifolias don’t like their roots disturbed. And by propagating through division, you’re disturbing their root systems. If you decide to do this, attempt it during the early part of their growing season (spring) so that you aren’t traumatizing your plant.
How To Prune Calathea Orbifolia
You don’t really need to prune your Calathea Orbifolia regularly. The only real instances where pruning is necessary involves when leaves or stems are infected, dying, or yellowing. Removing these weak stems and leaves can help the plant recover faster.
To prune, remove the stems at the base of the plant. Because this calathea plant is so dainty, you need to be careful about spreading infection while pruning. Always make sure that you sterilize your pruning tools before you start pruning.
Is Calathea Orbifolia Toxic To Cats or Cats?
Finally, a houseplant that won’t cause harm to your furry friends! Calathea Orbifolia is not toxic to cats or other pets.
Calathea Orbifolia Benefits
While primarily considered an ornamental plant, Calathea Orbifolia is also known for its air purification abilities. Purer air has a wide range of benefits, including a boost in mood, better sleep, and lower anxiety.
That said, Calathea Orbifolia didn’t make the list of plants in the NASA Clean Air Study of 1989. That’s not to say that it lacks air purification attributes, but it wasn’t one of the plants tested explicitly for removing specific pathogens from the air.
Calathea Orbifolia Leaves Browning
There are many possible reasons that your Calathea Orbiolia has brown leaves. Before you start troubleshooting, clean up your plant. Remove the affected portion of the plant with a sterilized pruning tool. Make sure you don’t remove more than 20% of your plant at a time, which could damage the plant beyond repair.
Here are the most common reasons your leaves are turning brown:
- Tap water – it’s recommended that you use a purified water. Depending on where you live, your tap water could be full of salts, minerals, fluoride, and chlorine. And if enough of that builds up, it can cause the leaves to turn brown.
- Lack of humidity – This Calathea thrives in high humidity. Too little, and the leaves can brown. See the humidity section above for ways to increase your humidity.
- Soil is too dry – While it’s essential to let the top of your soil dry between waterings, underwatering can also cause the plant harm. If your plants have brown leaves, make this the last option for fixing them. As too much water can cause a whole new set of issues in this indoor plant.
Calathea Orbifolia Yellow Leaves
Yellowing leaves are typically a sign that you’re overwatering. It can also be a sign that your plants are stressed because of warm or cold drafts. Try moving your pot to a new location and water less frequently.
If this doesn’t work, it may be that your soil isn’t draining correctly. Carefully repot with soil that includes a mix of perlite, potting soil, and orchid bark.
Brown Spots On Calathea Orbifolia
The two primary causes of brown spots on Calathea Orbifolia are a lack of humidity or tap water. Increase your home’s humidity with a humidifier, a pebble tray, or by misting the leaves. Use purified or filtered water to protect your plant from harmful substances like salt and chlorine.
Should I Repot My Dying Calathea Orbifolia?
You typically want to repot your Calthea Orbifolia every two years. That said, repotting stresses the plant, so it’s not necessarily recommended to repot if your plant is already dying. Before you decide to repot, first check other factors, such as light, water, humidity, and fertilizer. If correcting these elements doesn’t work, then you can consider repotting your prayer plant.
Final Thoughts on Calathea Orbifolia
This beautiful prayer plant is an excellent addition to any home. It’s a statement that takes up a great deal of space with its oval-shaped leaves. But great Calathea Orbifolia care comes with great responsibility. This houseplant is not for the faint of heart. It will take some regular TLC, and you may have to play with your humidity, watering, soil, and light to keep your plant happy. But it’s worth it to see this beauty thrive!
Have you grown Calathea Orbifolia? We want to see it! Send pictures to Devri@twopeasinacondo.com, and we may highlight your prayer plant in this article!