Calathea laevigata (L.) Schott is one of the most versatile plants to be found in the garden. Its beauty is undeniably striking, but it also has another vital function. Calathea Leopardina is an excellent addition to the list of plants that you should keep in your collection.
- Scientific name and common names: Calathea Leopardina, Shadow Plant
- Origin: South America
- Indoor or Outdoor plant: Both
- Height and Structure: About two feet
- Temperature: Prefer temperatures in the 65°F-85°F range
- Flower Color: White
Calathea can be planted at any time of the year; however, spring is best. As with most houseplants, you should wait until the air temperature is warm before you plant. The same goes for soil temperature. If soil is too cold, it will take longer for roots to establish themselves in your potting mixture.
Calathea plants are not too particular about their pot size (20 to 30 cm or 15-12 inches is good), but it is essential to pay attention to the spacing you layout for them. Calathea Leopardina likes to be planted in groups of 2 to 3 plants, which should be spaced at least two feet apart. If there is no other way, then plant them into individual pots placed into one large planter. This will allow them room to grow. However, if you use an individual pot, you will need to keep the soil dry and well-watered until it has time to be established. The best alternative is purchasing a kit to produce Calathea plants at the correct size and shape.
Unlike other houseplants, Calathea can be placed in direct sunlight. Be sure to only place the plant in a well-lit area without direct sunlight from a window. If you do not have direct sunlight from a window, you should place the pots inside a room with indirect light. This will also allow for proper watering of the soil, which is essential.
It is important that you fill the pots with enough soil for them to thrive. The soil should be a very high-quality, well-draining potting medium. Calathea will need a lot of drainages, and a mix of small peat pellets and perlite is good. These peat pellets can only be used if they are sifted through a screen or with a special gardener tool. Do not use large rocks in the soil as they could injure the roots.
Calathea can reach between one to three feet in height, depending on the size of the pot, and can be pruned back to any size you wish to keep. They do not bloom much because their leaves are so thick. However, they will start to grow new foliage quickly when they are kept indoors. After about six weeks, you can plant them out again during spring or summer. If you want your Calathea Leopardina to flower, it will need at least two flowering seasons.
If needed, you can stake your plant up to prevent it from falling over. The stake should be placed at least six inches away from the leaves. The tip of the stem should only go two inches below the top of the pot. Use a metal stake that is sturdy but not too thick. Calathea does not require staking during winter, but it can be helpful for its protection against insects that are often present during this season.
Calathea does not require that much water. However, if left sitting in a pool of water, they can drown. Make sure the soil is always moist. Watering will be necessary whenever you notice new growth has started (in spring) and sometimes during the winter if the plant is placed outside of outdoor areas. Watering should be done sparingly to avoid root rot or root burn. A good technique is to let the soil dry out between watering; this will prevent withering and encourage new growth on the plant.
Calathea is easily fertilized. It does not require regular feeding because it grows very well without fertilizer. If you decide to feed your plant, then use a good organic fertilizer high in nitrogen and controlled release. You can fertilize them anytime during late spring or early summer, according to the instructions on the fertilizer package. Be certain that you mix the fertilizer slowly, so it does not create too much dust.
Humidity should be high. During the winter months, you can place the plant in a pot with fresh sphagnum moss placed loosely around its base. This will help it retain moisture and prevent root rot. Calathea loves humidity, but it only needs high humidity when it is in direct sunlight. If you are not able to have direct sunlight, then placing your plant in a sealed room with plenty of ventilation is best. Keep the windows open when possible so that the room stays humid during winter when dry outside.
Mulch is not necessary with Calathea. If you want to, you can use an un-organic mulch such as peat but avoid charcoal, affecting the root system. If you don’t want to place your Calathea in a planter with sphagnum moss, you can use mulch around the plant base. This will help it retain water throughout the winter months. Using mulch on top of organic potting mixes is essential because they help keep moisture in so that your plant can absorb it through its roots.
Trimming and Pruning are not necessary for Calathea because it rarely goes dormant or blooms. However, if you want to produce a bushier plant, you can trim excess foliage and dead branches off the plant before it flowers. It is also beneficial to prune during the early spring so that new growth will come out and look nice and fresh throughout the season.
Calathea Leopardina does not need frequent repotting. Using the same potting soil will allow for new roots to grow. If you are not having success with your plant, consider placing it in a larger pot so that new roots can grow. If you do repot, only do so every two to six years, depending on the size of your plant. You can also cut down on watering if necessary and see if that makes a difference with your plant’s growth. This is especially true during winter when an indoor Calathea Leopardina may be less succulent than one outside of its natural environment.
How to propagate Calathea Leopardina
Propagation is very easy with Calathea. You can use leaf cutting to produce a new plant. All you have to do is let the cut end callous over and then plant it in moist soil. This should be done in spring or summer only! Place the cuttings in a cold frame or directly in front of a window without direct sunlight. Place these cuttings in an inch of water, and keep them moist but not wet so that they will root. You can expect your new plants to take about two weeks to root and begin taking root.
Calathea will last for many years if you care for them properly. But eventually, you will need to divide and transplant them. You can do this by taking the whole plant out of the pot after removing some of the soil around it. Place your hand on top of the plant and slide it out slowly. This prevents damaging the roots, which are delicate at times. Then you can cut off any dead leaves or prune away dead growth on your Calathea Leopardina plant. Once this is done, you can carefully place it into a pot twice as big as what you removed it from.
One of the main problems that Calathea Leopardina can face is root rot. This can be avoided by watering the soil lightly around the roots during dry weather. This will also help keep competition out of your potting media so that you do not have to repot too often. If you find that your plant is too large for its pot, which can quickly happen if you are unsure what plant it is, you should repot using a larger pot with fresh drainage material.
The plant has various species referred to as ‘Leopardina’ or ‘Calathea.’ The species vary in appearance depending on the climate in which it is grown; for example, some prefer to grow in semi-shade while others like to be exposed to very strong sunshine. The most well-known species is ‘Leopardina,’ which is available around the world.
Calathea are rarely known to have companion plant issues. They can be grown with most other plants including ferrous-loving plants, if you are looking for the perfect fit.
Calathea does not contain any toxicity, and they can be used in most domestic environments with no harmful effects.