Most plants can be expected to look decoratively beautiful on our windowsills and plant stands day after day. But one unique species does not like to sit completely still day after day. The Calathea Warscewiczii adds in a nightly routine of folding in its leaves only to raise them up again come daybreak.
he Calathea Warscewiczii has earned the moniker “Prayer Plant” to describe the unusual folding in of the elongated leaves each night which some credit to its ability to drain dampness from the leaves each night, protecting the tender plant from excess moisture.
Originating in the jungle, this tropical houseplant has become a favorite for not only its distinctive nocturnal habits but also its stunning flora.
- Scientific name and common names: Calathea Warscewiczii, Calathea Jungle Velvet, Jungle Velvet Prayer Plant
- Origin: jungles of Costa Rica and Nicaragua
- Indoor or Outdoor plant: indoor or outdoor
- Height and Structure: stalks with elongated leaves reach a height of 20-40inches and a width of 20-40inches
- Temperature: indoors, 65-80F; outdoors, 60F during winter without any cold snaps
- Flower Color: cone-like inflorescences that begin creamy white and turn yellowish then pinkish
As a tropical plant, it is best to plant the Calathea Jungle Velvet when it is able to begin the growth cycle. Plan on planting during the spring or early summer times to pair up with this variety’s ability to grow.
The Calathea Warscewiczii naturally grows in the jungle at the base of larger trees. For plants that are in a pot, one root cluster will produce a healthy plant. Outdoor tropical gardens with the Jungle Velvet should be planted with root clusters approximately 40 inches apart to allow for healthy growth and spreading.
While this tropical plant loves bright light, it cannot tolerate direct sunlight without burning or curling the leaves. Indoors, the Jungle Velvet thrives near a bright window. Outdoors, this variety should be placed where it will receive filtered, bright light without danger of direct sun exposure, protecting its tender leaves. Planting the Calathea underneath a canopy of larger plants or trees will provide plenty of dappled sunshine for the plant to be happy, mimicking its natural habitat in the jungle. But if deprived of bright light in its environs, the leaves will darken to deep green, dulling the distinctive bright tropical colors of the Calathea Warscewiczii.
Common with tropical plants, the Calathea Jungle Velvet needs well-drained soil to thrive. Potted indoor Jungle Velvet plants need loose soil that doesn’t hold onto water easily, so pots can be outfitted with a small layer of rocks at the bottom of the container to aid in the drainage of excess water. Indoors or out, the Jungle Velvet’s soil should be a loamy, peat mixture with plenty of organic matter mixed in as well.
An average grower, the Jungle Velvet plant may need to be repotted after a year or two of initial growth. Flowering, while rare indoors, can happen continuously on these exotic beauties when the conditions are just right. Temperamental and picky about their light, water, and temperature, a blooming and happy Jungle Velvet plant will grow during the spring and summer warmer months and then slows down during the winter months.
The naturally strong stems of the Calathea Warscewiczii mean that no staking is usually unnecessary for young or growing plants.
Naturally found in tropical forests, the Calathea Warscewiczii loves a moist environment. During the growing season, all Jungle Velvet plants should be watered when the plant appears dry at the surface, usually a few times a week. However, this tropical plant cannot sit in water or its roots and leaves will rot so the Calathea should not be overwatered or left in a container with poor drainage. During the dormant winter months, this plant needs less watering to avoid a rotting of the stems.
The tropical Calathea doesn’t need a large amount of fertilizer as long as owners meet its water and lighting needs. A water-soluble fertilizer diluted to quarter strength can be applied once a month during the growing season is plenty for this picky indoor plant. Larger plants, indoor or outside, can tolerate a little stronger dilution but take care to apply only to the soil to avoid burning the tender leaves. Don’t overfertilize this plant either too often or with a too-strong mixture as its picky nature
Ideally, a humidity level of at least 70% should be maintained all year, indoor and out, for the happiest of Jungle Velvet plants. Typical homes have a humidity of 50-60%, so increasing the humidity for the tropical Jungle Velvet plant is a must.
Owners can either add in constant moisture by using a humidifier, by misting the plant, by moving the plant to a high-humidity location like a bathroom, or by a combination of these. Indoor plants should still be misted regularly to ensure that the plant’s conditioned or heated air does not dry out the soil excessively.
Outdoor plants in dry climates can also be misted regularly as well, in addition to regular watering, to increase humidity especially during the hottest seasons.
Outdoor plants can benefit from the practice of mulching as doing so aids in holding in moisture. This Calathea Praying Plant needs to have a high humidity environment, similar to its original jungle home, and a heavily mulched soil that increases ambient humidity makes the plant happy. Indoor plants can benefit from mulching as well, but it is not needed since it may be harder to tell when the soil is dry and in need of watering or extra moisture.
Most content in a warm environment, the Calathea Warscewiczii should never be subject to cold snaps or chilly breezes. Indoor plants should be kept between 65 and 80 F during the growing seasons while the temperature can fluctuate down to 60 F during the dormant winter months.
Careful attention should be paid to the location of the indoor plant, however, as drafty windows or locations in the direct line of air conditioning can affect this finicky tropical beauty.
Outdoors, this prayer plant should not experience any sudden temperature drops or any cold below 60 F at any time as well. Its tropical nature means that a warm, humid environment is expected year-round, regardless of where the Calathea is planted.
Once or twice a year pruning is all that is needed to keep the Calathea Warscewiczii plant looking gorgeous. Using clean pruning shears, remove extra leaves to develop a nicely shaped plant and encourage new growth. Pruning should take place at the end of the growing season, prior to the dormant period, in early fall.
A relatively slow grower, this prayer plant should only be repotted approximately every two years during the early springtime, prior to the growing season. When the root ball or tubers become crowded in the container and are showing in the drainage holes or near the stems of the plant, it is time to repot.
To move this prayer plant, gently remove the plant from the original container without breaking off any of the stems or tubers as they are removed from the pot and the loose soil. Replace entire plant into a container with prepared soil that is a few inches bigger to allow for room for growth.
Using a terracotta pot will allow water to evaporate more quickly than plastic ones, so if the plant has been drying out quickly then switch container types for an improved plant result.
This tuberous plant easily be propagated by dividing out and replanting the roots or tubers. Propagation should occur during the early springtime, prior to the growth season. If the mother plant has sprouted small baby plants visible in the container that are a few inches in height, these sprouts can be used for the propagation.
To use these baby sprouts, gently separate the sprouts from the dirt in the container and replant into a new pot with prepared, moist soil. If no baby sprouts are visible, owners can divide out the underground roots to propagate a new plant. To do this, first gently remove the plant from its soil home and lightly brush off or rinse the loose soil from between the rounded tubers.
Then, break apart the mother plant where natural groupings occur to create two or more plants. Each new plant should be placed into prepared, moist soil and fertilized appropriately to encourage new growth.
A tropical plant like the Calathea should be watched for a few pests and diseases that can inhibit its health and natural exotic beauty.
- Spider mites and their tell-tale webs can infest this prayer plant when it is allowed to become too dry
- Mealybugs will show up as small white dots on the gorgeous purple undersides of the leaves but can be removed with a regular swipe of rubbing alcohol
- Root rot usually occurs in tropical plants that do not have good soil drainage
The tropical Calathea plant family includes about 200 different varieties, all with beautiful leaves and many that fall into the “prayer plant” category. The most stunning varieties of the Calatheas are the Calathea Sanderiana with its pink leaf markings, the Calathea Veitchiana that has almost rounded leaves, and the Calathea Musaica that produces showy light green leaves and grows to about 60 inches in height.
Since the Jungle Velvet plant is fussy about its surroundings, it pairs well with other tropical plants. Additionally, the Calathea Warscewiczii works well as a ground cover below larger tropical plants as well, mimicking its natural jungle environment.
This prayer plant is not toxic and does not pose any threat to humans.
Similar to its effect on humans, the Jungle Velvet plant is not toxic to animals.