Calathea is a member of the arrowroot family, which occupies one of the first places among variegated crops. The origin of arrowroots is associated with the humid tropical forests of Central and South America, which determined their relationship to light and humidity. The distribution area of the Calathea species is quite extensive and occupies significant areas in the tropical zone of all continents. The exception is Australia, separated from the rest of the continents by a significant body of water. Arrowroots are also widespread in Africa, where they are mainly represented by endemic species. Some species are found in India, Burma, the islands of the Malay Archipelago and Oceania.
Calathea crocata. Farmer Burea-Uinsurance.com Stefano
Biological features of the arrowroot family
Representatives of the family to which the calathea belongs are mainly herbaceous and liana-like perennial plants. The rhizome is the main storage organ that stores water and nutrients. They need constant high humidity. In dry climates, water quickly evaporates and perishes.
Arrowroot are decorative deciduous plants. Their main charm is in the variegated large leaves, which have a remarkable property characteristic only of this family. At the end of the petiole, closer to the leaf blade, there is a thickening that lifts and turns it towards the light source in order to capture the remnants of the rays penetrating under the canopy of the moist forest. For this feature, calathea is called “prayer flower”. In the morning, the leaves are horizontally located, in the evening they fold and rise almost vertically upward, like palms in prayer.
And one more feature distinguishes arrowroots from other plants growing in the same zones. In some species, after flowering, the entire aerial part dies off. But the plant does not die and does not retire. After a while, with continued watering, young shoots appear and the plant comes to life. Of the 30 genera of the family, 4 are grown in room culture, including calathea.
Calathea is a perennial plant with a storage root system in the form of a tuber or rhizome. Indoors it grows up to 1,0 m or more. The lush head of variegated leaves is formed on shortened internodes, where leaves of various shapes are located on long petioles – from lanceolate to oval rounded with a smooth or wavy edge.
The leaves are large, up to 10-20 cm in length. The undersides of the leaves are usually purplish pink. Sometimes they are completely dark green. The upper side of the leaf blade is spotty, divided by white lines into separate segments. The midrib of the leaf is thick and was previously used as a material for weaving baskets. Hence the name Calathea, which in Greek means “basket”.
Calathea forms 5-6 young leaves annually. Different types of kalata bloom from early spring to summer. The inflorescence in the form of a compact spike bears small nondescript flowers of different colors – from white to dark purple. Flowering can last up to 3 weeks. But, it should be noted that among the species of this genus there are also beautifully flowering ones (Kalateya Makoya, Kalateya saffron, Kalateya Varshevich).
Features of caring for calathea at home
Temperature and placement
Calatheas do not require high air temperatures. In summer, the optimal temperature is +16 .. +24 ºС, in winter with non-irrigated maintenance +12 .. +16 ºС. There are no drafts and bright light under the forest canopy, so calatheas are very sensitive to frequent temperature changes (when opening doors and windows) and streams of sunlight. In this regard, it is better to place them away from light windows, from constantly slamming doors and drafts from open windows.
Excessive lighting “eats up” the variegation of calathea. Trying to get away from bright lighting, the plants fold the leaf blades. In the historically formed 4-sided rooms, they will feel at home in a half-shaded corner, while simultaneously brightening up the dullness of a boring interior consisting of corners and furniture. Soft greenery, color (as if solar) glare will revive the interior of the room, bring a new lively note to its decor
Soil for growing calathea
In their natural environment, calatheas grow on forest light air-permeable soils. Therefore, in room culture, they need the same substrate. For planting, a soil mixture is prepared from leafy earth, peat and sand (2: 1: 1), with the addition of crushed charcoal, pieces of bark, a small amount of coniferous earth. To improve the physical properties and increase the nutritional value, 20-30% of humus is added to the mixture. In stores, you can buy ready-made potting soil for indoor flowers.
Moisture when growing calathea
The main condition for the normal development of plants is air humidity. It should be high enough all year round. It is imperative to spray the plants daily with clean water (calcium and chlorine free) using a fine mesh spray. The pot of calathea should stand on damp pebbles or moss (no obvious water). As the water evaporates, the material in the pan needs to be moistened.
Species with velvety or pubescent leaves should not be sprayed. It is better to bathe them under the shower 2 times a month and spray the air around the plants 1-2 times a day, creating a humid microclimate. Dust on the leaves is removed with a dry napkin or brush, since the surface of the leaves is very delicate and easily vulnerable. To increase the natural humidity in the room, it is better to grow calatheas together with other flowers in recreation areas, winter gardens, etc.
Moisture supply of kalatei
In summer, calatheas are watered 2-3 times a week, and in winter 1 time in 6-8 days. The next watering is carried out when the top layer (2-4 cm) of the soil dries out. Stagnation of water in the sump is unacceptable. Watering is carried out with a watering can with a narrow spout along the edge of the flower pot so that water drops, along with pieces of soil, do not fall on the leaves of the plants.
Top dressing for calathea
To provide a large aboveground mass with sufficient nutrition, calatheas must be systematically fed. During the growing season, they are fed 2-3 times a month with flower fertilizers without nitrogen and calcium. Top dressing is carried out before and after flowering.
Transplant and reproduction of calathea
Young Calathea plants are transplanted annually in February-March. The roots painfully tolerate the transplant, so the calathea is simply transferred into a new container, without disturbing the clod of earth on the roots of the plant. Wide shallow pots are used for transshipment, which is associated with the superficial root system of plants. When planting, the rhizome is placed strictly vertically in the center of the pot and a new substrate is added around. The potting soil is only slightly compacted around the planted plant.
This landing is necessary to maintain the air permeability of the soil. Otherwise, in a dense substrate, the roots of the calathea will suffocate and the plant will die. Adult plants are transferred to a new container less often, once every 1-2 years. The approximate transplantation time is determined by the appearance of roots from the drainage hole of the pot. When transplanting, it is necessary to install a drainage layer of shards, large pebbles at the bottom of the pot.
Simultaneously with the transplantation in adult plants, the formed processes with 2-3 roots and several leaves are separated. Young plants are planted in a prepared container and create greenhouse conditions by covering the new planting with glass containers or a plastic bag to maintain high humidity and constant temperature. In a simulated greenhouse, the temperature fluctuates between +23 .. +24 ºС.
The second method of vegetative propagation is dividing the rhizome into 2 parts. Slices are sprinkled with activated carbon. The rest of the steps are the same as for the transfer.
Protecting calathea from diseases and pests
The delicate leaves of calathea are a tasty morsel for gnawing and sucking pests that try to settle on young leaves. If thrips, spider mites, scale insects, aphids, whiteflies are found in the room on other plants, you need to immediately take measures to protect Calathea from uninvited guests. In closed rooms (apartment, office, childcare and other institutions), chemical agents must not be used in pest control.
- An ordinary soap solution (without adding alcohol) will help to cope with enemies. The solution is prepared from a mixture of 20 g of liquid or green soap and 1 liter of water. The mixture is thoroughly stirred until foam forms and the plant is treated. Cover the soil with a foil to prevent soapy water.
- You can pollinate plants with sulfur.
- Treat with a working solution of biological products, in accordance with the recommendations on the packaging: fitoverm, bitoxybacillin, Iskra Bio, etc. The drugs are practically harmless to humans, do not cause allergic reactions.
- Florists recommend using infusions and decoctions of onion peels, garlic, walnut leaves and other natural herbal insecticides. When using decoctions of plants, be careful. In an apartment, it is better not to use infusions of poisonous plants (bitter pepper, Dalmatian chamomile, celandine, etc.), they are contraindicated for use in enclosed spaces.
Preparation of the infusion. Finely chop 200-300 g of husks, cloves of garlic or nut leaves, add 1 liter of water and leave for 1 week. The mother liquor is obtained. From it we prepare a worker in a proportion of 1 part of the mother liquor to 50 parts of water. Spray the plants with a solution through a fine spray bottle.
It should be noted that Calatheas, with proper care, practically do not get sick, but they are capricious and especially do not tolerate deviations from the norm when watering and air humidity, responding to a violation of the disease of the root system (rot) and yellowing and falling leaves (loss of decorativeness).
Growing calatheas indoors
Given the capricious nature of the arrowroot, we can recommend several types of flowering and decorative deciduous representatives of the Calathea genus for growing indoors. Easier than others, they adapt to life in the room conditions of Calathea Bachem, decorated, Makoya, striped, Veicha. If you are patient, then Calathea saffron and Calathea Varshevich, distinguished by bright bracts of different shades of white, pink, orange, taken for a flower, will bloom in the room.
The tropical rainforests of Brazil are the natural habitat of Calathea Makoya. She does not like spraying and therefore will grow and develop better in greenhouses, where the natural air humidity is always sufficiently high.
Under artificial lighting, this species does not rush to lose the variegation of the leaves. It is distinguished by the amazing beauty of large (up to 20×10 cm) leaf blades on straight petioles up to 14 cm long. On an oval leaf blade of light green color with a dark green edge, with a thin brush of a natural artist, a second dark green, pinnate leaf is “painted” on top. The reverse side repeats the pattern, but in burgundy colors.
The unusual bright coloration of the plant is especially evident in the evenings, when the leaf blades rise up and fold, revealing the uniqueness of the coloration of the underside of the leaf.
A large species, forming a habit of a bush with dense rosettes of leaves from 0,3 to 1,0 m. The leaf blades are elongated-oval, slightly wavy. The leaf surface is dark green velvety with a light green herringbone pattern. The underside of the leaf blades is dark purple in color.
In addition to leaves, inflorescences in the form of spikelets on short burgundy peduncles are attractive in Calathea Varshevich. A small-flowered spikelet bears large light bracts (white, light cream) surrounding cream or pink flowers. Flowering begins in late spring and lasts up to 3 weeks.
Calathea saffron (crocat)
A beauty from the shores of the Amazon attracts the eye with the special decorativeness of “false” flowers, collected in shortened corymbose inflorescences on high peduncles.
Real flowers are small and inconspicuous, reddish or pink flowers are hidden in large bracts of bright orange or saffron shades, taken for a flower. Against the background of 20-30 cm of velvety leaves of dark green color, bright orange inflorescences give the plant a special charm. However, for the onset of flowering, Calathea saffron needs a shortened daylight hours (8-10 hours a day), so flowering occurs in early spring or in the autumn-winter period.