Last Updated on October 19, 2021 by Grow with Bovees
Calathea orbifolia, also known as prayer plants, are an exquisite houseplant guaranteed to add dramatic interest to your home with its oversized foliage and subtle silver bands.
However, if its striking appearance is not convincing enough for you to add it to your houseplant collection, then maybe knowing that the Calathea orbifolia has outstanding air-purifying qualities will be the last straw!
This amazing piece of greenery may be rare and hard to find, but as its popularity and demand increase, it shows to be found easier.
A recent reclassification has seen this plant renamed to Goeppertia orbifolia, but we’ll go with the old name for now!
Calathea orbifolia Plant Care Summary
The orbifolia is a non-toxic tropical plant coming from the prayer plant family. It thrives in temperatures of 65°-75 °F, and humid areas above 50% with bright, indirect sunlight. These indoor plants thrive best in slightly acidic, well-draining potting soil and preferably, provide rain-or-filtered water. Lastly, provide diluted fertilizer monthly from spring to summer.
Orbifolia’s are chic showstoppers in any home space, but they can be tricky to keep happy.
It is important to provide this designer-quality shrub with tropical conditions with ample amounts of moisture and warmth. Only in this way, will your plant be happy.
Continue on, as we, in this article, will discuss precisely how to care for a calathea houseplant in order to keep it healthy and radiant. The below information should help you understand this beauty rather than fear it.
Calathea orbifolia Characteristics
Calathea plants, which is a calathea species also known as South American prayer plants, is a member of the Marantaceae family. It is a perennial shrub native to the forest floors of Bolivia and grows in USDA hardy zones of 10 to 11.
Prayer Plant Size
This plant grows approximately two to three feet tall indoors, with dramatic round foliage that reaches 8 to 15 inches in length and 10 to 15 inches in width. Making it one of the biggest varieties of calatheas found.
The orbifolia’s rounded leaves are lush and each on an individual, sturdy stem. The plant has crisp, dark green foliage with diagonal, subtle silver bands and pale green undersides.
Calathea Orbifolia is an animated plant that moves throughout the day seeking sunlight.
You’ll note that Calathea leaves move up and down during the day. As a result, the leaves will lie flat during the day and fold up at night as if it is praying, hence the name prayer plant.
Tropical Plant Flowers
This plant produces white stem-like blossoms in its natural habitat; however, the chances are scarce that you’ll ever see these bloom indoors.
Calathea orbifolia naturally grows on forest floors in Bolivia in medium indirect light, and as with most variegated plants, Calathea orbifolia requires a bright spot, dappled light or bright, indirect sunlight to thrive and to reach a decent size.
Direct light has been shown to be the most common cause of death to Calathea.
Find a spot in your house where you are able to read a book without having to squint due to the bright light levels, this is a good rule to follow when trying to find the perfect light condition for the orbifolia.
If Calathea orbifolia receives excess direct sunlight, the leaves will ultimately lose their brilliant color and markings.
It may even damage their foliage, causing it to wilt and ultimately die.
Ideally, place your Calathea orbifolia indoors in a north-or-east-facing window with at least 6 hours of indirect light. It’s advisable to avoid south-facing windows as they generally provide too much intense direct light.
Add a sheer curtain to the window if you feel that the sunlight is too intense. This way the bright light will be filtered protecting the Calathea from the dangers of direct sunlight.
Sitting the orbifolia in a place of shade or low light should also be fine, just be sure that the area is not too dark.
Using an artificial grow light has also shown of great advantage. This way your Calathea will be in a controlled light environment with quality greenhouse-like conditions.
In addition, try to rotate the Calathea orbifolia weekly to ensure even growth.
Calathea orbifolia Temperature Requirements
Warm conditions make for good growing grounds for Calathea. When growing your prayer plant indoors, average room temperatures make for the ideal temperature for good growth.
The optimal temperature for Calathea orbifolia is between 65 °F to 75 °F; however, the plant can tolerate temperatures down to 60°F. Anything lower and you will put your calathea at risk,
Calathea orbifolia will quickly inform you if it’s not happy with the temperatures.
Its large glossy leaves will start drooping when conditions get too cold and curl if temperatures are too hot.
Note that the leaves are sure to show damage if you expose the plant to cold chills, so avoid open windows and chilly drafts created by air conditioners, for example.
Lastly, the Calathea orbifolia plant does not respond well to sudden temperature changes. So, it’s best to keep the plant away from radiators, central heating systems and fans.
In the summer months, the Calathea will grow well in outdoor containers. Place this tropical wonder in a shaded area in your backyard and be sure that the temperature does not go below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Be sure to protect your Calathea orbifolia from direct sunlight.
Always check your plants leaves for signs of sun-related damage. This is part of good Calathea orbifolia care.
Ladies and gents, here is where it becomes tricky, so listen up and read carefully. When it comes to Calathea orbifolia care, you should know that it has fussier water requirements than most other household plants.
Correct watering is a key component in keeping your Calathea orbifolia good-looking and healthy.
Calathea orbifolia adores moisture but hates soggy soil conditions. So, I recommend checking the soil to ensure that the top layer of soil is dry before watering your Calathea orbifolia.
When the top couple of inches of the soil are almost dry, it is safe to water again.
This is a good rule to follow in most plant watering situations and is a great houseplant watering technique to use and remember.
Tip: water Calathea generously until the water starts to drain out from the base. Then, wait until the first layer of soil dries partially before watering the plant again. Using a moisture meter is also great to use and is more accurate at that.
Overwatering your Calathea orbifolia plant will cause fungus, root rot, or can even kill your plant, whereas dehydration will cause the leaves to decline and become less dynamic, causing them not to close at night.
Too little water will also start your Calathea orbifolia leaves curling.
So, water Calathea orbifolia once or twice per week during spring and summer and reduce watering in fall and winter months to once a week.
In addition to their specific water requirements, Calathea orbifolia plants are sensitive to tap water as they contain high mineral concentrations of salts, chlorine, and other chemicals.
So, consider using rain, filtered, or distilled water. However, if you still want to use tap water, allow the water to stand at room temperature overnight to dechlorinate (the same rule applies for misting your plant).
The type of pot you use can also aid in keeping up moisture levels. Clay pots or terracotta pots aid in the loss of water, so use a plastic container of sorts to hold onto the soil moisture but make sure it has drainage holes to protect the calatheas root ball and prevent dead roots. Place the plastic container into a decorative pot.
Remove your plant from its pot to check the roots for signs of damage. This is a good thing to add to your Calathea orbifolia care guide routine.
You may also be interested in further Calathea information;
Calathea Medallion Care — Calathea Veitchiana
Calathea Ornata Care Pinstripe
Calathea White Fusion Care — Calathea lietzei
Another fussy requirement added to the Calathea orbifolia care guide is soil.
Calathea orbifolia thrives in well-draining fertile soil with plenty of aeration. These plants prefer a Calathea potting mix with excellent drainage to regular soil types.
Adding as much soil as the pot can fit along with some orchid bark will aid in good air circulation.
Calathea potting soil should be fresh soil and should never become soggy, but it should have the ability to hold onto some amounts of moisture.
Soils that remain soggy will cause damp roots which will in turn cause root rot or fungal root decay if the condition is not changed.
Calathea orbifolia prefers slightly acidic fertile potting soil with a pH of 6.5 with lots of organic matter.
Consider using a mixture of two parts potting soil with peat moss or coco coir and one part perlite or pumice stones.
Consider adding compost to the mix to aid as a nutritious medium and to help provide ideal drainage and moisture conditions.
Peat based soil is quite rich in nutrients and helps the orbifolia thrive. And it is of greater benefit to use this organic, nutrient-rich soil rather than the addition of synthetic fertilizers.
Just make sure that excess water is able to drain away freely as peat tends to become compacted sometimes.
Calathea orbifolia care is generally easy when it comes to fertilizing this plant, but it does appreciate a light fertilizer during their growing season to help with the Calathea orbifolia growth rate.
Your Calathea orbifolia plant will need a well-balanced fertilizer which is diluted, high-nitrogen fertilizer with low potassium levels once every four weeks. I recommend diluting the fertilizer to ¼ of its recommended strength.
Note: yellowing leaf edges or brown leaf tips are an indication of too much fertilizer in your Calathea orbifolia.
In addition, only provide fertilizer during the Calathea orbifolia’s growing season (spring and summer) and restrain from feeding your plant during the fall and winter as your plant becomes dormant.
Calathea orbifolia grow and are native to tropical areas of the Bolivia forest, Calathea orbifolia thrives in high humidity areas with 50% or more air moisture levels. It is not particularly fond of dry air, so try to give it as high a humid environment as possible.
A great way to ensure high air moisture levels and humidity for calatheas is to place them in a bathroom or kitchen.
However, if you prefer the plant somewhere else, but you feel that the local humidity is too dry, consider increasing the room’s moisture level to ensure that the plant thrives.
Try any of the following valuable tips.
Mist your Calathea orbifolia to maintain adequate moisture levels (ensure that you use purified or filtered water).
A room humidifier will help keep the desired humidity level for your Calathea orbifolia plant.
Grouping is a tried-and-true method to increase moisture through evaporation and mutual transpiration.
Use a Pebble Tray
You can alternatively place your Calathea orbifolia atop a water-filled pebble tray or saucer with a layer of pebbles or set the trays around your plant to increase the moisture levels. Fill the tray until the water covers the stones halfway.
Wipe the foliage with a damp cloth about once every week. Doing this does not only aid in adding humidity but it will keep the orbifolias luxurious leaves clean from dust particles.
These are just a few tips that you can add to your Calathea orbifolia care guide.
Pruning Your Indoor Plants
Calathea orbifolia is a plant with single-leaved stems, so there aren’t any branches to prune.
However, you can give your brown Calathea orbifolia a light-pruning by removing the yellow-brown or damaged leaves with clean gardening shears.
Disinfecting your pruning tools before starting to cut away leaf tips is of high importance if you want to avoid spreading more plant diseases. Using rubbing alcohol is recommended.
In order for a fresh generation of leaf tips, cut around the areas which have been affected and damaged. If the majority of a leaf is sick, cut away the entire leaf only leaving the stem behind.
For successful rejuvenation, water your plant and place it into a shady spot after pruning.
The pruning process should only be done in the winter season or when you decide to repot your calathea.
Common Diseases, Pests and Root Rot
Due to this plants love for moist conditions, it is quite susceptible to pests and plant diseases. Moist conditions are the perfect growing grounds for chronic issues such as fungal spores and powdery mildew, for example.
These pests are often hard to notice or detect as they are miniature in size.
Signs of diseases are leaf spots which appear as brown or black spots on the leaves or on leaf tips and a yellowish rim formation around these spots. The formation of small webs around the stems is also an indication of a pest infestation.
Pests and What To Do
Aphids, Mealybugs, Thrips & Whitefly
Wipe the plant off immediately using neem oil and repot the plant if possible to help your plant thrive.
Fungal Gnats Infestation
Allow your soil to dry out a bit more.
Increase your humidity levels to avoid the chance of spider mites. Spider mite infestations occur most often in dry conditions.
Tip: Spray Calathea orbifolia pests using a spray bottle with warm soapy water every other week to keep the plant dust-free and to prevent these pests from raiding your lush plant. But go about this method with caution, as you may remove the calatheas natural waxes which may pose as a disadvantage for your plant.
A popular way of treating pests and diseases found on the Calathea is by spraying neem oil onto the leaves and soil. This is a substance that is made of natural components and has been shown to be effective for getting rid of both bugs and mildew.
Mixing diatomaceous earth into your plants potting soil has also shown to be beneficial as it interrupts the critters cycle of life and aids in good soil health.
Calathea plants seldom require re potting; only consider repotting your Calathea orbifolia when the plant has visibly outgrown its pot or if the roots are too large. Repotting can be done every two to three years.
In addition, repotting can stress your Calathea orbifolia. So, it’s advisable to wait until the spring to ensure optimal new growth and low stress.
Lastly, only slightly increase your Calathea orbifolia’s pot size (avoid sizing up more than a third larger).
A larger plant calls for a larger container. But be aware, a too-large container can cause your calathea to stress and go into shock, making it more susceptible to common pests. Always make sure the pot comes with enough drainage space drainage holes.
Calathea orbifolia propagation is challenging and requires delicate fingers.
One of the best calathea propagation methods is using the rhizome division method instead of the method of using stem cuttings. However, consider only attempting propagation during warmer seasons to reduce stress levels.
When you propagate Calathea orbifolia, first, unpot the mother plant and gently tease the rhizome from the soil.
Second, use a sterilized blade to cut a section from the tuber — ensure it includes at least one stem with several roots.
Third, repot the division in suitable soil. In addition, place your plant in a warm and moist environment.
Tip: Cover the new Calathea plant with a transparent piece of plastic and mist the plant daily until you see new growth (this takes approximately three weeks).
To review, you will need to provide the following environment to ensure the best growth and most gorgeous leaves for these tropical plants:
- Bright, indirect light
- Slightly acidic, well-draining soil
- Consistently moist soil (rain or filtered water)
- High humidity levels of 50% or more
- Diluted fertilizer monthly during growing seasons
- Keep an eye out for pests
- Proper plant pots
We have now come to the end of our Calathea orbifolia (or Goeppertia orbifolia) care guide and can conclude that even though – unlike other plants – this plant might be more sensitive than other indoor plants, it is a lovely plant that is sure to be worth every minute of care!