Yes, Calathea Freddie plants can be grown successfully in pots and placed inside houses or offices. But beginner gardeners should know that these plants need a bit more care than some other houseplant types such as Pothos or Monstera.
In this article, we’ll go into more detail about the nature, characteristics, and care requirements of Calathea Freddie plants.
All the Calathea plants belong to the Marantaceae family, also known as the prayer-plants. This is a biological rank of plants commonly known as arrowroots. There are around 31 genera in that class, and from them, the botanists identified 350 species.
The Marantaceae family is quite prolific compared to the other families that belong to the Zingiberales order. This often comes with high adaptability and growth in an ecologically rich environment.
Calatheas, and other Marantaceae, are native to tropical forests. A majority reaching 80% of these variants live in the American tropics, with only 20% divided between the Asian and African forests. There are tropical areas in Australia, but interestingly, no presence at all of Calatheas.
The Calathea Freddie is a popular cultivar along with similar Calatheas like Calathea Beauty Star, Calathea Misto, and Calathea Eclipse. They are natural beauties, and taking care of them is often a breeze.
This lovely plant goes by other names as well, like Calathea Concinna Freddie, Peacock Plant, Zebra Plant, or Prayer Plants. So if you’re buying a Calathea Freddie online, or from the greenhouse next door, it would be useful to know all of its aliases.
Once you bring these perennials back home, keep in mind that they are tropical plants. Thus, the best way to keep them happy is to replicate their natural habitat, as much as possible.
Calatheas natural habitat is a tropical rainforest, with plenty of moisture, and only filtered light through the dense canopy. Under these perfect conditions, the Calathea could grow vertically to more than two-and-a-half feet.
A healthy Calathea would have perfectly oval deep green leaves, with pale-green or cream-colored stripes. These plants would also bloom in spring, and their little flowers have a wonderful scent. But that doesn’t always happen if a Calathea Freddie is kept in a pot indoors.
Another striking feature of Calatheas is the way the flowers close off after dusk and reopen at dawn. This phenomenon is known as nyctinasty, and it’s believed to provide various forms of protection to the plant. People who aren’t used to that plant behavior are often fascinated by it no matter how many times they see it!
Considering where the Calathea comes from, and the plentiful moisture of the tropics, then, it would be easy to see why it needs a constantly humid medium.
Watering the Calathea Freddie should be every week in the warm seasons and every two weeks in the colder seasons. If the weather is dry, the plant would need frequent watering, and the opposite is also true. A good rule of thumb is to check the moisture of the soil, and only water the Calathea when the upper layer is dry.
Tropical plants, in general, like a thorough watering. So make sure that you give it enough water that it starts draining the excess. However, the roots shouldn’t sit in soggy soil. Thus, the drainage should be effective and the soil needs to be sufficiently porous.
Calatheas are big on humidity, which is again, a trait of rainforest plants. Some locations are naturally endowed with high humidity most of the year, so the plant would be happy without any extra measures.
Then again, plenty of places are rather dry. And to increase the humidity around the plant, growers can install a small humidifier, and adjust it to a suitable level.
Another solution is to put some pebbles or rocks inside a ceramic plate, add some water, and place the potted plant on the rocks. It’s important to keep the base of the pot away from the water.
The water would vaporize and increase the humidity in the air around the plant, which would keep it refreshed and vivacious. You can also mist the Calathea every day, which mimics the frequent rains in its natural habitat.
Calathea Freddie favors moist soil, but at the same time, it could get sick if the water stays too long in the soil. That’s because standing water is an open invitation for root rot, and a host of other bacteria, fungi, and pests.
Three things are essential for preparing a welcoming growth medium for a Calathea:
- Choosing a potting mix that’s light, airy, and doesn’t hold on to water.
- Providing several draining holes in the pot to dispose of the excess water.
- Keeping the base of the pot away from drained or accumulated water.
Finding the right potting mix is usually the hardest part. Also, you should consider the average temperature and humidity in your region as you make that decision.
Going with a general-purpose potting mix for indoor plants is great for hot dry places, while a fast-draining cactus mix is more suitable for most other locations. There are other specialized soil mixes for indoor tropical plants, and some even have root stimulants for helping the plant during repotting.
Potting soil gets weak and loses plenty of its nutritious elements over time. That’s why these reserves need to be replenished for the healthy growth of Calatheas.
Indoor shade plants aren’t known for having a big appetite for fertilizers, and Calatheas are no exception. Fertilization at the onset of spring and in the middle of summer should be sufficient. But you could also add a third time at the beginning of winter.
The best fertilizers are the mild ones with a wide range of minerals and other nutrients. You can get them in liquid form, as slow-release granules, or as spikes that you just stick into the potting soil.
Calatheas don’t need excessive or diligent pruning. From time to time, some of the leaves will become yellow, wilt, and dry out. These ones should be removed promptly, for aesthetic reasons, and also to keep the plant healthy.
These tropical plants like misting, so there’s little chance that they’d accumulate dust or dirt. However, if they do become grubby, then you can wipe the leaves off with a damp cloth. This would make them absorb humidity and respire more efficiently.
You can use a spray that doesn’t only clean the Calathea, but also adds a shiny glossy layer to the leaves. But if you like to tend to the leaves in a more focused way, you can use indoor plant wipes.
Tropical plants with broad leaves typically grow under the shade of large trees and dense canopies. They only get thoroughly filtered light, but they have it for a fair amount of the day.
Thus, the best lighting for a Calathea Freddie is the one that comes through a curtained window. You can place it on a table beside the window or balcony, where it can get nice mellow light. Just be sure that it’s not subject to harsh sunlight at any time.
Calatheas can still survive in low light, but they might not thrive as much as you’d want them to. So if there’s no good location around the house or office, you can install small grow lights beside the plant. Keep the settings to low, and increase slightly as needed.
The best temperature for a tropical plant is between 65°-85°. This is mostly what you’d get in hardiness zones 10 and 11.
If the temperature gets a tad higher, the plant wouldn’t suffer terribly. However, if it gets really cold, and you have chilly temperatures below 60°, the Calathea could be affected in a bad way. That’s why it’s not unusual to see these plants placed in greenhouses, where they really thrive.
An alternative to building a greenhouse for the Calathea would be to place it in a warm place. Just make sure that it’s not too close to a radiator, space warmer, or air conditioner. This could be quite harmful to its leaves.
Plants need repotting in the following cases:
- When you get them from the seller and need to make sure they’re in clean soil.
- When they get too big for their original small pot.
- When you want to propagate the plant.
- When the soil is depleted and the nutrients become too poor.
- When the soil is overflowing with fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals.
- When the plant gets infected with root rot.
In all these cases, you’d need to get new pots, preferably made from ceramic. It’s important to choose pots with drainage holes to keep the soil from holding too much water. Additionally, you’d need a suitable amount of potting mix, and a bit of fertilizer to get things going.
Propagating Calathea Freddie is different from what we do with Pothos or Philodendrons. In these plants, and similar indoor shade plants, it’s customary to use cuttings to make new plants. In the case of Calatheas, we have to go with division.
Baby Calatheas grow as offshoots from the main stem of the plant. To go on with the propagation, the offshoot has to be taken apart from the mother plant ever so tenderly. Then, it needs to be repotted, watered and taken care of.
Indoor plants, in general, are often susceptible to root rot. Especially with overly concerned gardeners who give it plenty of water.
Underwatering is often far better than overwatering. The former presents as a few wilted leaves, but the latter invites a savage type of fungus that spoils the roots entirely. Sometimes the pant can be salvaged, but that depends on how soon the rot is discovered.
The best remedy is to take the plant out, wash it, and cut off the rotting parts. It needs to be left to air-dry for a night, then, the next day it can be repotted in clean soil. Some people also use diluted bleach to eliminate the fungus completely.
Other common problems that face indoor plants are the attacks of pests. The most common are spider mites, but mealybugs could bother Calatheas as well. In both cases, you’d need to use a powerful pesticide to get rid of these stubborn bugs. At other times, a mild pest deterrent should be sufficient.
There are a few other bacterial and viral diseases that could affect Calatheas, but that’s not too frequent. Also, diagnosing and treating them might not be too easy. Among the annoying bacteria is a strain of Pseudomonas sp., which causes discoloration that we often call a Pseudomonas leaf spot.
Leaf spots can be caused by some types of fungi as well, like the Alternaria alternata, the Cochliobolus setariae, and the Bipolaris setariae. They all present as spots on the leaves, and specialists can tell which is which through testing and thorough observation.
In their native lands, Calatheas are used for more than decorative purposes. They’re made into handicrafts, containers, and even carriers for some food items.
Calatheas are interesting tropical plants that look amazing in any setting. You can place them in your living room, shaded backyard, office, and they’ll brighten up the place instantly. And with a little extra care, they could bloom into beautiful fragrant flowers in springtime.
Caring for a Calathea Freddie might seem a tad demanding, especially when compared to low-maintenance plants like Pothos. However, this guide should take the edge off the care process. So keeping this pretty plant would be much less confusing and far more amusing!