It’s always devastating when the once glossy leaves turn droopy and bland. People see the Calathea leaves drooping and think it’s impossible to revive.
Yet, treating droopy leaves in Calatheas isn’t hard. It all comes down to adjusting the external conditions, using a fertilizer with moderation, and keeping an eye out for pests.
In this post, you’ll find the top 7 reasons for droopy Calathea leaves. Keep reading to know the signs and how to treat them, even if you don’t have green thumbs!
7 Reasons for Calathea Leaves Drooping and Their Solutions
First things first, you’ll need to identify the root cause. There are many reasons why Calatheas droop; external conditions, leaf infestations, and much more.
Here’s a list of the most common reasons for droopy foliage in Calathea plants and their fixes:
1. Watering Stress
Underwatering can make any plant wilt, and Calatheas are no exception. If this continues for a while, the entire plant may die out.
On the other hand, overwatering a Calathea can also cause droopy leaves. Additionally, it puts the plant at the risk of root rot.
To tell if your plant is thirsty or over-loaded with water, you can check the soil’s condition. The first two inches will give you a good idea about the pot’s water content.
You can also examine the leaves. Underwatering turns the leaf tips crispy and brown. That won’t happen with stress from high water content.
As a general rule, Calatheas need watering once weekly. The soil in the pot needs to be evenly moist all through the week, though.
It’s okay if your plant needs more than that. It all depends on the temperature and the size of the pot. Find a schedule that meets your plant’s water requirements and stick to it.
2. Dry Air
Calathea plants enjoy high humidity. On average, they need 50 percent humidity to thrive. The higher the humidity, the better. Most species can tolerate up to 80 percent.
Adjusting the humidity level isn’t only good for Calathea’s foliage, but it can help you sleep better, too!
It’s hard to tell if the plant is suffering from low humidity. One thing you might notice is a slight change in the texture of the foliage.
To make sure that dry air is the main issue, measure the degree of humidity with a digital hygrometer. Try to take readings at different parts of the day to get an accurate estimate.
If your living space has dry air, you can get room humidifiers. There are smart devices that you can control remotely through a mobile app.
When getting a humidifier isn’t an option, you can put the plant near the shower. Grouping multiple pots near each other can create a slightly humid indoor microclimate.
3. Temperature Stress
Calatheas are tropical plants. Hot, humid conditions are better for them. Sudden changes in temperature or cold winds can reduce growth and wilt the leaves.
Ideally, Calatheas thrive in USDA hardiness zones 11 and 12. Do you live in similar climates? If not, then the droopiness could be a result of temperature stress.
Extreme heat can also dry out the foliage by increasing the transpiration rate. In an attempt to cool down, the leaves start releasing water into the air.
Additionally, the shriveled leaves might turn into a brown shade. Keep an eye on the texture and color of the foliage, but it might be showing warning signs of overheating.
Try to maintain a constant temperature around 45-65ºF. During cold days, make sure that the indoor space is heated and ventilated.
Ventilation is crucial for any houseplant. However, cold drafts can also harm Calathea. So, avoid putting it near doorways and open windows.
4. Repotting Shock
Moving to a larger pot is sometimes a necessity for many root-bound plants. It also helps provide room for growth.
However, it can also mean serious changes in the soil pH, drainage capacity, and water distribution. All of which can severely stress out a houseplant.
A repotting shock will suddenly change the plant’s state. If the Calathea leaves droop just after transplanting, then you know that it’s a case of repotting shock.
Besides wilted leaves, you might notice that the foliage has yellow tips. The branches too thin out and become dry.
On average, Calatheas need a new pot once every two years. Avoid unnecessary transplanting by repotting only when the plant gets too large and becomes root-bound.
When you re-pot a plant, keep the variables at a minimum. Don’t change the pot size, the soil type, and the surrounding conditions all at once.
5. Mineral Build-Up
Watering houseplants with tap water can be tempting. You might get away with it occasionally. However, over long periods, tap water can cause mineral build-ups.
Chlorine is one of the minerals in tap water that can harm delicate houseplants. It accumulates in the foliage tissue and slowly kills the cells.
Too much chlorine makes the leaves curl up and turn brown at the tips. If the leaf tips look scorched, your plant might be suffering from chlorine toxicity.
Minerals deposits can also look like hard white scales. These calcium spots are called limescale.
Use distilled water for your houseplants. If you must use tap water, let it sit for a day. This step allows the chlorine to evaporate out.
You can rinse out the plant with vinegar mists or a dampened cloth to remove limescale and other mineral deposits.
6. Unbalanced Nutrition
If your Calathea has droopy leaves, it could be a case of malnutrition. Underfeeding houseplants leaves them at risk of stunted growth, too.
On the other hand, over-feeding is also dangerous. If you use too much fertilizer on a new pot, you risk burning off the roots.
Malnutried Calatheas won’t only have droopy foliage, but they also lack the shine and healthy luster all over. Look out for weak, fragile branches and discoloration on the leaves.
An over-fertilized Calathea will show signs similar to mineral overload. The leaves’ tips might turn yellow with deposits.
Calathea plants could use a nutritional boost, especially around the growing season. Use an all-purpose fertilizer once every two or three weeks through spring and summer.
It’s equally important not to over-feed. Excess nutrients can make the plant dull with heavy leaves. If you accidentally used too much fertilizer, try flushing the soil with mineral-free water.
Houseplants can be too delicate when it comes to pests. Calathea species are just as susceptible to infestations.
Pest infestations drain out the foliage of its nutrients and water content. This consumption turns the leaves brittle and saggy.
Infested foliage might have a sticky appearance. That’s because scale colonies release a gummy residue called honeydew.
Other infestations, like spider mites, can look like tiny yellow dots all over the leaf. Check the underside for white webbing or discoloration.
Sometimes, rinsing the leaves with water does the job. You’ll need to use insecticides to fight off more complicated infections. Neem oil is great for most infestations.
If a leaf looks damaged beyond repair, it might be time to prune it away. Get a sharp pair of gardening scissors and cut away the dead foliage at the base.
Nyctinasty vs. Drooping
Sometimes what people see as “droopy leaves” isn’t droopiness at all. It could just be nyctinasty. After all, Calatheas are called the Praying Plants for a reason!
Nyctinasty is a natural phenomenon where plant parts move up and down. This motion is affected by diurnal light changes.
On a time-lapse, it’s a wonderful sight to see. The movement might look a lot like magic, but it all comes down to swollen pulvini that push the leaves upwards during the night.
How to Tell Nyctinasty and Drooping Apart
Don’t rush into treating your Calathea if you’re not familiar with nyctinasty. Make sure that you’re not mistaking the natural movement for sagging leaves.
Try to monitor the plant for a couple of days. Is the “droopiness” related to the day-light cycles? If so, then it’s just nyctinasty, and there’s nothing wrong with the plant.
Loading the pot with fertilizer or water, in this case, isn’t useful at all. Remember that over-care can sometimes do more harm than good.
Calathea species have a remarkable collection of unique leaves. A pot of Jungle Velvet or the Peacock Plant can bring a decorative touch to any room.
It’s a shame when the marvelous foliage loses its luster and shine. Despite the common belief, Calathea leaves drooping isn’t impossible to reverse.
Reviving and even preventing droopy leaves entirely is fairly easy if you know what signs to look for in your plant. Maintain regular watering with mineral-free water, aim for a hot, humid atmosphere, and re-pot with caution.
Under the right conditions, the leaves will regain their health before long. So, stay informed and take care of your precious plants!