Calathea Orbifolia: Easy Care Tips

There’s nothing like an indoor plant to add some green life to your home. One of the most striking plants you can opt for is the Calathea orbifolia, with majestic leaves that you’re simply compelled to look at.

In today’s article, we offer a full guide on Calathea orbifolia including an overview of its origin, a discussion about its characteristics, and tips on its care requirements. Let’s get started!

Calathea Orbifolia — an Overview

Native to South America, particularly Bolivia, the orbifolia plant is one of the biggest Calatheas you can grow indoors. Thanks to its uniquely beautiful foliage, the popularity of the orbifolia is on the rise.

The Calathea orbifolia is the definition of a statement plant, showing off a bold pattern of alternating light and dark stripes. Not only does it immediately catch the eye of any visitor, but also the oval shape of the leaves and their length of more than a foot across make it a mesmerizing sight.

When it comes to maintenance, Calatheas -in general- can be quite demanding, and you can bet that the orbifolia is no exception. A lot of people are attracted to the plant’s pretty foliage and its well-balanced profile, yet some of them will end up watching this gorgeous plant slowly deform and deteriorate because they didn’t take the time to learn how to care for their orbifolia.

Familiarizing yourself with all the growth requirements of the Calathea orbifolia will help your plant thrive and stay healthy for a long time. One of the most essential conditions for the flourishing of orbifolias is high humidity and consistently moist soil.

Owners who often talk about the ease of keeping an orbifolia usually forget to mention living somewhere with a tropical climate. As such, if your house is on the dry side, you’re already starting out at a disadvantage.

That said, growing a Calathea orbifolia is nothing to be afraid of — you just need to understand what it likes and you’ll do fine. Provide your plant with jungle-like conditions including humidity and warmth to keep it happy.

If you’ve got kids and/or pets running around, you don’t need to worry about their safety in the presence of a Calathea orbifolia — you’ll probably be more dangerous to them than the plant if they take a curious bite!

Although the Calathea orbifolia can be difficult to get your hands on, it’s becoming easier to find as more gardening enthusiasts grow interested in the plant.

Calathea Orbifolia — Characteristics and Growth

Calathea Orbifolia on white background
Calathea Orbifolia leaves isolated on background

The Calathea orbifolia is a perennial plant that’s native to Bolivia in South America. It belongs to the Prayer Plant or Marantaceae family.

As such, you shouldn’t be surprised when you look at your orbifolia and it seems like its leaves have somehow changed positions. This isn’t your imagination; since it’s a prayer plant, it has highly animated leaves that shift throughout the day.

When it’s nighttime, the Calathea orbifolia folds upright at the stem’s base so the plant looks like it’s raising its leaves to pray. This phenomenon is known as nyctinasty.

The orbifolia prefers partial shade, but it can tolerate low light — never direct sun though. It features oval leaves with thick stems and stunning green and silvery grey bands. The undersides of the leaves are pale green.

The Calathea orbifolia is a grand plant that can grow as high and wide as 3 feet when kept indoors.

Hardiness zone

The Calathea orbifolia makes excellent houseplants, but outdoors, it grows in USDA zones 9b -11. You can allow the plant to summer outside and bring it inside in the fall, but make sure you don’t leave it out in the cold even for a short period.

As with any indoor plant, the growing speed of orbifolias varies according to the suitability of the provided conditions. However, it’s not known to be a very fast grower and becomes semi-dormant during the cold months.

Additionally, the root of the Calathea orbifolia has a rhizome structure. Prone to rot, the plant’s roots require a rich soil mix with good drainage, but at the same time, it doesn’t do well in too dry soil.


Flowering in the Calathea orbifolia depends on the environment where it’s growing.

In the wild, the ends of the plant’s stems blossom with clusters of white, delicate flowers. They have small petals that are arranged to form a star shape, growing sparsely to create a flower head.

However, the story is different indoors; this plant rarely -if ever- blooms inside. That’s okay though, the attractive qualities of orbifolias lie in the striking appearance of their banded leaves that demonstrate patterns of alternating light and dark green colors.

Calathea Orbifolia — Care Requirements

Light and Temperature

In nature, Calathea orbifolia thrive in the bright shade of the forest, so you should be looking for a spot with partial shade. Never place the plant under direct sunlight as excessively bright light can result in fading or damaging its leaves.

The best light condition for orbifolias is medium-light or even lower, but not so dark that it’s dim. You can tell if you’re providing your Calathea orbifolia with enough light by trying to read in it; if you can easily do it, then you’re good.

Ideally, you want to place your plant on a north-facing window. Some gentle sunlight in the morning from eastern exposure can also be beneficial.

As for the appropriate indoor temperatures, the Calathea orbifolia thrives within a range from 6 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius) to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius). While the plant can tolerate temperatures a couple of degrees higher, its leaves will begin to curl if things get too hot.

As for the cold, 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius) is about as low as the plant can tolerate. Leaves of orbifolia will quickly show signs of damage even in minor chill conditions.

Calathea orbifolias don’t like exposure to drafts nor do they appreciate brief dips of temperature below their preferred range. They’re also not fans of sudden temperature changes.

If you leave your indoor orbifolia plants to summer outdoors, you must bring them back in before temperatures drop down into the 50s.


Similar to any houseplant, proper watering is a key aspect of keeping the Calathea orbifolia growing healthy and looking good. Owing to the tropical nature of the plant, it likes evenly and consistently moist soil that never goes totally dry.

To get the right level of moisture for your orbifolia, check the soil every two days using your fingers or a moisture meter to be more accurate — rewater when the top 1 or 2 inches are nearly dry. This technique helps prevent diseases and pests that are usually associated with overwatering.

That said, you should never let the soil of your orbifolia become too dry. The leaves won’t give you a warning sign by wilting; they’ll simply decline when they’re thirsty.

Calatheas generally rely heavily on you knowing the appropriate time and method of watering their plants. Keep in mind that if your plant’s leaves seem less animated or don’t fold up as usual at night, the reason behind this may be needing more water.

If you’re looking for ways to keep the soil of your orbifolia moist for a longer time, try using a plastic pot that locks in moisture then put it inside a decorative pot that’s free of drainage holes.

You can also add some pebbles as the last layer at the bottom of the outer pot to not only elevate the inner pot but also create decent drainage space while providing a level of moisture into the air surrounding the foliage.

Avoid using a terracotta pot because it can cause the soil to dry out too quickly.

As for watering, some simple moistening every other day will do just fine, but schedule a more thorough watering every week or so and allow the pot to drain for about 10 minutes afterward. This way, the soil gets a chance to flush and the peat remains evenly damp.

Another method you can try on your Calathea orbifolia is self-watering devices that release water slowly into the soil. Their operation is typically regulated by the soil’s level of moisture, adding water as necessary to keep the mix uniformly moist.

When watering Calathea orbifolia, you should stick to using purified or filtered water as the plant doesn’t tolerate chlorine, water salts, and old fertilizer build-up. You may be having a problem with the quality of the water if you notice discoloration on the leaves.

Calathea prayer plant in garden
Closeup of Prayer plant, Calathea warscewiczii white herbaceous flower with hairy caterpillar in the garden


As we mentioned earlier, humidity is a crucial factor in the health of your Calathea orbifolia. More specifically, the plant requires a level of humidity that’s at least 50 percent.

While the plant could survive in a drier atmosphere, its appearance will suffer, which defeats the main purpose of owning the plant. A tool as simple as a hygrometer will help you ensure that you’re providing the right conditions for your orbifolia.

If you’re looking for ways to increase the humidity levels of the air inside your home, the following list can aid you in your mission:

  • Moderate grouping — this is a proven natural way of raising the humidity in the air. If you own multiple plants, you want to place them close to each other so that mutual transpiration takes place, but not too cramped that they share insects or interrupt efficient air circulation.
  • Humid spot — an easy way to boost humidity for your orbifolia plant is to place it in a humid location. Generally, bathrooms offer a great spot for such a purpose, even better if it receives the proper light conditions.

You can also consider kitchens or laundry rooms for the job. Speaking of which, hanging your damp clothes to dry in the same room where you keep your orbifolia is a fast way to boost the humidity of the atmosphere by 5 or 10 percent for a few hours.

  • Evaporation strategies — turning to the concept of evaporation can also be helpful in raising ambient humidity. There are a few ways you can go about this, for example, try placing small bowls or cups of water around your plant.

Despite not having the most significant effect, evaporation is certain and steady. You can also elevate the plant’s pot above the water line in a tray by using a layer of pebbles.

Additionally, you can try placing a few seashells on top of the soil with the hollow side facing up. Fill the shells with water and let them deliver some close-range moisture.

  • Misting schedule — plan a misting schedule to regularly replenish humidity in the air. Your sprayer should produce fine droplets and contain filtered or purified water.

Try to schedule the misting sessions in the mornings to give your plants a nice boost.

  • Humidifier — finally, the ultimate method you can apply to amp up the humidity of a room is to get a humidifier. Obviously, this can be a pricey investment to many, but it’ll do wonders for your Calathea orbifolia.

Soil and Fertilizing

The soil of your Calathea orbifolia is yet another vital element when it comes to maintaining healthy growth and pretty looks. You want the soil to stay evenly moist while draining quickly but not too fast. It should also contain organic fertilizer for improved results.

A good choice is coco coir or peat as they’ll lock in moisture while giving the roots some space to breathe and drain to prevent sogginess. Perlite, pumice, and orchid bark are also good for drainage, although the latter disintegrates over time.

Avoid inorganic fertilizers for Calathea orbifolia to avoid damaging its roots and keep the amendments as organic as possible. For example, you can add compost as it enriches the growth medium of the plant while enhancing the drainage and moisture of the soil.

Wrap Up

Calathea Ornata in garden
Leaves Calathea ornata pin stripe background blue

There you have it, everything you need to know about the beautiful Calathea orbifolia, from its origin and characteristics to its care requirements.