Despite their good looks, people shy away from Calatheas because they can be high-maintenance. Caring for a Calathea Vittata, in particular, comes with a bit of a learning curve. They’re picky feeders and their leaves droop with age. This tends to intimidate people who lack green thumbs.
Caring for Calathea plants may be challenging, but it’s well worth it in the end, seeing as this houseplant is a true eye-catcher and an excellent air purifier.
In this Calathea Vittata care guide, we cover everything you need to know about taking care of Calatheas, so stick around.
Calathea Vittata, from the family Marantaceae, also known as the prayer plant, is an ornamental houseplant. Length-wise, Calatheas are on the short side, with a maximum height of 1’11”.
Calatheas aren’t kept for their flowers; their striped leaves are what make them very trendy. They can grow up to 5” wide. It’s because of these patterned leaves that Calatheas gained common names like the “Zebra Plant” and the “Peacock Plant.”
Many of us are familiar with the domesticated version of the plant, but what a lot of us don’t know is that Calatheas are actually wild tropical plants. Keeping that in mind will help you understand the plant’s needs.
Calatheas thrive in medium to high humidity. In fact, humidity levels lower than 50% can result in curly, crispy leaves. So, bathrooms are suitable places for Calatheas, where they’ll soak up all that heat and water vapor.
The best way to adjust the humidity for indoor plants is through a humidifier with an integrated hygrometer. This allows you to have pre-set cycles. Manually misting the leaves is also an option.
However, misting too much can cause white spotting on the leaves, which is most likely a fungal infection. In this case, try adding a few drops of neem oil to the misting solution. Neem is a natural antimicrobial agent that’ll help protect the plant.
Since Vittata plants are tropical, they can tolerate heat in USDA zones 11 to 12. That’s around 65 to 75℉ if you’re not familiar with hardiness zones.
It’s okay to move it outdoors when the weather is nice. However, if you live in colder regions, it’s recommended to keep your Calathea indoors.
Calatheas prefer indirect light. Even in the wild, Calatheas are known as “shadow” plants. So, it would be a good idea to keep your Vittata away from direct sunlight.
If you’re leaving the pot outdoors, try to put it in a shaded spot. For indoor pots, try to regulate artificial light. Usually, mimicking day-night cycles is best for Calatheas.
Calathea plants should never be left to dry out. They can easily wilt and curl from thirst. A simple way to judge if your plant needs watering is by putting your finger or a stick two inches deep into the soil. If it comes out dry, then you should water it.
It’s also recommended to swap tap water for distilled or filtered water. Minerals and salts, especially chlorine and fluoride, can stress out sensitive houseplants.
Neutral soil (pH around 6.5) works best for most Calathea species. Good draining is an essential quality in the soil. You’ll be watering regularly, after all, so you can’t risk root rot.
To ensure good aeration for your soil, try perlites or peat moss, or a mix of both. Typically, equal parts perlite and peats are mixed and sold commercially as an all-purpose soil for houseplants. This keeps the soil lightweight and airy.
A good time to fertilize a Calathea Vittata is around the growth season. Vittatas need that extra boost of nutrients around summer and spring.
Use regular plant food fertilizer but make sure it’s diluted to its quarter or half. You can use it up to three times per month.
For an extra boost, try using a nitrogen fertilizer once or twice during the growing season.
As the plant gets older, seeing brown spots on the leaves is normal. You can easily remove the dead parts by pruning them with a sharp pair of scissors.
If the dead parts are on the edges, you don’t have to remove the entire leaf. Just snip the crispy parts and leave the rest. However, if you feel like the leaf is past the point of saving, just cut it at the base.
Pruning isn’t limited only to dead leaves; you can prune bushy parts if they get out of hand. Tame the loose extensions and keep the core intact.
Healthy Calatheas spread during the growing season, forming clumps that could be separated and propagated. This process is often called root division.
Once you notice these clumps, divide them at the root with a sharp knife or scissors. Each clump needs a leaf, stem, and root attached to propagate successfully.
However, you need to watch out for diseases like Fusarium wilt or CMV. They’re more common in plants propagated by cuttings, either because of the germinating conditions or because the parent plant was infected. Further, make sure you’re getting cuttings only from healthy Vittatas.
Calatheas aren’t called the “Praying Plants” for nothing. Like other members of the family Marantaceae, Calatheas’ leaves can move under the influence of sunlight.
During the nighttime, the leaves rise and it looks like the plant is praying. Meanwhile, the sunlight gets the leaves back to their normal position.
This response to day-night cycles is called nyctinasty.
Capturing these nyctinastic movements on a time-lapse is very entertaining. It’s also a sign that your plant is healthy and well-cared for.
Here are a few frequently asked questions with regard to caring for Calathea Vittata
A: Yes, Calatheas can suffer from overwatering. If the leaves are yellow and droopy, it’s a sign that you’re giving the plant too much water. Try not to get the soil soggy and make sure the pot has proper draining. If overwatered for too long, the roots of a Calathea plant might rot.
A: Closing up at night (nyctinasty) is a characteristic of the family Marantaceae. Calatheas rarely lose this natural movement. Since nyctinasty is an intrinsic response to sunlight, you might want to check your indoor lighting.
Getting exposed to too much artificial light at night can disturb the plant’s circadian rhythm. Try to mimic natural day-night cycles to help stimulate nyctinasty. If that doesn’t help, it might be because you’re overwatering your plant.
A: There’s a lot of potential reasons why Calathea Vittata leaves might turn brown. Not all of them are a cause for alarm. Sometimes, as the plant ages, leaves can get brown edges. That’s totally normal and you can fix it with pruning.
But if the browning is recurring, you might want to take a second look at the causes. Dry air is a common reason. Mist the Calathea often or try a pebble tray to increase moisture levels around the plant.
If you’re looking for a quick fix, try soaking the plant in water for a few minutes to refresh it.
A: Calathea Vittata isn’t a flowering plant, especially when it’s domesticated. People grow Vittata for the leaves, not for the flowers.
Remember that Vittata is just one species out of more than 200 other Calatheas! For instance, Calathea Crocata is a flowering species with orange petals. Crocata’s flowers are so bright that the plant is commonly known as the “Eternal Flame.”
A: Calatheas are kept for two main reasons: ornamental and functional. Besides being attractive ornaments, Calatheas are good air purifiers. According to a 1989 research by NASA, Calathea plants are one of eight landscape plants that increase air quality.
They help clear the air of toxic compounds. Yet, another reason to keep your Calathea Vittata in the bathroom!
A: Vittata plants aren’t a rare species. You’ll probably find it in your local plant nursery. If you can’t find it anywhere near you, maybe you’ll have better luck online.
Many stores grow out house plants, pot them, and then ship them all over the country. This way, you can skip the critical period of germinating and sprouting.
Calathea species are also on exhibit in most botanical gardens. Book a visit and check the plant out before committing to owning one.
If you’re willing to put effort into maintaining a houseplant, Calathea Vittata is a great choice. Not only for ornamental purposes but also for air purification.
Keeping Calathea plants healthy only comes with catering to its needs as far as humidity, light, watering, fertilizing, and pruning.
Because it’s a tropical plant, warm and humid conditions are best for Calathea. You’ll also need to provide shade and aerated soil.
Most importantly, Calatheas need a steady supply of water, or else they dry out.