Calathea Warscewiczii vs Zebrina: Important Similarities And Differences

Out of the 60 Calathea species stands out two kinds: the Calathea warscewiczii and the Calathea zebrina. But in a battle of ‘Calathea warscewiczii vs zebrina’, which wins as the ultimate houseplant?

Below, we’ll go through the similarities and differences of both Calathea plants. This way, we’ll be helping you decide which one best suits your home.

Calathea warscewiczii leaves

How Are Both Calatheas Similar?

Most Calathea plants are tropical natives. That’s why they share the same needs and require similar conditions to grow well. If you choose to care for either a Calathea warscewiczii or a zebrina, you’ll need to know the following basics of Calathea plant care:

Sunlight

The first factor in keeping a plant alive is light. For Calatheas, they’re not so fond of it. These plants prefer indirect sunlight that won’t burn their leaves. An easy way to do this is to place them in the shades of bright rooms.

Watering

The other factor to adequate plant care is proper watering. Calatheas, once again, aren’t big fans. That being said, however, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep an eye on them.

This is where watering a Calathea can get complicated. A golden rule is to water them only when the top half-inch of the soil is dry. Another rule is to only use distilled water. Remember, water it 2-3 per week in the summer and 1-2 times in the winter.

Humidity

As tropical natives, Calathea species thrive on high humidity levels. Ideally, a humidity percentage of 50 or above is preferred. This is to help keep your Calatheas moist at all times—just the way they like it.

There are many ways to achieve this percentage of humidity around your Calathea plant. You can consider purchasing an air humidifier, regularly misting the leaves, or grouping your Calatheas together.

Temperature

The average room temperature of 65 to 75ºF is ideal for Calathea plants. Since they’re tropical plants, they enjoy warm weather. That’s why winter temperatures greatly stress and yellow the Calathea’s leaves.

This in turn means you shouldn’t place them near cold air vents. That’s because both cold and warm drafts harm your Calathea. How? By drying out their soil–which should always be moist–and eventually killing it.

Potting and Soil

In addition to keeping it moist, you should also make sure the soil is well-drained. A pot with drainage holes would do wonders for your Calathea plant. This’ll help keep the soil rich. Proper drainage will also prevent the roots from rotting.

When it comes to the matter of repotting your plant, you shouldn’t worry much. Both Calatheas would only need repotting once every 2-3 years. Unless, of course, the roots have rotted. In this case, they need immediate and careful repotting.

Fertilizer

Calatheas commonly aren’t picky about their food. In fact, a standard houseplant fertilizer will do just fine. But if you prefer to, you can also use a green-leaf specialized fertilizer.

Another good thing is that Calatheas don’t require constant feeding. Excluding the winter season, you should feed your plants every 2-3 weeks. Make sure to flush the soil out 5-6 times per year.

Potting Mix

We don’t know about other Calatheas, but these two, in particular, enjoy the same potting mix. This mix consists of two parts pea moss or coir and one part perlite. It’ll keep the plant’s soil nutritious and rich.

How Are Both Calatheas Different?

Even though the Calathea warscewiczii and the Calathea zebrina are from the same species, they’re unique in their own way. There are only a few, slight differences between both plants.

Origin and Name

The Calathea warscewiczii originates from Central and South America. The warscewiczii belongs to the herbaceous perennial family. Since its name is difficult to pronounce, this Calathea is commonly known as the Calathea jungle velvet.

On the other hand, the Calathea zebrina is native to Southeastern Brazil. The zebrina belongs to the perennial foliage family. Other names for the zebrina include the ‘zebra plant’ or the ‘prayer plant’.

leaves of a zebra plant in closeup, tropical plant specie from Brazil, exotic garden and nature background

Shape

The warscewiczii plant is distinctive from its Calathea family members by its oval, purple-green leaves. It can grow up to 3 feet tall while its leaves grow to be 12 inches long. If placed outdoors, a warscewiczii would flower creamy, cone-shaped buds.

The Calathea zebrina, however, has ovate, zebra-striped leaves. Similar to the warscewiczii, the zebrina’s stripes are velvety green. Its leaves can also reach 12 inches. Plus, a zebrina plant’s height can reach 2 feet.

Common Calathea Issues to Know and Avoid

After you decide which Calathea plant to get, you’ll have to look out for any issues that may arise. Usually, these issues appear as telling signs that your Calathea plant is stressed out.

But no worries! All issues can be easily avoided and fixed if you know what you’re doing. So, here are the 5 issues you need to look out for:

Curled, Spotted, or Yellow Leaves

When the colorful leaves of your Calathea start to show signs of damage or to change colors, then it’s in trouble. Here are the reasons why this is happening:

  • Overwatering. As we mentioned, the soil should only be moist. But you should never let your Calathea sit in a pool of water.
  • Underwatering. Conversely, if your Calathea plant isn’t getting enough water, that’ll also stress its leaves out. Get yourself a moisture meter to regularly check that the top half-inch of soil is wet.

Faded Leaves

If the joyous colors of the Calathea’s leaves start to fade, this is a direct result of sunlight exposure. Remember, too much direct light affects your plant’s foliage and may even cause it to burn. Make sure to keep your Calathea in a bright, well-shaded area.

Dropping Leaves With Brown Tips

On another leafy note, if your Calathea leaves start to wilt or their tips turn brown, that’s another sign that your plant is stressed out. Here’s why:

  • Low humidity levels. The Calathea reacts to the slightest changes in humidity. So, consider buying a hygrometer to help keep an eye on the humidity percentage. You can also mist the leaves and see if that helps too.

Limping Stems

When your Calathea is tilting to the side or seems unable to hold itself upright, then there’s a problem with the plant’s stem. Here’s what may be causing it:

  • Root rot. This is a serious problem indeed, and if you don’t act fast, you risk your plant dying. You’ll need to carefully repot the plant and cut off rooting roots.
  • Overwatering. Double-check how frequently you’re watering your plant and keep the soil just moist enough.
  • Low temperatures. A native to a tropical land favors warm temperatures and dislikes cold ones. So, make sure you keep your indoors warm enough for them.
  • Exposure to cold or warm drafts. Similar to the previous reason, wind drafts alter the temperatures around your Calathea, and in turn, wilt its stem and leaves.

Infestation of Insects and Mites

Since Calatheas like moist soil, this increases the risk of getting infested by insects such as fungus gnats, spider mites, mealybugs, and scales.

Before we get into how to deal with them, you must know that an infested Calathea should be quarantined from other plants to avoid further infestation.

That being said, here’s how to deal with each insect:

  • Fungus gnats. These appear as a result of overwatering. When they appear, they cause fungal spots on your plant’s leaves. You can spray the leaves with a water-based solution mixed with neem oil or hydrogen peroxide
  • Spider mites appear on a stressed plant, whether from under watering or low humidity. Mites usually feed on the plant’s leaves. You’ll have to use insecticidal soap to get rid of them
  • Mealybugs are quite deadly towards your plant. That’s because they viscously feed on it. To get rid of them, you can use either an insecticidal soap or neem oil
  • Scales are an all-year-round problem. Once they spread, they attract other aphids and ants. You can treat your Calathea from them by removing and killing them with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol
A view of Calathea zebrina growing in a cultivated jungle garden near to Dambulla, Sri Lanka

The Verdict

So, in the end, who wins the Calathea warscewiczii vs zebrina battle? Since both plants are more or less similar, we’d assume you’ll be choosing either one according to which looks better.

But we can’t decide for you of course, so here’s a summary of everything to help you do that:

Get the Calathea Warscewiczii If You’d Like:

  • A plant that’s more forgiving if you forget to water it a few times
  • A non-toxic plant with beautiful, velvety leaves that’ll brighten your space
  • A Calathea that’ll grow cream-colored flowers when placed outdoors

Get the Calathea Zebrina If You’d Want:

  • A non-toxic plant with zebra-like leaves that’ll help purify the air of the space they’re in
  • A high-maintenance, but also high-rewarding plant. A zebrina needs a constant eye on it, that’s for sure, but it’s worth it
  • A plant with minimal pruning requirements

We hope that helps you decide which Calathea to get.