Calatheas are hardy houseplants that are native to the Amazon rainforest. Similar to their tropical habitat, they should be kept in bright, indirect sunlight with relatively high humidity.
If your calatheas aren’t kept in optimum growing conditions, their leaves may begin to droop, turn brown, and eventually die back.
In this article, we’ll share valuable tips on how to save a dying calathea plant. We cover the ideal growing conditions, different pests and diseases, and how to make sure you’re watering your calatheas correctly.
Let’s get started!
How to Save a Dying Calathea Plant
Here are four ways you can save a dying calathea plant and restore it to its former glory.
1. Make Sure You’re Watering It Properly
Perhaps one of the most common reasons calathea plants die is overwatering. This detrimental mistake can cause root rot, prevent the soil from aerating properly, and cause the leaves to curl and turn brown.
So, how do you know if you’re overwatering your calathea plant?
- There’s an offensive smell
- The soil is waterlogged
- The leaves turn yellow and brown
- The foliage is wilting
- The pot isn’t draining well
- The pot is too large for the plant
The solution to overwatering is fairly simple. You should water the soil only when you feel the soil is halfway dry.
If you’re still unsure, stick a finger one inch into the soil, if you feel even a little bit of moisture, your plants don’t need any more watering.
This could mean watering it once a week or once every ten days; it doesn’t matter.
How much water your plants will need will depend on the pot size, how well your pot drains, and the amount of sunlight you’re subjecting your calatheas to.
With that said, underwatering your calatheas can be equally fatal.
There are a few factors that will require you to water your calatheas more frequently. They include:
- Exceedingly hot weather
- Pots that drain too quickly
- Rootbound calatheas
Again, making sure your calatheas are watered appropriately can be done by observing the soil. If your pot is too small and your plants become rootbound, you should move your calatheas to a bigger pot.
Underwatered calatheas are fairly easy to diagnose. All you need to do is look for droopy leaves and rock-hard soil.
If you find yourself watering the plants too frequently, the weather may be too hot. This will cause the water to evaporate quickly before the soil is properly saturated.
Finally, tropical plants dislike water that’s too cold or too hot. Room temperature water works just fine, but ideally, the water temperature should be between 90 to 110 Fahrenheit.
2. Adjust the Temperature and Humidity
Calatheas can tolerate temperatures between 60 and 100 degrees, but you should ideally keep them in the 60-80 degrees range.
Of course, a cold winter night will cause temperatures to drop, and that’s okay. The keyword here is consistency. You should never subject your calatheas to abrupt temperature changes.
A sudden change in temperature may cause temperature stress or, worse, temperature shock. You may notice the leaf edges turning brown and wilting if the temperature is fluctuating a lot.
If you want to keep track of the temperature, having a thermometer around can come in handy. You should also get one with a hygrometer built-in to check the humidity, but we’ll get to in a second.
Check the temperature twice or three times each season and move your plants to a hotter/colder place if need be.
What About Humidity?
We’ve mentioned before that calatheas are tropical plants. These moisture-loving plants can only thrive in high humidity.
The average indoor humidity ranges between 30% to 50%. Unfortunately, anything lower than 60% isn’t ideal, and your calatheas may show signs of distress if the humidity goes below 50%.
If you notice the leaves sagging or curling up, this could mean that the environment is too dry for your plants.
Low humidity won’t immediately kill your plants, but it’ll slowly turn your leaves brown, cause new leaves to misshape, and eventually kill the whole plant.
If you live in a climate with low humidity, it’s essential that you invest in a humidifier to keep the humidity levels within the ideal range.
Don’t want to invest in a humidifier? That’s okay. Just make sure you mist the leaves frequently to keep them from drying up.
Fun fact! Humidity varies from one room to the other. So, if you think your calatheas are getting too dry, try moving them to a different room like the bathroom or the kitchen.
3. Provide the Correct Lighting Conditions
It’s a common misconception that calatheas, being tropical plants, require direct sunlight.
In reality, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Exposing your plants to direct sunlight for prolonged periods will scorch the leaves, cause the moisture to evaporate, and wreak havoc on the vivid foliage.
Just like humans, calatheas can become sunburnt. You’ll notice the leaves turn bright red then progressively turn brown. This is known as sun scalding and can kill your whole plant in a matter of days.
You should keep your calatheas in bright yet indirect sunlight. We recommend you avoid keeping the plants outdoors or near a sunny window.
Ideally, calathea plants should be placed near windows with blinds or shades on them. This will enable it to get its daily dose of sunlight without burning the leaves.
Your room’s lighting may change dramatically throughout the year, depending on the season. Windows that are facing south-west are perfect during winter, but will probably be too scorching in the hot summer days.
What About Low Light Conditions?
Conversely, if there isn’t enough sunlight for your calatheas, you may need to invest in a UV lamp.
Not enough sunlight is certainly better than too much. However, not enough sunlight will slow down growth and put your plants at risk of overwatering.
Calatheas that are kept in dark rooms usually suffer from root rot. This is because the roots aren’t utilizing the water properly, and the soil ends up waterlogged.
Still not sure about the optimal lighting conditions? We’ve discovered a brilliant app called “Plant Light Meter” that finds the best placement for your calatheas.
It costs about as much as your morning cup of coffee and works flawlessly. All you need to do is point the camera at the leaves and see what the app has to say.
4. Check for Pests or Diseases
We’ve talked about root rot quite extensively in this article, but there are several other diseases that can also cause your calatheas to die.
Fortunately, calatheas are hardy houseplants, and even the most severe pest infestation and diseases can be treated before killing your plants.
Root rot is when your roots become too weak to transport nutrients to your plant. The rotted roots are usually black or brown and so weak that they’re practically mush.
We’ve talked about the different reasons root rot may occur, so let’s talk about how to fix it.
Mild root rot is fairly easy to treat. All you need to do is let the soil dry and water it properly from then on.
Repotting is a more complex procedure for severe root rot. We do this to remove all the damaged roots and wash the root ball.
You should also trim the leaves that appear discolored or wilted. Make sure the pot has fresh, well-draining soil, and get ready for a week of plant stress while your calatheas recover.
Fusarium wilt is a fungal disease that can be fatal to your calatheas if not treated promptly. The first sign of this disease is the wilting and discoloration of the infected area.
As the disease progresses, you’ll notice the younger leaves falling ill as well, until the whole plant is infected.
Treating fusarium wilt is done by repotting, using a fungicide, and avoiding the use of nitrogen fertilizers entirely.
There are many bugs that can invade your calatheas, but the most common ones are spider mites.
To confirm you have a spider mite infestation, look for pale markings on the foliage, cobwebs, sticky fluids, or particles of dust (spider mite eggs).
If you have a spider mite infestation, please don’t attempt to spray it down with Raid or a similar insecticide. This is the equivalent of throwing a nuclear bomb to demolish a small house.
Instead, use warm water to wash the leaves and gently wipe the plant down. There are a lot of natural insecticides you can use as well, like essential oils, lemon juice, or even dish soap!
For various reasons Calatheas, may start discoloring and dying in a matter of days. If this happens, don’t panic! Hopefully, the explanations above should walk your through how to save a dying calathea plant.
All you need to do is make sure you’re providing the right growing conditions. Avoid direct sunlight and water the soil only when it’s halfway dry.
If the leaves are still wilting, check for pests or diseases and treat them appropriately. Keep in mind that your calatheas may take a few days to start showing signs of recovery.