Caring for a Velvet Calathea can be a bit of a challenge, especially if you have no experience with Calatheas. But don’t you fret; with this simple care guide, your Velvet Calathea will thrive and live long.
Let’s dig in!
The scientific name for the plant is Calathea rufibarba from the family Marantaceae. However, it’s better known as the Velvet Calathea or the Furry Feather plant.
The underside of the Velvet Calathea’s leaves has small hairs, almost like beach-fuzz, making it feel like velvet, hence the name.
Velvet Calathea is a perennial plant, originally from the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. It can grow to an average size of 23 inches.
Since they are tropical, caring for Calatheas can be tricky in colder regions. They can be slightly picky when it comes to nutrition and shade, too.
Before you commit to a new houseplant, check out the requirements for raising a Velvet Calathea:
Many people try to experiment with Calathea plants to find the ideal soil. Some people prefer to buy pre-mixed soils, while others like mixing their own at home.
From a scientific point of view, the perfect soil for a Velvet Calathea is slightly acidic and highly porous. We recommend soil with pH 6.5 and 50% pores by volume.
The Velvet Calathea is a mesic plant. This means that it has an exceptionally low drought tolerance. On average, you’ll need to water it every five to seven days.
If you wait any longer between watering, the leaves start to wilt. Reviving those won’t be an easy job. So, it’s better to stay safe than sorry.
Keep in mind that chlorine in tap water is bad for Calathea plants. You can get away with overwatering once or twice. However, over time, the plant might suffer from root rot.
Most Calathea plants prefer USDA Hardiness Zones eight and above. For a domestic Calathea Rufibarba, it’s best to go for USDA Zones 10 to 12a.
This means that the coldest temperature that a Furry Feather plant could handle is around 30 to 35°F. On the other hand, the plant can survive at a temperature up to 55°F.
Since the plant is tropical, it might be a good idea to place it close to other pots. This plant aggregation can create a warmer spot for Calathea plants.
Velvet Calatheas are picky about light exposure. Too much direct sunlight fades the leaves and makes the plant look dull. Full shade, per contra, might hinder the plant’s growth.
It might be tempting to put the Velvet Calathea where the sun shines on its leaves. However, in the long term, you’ll regret exposing it to direct sunlight.
Try to stay somewhere in between. A semi-shaded area in your house is the best place for your Furry Feather pot. If you want to stay on the safe side, avoid direct sunlight entirely.
When we’re talking about Calathea plants, we like to adopt the motto, “ventilated humidity.” Sounds weird, but it happens to be the best approach.
A Velvet Calathea needs around 50% humidity. Ventilation is crucial with high humidity to prevent pests and fungal infections from taking over.
Getting a room humidifier is usually the easiest way to maintain this humidity level. Keep in mind that it’s easier to maintain humidity in shaded areas.
Getting your Furry Feather plants through the growing season is tricky. They’re slow growers and picky feeders.
A nitrogen-rich fertilizer can do wonders for the plant’s foliage. Use it twice every month throughout the growing season (from May to August).
The plant’s water needs are also going to increase during this period. Make sure you add enough water to keep the soil most regularly.
The Fuzzy Feather is a rare Calathea species. The most attractive feature in a Velvet Calathea is the foliage.
On the topside, the leaves are a waxy, two-toned green. Meanwhile, the bottom is velvety purple. The contrast between the two sides makes the plant very visually pleasing.
One place that Velvet Calatheas seem to really thrive in is the bathroom. The steam keeps the humidity and temperature tropical enough for the plant.
When you get your Calathea, maybe you’ll consider placing the pot near the shower? If you don’t want to hide the pretty foliage away, a partially-shaded kitchen corner could work, too.
Watering, shade, and humidity are the most common causes of concern when caring for a Velvet Calathea. They can lead to slow growth, imbalanced watering, or infestations if not implemented correctly.
Slow growth is either a sign of poor nutrition or limited light exposure. That’s why we recommend using fertilizer during the growing season.
Always keep in mind that Calathea plants prefer partial shade. Darkness slows down its growth significantly.
Whether your Calathea is getting too much or too little hydration, the warning signs are similar. Droopy, yellow foliage is a sign that there’s something wrong with the watering frequency.
Although the Velvet Calathea is a mesic plant, overwatering is still a possibility, especially with bad drainage.
Just like other houseplants, Velvet Calathea is susceptible to infestations. The risk of pest infestations increases with bad drainage and low ventilation.
The most common Calathea infestations are:
- Spider mites
- Fungal root rot
- Fungus Gnats
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about caring for Velvet Calathea plants:
A: Calathea Rufibarba blooms during the spring and summer. Calatheas aren’t very vicious flower producers, though.
A lot of care and nurture has to go into a Velvet Calathea before it flowers. If the plant is healthy enough, you’ll get to see a peak of brilliant yellow flowers in the lower portion.
A: The Velvet Calathea might be hard to care for, but the good news is that it’s pet-friendly. Its leaves aren’t poisonous to the touch, or taste for that matter.
We wouldn’t recommend biting it, though; the taste isn’t all that appealing and it’ll ruin the pretty foliage.
A: After a couple of growing seasons, you might need to re-pot your Fuzzy Feather. The soil nutrients get depleted and the roots get too long for the pot.
Every two years, move the plant to a slightly larger pot and give it a sprinkle of fresh soil and feed. The best time for repotting is right before the growing season.
A: Every now and then, a leaf might turn yellow. As long as it’s an isolated event, it’s no big deal. A Calathea can be healthy and have the occasional dull leaf.
Keeping the yellow leaf is a waste of nutrients and puts a load on the plant. Pruning is the easiest solution. With a sharp pair of gardening scissors snip the leaf at the base of its stem.
A: If you maintain the right level of humidity and regular waterings, there would be no need for misting.
In fact, unnecessary misting might encourage pest infestations. If you do mist your Calathea Rufibarba, add a few drops of neem oil to limit infections.
A: Geoppertia Rufibarba is simply a new Latin classification for the Calathea Rufibaraba. Both names refer to the same plant.
The Geoppertia classification is more recent, but it’s not commonly used. In most exhibitions and nurseries, you’ll find the plant under the name Calathea Rufibarba.
A: Depending on your region, the tap water content might be dangerous for houseplants. Tap water can have too many minerals and chlorine.
You might get away with using tap water a few times. However, using chlorinated water too often can make the leaves brown, crispy, and curled.
A: Using coarse particles in the soil mix helps increase its porosity. Coco coir and perlite is an affordable potting mix that increases drainage. Pebbles at the base of the pot can help too.
However, there’s no replacing the need for a pot with good drainage. You can manually drill more holes at the bottom whenever needed.
The Velvet Calathea (also known as the Fuzzy Feather) is a great addition to any household. Its bushy, royal purple foliage is a sight for sore eyes.
To care for a Velvet Calathea, you’ll need partial shade, high humidity, high temperature, well-drained soil, and regular chlorine-free waterings.
The plant’s growing season is from May to August. During this period, you’ll need to use a nitrogen-rich fertilizer once every two weeks. Do that and keep an eye for the little yellow flower buds!