The calathea (commonly called calatea) is a tropical plant, native to South America, widespread in nature even in some areas of Asia; in nature these plants develop as undergrowth in the rainforests, so they are accustomed to a warm climate, with few changes in temperature, wet and not very sunny motion. There are several species of calatea, but only less than a dozen are grown as houseplants, plus some hybrids. They have a beautiful foliage, oval or sword-shaped, characterized by a lively color, with contrasting streaks; typically the leaves of calatea have the upper page, green, with white streaks or zoning, or light green; the lower page is instead often red or purple. They form large clumps, with unbranched stems, which bear some large leaves; in spring, or even sporadically during the year, they produce thin stems with a round section, erect, which stand out among the leaves, and carry particular inflorescences, formed by colored bracts, among which bloom small white, pink or yellow flowers. The plants grown in the apartment tend to bloom only if the cultivation conditions are perfect, which unfortunately happens very rarely. The size of a calathea can be various, from 40-50 cm of dwarf varieties, up to the meter of species with very large leaves. Very special and decorative plants, throughout the year, are found with great ease in the nursery, but their cultivation requires some changes, because they tend to have very specific needs and not to adapt to even slightly adverse conditions.
Plant native to Brazil, it has erect or arched stems, and large lance-shaped leaves, dark green on the upper side, with light green and purple stripes on the lower side. The calathea zebrina plants can easily reach the meter of height, and every single leaf can be up to about forty centimeters long. Very showy, even in the darkest areas of the house it tends to show its bright colors. It prefers a humid climate, and temperatures not lower than 15-16 ° C, and not higher than 25-28 ° C.
Calathea makoyana is a species widespread in nature in Brazil, with large oval, elongated, light green leaves, with large darker spots along the veins; the lower page is clear, pink or white, with purple or reddish spots. This species is widespread, and there are also hybrids, with completely light green leaves and dark spots only on the edge, or even with green and pinkish spots. Also the Calathea makoyana prefers a warm and humid climate, with little changes in temperature within twenty-four hours.
Evergreen herbaceous plant, native to the rainforests of Brazil; has thin erect stems, which bear large dark leaves, lanceolate in shape; the leaves of this calathea can be so dark as to seem almost black, or chocolate brown, looking at the plant from a certain distance; approaching a little, however, we will note that the upper page is dark green (very dark) and the lower page is dark purple (very dark). These calathee are generally those that tend to bloom with greater probability, so much so that they are usually sold in flower already in the nursery; the flowers are carried by thin dark stems, and bright orange bracts subtend yellow flowers. Actually it is not always easy to make a calathea bloom again, but the flowering lasts even a couple of months, so you can make some effort to favor it.
Species native to Brazil, the calatea lancifolia has erect, elongated, sword-shaped leaves; the coloration is very reminiscent of the makoiana calathea, with a light green upper page and dark green spots, and the lower purple page. The stems are thin and very short, and the plant takes on the appearance of a large head of leaves. It prefers warm and humid climates and minimum temperatures not lower than 10-12 ° C.
As we said, these beautiful plants are quite demanding; originating from climates very different from those present in Italy, they are cultivated almost exclusively in the apartment, as they do not like lows below 12-15 ° C; therefore, we find them a place in the house, in a beautiful vase not too wide, containing a rich, porous soil that retains moisture; a suitable mixture can be prepared by using a part of soil for orchids (the one with the pieces of bark and the chopped sphagnum) and a part of universal soil, thus giving rise to a soft and rich substrate. The vase will be placed in a bright area of the house, but where the plant does not receive in any way the rays of the afternoon sun, or the hottest ones, which are harmful to the calathee. They will also have to be away from direct heat sources, and possibly in an area of the house where the minimum temperature and the massina are not too different. Success or failure when growing a calathea is often due to watering and environmental humidity: these plants need sporadic watering, but they love high humidity. So from March to September we water about a couple of times a week, and less for the remaining months, but every time we water we check that the soil is definitely dry. (we avoid, however, leaving the plants completely dry for many days in a row). Throughout the year, and especially in winter, we spray the leaves every two or three days; to increase humidity we also supply a large saucer, in which we will introduce a few centimeters of gravel, which we will always keep moist. The repottings are carried out every two years, providing the plant with fresh soil and a new pot, because the rhizomatous root system tends to develop over the years. In the vegetative period we also supply a fertilizer for green plants.
Pests and diseases
Usually a well cultivated calathea has healthy and luxuriant leaves, which tend to unfold when the sun comes in the morning, and to roll up in the evening; the presence of dark zoning, of curling apices or of leaves that dry up is usually caused by errors in cultivation; drought and a very dry climate cause the leaves to gradually dry up; the excesses of watering instead tend to make the foliage soft and floppy, which then dries up or turns yellow. If we find ourselves in these situations, we modify the water supplies and guarantee a moist and not excessively hot environment. Even dirty and dusty leaves tend to fade and lose their bright colors; remember to clean the leaves of the calathea, at least every 3-4 months, using a damp microfibre cloth. These plants do not like temperature fluctuations, so before watering them, let the water rest next to the pots, so that it has the same temperature as in the room. In very dry climates, or in rooms with poor ventilation, it may happen that these plants are attacked by mites and cochineal, which tend to escape as soon as we restore the correct environmental humidity.
Make a calathea bloom
Many calathee sold in the nursery belong to the Crusader species, which blooms more easily than the others; usually, in Europe, it hardly happens to have seen a calathea in bloom. This is because these plants tend to produce flowers only after a couple of months of vegetative rest. If we grow a plant in the same position at home, it is unlikely that it will have a period of vegetative rest, as the climate that presents itself is always the "autumn" and therefore never reaches the flowering season. As with other plants, such as the Christmas star, even the calathee begin their vegetative rest only if they are in a cool climate and with very few hours of sunlight a day. So, in November, we will have to move our calathea to a dark room, where the lights are unlikely to be turned on; we will leave it in these conditions for at least a couple of months, and then we will reposition it in its place; after another month or so it should begin to produce the floral stems. As long as the growing conditions are excellent.
Calatea - Calathea makoyana: Propagate the calathea
These plants produce a thick head of fleshy roots or rhizomes; when we repot our calathea we can divide the head of roots, using a sharp knife, so as to create two specimens with identical foliage; the two plants will be immediately repotted, and kept in a decidedly very humid climate, until we notice the new shoots. These plants can also be sown, but the availability of seeds in Italy is very low.
The calathea, otherwise known as "calatea", has tropical origins, the reason why the humidity of the a
visit: calathea plant