Calathea Orbifolia | Plant Care Guide

Calathea orbifolia

You can add a Calathea orbifolia as a dramatic addition to your collection of houseplants or put it as a standalone element, and this gorgeous plant is going to hit all the right notes every single time. The bold leaves, with their large size coupled up with bright colors, make a real statement. Even better is the fact that the plant grows happily in planters, pots, and containers alike.

Some fear a Calathea orbifolia when it comes to taking care of this delicate plant as it needs some perfect conditions to thrive and prevent the leaves from decaying or dying. However, once you read through our easy-to-follow care tips, you will know how to maintain your orbifolia and keep it healthy and stunning. Scroll down to learn how to care for your Calathea orbifolia plant, propagate it and what not to do.

Botanical NameCalathea
Common NameCalathea orbifolia or Goeppertia orbifolia
SizeApproximately 2 feet in height
DifficultyHigh
Pet FriendlyYes – non-toxic to dogs and cats
Air CleanerYes

Calathea Orbifolia Origin

Hailing from the country of Bolivia, Calathea orbifolia is a South American plant that’s one of the largest varieties of Calatheas. It is a member of Marantaceaa, or prayer plant family, because the leaves of this stunning plant look like they’re praying – the leaves open during the day to grab some light while folding up again during the dark hours.

The species is known for its designer-looking foliage with large oval leaves capable of growing over a foot across. Growing in jungle-like conditions, orbifolia calls for warmth and moisture to sustain its deep green leaves decorated with silver striations for the accents.

While the plant can grow flowers, it usually doesn’t bloom indoors. Generally, Calathea orbifolia is a bit fussier than some other Calathea varieties, especially when it comes to the leaves’ sensitive tips.

How to Care for Calathea Orbifolia

The most critical care requirements for orbifolia plants include adequate indirect light, optimal watering, and healthy, well-draining soil. If you get these right, your houseplant will thrive amazingly well and keep developing new growths.

Light and Temperature

Calathea orbifolia grows best in medium to low light but can’t withstand direct sunlight. Too harsh or bright sun can make the leaves fade, wither and suffer permanent damage. Although orbifolia plants can survive in low light, they can’t be placed in dark places. The species grows well when placed at a north-facing window or in proximity to an east-facing window. If you keep them in a room that faces to the west or south, make sure to put them at a distance from the window in a shaded spot.

Average room temperatures are perfect for growing the plants indoors while keeping the temperature between 65 degrees F and 75 degrees F. Too low temperatures will make the leaves droop, while too high will start the leaves to curl. The plant is also sensitive to sudden temperature changes. You want to keep them away from open windows or air-conditioner airflow. In winter, keep the plant far away from radiators. You can grow the plant outdoors in a planter in summer. During the winter, it can thrive outside only if you ensure that the temperature never falls below 60 degrees F.

Orbifolia calls for high humidity, which’s more than the average room moisture levels. It’s good to mist the leaves or use a room humidifier to ensure the same. Ideal indoor locations for the plant are a well-lit bathroom or a kitchen.

Water

The tropical nature of an orbifolia plant makes it like an evenly moist soil that’s never totally dry. To maintain the right moisture levels at all times, check the potting soil and water your plant whenever the top two inches feel almost dry to touch. You can check the soil directly with your fingers or go for a moisture meter to get accurate results. If the leaves of your Calathea look less dynamic and stop folding up at night, it’s a major sign that the plant requires more water.

Terra cotta planters are likely to make the soil dry very quickly. To avoid this, you can use a plastic planter to trap the moisture. Add a layer of tiny pebbles at the bottom of the outer planter to elevate the inner pot. This ensures drainage space while adding some moisture into the surrounding atmosphere.

Moistening the soil is usually enough, but an occasional thorough watering is essential, followed by letting the pot drain for around 10 minutes to flush the soil and keep the peat evenly damp. Calathea is quite sensitive to chlorine, water salts, and old fertilizer build-up. Using purified or filtered water can help with these sensitivities. Poor water quality may lead to leaf discoloration.

Orbifolia can handle some periods of dryness but can’t withstand overwatering. When watering your Orbifolia, drench the soil until the holes in the pot’s base start draining the water. When all the excess water drips out, you can put the planter back on the drip tray while occasionally checking the saucer to ensure that the pot doesn’t stand in water.

Water your orbifolia more frequently in summer than in winter as a warm climate leads to moisture evaporation much faster than the colder months. However, winter requires misting the leaves more often than watering the plant.

Fertilization

Calathea orbifolia doesn’t need heavy fertilization, but the plant surely appreciates light, regular feed during the growing months. The fact that the plant has sensitive roots makes organic feeding a good option as it doesn’t damage the roots. It’s good to go for a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer formula with one-fourth of the recommended strength. You can use this solution once a month from spring to fall while not feeding the plant during the winter.

If you choose a dry fertilizer, apply the mix a few inches away from the base of your orbifolia to ensure a safety margin. Using a weak fertilizer is important because strong solutions are likely to scorch the delicate leaves. It’s also recommended to water the plant before fertilization so that the roots get some water and minimize the risk of leaf scorching.

Typically, a potting soil mix with peat or coco coir works wonders in holding moisture and letting the roots breathe. Make sure to avoid dampness by adding enough drainage material, such as pumice or perlite. Two parts peat and one part pumice or perlite or pumice work as an amazing blend for Calathea orbifolia plants. Avoid using synthetic fertilizers as the roots of this plant species react badly to inorganic residues. You can try adding compost to provide a nutritious growth medium to the plant while also conditioning the soil to have optimal drainage and moisture levels.

Flowering

In the wild, Calathea orbifolia produce a white stem-like blossom. As an indoor houseplant, you most likely will not see your orbifolia bloom.

Pruning

Calathea orbifolia doesn’t call for a lot of pruning. The fact that the plant sports single-leaved stems make the foliage quite bushy, and there aren’t any branches to prune. That’s why you only need to trim off any dead leaves to improve the overall appearance of your Calathea. Pruning also helps remove old yellowing leaves or the ones with brown edges so that the plant exhibits healthy growth in the future. When you prune the plant, make sure to cut near the base close to the main stem. Always sterilize the pruning tools before and after the cutting session – wiping with some rubbing alcohol is a good idea.

Repotting

Calathea orbifolia doesn’t really like getting repotted, but it’s essential to repot the plant once every two years as it won’t grow well if kept rootbound. Repotting the plant is a great way to refresh the potting soil mix, inspect the delicate roots for any rotting, and transfer the Calathea to a larger container. When repotting your Calathea orbifolia, it’s essential not to disturb the roots too much when you repot your plant.

Always choose a planter about 2 inches larger than the current one, further removing the root ball and checking the roots for decay as well as mushiness. Fill the new planter up to half with a healthy potting soil mix, followed by putting the plant in. Gently fill the remaining space inside the planter with the remaining potting soil and put the plant in a warm shaded spot. Water the Orbifolia properly.

Pests and Disease

If the leaves of your Calathea orbifolia exhibit a crispy appearance or speckled discoloration or turn brown – the plant may be infested by pests. Make sure to check the bottom of the leaves and the points where the leaves meet the orbifolia stem every few days to check for pests and little flies. Some of the common pests infecting Calathea orbifolia include :

Spider Mites

Spider mites usually infest the plant during winter when the air seems all dry. The key is to increase the humidity levels and provide frequent misting sessions to the leaves to prevent spider mites.

Fungus Gnats

Gnats appear when the potting soil remains moist for a consistent period. They harm the plant roots as their larvae munch on the same. It’s imperative to allow the soil to dry out a bit. If this doesn’t seem to solve the issue, mix 3% hydrogen peroxide with water in a 1:4 ratio and apply this solution to the soil. Another idea is to sprinkle about one-fourth inch of sand over the plant’s surface to eliminate the pests. You can also add some food-grade diatomaceous earth into the potting soil to kill the larva.

Scale

If the leaves exhibit a sticky layer on them, it’s a sign that your Calathea is infested by scale. Honeydew excreted by scales feels like a sticky substance on the plant, while the scale itself looks like grey or brown bumps on the Calathea. A good insecticide or manual removal using some cotton dipped in rubbing alcohol can help.

Mealybugs

Looking like tiny cotton bits, mealybugs like to hide in the stem and leaf crevices of Calathea Orbifolia plants. These dangerous bugs tend to suck the life out of your delicate Calathea, and that’s why it’s essential to remove them using neem oil or an insecticide.

If neem oil or horticultural sprays don’t seem to help while dealing with Calathea pests, you can go for predatory mites. Once you determine the type of pests harming your Orbifolia, get the variety of mites that feed on them. Dust the predatory mites over the plant as well as the potting soil, and you will soon see the pests vanishing.

Speaking of diseases, the most common problem with Calathea Orbifolia is a root rot that occurs when the plant is overwatered. Allowing the topsoil of your plant to dry slightly before you water them will help.

How to Propagate Calathea Orbifolia

Propagating indoor Calathea orbifolia is quite challenging as you have to get it done by root division or rhizome division which is a tricky process. Orbifolia gets stressed when disturbed, and that’s why you need to make sure you don’t traumatize the plant roots. The best time to propagate a Calathea orbifolia is the spring season when the growth is at its best, as it gives the divisions ample time to recover. Not dividing the roots correctly can even make the plant die.

Root Division

Once your Calathea plant achieves enough growth, new shoots appear out of the potting soil, further growing in their own sections. Once you see individual sections, the plant is ready for division. Take the Calathea out of the pot and separate the soil from the plant’s roots, further gently separating the roots from each other very carefully to not break them. Once you are done separating them, make sure to repot the plant immediately by transferring them into another planter with a healthy potting mix.

Rhizome Division

Gently take out the entire root ball from the pot, followed by removing the soil from the roots.

Take a sterile blade and carefully cut a section of the tuber with at least one leaf and stem.

Repot the same in a healthy potting medium, further keeping the new plant in a bright and warm spot, along with misting it every day.

Frequently Asked Questions about Calathea Orbifolia

If you live in a low humidity level area, you need to mist your Calathea as this plant species lives in humid environments. If there’s not enough moisture in the air, the leaves can dry out and turn crispy.

It’s good to establish a proper misting schedule to provide the right humidity levels to your Calathea plant. Fill a spray bottle with filtered or purified water, and try to mist the plant in the morning to provide it with a good boost for the day.

Provide your Calathea with the right fertilizer mix that doesn’t harm the gentle roots and leaves while ensuring that the plant is never overwatered. If you maintain the right humidity levels, keep the plant at a spot with ample light and timely prune of decaying or yellow leaves – your Calathea orbifolia is going to become bushy and fuller.

Calatheas can grow in low light but not in no light. Just like all other plants, a Calathea also requires sunlight to grow. However, this houseplant doesn’t thrive in strong sunlight or direct light.

Browning edges on the leaves are quite common and are caused by lack of humidity in the environment or the soil and by overwatering, which makes the root damp. Make sure your plant is not placed too close to an air vent or a heater while also watering the Calathea just enough to keep the soil humid to the touch. At times, brown edges on the leaves also result from fertilization when the soil is dry.

You can take a few steps to supplement the lack of humidity to prevent brown leaf edges. Place it in a humid spot such as the kitchen or the bathroom. You can also put them in a pebble-filled tray to raise ambient moisture through the process of evaporation. Establishing a misting schedule also helps, while getting a room humidifier for your Calathea is a great way to ensure flourishing orbifolia even if one lives in a desert.

If your plant is thirsty, it is going to exhibit drooping or wilting leaves. However, Calathea leaves tend to move up and down with the light, so make sure to check the soil so that you don’t mistake the plant’s natural movement. Typically, Calathea leaves droop during the day while folding up during the night.

However, it’s a matter of concern if the drooping of the leaves seems severe. The underlying causes may include underwatering, overwatering, as well as low temperatures. If the soil feels dry, you need to adjust your watering schedule, while moist sol needs to be aerated to ensure that the water reaches the roots. If the soil is too damp, water the plant less or place it at a spot with more light. Lastly, keep your plants at room temperature as Calathea orbifolia is a tropical plant.

Final Thoughts about Calathea Orbifolia

There’s no doubt in the statement that Calathea orbifolia is the absolute show stopper among all Calathea varieties. Broad, beautiful green leaves fanning out in all directions make it oh so pleasing to the eyes. While the plant has a reputation of being too hard to care for and is even known as a fussy plant, once you figure out what exactly works for your orbifolia, it can be a total delight to have it in your space.

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