Calathea warscewiczii or Jungle Velvet Calathea is an indoor flowering plant with soft velvety leaves. The vibrant, leafy foliage presents green patterns on the upper sides and purple underneath.
An evergreen perennial tropical plant thrives in homes and offices with minimal care. The Jungle Velvet Calathea has a bushy appearance with smooth foliage, adding tropical greenery to any interior.
|Botanical Name||Calathea warscewiczii|
|Common Name||Jungle Velvet Calathea, Prayer Plant|
|Size||3 to 4 feet high and wide|
|Difficulty||Medium to Difficult|
|Pet Friendly||Yes, Not Toxic|
Calathea Warscewiczii Origin
Named after plant collector Jozef Warszewicz, a Polish biologist and botanist, the plant is a member of the Marantaceae family. Warszewicz is one of the most renowned South American plant collectors of the nineteenth century. Hence, the Jungle Velvet is native to Central and South America.
Tiny joints between the leaf and stem are their feature characteristic, called joint pillows (gills). During the day, these horizontally positioned joint pillows capture the sunlight with the utmost amount of surface. After a day of catching the rays, these plants set their leaf blades upwards as if praying when evening comes. Hence, the houseplants have another name — “prayer plant.”
How to Care for the Calathea Warscewiczii
The Calathea warscewiczii is easy to grow, though growers need to understand the plants require certain environmental factors to keep them thriving. As a result, some may think the plant is difficult to grow.
By comparison, these plants are not that hard to grow. Taking the time to care for such a beautiful plant has its rewards, such as making the indoors more inviting and the ability to purify the indoor air.
Light and Temperature
The Jungle Velvet plants grow best in medium to bright light with protection from direct sunlight. Near the east-facing or north-facing window is the ideal location for these houseplants. If placed south or west with sun exposure, ensure the Calathea warscewiczii plants are in indirect sunshine.
Harsh direct sunlight bleaches the leaves, making them discolored and pale. Also, too much light causes their leaves to curl upward, looking like burgundy tubes. Partial shade works best for growing the Jungle Velvet plants during the summer. In Wintertime, place the plants in a bright area to receive plenty of indirect sunlight.
The Calathea plants will also grow well in low-light conditions, surviving well in offices and rooms with a small amount of natural light. These leafy potted plants do well in low light and humidity. Place them in a large enough bathroom is ideal. Growing the Jungle Velvet plants in dark conditions causes the leaves to darken.
Take these potted plants outside during the summer months if they are in temperate climates. Bring them back inside when the temperatures drop below 60° Fahrenheit or 50° Celsius. These vibrant plants generally thrive in temperatures ranging from 65 to 85° degrees Fahrenheit or 18 to 29° Celsius. They won’t tolerate drafts and cold temperatures.
Humidity is essential to keep these leafy potted plants healthy, and it’s probably why some growers think the plant is fussy. Anything over 50 percent humidity will keep these plants happy. A humidifier is the best way to keep the area to the foliage healthy. Or, place a bowl of water near the plant instead of misting.
Keep in mind that insufficient humidity and lots of sunshine can brown the plant’s leaves. With low humidity, the plants become temperamental even though they can acclimate to lesser humidity. Lack of moisture in the air or humidity causes curved leaves.
Calathea warscewiczii needs the soil to remain moist but not soggy or too dry. A reliable method is to develop a watering routine by monitoring these plants by inserting the index finger into the topsoil. If the topsoil is dry, then water.
Ensure the pot has plenty of holes for drainage because the Jungle Velvet plants prefer not to sit in water. That way, during the growing season and when it’s warm, water the plants thoroughly and let the excess glow flush the potting mix.
Jungle Velvet Calathea Watering Tips:
- Water these beauties early enough in the day, so the soil dries before nightfall. A potting mix that stays wet throughout the night causes fungal problems.
- Use room temperature water
- Calathea warscewiczii are super sensitive to toxic and impurities, including salt. Filter water works well while collectors use rainwater or distilled water, being extra careful.
- Don’t let them sit in the water, especially during the winter months when they’re dormant.
- Use a self-watering device, keep the soil moist, but ensure they work well and continue to monitor the soil. Pests and diseases love wet soil, which harbors root rot.
- Flushing the potting mix every two or three months when you usually water helps cleanse the soil. Place the plant and its container where it can freely drain, like a shower, and water until thoroughly rinsed.
Light fertilizing keeps the Calathea warscewiczii happy, so avoid heavy fertilization and err on the side of too little. Once-a-month feedings work best throughout the growing season, spring and summer.
Use a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) or one with a tad more nitrogen and phosphorus than potassium. Dilute about one-quarter to one-half the recommended dose on the label.
Use an organic fertilizer because it’s less likely to cause damage to the sensitive roots by overdoing it. There is less residual in the soil. Synthetic fertilizers are doable but choose slow-release and mild application.
The flowering of Calathea warscewiczii is a big deal if they are indoor plants because such an occurrence is rare. The beauty of the foliage keeps growers happy enough, but a well-cared-for plant may grow a surprise.
The blooms are cream-colored and cone-shaped as a side attraction. The bud emerges from a stalk in the center of the Jungle Velvet plants. Gradually, the flower turns to yellow color with a tinge of pink, which is most intriguing.
Most growers prune the Jungle Velvet plants to remove decaying, old or dying leaves. Use a sterilized, sharp pair of pruning shears, cutting off the leaf stalks at the base or soil line.
Getting rid of old growth gives these houseplants more energy to grow even more leaves. Pruning also shapes the plants, improving their appearance.
Most growers repot their Jungle Velvet plants about every two years. Spring is the ideal season to repot. When transferring a Calathea warscewiczii, always go to at least one inch larger, so the plants have room to grow. But not too large, causing a swamp whenever watered.
Some obvious signs these houseplants need repotting:
- Slow growth
- Roots poking of drain holes
- Water stops draining fast
Repotting also gives a chance to replenish the soil and allows collectors to notice any signs of root rot. Use a well-drained potting mix, two parts coconut fiber (coir) and peat moss and one part perlite.
Keeping pests at bay will not only make the Jungle Velvet Calathea happy but thriving. Otherwise, these insects stunt the houseplant’s growth and cause significant damage. It’s for that reason that they require checking for pests regularly. Signs of houseplant insects:
Mealybugs — These bugs appear as fuzzy white dots lurking on the undersides of leaves. Cotton wool-like substance on the stems and foliage means the plants have these little buggers. Take a cotton swab, dip it in rubbing alcohol and dab the mealybugs, instantly killing insects. Keep treating until there are no more signs of the pests.
Spider mites — The plant has silky strands hanging on the stems and leaves or webs under the leaves means these plants have spider mites. Proper humidity levels and ample moisture keep these little buggers away.
Scale insects — Scales on Jungle Velvet plants appear as bumpy growths on the stems. Sticky honeydew and sooty mold on the foliage are another sign. Rubbing alcohol and neem oil helps get rid of these buggers. Keep treating until there are no more signs of the pests.
Try a DIY natural neem pesticide spray, using a spray bottle to treat the infected plants. Combine one teaspoon of Castile soap and two teaspoons of neem oil in a quart of water. Spray the solution generously on the foliage and repeat every week until there are no more signs of the buggers.
Overwatering and letting water sit on the foliage are the most common causes of diseases in indoor plants.
Leaf Spot — Several diseases fall under leaf spot, but Helminthosporium and Alternaria are common fungal infections. These cause small lesions and are less severe. Reducing moisture levels and maintaining dry leaves prevents leaf spot.
Pseudomonas — Another leaf spot disease that causes black or dark green lesions about an inch wide. Again, the disease flourishes under moist conditions. It is highly contagious. The only treatment is copper bactericides, though growers report it’s ineffective. Most collectors sadly destroy the plant, keeping it away from other plants.
Cucumber mosaic virus (CMV) — This is a virus that causes minimal symptoms for Calatheas but will spread to other houseplants if not stopped. The infection appears as bright, jagged yellow streaks on the leaves. Safely disposing of the infected area of the plant is the only available solution. Use sharp, sterilized pruning shears to cut away the tainted parts of the Jungle Velvet plants. Discard in a sealed plastic bag.
Fusarium — This is a common soil-borne fungus that causes wilting and yellowing of the foliage. Cooper fungicides offer some relief, but washing the roots of infected soil and adding fresh potting mix is the most workable solution.
How to Propagate Calathea Warscewiczii
The Calathea warscewiczii have rhizomes, fleshy underground stems. They grow at ground level or underground. Dividing their rhizome is one of two ways to propagate these houseplants. Stem cuttings is the other way to propagate these plants. They have seeds but germinating takes longer and is not always reliable.
This method has its drawbacks because the Jungle Velvet plants rather not have their roots agitated. With that, growers need to be as gentle as possible and perform the process in the springtime when these plants require repotting.
- If the Calathea has overgrown its pot, take the plant out of its container and carefully tease the root sections apart, ensuring each section has at least one leaf.
- Or, use a sterile knife or another tool to divide the plant by cutting.
- Once divided, place each plant in its respective containers, not too large but smaller. Apply the same soil as their mother used.
- Water the baby plants, then cover each plant with plastic, increasing its own humidity and sustaining soil moisture to help them grow.
- Keep the plants in bright, indirect sunlight. Mist them occasionally but avoid overwatering and make sure they stay warm.
- Fresh growth appears within a few weeks, removing the plastic and starting standard plant care.
- Calathea warscewiczii are without stem nodes to propagate roots from, making this method difficult. However, it’s less distressing to the plants, so some growers like to try this process.
- Using a pair of sterile pruning shears, cut four to six-inch cutting with three or four leaves.
- Place the stem cuttings in a peat and sand mix (50/50) and lightly water them.
- Place in a Ziploc plastic bag, forming a humidity environment.
- Keep the stem cuttings in warm, bright and indirect light. Transfer each cutting to a small planter when a small root system forms.
- Begin routine plant care, repotting as each baby plant grows too big for its container.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Calathea Warscewiczii plants hard to care for?
Most growers feel these houseplants are easy to care for, though beginners may find themselves overwhelmed with all their demands. So, they are difficult because of the light, water and fertilizer requirements.
Is Calathea Warscewiczii a prayer plant?
Yes. Jungle Velvet plants are better known as “prayer plants” because these plants droop or pray during the night. The term is “nyctinasty,” when plants have movement based on the beginning of darkness. The opening and closing of certain flowers is an example of nyctinasty. It’s pretty remarkable to behold.
Why is my Calathea Warscewiczii drooping?
Mostly, low-angled foliage doesn’t mean there is a problem. If the Jungle Velvet plants are new to the home or office, the plants need to acclimate. Drooping happens when their lighting source changes. Instead of overhead nursery lighting, the home or office has a lateral light source from windows.
Also, these plants naturally droop at night, which gives them a “praying plant” name. However, the plants can start drooping from age and underwatering or overwatering. The stems weaken, and the plants droop. As a solution, only water these beauties when the soil is partially dry.
Is the Calathea Warscewiczii toxic to pets?
No. These plants are neither toxic to pets, horses or people.
The Calathea warscewiczii is somewhat hard to grow for those who have difficulty understanding that these plants require certain environmental factors to keep them thriving.
Putting in the effort to care for these beautiful plants has its rewards, such as making the indoors more attractive while purifying the indoor air.
Be sure to check out all of our Plant Care Guides!