Calatheas are popular houseplants. They hail from the Marantaceae family (Arrowheads), which consists of over 550 flowering species.
As a group, they are also known as Prayer Plants, thanks to special cells in their stems that change in reaction to different light levels.
This phenomenon, called nyctinasty, causes leaves to stand upright during the evenings like praying hands, and slowly lower and fan out during the day.
Though there are several theories, it is not known why Prayer Plants have evolved to behave this way. Regardless, we think it’s a pretty neat trick. 🙂
Let’s dive into some of our favorite Calatheas.
#1: Calathea Lancifolia (Rattlesnake Calathea)
Though Calatheas sometimes have a bad rap for being “high maintenance”, the Calathea Lancifolia is happy to prove you wrong.
Native to Brazilian rainforests, the hardy Rattlesnake Plan is an easy-going houseplant that can withstand some neglect. It gets its nickname from its patterned ornamental leaves.
Look closely and you’ll notice a thin purple line through its midrib, with dark green, symmetric dots painted on either side. You’ll also notice its leaf blade has characteristic wavy edges.
Leaves are long and upright, giving the plant a spiked and bushy look. They also have deep purple undersides that catch your eye.
When fully grown, they measure a compact 24 – 30 inches (60 – 75 cm) tall, making them perfect for small indoor spaces.
What’s more, they have showy yellow flowers in the spring and summer months. 🙂
#2: Calathea Makoyana (Peacock Plant)
The Calathea Makoyana, or Peacock Plant, has elegant round, oval leaves with showy green variegation that resembles a peacock’s tail feathers.
This slender plant measures just 3 feet (60cm) tall when fully grown, and is well-adapted to indoor conditions.
We love how its thin foliage fans out with intricate lines, dots, and painterly splashes of dark green. Young leaves emerge curled up as in the photo above, showing off their maroon-red undersides before unfurling.
When kept indoors, indirect moderate to low-light conditions are best suited to this Peacock Plant. As they are native to the understory of South American rainforests, they enjoy lower light conditions than most other houseplants.
#3: Calathea Ornata (Pinstripe Calathea)
The Pinstripe Plant, Calathea Ornata, is a gorgeous dark-green plant with large, oval leaves with light pink pinstripes running through its blade.
It is sometimes confused with the Calathea Beauty Star, shown below. The Beauty Star is a cultivar of the Ornata and can be differentiated by its longer and narrower leaves.
While growing outdoors in USDA zones 10 and 11 is possible, the best environment for your plant is indoors. They are a bit of a fussier plant that can take some getting used to.
Give it sufficient indirect light to bring out its beloved deep pink lines, but be careful not to overdo it, as they don’t take well to harsh direct sunlight. Check out our guide on caring for your Calathea Ornata for more details.
#4: Calathea Ornata ‘Sanderiana’
A cultivar of the Calathea Ornata, the Calathea Ornata ‘Sanderiana’ is a stunning houseplant with long, oval leaves.
Stripes appear along the leaf blade, and appear in pairs or trios, with a bright pink concentrated towards the middle of each leaf.
Care conditions are similar to the Calathea Ornata, so check out our care guide for the low-down on how to help this Calathea thrive.
#5: Calathea Zebrina
The Calathea Zebrina, or Zebra Plant, earns its name from its ornamental foliage that resembles zebra stripes.
Its leaves are large and elliptical and have a velvety texture. If you look closely, you’ll notice its dark green stripes are forked at the leaf margins.
Under optimal conditions, this plant can grow up to 3 feet (1 meter) tall and 3 feet (1 meter) spread. They have a spreading habit, growing equally tall and wide.
So, choose a wide pot 🙂
We personally like them as a floor plant.
They are native to the shady understory of tropical rainforests and love a warm and moist environment. Keep your Zebra Plant in temperatures between 60-80 degrees F (16 – 27 degrees C).
#6: Calathea Crocata (Eternal Flame)
Finally a plant with showy flowers! The Calathea Crocata produces bright, flame-orange flowers that stand upright up above its foliage, reaching a height of 1-2 feet (30-60cm).
When viewed from the side, you can see its wavy elliptical leaves are bicolored: a dark, glossy green on the top and a pop of purple underneath.
The way the leaves undulate, not just at the edges but throughout the leaf blades is our favorite part. 🙂
One thing this plant is particular about is the kind of water uses, and how often.
Let the first half-inch (1.3 cm) of topsoil dry before watering, but not more than that.
Don’t use hard tap water on this plant, this will result in browning tips. Opt instead for rainwater, distilled water, or tap water that has been left out overnight.
#7: Calathea Orbifolia
Native to exotic Bolivia, the Calathea Orbifolia needs bright, indirect light, a well-draining soil, and humidity >50% to thrive. This humidifier will help!
This Calathea makes a bold statement with its large round leaves, spanning 12 inches (30cm) when fully grown.
The plant itself grows to just 3 feet (90cm) tall, so its green and white striped leaves take up most of the space!
They can be a fussy plant, requiring a narrow range of temperatures between 65 – 75 degrees F (18-24 degrees C). This makes it suitable for mild indoor temperatures.
But its impressive leaves make up for it. 🙂
#8: Calathea Majestica ‘White Star’
Not loud and showy, the Calathea Majestica is a stunning plant but one that has understated elegance.
First discovered in 1822 by a German botanist, the Majestica may be mistaken for a Pinstripe Calathea (the Calathea Ornata) thanks to its long stripes.
The difference is that the Ornata has stripes that are less close together. The Calathea Majestica, on the other hand, has white pinstripes that cover the vast majority of the leaf.
Best of all?
When mature and given sufficient light, the Majestica’s white stripes turn shades of pink, both pastel pink and bright pink, showing us this quiet plant also has a dramatic side. 🙂
You can spot a little pink towards the center of the photo above.
#9: Calathea White Fusion
The Calathea White Fusion is a beautiful houseplant with stark white variegation, light pastel greens, and darker greens in its color palette. The White Fusion grows upright, up to 2 feet (0.6 meters) tall, with wavy oval leaves that fan out from its stems.
Like many other Calatheas, they have leaf undersides that are purple; this purple color also runs down the stem.
Equal portions of African Violet potting mix and perlite is an ideal potting mix for your White Fusion, which needs particularly well-draining soils.
Quick tip for White Fusion plant parents: wipe down the leaves occasionally with a dilute solution of neem oil.
Why? 2 reasons: These tend to gather dust and grime, hindering it from capturing light and exchanging air effectively.
Second – to ward off pesky spider mites, which your plant is susceptible to.
#10: Calathea Roseopicta (Rose Painted or Medallion Calathea)
The Calathea Roseopicta has green elliptical leaves that fan out in different shades of green. Held up by bright purple stems, this houseplant starts off with similarly purple midribs that turn a pale green as the plant matures. Its undersides remain this bright purple.
Personally, we like to display this plant at eye level, to show off its long, green, and cream striations on one side, and bright purple undersides on the other.
This plant grows up to 20 inches (50cm) tall and leaves up to 30 inches (76 cm) long.
A tender perennial native to the tropical rainforests of Brazil, your plant enjoys warmth and high humidity. It also requires bright, diffused light to thrive.
#11: Calathea Dottie (Calathea Roseopicta ‘Dottie’)
This one has an attitude!
The Calathea Roseopicta ‘Dottie’, is a cultivar of the Calathea Roseopicta above, but looks very different. It was first discovered in 1998 through a naturally-occurring mutation of Calathea Roseopicta.
They are one of the easier Calatheas to try out, so if you want to dip your toes in, try the Dottie.
They have dark, goth-like :), round leaves that are so dark green that they almost appear black, and a bright pink midribs and outlines. They have the same bright pink undersides.
With stable variegation, these pink markings don’t fade or disappear as the plant grows.
Like a true goth, make sure that this Dottie doesn’t get direct light! North or East-facing windowsills are ideal.
Light fertilizing during the growing season, plus higher humidity (>60%) gives this plant a boost. But choose a high-quality liquid fertilizer that is urea-free, so that sensitive roots don’t get damaged.
#12: Calathea Concinna Freddie
A tropical perennial, the beautiful Calathea Concinna Freddie is not a showy plant. But our Freddie has an understated elegance about it. 🙂
Being a compact plant with glossy green leaves, it grows to just 2 feet (60cm) tall and wide. This plant is less dramatic and fussy than many other Calatheas, so enjoy it for the simpleton it is!
One thing to be careful of: temperatures below 60 degrees F (15.5 degrees C) are a no-go for your warm-weather loving plant.
Another care tip?
Being a light feeder, use a high-quality liquid fertilizer at half strength monthly during the spring and summer months.
#13: Calathea Warscewiczii (Goeppertia Warszewiczii)
The Calathea Warscewiczii (what a mouthful!) is also known as the Calathea Jungle Velvet. As its nickname suggests, its leaves are velvety to the touch.
What we love the most? They have a zen, undulating pattern through their leaf blade, like green ripples sent from its stem throughout the leaf blade.
If you look closely, each horizontal “ripple” also has a burgundy hue. It also sports purple-toned undersides.
If you’re lucky, you’ll spot long, white, and pink herbaceous flowers in the late Winter to early Spring, which, from the top view, look like roses.
Care-wise, they aren’t the most easy-going.
Pay close attention to watering habits, ensuring it has moist but well-draining soil at all times. As with most Calatheas, they do better in warm and stable temperatures and are intolerant to cold weather.
Ideally, keep your plant indoors at temperatures between 65-85 degrees F (18-29 degrees C). 🙂
#14: Calathea Musaica (Goeppertia Kegeljanii)
This eccentric-looking plant, the Calathea Musaica, is a rare houseplant. They have oval-shaped leaves that curl inwards along the edges, but despite their exotic look, are easier to care for than most other Calatheas.
What’s most appealing are its patterned leaves.
Look closely at its thin green lines, that, like fine webbing, form an intricate mosaic-like pattern on its yellow leaves. It’s no wonder that another nickname for this plant is the Network Plant!
When fully grown, they are around 2 feet (60cm) tall and wide, making it a perfect size to brighten up nooks and crannies.
Keep your Network Plant happy by providing it with warm temperatures (65-85 degrees F, 18-30 degrees C) and high-humidity (ideally 60-80%) that mimic its tropical habitat.
Another important part of care is choosing the right potting mix.
Use an airy, well-draining soil but one that still holds moisture. We find that using 2 parts coco coir to 1 part perlite is a ratio that balances these two things perfectly. 🙂
Not technically Calatheas but close cousins… and just as pretty! (Stromathes, Marantas)
The Prayer Plant family has a few more favorites we’d love to introduce.
While not technically Calatheas, they are Stromathes and Marantas; close cousins from the same family. They share similar care conditions and are often mistaken for their cousins.
#1: Calathea Triostar (scientific name: Stromanthe Sanguinea)
We bought a Calathea Triostar not long after spotting one on Etsy. Their pastel pinks and greens were too tempting! And the dark purple-maroon undersides just make this plant pop.
Getting the right amount of light is important. We started off placing it on a North-facing windowsill, which wasn’t enough light. Its foliage started to lose its pinks (noooo!).
After using a grow light, it’s much happier now. Rotate your plant every week or so for even exposure to light. The pink variegation is STUNNING.
Just beware of spider mites (use neem oil guys!). They can get your plant pretty easily.
#2: Maranta Leuconeura (Red Prayer Plant)
The Maranta Leuconeura (Red Prayer Plant) is another plant often confused for a Calathea, but it’s not. 🙂
Being low-growers, these plants only grow up to 6-12 inches (15-30cm) tall. They have large, oblong leaves with soothing symmetric, bright pink, light, and dark greens patterns.
There are a few different notable varieties, including the Maranta Lauconceura ‘Lemon Lime’, and the Maranta Lauconeura Kerchoveana.
They need similar care conditions to the Lemon Lime – we have a care guide here for you!
Maranta Leuconceura ‘Lemon Lime’ (Lemon Lime Maranta)
Maranta Lauconeura ‘Kerchoveana’ (Rabbit’s Tracks)
Variety is the name of the Calathea genus. Many are known for their ornamental leaves, which may be loud and showy, or plain and understated.
Some species have small insignificant flowers, while others are prized for eye-catching blooms. What’s your favorite?
We might be a tad biased, but we fell in love with the Calathea Ornata the first time we saw her! 🙂
Deborah is a plant enthusiast and founder of Gardening Collective.