The Calathea Ornata is a popular houseplant with baby-pink striped leaves. 🙂 Kept indoors, it grows to just 3 feet (91cm) tall – perfect for side tables or small spaces.
However, caring for this variegated plant can be challenging. It requires >50% humidity, filtered water, and a peat-based, slightly acidic (pH 6.5) potting mix. Avoid direct sunlight and keep temperatures warm and stable, between 65 – 85 degrees F (18 – 29 degrees C).
But don’t fret – we’ll share with you all the info you need to keep your Calathea Ornata happy!
What is the Calathea Ornata?
The Calathea Ornata is a member of the Prayer Plant family. It is a relatively rare plant native to South America, where it grows as a perennial in lush rainforests.
It has glossy deep green leaves with pink stripes, and burgundy undersides. You may know it by its nicknames ‘Variously Striped’ and ‘Pinstripe Calathea’.
It is also sometimes called a living plant because its leaves move! They stand tall in the evenings, and lower throughout the course of the day.
How To Care For a Calathea Ornata
Calathea Ornatas are somewhat flexible with the amount of light they receive. While they grow best in bright, indirect sunlight, they can also tolerate low light conditions.
The best place for your plant is near East or West-facing windows.
If your plants’ stripes begin to fade or their leaves start to burn (brown spots), it’s getting too much direct sunlight. Use a shade cloth to filter away harsh light.
Your plant prefers moderately moist soil — soggy soil causes root rot, but at the same time, it doesn’t like to dry out completely.
The best way to tell if your plant needs more water is by checking the top 2 inches (5cm) of soil. If the topsoil feels dry, it’s time to water. Otherwise, leave it be, but check every few days!
If you’ve added too much water, gently tilt the pot to allow excess water to escape. Deal with root rot by cutting off infected parts with sterile scissors, washing the roots, and repotting the plant in fresh soil.
Type of Water
Use room temperature filtered water or rainwater as they are sensitive to salts, fluoride, and other chemicals in tap water.
Being native to the rainforests of South America, Calathea Ornata thrives in high humidity. Aim for at least 50% humidity in your home. If you notice your plant developing dry and crispy leaves, this is a sign they are not getting enough moisture from the air!
To increase the humidity you have a few options:
- Placing a humidifier near the plant (we recommend this one)
- Keeping your plant in the bathroom, where humidity levels are naturally higher
- Placing a humidity tray (with water and pebbles) under the planter
Be sure to use these practices, especially during winter when the surrounding air is arid. Whilst Calathea Ornata are more flexible on light conditions, they are fussy about water and humidity levels.
Being a tropical plant, Calathea Ornata prefers warm temperatures of 65 – 85 degrees F (18 – 29 degrees C). It is essential to keep the room temperatures hovering around this narrow range.
Even the slightest spell of cold can result in dropping leaves and stunted growth, so monitor its position in your house. Try to keep it away from windows and doors that can bring in cold drafts and keep it as far from the air-conditioning as possible.
Use a peat-based, slightly acidic (pH 6.5) potting mix for best growth. Mixing 1 part perlite (well-draining material) and 2 parts peat-based potting mix will do the trick. You can also include some orchid bark to further enhance drainage.
Your plant will like this growing mix as chunky, peat-based mixtures allow air to pass through the soil and reach the roots while retaining moisture.
As a rule of thumb, feed your Calathea Ornata an all-purpose, balanced fertilizer (after dilution) every 4 to 6 weeks (like this) during the growing season from March to October.
However, only apply fertilizer when you can see new leaves growing. If you fertilize it too much, or during its dormant period in the cooler months, its leaves will burn, stems will dry out, and there will be white deposits on the surface of the soil.
Calatheas require repotting every 2-3 years, when you see signs of it becoming root-bound.
Choose a larger container and add well-draining potting soil. Be sure to pick a new pot that is only 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) larger, as sizing up too much increasing the risk of overwatering.
Spring is the best time for repotting, as the warmth and light helps your plant recover quickly.
Here’s how to repot:
- Loosen soil from the sides of the pot by running a knife around its insides.
- Gently turn the pot towards the side or upside down and carefully remove it from the soil.
- Tease out the roots with your fingers (this is important, so that roots are “free” from their dense clump), and replant in a new pot with fresh soil.
Good news, Calathea Ornata is non-toxic to pets (including cats, dogs, horses) and humans. So, if you have a cat who loves to nibble on plants, or perhaps a toddler always looking for something to munch on, a little Pinstripe Plant won’t hurt them!
Calathea Ornata is propagated using the division method. The best time for propagation is when repotting at the beginning of spring. Here’s how you can do it:
- After removing the plant from its pot, cut it into different portions.
- Make sure each portion has at least one leaf, a leaf stalk, and a few roots attached.
- Carefully separate the roots for each portion, using a knife where needed.
- Place each piece in an appropriately-sized pot containing soil.
- Water each plant, using lesser amounts than you used for the original, larger plant.
You’re not the only one who loves Calathea Ornata; several pests and diseases are attracted to it too! Your plant is most susceptible to spider mites, fungus gnats, and mealybugs.
Spider mites usually appear as a result of cross-contamination. That’s why it’s so important to check your plants before introducing them to the home.
They are also attracted to dry conditions, so may appear more often during the summer.
To treat the problem, quarantine your infected plant, cut off any damaged leaves and apply neem oil, or an insecticidal soap spray. Here’s a step-by-step guide on identifying and killing spider mites.
Fungus gnats are small black flies that are attracted to moist potting soil. While they feed on decomposing organic matter in soil, they also, according to University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources, attack plant roots.
To kill off fungus gnats, apply a dilute neem oil solution.
Mealybugs are small white insects with segmented bodies. They look like bits of cotton wool, and are attracted to overwatered and overfertilized plants. Like spider mites, they pierce healthy plant tissues and feed on plant sap.
For more details, check out our guide on identifying mealybugs and how to get rid of them.
Why are the leaves of my Calathea Ornata curling?
Pinstripe Plant’s leaves commonly curl due to underwatering and/or dry conditions. Are you watering your plant enough? Is your plant getting >70% humidity?
Another cause could be too much sunlight.
Why are the leave tips turning brown?
The tips of your Calathea Ornata are most likely turning brown because of the quality of water. Tap water contains salts and minerals that can cause browning when accumulated. Use distilled water or rainwater instead.
How can I revive my dying Calathea Ornata?
To revive your dying Pinstripe, keep the conditions around it similar to that of a rainforest, its natural environment! This includes:
- Bright but filtered light… think of the light conditions under a canopy of trees!
- Well-draining soil;
- Temperatures over 60 °F (15.5 °C);
- Humidity >70%.
How can I encourage my Calathea Ornata to get more pink?
The best way to make your Calathea Ornata pinker is by monitoring light levels.
Place your plant where it receives at least 8 hours of bright, indirect sunlight, and you’ll see its stripes getting pink as the plant matures. However, bear in mind that too much direct sunlight can cause the pink lines to fade… so don’t overdo it.
What are the signs that my Calathea Ornata might be struggling?
Here are signs that your Calathea Ornata might be struggling, with quick tips on how to fix the problem:
- Dropping leaves — relocate to a spot with warm and stable temperatures 60 °F (15.5 °C).
- Yellowing leaves — ensure you’re watering only when topsoil is dry; provide proper drainage.
- Leaves have brown spots — avoid direct sunlight.
- Growth is stunted — relocate to a brighter spot where it gets bright, indirect light for at least 8 hours a day. Ensure humidity is >70%, and you fertilize your plant every 4-6 weeks.
How do I encourage my Calathea Ornata to grow quickly?
Maintaining optimal levels of light (at least 8 hours a day of bright, indirect light), warm & stable temperatures, and humidity (>70%) are the 3 main cornerstones to keeping your plant growing rapidly.
Beyond this, ensure you are fertilizing your plant regularly, and are upsizing its pot when root-bound.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should you cut dead leaves off a Calathea Ornata?
Yes, you should cut dead leaves off your Calathea Ornata. This is so that your plant can focus its energy on new growth.
You can do this by using pruning shears or small, sharp scissors. Try to cut off dead leaves from their base in single cuts. Be sure to disinfect your equipment between each cut using any household cleaner.
Are Calathea Ornatas poisonous to humans and pets?
According to ASPCA, Calathea Ornatas aren’t poisonous to humans or pets. This makes them a safe option to go for if you have furry friends or children around.
Do Calathea Ornatas move?
Yes, their leaves stand upright during the evenings like praying hands, and slowly lower and fan out during the day. This phenomenon, called nyctinasty, is due to special cells in their stems that react to changing light conditions.
Varieties and Similar Plants
Calatheas have many different varieties, and all of them feature distinctively-patterned leaves.
You may have heard of Calathea Beauty Star, a name owing to its gorgeous leaves striped with white, silver, and pink lines. It is a cultivar of the Calathea Ornata, with a similar appearance but longer and narrower leaves.
Here are other popular varieties:
Calathea Triostar (scientific name: Stromathe Sanguinea)
Calathea Triostar, despite this name is not a true Calathea. Nevertheless, it has a striking appearance, featuring a splash of pink, green, and white on sleek, pointy leaves. It comes from the same Prayer Plant family with pastel colors.
Calathea Roseopicta Dottie
Roseopicta translates to ‘rose painted’, which aptly describes this variety. Calathea Roseopicta has pink stripes on its leaves, and it even grows flowers during the summer.
Also known as the Peacock Plant, Calathea Makoyana features broad leaves with purple undersides. Each leaf has a pink stem, and the overall growth of the plant is compact compared to other varieties.
An excellent houseplant, the Calathea Orbifolia has thin, alternating symmetrical bands of silver and green on its delicate leaves. It makes a bold statement with large foliage spanning around 12 inches (30cm). But the houseplant still remains pretty compact, just 3 feet (90cm) tall and wide.
Plants from the same family
Another plant from the same Arrowroots family is the Lemon Lime Maranta. With stunning lemon foliage on lime green leaves, this houseplant is as elegant as it is striking. We love how its symmetry and color. Plus, it’s easier to care for than the Calathea Ornata!
Love Calatheas? Check out 14 Unique Calathea Types – our round-up article of this genus.
Deborah is a plant enthusiast and founder of Gardening Collective.
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