In this guide, I’ll show you how to care for a calathea orbifolia.
Calathea orbifolia is a tropical houseplant native to Bolivia. It’s stunning foliage can reach up to 12 inches (30 cm) across. Round, pale green leaves with silvery white stripes and a silver underside make this plant stand out.
Moderately fast-growing, plants reach up to 3 feet (90 cm) in height with proper care. Indoor plants rarely produce blooms, but it can happen sporadically. If they do, you’ll get creamy white, cone-shaped clusters of flowers.
How to Care for a Calathea Orbifolia
Like its cousin Calathea ornata, I don’t consider orbifolia a beginner’s houseplant. It requires constant high humidity, which can be difficult to achieve if you live in a dry area. It’s not necessarily hard to grow, however, if you can meet the humidity and soil requirements.
- TEMPERATURE: 65 – 85 degrees (18 – 29 degrees C)
- LIGHT: Bright, indirect
- HUMIDITY: High
- WATER: Keep soil moist at all times
- FEEDING: Every three weeks spring – summer
- SAFETY: Nontoxic to cats and dogs
- DIFFICULTY: Moderate
These are the basic guidelines for calathea orbifolia. Keep reading for more in-depth information, including how to make the best soil mixture for your plant.
Water your peacock plant regularly, keeping the soil slightly moist at all times. You don’t want wet soil, but you should never let it dry out completely. You’ll most likely need to water several times a week, especially if the air is dry in your home.
Use distilled, spring, or rain water. Calathea is sensitive to the fluoride and salts in tap water, which can cause brown leaf edges.
These plants love regular warm showers – indoors or out. I place mine in the bathtub once a week and spray it gently with lukewarm water, soaking both the soil and the leaves. Native to jungle floors, Calathea loves warm and wet conditions.
Calathea orbifolia – like all Calatheas – demand high humidity levels to flourish. During winter, use every practical method of keeping humidity above 60 percent, including:
- Humidity Tray – Place the plant on a shallow tray filled with pebbles and water. (See my post on how to make a humidity tray for more information.)
- Regular Misting – This is a requirement for Calathea, not a suggestion. Mist several times a day using a spray bottle filled with lukewarm water.
- Place Near a Humidifier – A high-quality houseplant humidifier is your best friend when growing Calathea. Read my review of my favorite houseplant humidifier (the one I’m using right now) or click here to view it directly on Amazon.
In the summer, you can place the plant outdoors in a shady spot as long as temperatures stay above 65 degrees F (18 degrees C) and below 90 degrees F (32 degrees C). Outside of that range, bring it back indoors.
Feed your plant with a balanced houseplant fertilizer every three weeks in spring through summer. In fall and winter, reduce feeding to once a month.
My favorite fertilizer is Jack’s All-Purpose, but any all-purpose food will work. (Read my review of Jack’s Fertilizer to see why I love it so much.) I use it on all my houseplants, except those that need special nutrients like cacti and succulents.
Calathea orbifolia performs best with bright, indirect light to maintain the color of its foliage. Never place in direct sun, as this will cause the leaves to fade and lose their markings.
It can tolerate lower light, but color will not be as vivid on the leaves. A good level of indirect light, such as in a north-facing window is best. An east- or west-facing window also works, if the light is filtered with blinds or gauzy curtains.
Average to warm room temperature is best. Remember this plant is tropical, so it cannot tolerate cold. For the best results, keep the temperature between 70 – 85 degrees (21 – 29 degrees C) at all times.
Night temperatures as low as 65 degrees F (18 degrees C) are tolerated. But never allow the temperature to drop below 60 degrees F (15 degrees C) or the plant may be damaged.
Repot once a year in spring to refresh the soil. If necessary, move to a larger pot about 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter larger than the previous container.
This plant needs a special soil mixture that you’ll have to mix up yourself (at least I’ve never seen a commercial mixture available that meets the plant’s needs). Here’s the recipe I use:
Calathea Soil Mix
- 50 percent potting soil
- 20 percent orchid bark
- 20 percent charcoal
- 10 percent perlite
Use any high-quality potting soil formulated for houseplants in the recipe above. I like this one by Happy Frog because it contains mycorrhizal fungi and beneficial soil microbes, but any good-quality potting mix will work.
Calathea is best propagated by division, although its not easy to divide. I recommend waiting until your plant is quite large before attempting it, and expect the plant to suffer from the procedure.
Most calatheas are grown from tissue culture, but this is not practical for most indoor gardeners. If you really want to propagate your Calathea, you can also try rooting stem cuttings. Keep conditions very moist and warm until rooted.
Check leaves often for pests, especially when you bring a plant in from outdoors.
Clean your plant’s leaves occasionally with a soft, damp cloth to remove dirt and debris. This becomes less necessary if you give your plant regular warm showers (which you should).
Related: How to Clean Your Houseplant’s Leaves
Here are some common problems indoor gardeners often have when learning how to care for a Calathea orbifolia (and solutions):
- Leaf tips turn brown – If the tips and edges of the leaves turn brown, the humidity is too low or there’s fluoride in the water. Increase humidity using the methods discussed above. Also, make sure to use distilled or rain water, never tap water.
- Leaves Curling – Calathea leaves curling is also caused by dry air. Increase humidity by the methods discussed above, and see my post on how to fix calathea leaves curling for more information.
- Lower Leaves Turning Yellow – If the lower leaves of your Calathea orbifolia are turning yellow, it’s usually due to under-watering. This plant does NOT like to dry out between waterings. Keep the soil moist at all times by watering regularly.
Where to Buy Calathea Orbifolia
This plant may be difficult to find at local nurseries and plant centers if you don’t live in a humid or tropic environment. I rarely see Calathea for sale locally, but if you live in a less arid climate you might have more luck.
When I can’t find a plant locally, my preferred method is buying my houseplants from small growers on Etsy. I like supporting small businesses, and I find these growers often have much better quality and customer service – since their livelihood depends on it.
Click here to see the current Etsy listings for Calathea orbifolia. Happy plant shopping!