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A Complete Guide to Calathea Rufibarba Care

Do you think Calathea rufibarba gets on amazing narrow leaves with intricate patterns and textures on its own? Nah!

Its the peculiar care regime that pushes the plant’s vigor

Generally, Calathea rufibarba requires well-draining soil with pH 6.5-7, a temperature of 60°-85°F, humidity above 50%, and bright filtered light. Fertilize the plant once or twice a month, water once every week, prune annually, and repot once every two years for healthier foliage.

But wait! Before you run to bring Calathea home, an in-depth understanding of the care required is essential.

Overview of Calathea Rufibarba

Calathea rufibarba, known as Velvet Calathea, comes initially from South America and the rainforest of Brazil.

Scientific NameCalathea rufibarba; Goeppertia rufibarba
Common NameVelvet Calathea, Furry feather prayer plant.
Growth ZoneUSDA Hardiness Zone 8 and above
Plant TypeEvergreen perennial plant
Growth SizeAverage height of 2 feet
SpreadAbout 2 feet wide
Grown For Foliage
Foliage Shape & ColorLeaves are elongated, waxy, smooth, with green on the upper surface.

Its undersides is maroon which have a velvety texture with tiny hairs.
BloomsYellow flower that rises from beneath the foliage
Blooming PeriodFlowers during spring to late summer
Toxicity Non-toxic to humans and pets

Calathea Rufibarba: Complete Grow & Care Guide

Maintaining a conducive environment is your most challenging task while caring Calathea varieties.

Before diving into the intense care, let us look at the plant’s basic care requirement.

Infohraphics showing a summerized care requirements for Calathea Rufibarba.
Fulfilling this basic care can prolong the life of the Calathea Plant.

1. Sunlight & Temperature

Calathea rufibarba is a plant that can grow in moderate light with warm temperatures resembling a tropical environment.

You need to provide them with 8-10 hours of bright diffused light at the temperature of 60-85°F.

At the same time, the extreme temperature is the culprit for the plant facing high moisture loss, drying, leaf burn, and discoloration.

In contrast, prolonged exposure to low light causes loss of chlorophyll pigment and loss in the plant’s variegation.

When the temperature falls below 55°F, cellular activities cease, and the cells might burst. Moreover, significantly fluctuating temperature stresses the plant as it finds it difficult to adapt.

On incidence, all of these issues might also kill the plant. So, ensure that your plants are away from drafty areas and heating and cooling vents like radiators, heaters, etc.

A heating pad or frost blanket helps the plant battle the cold in the winter.

When the light intensity outdoors is low, introduce your plant to artificial grow lights like LED Lights.

Pro Tip: Rotate the plant once in 1-2 weeks to obtain balanced growth.

2. Watering & Humidity

Calathea rufibarba loves moist soil throughout but not soggy with a normal humidity range.

Water the Calathea rufibarba once a week in summer and twice or thrice a month in winter, maintaining the humidity above 50% to prevent any plant problems.

Further, excess moisture makes the plant prone to root rot and bacterial and fungal growth. 

But, overwatering and underwatering show similar symptoms like wilting, drooping, and falling off foliage, which makes the treatment difficult.

To differentiate, an oversoaked plant appears limp and soft, whereas a dehydrated one appears dry and crispy.

So, schedule watering only after a finger test, ensuring 2 inches of dry topsoil.

You can also use a humidifier to maintain the air moisture or group your houseplants to create a mini-biome.

3. Soil & Fertilizer

Calathea needs well-draining soil, light, porous, and rich in the organic matter while retaining moisture with a slightly acidic to neutral pH between 6.5 and 7.

Feeding the soil once a month with diluted nitrogen-rich liquid fertilizer during the summer and spring pushes the lush growth of the leaves.

It avoids nutrition deficiencies causing curling, drooping, and discoloration of foliage, along with stunted growth.

While using pre-enriched commercial fertilizers like Miracle-Gro Potting Mix and Sun Bulb Orchid Mix, fertilize only after six months to avoid any chemical burns due to overfeeding.

Besides that, adding rice husk, wooden chips, dried grass, leaves, etc., makes the soil lighter and porous and eases soil compaction.

4. Potting and Repotting

Generally, it is ideal to use an 8-10 inches pot for a matured Clathea rufibarba. However, extremely large or tiny pots both stress out the plants.

Large pots slower the drainage making the plant more susceptible to root rot, and soil tends to dry quickly in too small pots.

Apart from pot size, repotting the plant once every two years becomes mandatory when the plant exhibits tell-tell signs of root-bound conditions like root poking out of the drainage holes, leggy growth, discoloration of foliage, and growth deprivation.
Calathea plant held after being removed from the pot due to root bound condition.
Repotting is mandatory in case your plant has outgrown the pot.

Moreover, consider repotting your plant during spring and summer when the plant shows active growth.

Also, use a clay or terracotta pot for proper drainage with a suitable potting mix while repotting.

Note: The plant might appear slightly wilted and droopy immediately after repotting. It will revive naturally after a few days when it adapts to the newly introduced environment.

5. Annual Pruning

Pruning equals new and healthy growth, so gardeners normally opt for annual pruning in Calatheas.

It is best to prune your Calathea rufibarba before spring starts.

However, you can discard pruning the Calathea as the yellow, and discolored foliage falls off naturally unless any disease and pest overtake your plant.

Spider mites, Whiteflies, Thrips, and Mealybugs are some major pests that deteriorate the leaves with speaks of dust, webs, and cotton-like substances underside.

You can use a high-pressure spray to wash off the pests, or any insecticidal soap would work.

Similarly, root rot, grey mold, and bacterial leaf spot cause the leaves to appear spotted, brown, and droopy when pruning becomes mandatory.

Prune only 10-20% of the plant at once to avoid runing stree to the plant.

Calathea Rufibarba: All About Growth Habits

When grown in an enclosed space, the plant gains a height of 3.5 feet and a width of 2 feet. The plant grows much more prominent in its natural habitat.

Calathea rufibarba grows fast, often reaching 1-2 feet in a year and exhibiting a slow growth rate afterward.

Thus, if you provide a favorable environment to them, your baby Calathea can gain a rapid height within a year.

Besides, the elongated, waxy, and smooth green leaves are its charm, with velvety maroon underside bearing tiny hairs.

Flowering Habits

Calathea produces a yellow flower that rises from beneath the foliage. Though the phenomenon is rare, you can inspect central stalks for signs of buds popping out.

Its flowers last about 1-3 months, depending on the growing environment. Calathea rufibarba produces flowers almost every year from spring to late summer in the natural environment.

Given the right conditions, you might see them flowering after maturity, that is, after about 2-3 years.

Toxicity of Calathea Rufibarba

According to the ASPCA, non of the 60 species of Calathea rufibarba and its cultivar pose any toxins to humans and pets.

Calathea can suitably grace your place’s ambiance without pet poisoning fear and health risk.

However, if your inquisitive pet mistakes it for food, Calathea can sometimes cause slight stomach discomfort elevating to vomiting, diarrhea, and irritation upon excessive ingestion.

We recommend you contact a vet nearby or the following hotlines in case your pet exhibits any symptoms.

Propagation of Calathea Rufibarba

The easiest method for propagating any plant is generally stem cuttings.

But unfortunately, Calathea rufibarba cannot be propagated via stem cuttings.

Propagating your Calathea Rufibarba via collected seed is more complicated as the plant flowers occasionally, leaving you with the only option of root division.

Thus, the method you can use to propagate your Calathea rufibarba is rootball division.

Spring or summer support a favorable adapting and growing environment for Calathea, while the harsh climatic condition of winter might kill your newly propagated plant.

Step 1: Water the plant couple of hours before propagating it.

Step 2: Loosen the top layer and empty the top 25% of the soil.

Now, slowly tap the pot from the bottom and sides to pull out soil from the pot. Take the plant out of the pot by gripping it at the base of the stem.

Step 3: Remove the soil attached to the roots as far as possible. After removing the soil, divide the plant with at least 2-3 leaves and a few roots intact in each part.

Root divison of Calathea planted in a white pot with a single leaf above.
Each division should have few leaves intact to it.

Step 4: Now, your Calathea is ready to be propagated in a medium of your choice, soil, sphagnum moss, water, or LECA.

Plant your Calathea at the same depth as in the earlier pot and water it thoroughly.

  • In Soil: Fill about a third pot with the proper potting mix. I use two-thirds peat moss and one-third perlite. Backfill the pots with soil up to the same level as the roots of the offspring plants.
  • In Sphagnum Moss: If you use sphagnum moss, wet it for a few hours and place some of it into the pot. Then, place the plant and fill the remaining parts with sphagnum moss. Lightly press the medium, leaving some air pockets for aeration.

Follow the similar process for the LECA medium but soak the medium in water for 12-18 hours ahead of using them.

Where to Buy Calathea Rufibarba?

Knowing all the care requirements prepares you to get one Calathea Rufibarba home.

Here are some online sites where you can buy the plant.

StoreShipping Time
Planterina3-5 business days
Etsy3-7 business days
Amazon5-8 days
EpihavenWoodies Garden Goods 1-5 business days
Pistil Nursery1 week

FAQS About Calathea Rufibarba

Should I mist Calathea Rufibarba?

Your plant is unlikely to have any serious drawbacks from misting.

Rather, spraying the leaves helps clean the surface for better photosynthesis and battle the dry air in the surrounding.

Why is my Calathea Rufibarba drooping?

Wilted plants and leaves are the primary signs of underwatering in a plant. 

When thirsty, maintaining the ideal water pressure in the entire plant becomes difficult, leading to droopy leaves.

But sometimes your Rufibarba leaves move following the light direction.

Can I give Calathea tap water?

Chlorine in tap water kills bacteria and microorganisms in the soil. Moreover, higher chlorine concentrations can fully damage the roots of your plant. 

But, if you wish to use tap water, keep it still for over 24 hrs.

Final Thought

Shower the plant with diffused light, quench their thrust, and most importantly, protect them from the enemies (diseases and pests) to have their rippled foliage flapping.

Your Calathea rufibarba would not disappoint you if given proper care and attention.

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