A Complete Guide to Calathea Rufibarba Care

Calathea rufibarba
Calathea rufibarba (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The velvety touch that Calathea rufibarba provides to your tactile senses, the beauty that it crafts with its variegated foliage in your space while also purifying the air beats none.

It is thus one of the adorned houseplants despite its care difficulty.

If you want the same feelings and aesthetic beauty in your space, you surely need to welcome Calathea rufibarba.

However, it is better to know their care standards beforehand to arrange the conducive environment it requires before bringing them home.

Generally, Calathea rufibarba requires well-draining soil, a temperature range between 60° to 85°F, humidity above 50%, and bright filtered light. Additionally, it demands once or twice a month of fertilization, annual pruning, and repotting once every two years for healthier foliage.

Calathea- rufibarba
Calathea rufibarba (Source: beardsanddaisies.com)

This article is for you if you are looking for detailed information regarding the care requirements and common issues about Calathea rufibarba.

Read on to know the basics about the plant and welcome it to your home.

Overview of Calathea Rufibarba

For a better understanding, the general plant overview of Calathea rufibarba is given below:

Botanical NameCalathea rufibarba; Goeppertia rufibarba
Common NameThe furry feather, Velvet Calathea
NativeSouth America, especially Brazil
Growth ZoneUSDA Hardiness Zone 8 and above
Plant TypeEvergreen tropical perennial plant
Growth SizeReach about a height of 3.5′ feet
SpreadAbout 2 feet wide
Grown For Foliage
Foliage Type Leaves are elongated, waxy, smooth, and green on the upper surface. Its undersides is maroon which have a velvety texture with tiny hairs
BloomsProduce a yellow flower that rises from beneath the foliage.
Flowers during spring to late summer
Toxicity Non-toxic to both humans and pets

A Complete Guide to Calathea Rufibarba Care

A common issue with all tropical plants is their quite peculiar care regimens. Moreover, maintaining a conducive environment is the most challenging task you deal with while raring them.

However, on the brighter side, Calathea rufibarba is one of the easiest to care for among the species of Calathea.

Here is a table consisting of the basic care requirements of Calathea rufibarba.

Parameters Favorable Conditions
Sunlight8-10 hours of bright indirect light
Watering Once a week in summer and twice a month in winter
Temperature60° to 85° F
HumidityAbove 50% of the relative humidity
Soil Type Well-draining, light, nutrient rich, and moisture retaining
Soil pH6.5-7
Fertilization once in 1-2 months
Pruning Annual pruning
Pot Size8-10 inches pot for a mature plant
Repotting Once every 2 years
Propagation Via Root ball division

1. Adequate Sunlight and Proper Location

Calathea comes under the plant that can grow in moderate light.

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

Thus, you need to provide them with 8-10 hours of bright diffused light. Remember that you do not expose it to scorching light as it burns leaves and causes loss of variegation.

Sunlight hitting the leaves
Sunlight hitting the Calathea leaves (Source: Pixabay)

Symptoms of Insufficient Light

  • Stunted growth
  • The plant appears less thin and leggy
  • Drooping, curling, and wilting of foliage
  • Hindrance in the photosynthesis process of the plant

Symptoms of Extreme Exposure to Sunlight

  • Brown and black spots at the leaf’s edges
  • Dry and crispy leaves
  • Discoloration of foliage and flower
  • Excessive moisture loss from the plant, as a result, leaves curls.

Tips to Provide Adequate Sunlight

  • Place the plant near the eastern, western, or southern-facing window.
  • Introduce your plant to artificial grow lights like LED Lights when light intensity is less. Provide them with 7-8 hours of artificial light.
  • Avoid sunny locations for Calathea rufibarba.
  • Move the plant outdoors or in grow lights during winter. However, do not leave the outdoors during frosty nights.
  • Avoid readjusting plants from bright to low light.

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

2. Proper Watering

Calathea rufibarba loves consistently moist soil. Thus, you need to reciprocate the same environment for their healthier growth.

It is ideal for watering the Calathea rufibarba once a week in summer and twice or thrice a month in winter.

As overwatering and underwatering show similar symptoms like wilting, drooping, falling off foliage, discoloration, differences exist between them.

An overwatered plant appears limp and soft, whereas an underwater plant appears dry and crispy.

Moreover, an overwatered plant is prone to root rot and bacterial and fungal growth. Hence, sneak a peek at your plant’s watering conditions.

Dried and Brown edge in succulent due to underwatering

Save an Underwatered Calathea Rufibarba

  • Water the plant immediately with tepid water.
  • Ensure that the soil is not pulled away from the pot. If the soil is pulled away, push it back using your fingertips before watering it.
  • If the pot is small, you can drench it in a pool of water for about 15-20 minutes.

Save an Overwatered Calathea Rufibarba

  • Leave the plant in a slightly warm and dry place for water to dry up quickly.
  • Avoid watering the plant until the soil dries out completely.
  • If it does not solve the problem, inspect its root for rot. If you find its root mushy and limp, immediately cut it off with sterilized pruning shears.
  • Then, let the roots dry in the air for a couple of hours. Afterward, repot the plant into a new potting mix.

Tips to Water the Calathea Rufibarba Properly

  • Use the moisture meter to measure soil moisture and water accordingly.
  • Inspect soil moisture by inserting your finger or a stick 2-3 inches deep into the soil. If the soil feels wet, there is sufficient soil moisture. Hence, you need not water them for a couple of days.
  • Consider watering the plant only after the top 25% of the soil dries out completely.
  • Always water the plant thoroughly until the water does not escape out of the drainage holes.
  • Use tepid or room temperature water for watering the plant.
  • Reduce the watering frequency to half during wet and winter seasons.
  • Avoid using alkaline water containing excessive salts.
  • You can also use self-watering pots to increase efficiency and effectiveness.
Moisture Meter for Testing Soil
Moisture Meter for Testing Soil (Source: Amazon)

3. Ideal Temperature

It might not be necessary to mention that Calathea rufibarba adores warm temperatures as it is a tropical plant.

The ideal temperature for Calathea rufibarba is 60-85°F.

When the temperature falls below 55°F, cellular activities cease, and the cells might burst.

Similarly, in extreme temperatures, the plant faces high moisture loss, drying, and discoloration in leaves.

Besides, fluctuating temperature is also a culprit for Calathea rufibarba. Significantly fluctuating temperature stresses the plant as it finds it difficult to adapt.

On incidence, all of these issues might also kill the plant.

Tips to Maintain Ideal Temperature

  • Avoid drafty areas, heating and cooling vents like radiators, heaters, etc.
  • Encourage high humidity to reciprocate high temperatures.
  • Avoid draughts and allow enough ventilation for the plant.
  • Provide insulation to the plant during winter to prevent temperature loss. You can use mulch like straw, dried grass, etc.
  • Introduce the plants to the greenhouse during winters.
  • You can also use heating pads to protect small saplings from winter.
  • Avoid placing plants in highly temperature fluctuating areas like windows.
  • You can cover the plant with transparent plastic or a frost blanket to prevent cold.
  • Use a light curtain to prevent direct sun rays.
Small Green house
Small Green House (Source: Amazon)

4. Adequate Humidity

Another special care requirement of Calathea rufibarba is high humidity. The plant adores above 50% of the relative humidity.

As the humidity indoors is around 40%, you will have to maintain humidity.

It can survive low air humidity for short periods, but the plant will dry out if the humidity is too low for too long.

The tips of the leaves will quickly dry up, the leaves will droop, and the plant will appear unhealthy.

Philodendron Leaf Edges Turning Brown
Leaf Edges Turning Brown

Effects of Low Humidity in Calathea Rufibarba

  • Curling of leaves
  • Wilting and falling off of leaves
  • Browning and discoloration of foliage
  • Soil dries out quickly

Tips to Maintain Optimum Humidity

  • Mist the plants during the early hour of the day.
  • Place a wet pebble tray below the pot. It helps to increase humidity through natural perception.
  • Introduce the plant to an electric humidifier.
  • Grouping the plants helps to resolve humidity problems. However, it equally has chances of spread of diseases and pests infestation.
  • Alternatively, you can place them in high humid areas of hours like near the bathroom or kitchen.
  • Small plants can also be placed in the terrarium to maintain high humidity.
Misting plant leaves
Misting plant leaves (Source: Pexels)

5. Well-draining Soil Mix

What kind of soil are you using for your Calathea rufibarba. Is it light, porous, nutritious, and well-draining?

If you are not sure about the type of soil you are using, inspect and change if necessary.

Proper growth requires a proper growing medium. Hence, the quality of soil is vital in growing your Calathea rufibarba.

Use a well-draining potting mix, light, porous, rich in organic matter, absorbs a good amount of water, and harbors good air circulation.

Calathea needs soil that drains the water while retaining the necessary moisture to keep the soil consistently moist. 

Also, ensure that the soil is slightly acidic to neutral pH between 6.5-7.

Preparing soil mix for Calathea rufibarba
Preparing soil mix for Calathea rufibarba (Source: Pexels)

Here are a few pre-made commercial mixes that you can use for your Calathea rufibarba.

Although I barely recommend it, you can directly use these potting mixes for your Calathea rufibarba.

However, making your potting mix suitable for your plant is always better.

Home Made Potting Mix Recipe

If you want to make your potting mix. Here is the recipe I use for my Calatheas rufibarba.

  • Mix one part of regular potting mix
  • One part of coconut coir or peat moss
  • 1/2 part of organic compost
  • 1/2 part of perlite or pumice
  • 1/3 part of orchid barks or any other barks
  • 1/3 part of coarse sand
  • 1/4 part of activated charcoal.

Quick Tip: Alternatively, you can also use rice husk, wooden chips, dried grass, and leaves, etc. to make the soil lighter and porous.

6. Nitrogen-Rich Fertilizer

The food you feed your plant is directly proportional to its growth rate. Regular fertilization is a must to obtain healthy and lush green leaves.

Nonetheless, Calathea rufibabra is not a voracious feeder. You need to feed them once or twice a month with a diluted nitrogen-rich fertilizer.

I advise you to use organic fertilizer like worm casting, animal manure, chicken litter, etc.

However, you can always opt for synthetic fertilizer like all-purpose liquid fertilizer or liquid fertilizer rich in nitrogen content.

Alternatively, you can feed your plant with NPK in the ratio of 10-10-10 or 10-5-5.

Nutrition deficiencies in them cause curling, drooping, and discoloration of foliage along with stunted growth.

Organic Vermicompost (Source: Pexels)

Here are a few fertilizers you can use for Calathea rufibarba.

But, be careful not to overfertilize them. Fertilize them only in the growing season and avoid fertilization during winter.

Excessive fertilizer causes the accumulation of salts resulting in the burning of leaves and foliage.

7. Growth Habits

Here is good news to all of Calathea’s lovers. The plant grows at a moderate to fast rate.

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

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

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

Beautiful Calathea Rufibarba
Beautiful Calathea Rufibarba (Source: My Home Nature)

Besides, the peculiar feature of the plant is its attractive foliage.

Its leaves are elongated, waxy, smooth, and green on the upper surface, whereas maroon undersides have a velvety texture with tiny hairs.

8. Flowering Habits

As flowers in Calathea rufibarba are rare, you would be lucky to see blooms.

Only mature Calathea can produce flowers, and it is extremely rare when you grow them indoors.

They produce 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 for 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.

Calathea rufibarba flower
Calathea rufibarba flower (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

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

Are you seeking for solutions to fix your Calathea’s problem? Read our article about 13 Common Calathea Plant Problems and Their Solutions

9. Potting and Repotting

Growing plants in an enclosed environment is itself a difficult task. You need to know the correct material and pot size for your plant.

Generally, it is ideal to use an 8-10 inches pot for a matured Clathea rufibarba.

Or, you can also use a pot about 2 inches larger than the plant’s rootball is a good-sized pot.

I straightly suggest you not use extremely large or tiny pots. In both of the cases, the plants get stressed out.

Firstly, you might choke your plant using a small-sized pot. A large pot takes a long time for the soil to dry out, letting waterlogged issues.

Also, I suggest you use a clay or terracotta pot as they are breathable, oozes water out, and help maintain soil temperature.

Calathea rufibarba
Calathea rufibarba in a pot (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Repotting Calathea Rufibarba

Another essential care requirement for your Clathea rufibarba is timely repotting. Your plant shows tell-tell signs when it needs repotting. All you got to do is to read the signs.

Here are common signs that the plant shows when it needs repotting.

  • Stunted growth
  • Root poking out of the drainage holes/ Calathea does not like to be root-bound
  • Discoloration and yellowing of leaves
  • The plant might tilt from its actual position in some case

I advise you to report your Calathea rufibarba once every two years. Else, when the plant exhibits the symptoms mentioned above.

Consider repotting your plant during spring and summer when the plant shows active growth.

Repotting Plants
Repotting the plants (source: Unsplash)

Tips for Repotting Calathea Rufibarba

  • Water your Calathea rufibarba a day earlier to repotting it to enhance root strength.
  • Get the plant out of the pot by gripping the base of the stem.
  • Trim off dead and damaged foliage and roots.
  • Then, take a clean container having multiple drainage holes.
  • Layer it with a few pebbles and fill 1/3rd part with potting mix.
  • Then, place the plant at the center of the pot and fill the remaining portion with soil.
  • Remember to plant your Calathea at the same depth as it was in the previous pot.
  • Now, water the plant thoroughly and keep it in a bright space.

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.

10. Annual Pruning

Pruning equals new and healthy growth. I encourage you to prune your Calathea every year.

However, you can choose not to prune your Calathea as the yellow and discolored foliage falls off naturally.

It is best to prune your Calathea rufibarba before the spring starts, as spring brings new vibes to the plant.

Also, timely pruning and timing of dead and damaged foliage encourage bushier growth in them.

Pruning equipments
Arrangements for pruning (Source: Unsplash)

Things to Keep in Mind While Pruning

  • You must Sterilize your pruning materials before and while pruning them.
  • Avoid pruning them inactive growing season as untimely pruning pushes back new growth.
  • Cut off only dead, damaged, discolored foliage and buds.
  • Avoid excessive pruning. Prune only 10-20% of the plant at once.

11. Toxicity of the Plant

Here is a piece of good news to all of the Calathea parents. Calathea Rufibarba is non-toxic to humans and pets.

You need not worry that your children and pets might nibble its foliage. Enjoy the rare beauty of your Calathea without fear and health risk.

Propagation Methods for Calathea Rufibarba

It might be harder for you to accept more than I assume that your Calathea rufibarba is not that easy to propagate.

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

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

As the plant occasionally produces flowers, collecting seeds and propagating them at home is more complicated.

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

Calathea lancifolia
Healthy roots of Calathea (Source: Unsplash)

I advise you to propagate them during either spring or summer as these seasons support a favorable adapting and growing environment for Calathea.

Furthermore, avoid propagating them in winter. The harsh climatic condition of winter might kill your newly propagated plant.

Propagating Calathea Rufibarba Via Rootball Division

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

Step 2: Loosen the top layer of the soil 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, bifurcate the plant into two halves as if peeling an orange.

Do not rush and hasten as you might injure the roots. If the process becomes difficult, you can also use a sharp, sterilized knife to cut the roots.

Divide the plant similarly into as many parts as your like. However, ensure that each part has at least 2-3 leaves and a few roots.

Splitting plant roots
Dividing the roots (Source: Pexels)

Step 4: Now, your Calathea is ready to be propagated.

Choose a medium to grow them as per your feasibility. You can use soil, sphagnum moss, water, or LECA medium.

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

  • In Soil: Fill the pots about a third of the way 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 the sphagnum moss 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 LECA medium but soak the medium in water for 12-18 hours ahead of using them.

I opt for soil propagation or sphagnum moss propagation. Use the one you find convenient.

Also watch,

Common Problems of Calathea Rufibarba

1. Pests Infestation

Calathea Rufibarba is among the resilient plant that does not generally attract pests. However, the plant might get affected when it is not receiving proper care and struggling for adaptation.

Hence, you need to focus on them to understand if they are going through any trouble.

It is easier to knock off pests at their earlier stage, so I suggest you regularly inspect your plant to treat them in time.

Here are common pests found in Calathea rufibarba and their symptoms.

Common Pests Symptoms
Spider Mites 1. Sucks plant's fluid as a result plant appears dull and droopy.
2. Fine webbings on leaves
3. Discoloration of foliage
Mealybugs 1. Small cotton- looking beetles on the undersides of the leaves
2. Generally found on the cracks of leaves and stem
3. Curling, wilting and drooping of foliage
Scales 1. Brown or black structure on undersides of leaves
2. Stunted growth
3. Curling, wilting and drooping of leaves
Fungus Gants 1. Sudden wilting and discoloration of foliage
2. Larva eats up roots thus sickly roots
3. Stunted growth and dull appearance

How to Treat Pests in Calathea Rufibarba?

  • Cut off all the infected parts to prevent the spread of the infestation. Ensure to use sterilized pruning shears for the purpose.
  • Spray soap water in case of light infestation.
  • For severe infestation, use neem oil or other horticultural oils.
  • You can also use synthetic pesticides, such as chemical fertilizers, though not recommended.
  • Dip a cotton ball on 75% diluted isopropyl alcohol and dab it along the infected parts.
  • Take a blunt knife and scrape off pests like scales.
Neem Oil for Pests Control
Neem Oil for Pests Control (Source: Amazon)

Preventive Measures

  • Spray soap water to the plant once a week.
  • Avoid grouping your Calathea with other infected plants.
  • Providing a shower to the plant once in 2 weeks is an excellent method to wash off pests and eggs.
  • Inspect your plants regularly to check the signs of infestation.
  • Avoid overhead and overwatering.

Are you wondering how to use neem oil for your indoor plants? Read our article about How to Use Neem Oil on Indoor Plants?

2. Common Diseases

Calathea rufibarba stands out as a less susceptible plant to pathogenic attack, unlike other tropical plants.

However, it is common for parent parents to catch Calathea infected.

Here is a table for common diseases and their symptoms in Calathea rufibarba.

Common Diseases Signs
Alternaria Leaf Spot1. Circular concentric ring like patches on leaves
2. Blackening, yellowing and discoloration of foliage
Helminthosporium leaf spot1. Small brown or purple lesions appear on leaves
2. On incidence, the spot spreads into a large patch
3. Discolored and bleached centers that spreads to leaf blades
Grey mold1. Slimly brown or black appearance
2. Rotten smell comes off the plant
3. Black spots accompanied with yellow halos.
Fusarium Root Rot1. Brown and mushy roots
2. Thinning off root mass and damping off

How to Treat Diseases in Calathea Rufibarba?

  • Deadhead all of the infected parts with sterilized pruning shears.
  • Inspect the root of the plant. If the roots are mushy, cut off damaged parts. Then, leave the plant for roots to dry off. Spread antifungal powder and repot it into a new potting mix.
  • Immediately spray the plant with Helminthosporium fungicides.
  • To tread grey mold, apply fungicide contining chlorothalonil.
  • Unfortunately, there is no chemical treatment for Fusarium Root Rot.

Preventive Measures

  • Avoid misting leaves at night to prevent pathogens like Helminthosporium leaf spot.
  • Say No to misting of leaves in the afternoon or at night.
  • Apply fungicides to the plant once or twice a year.
  • Loosen the top layer of the soil using a fork or any other blunt knife to prevent fungal growth.
  • Avoid overhead watering and overwatering.

3. Yellow and Brown Foliage

It is one of the most common problems that every Calathea owners face.

Generally, low humidity, watering issues, high temperature, direct sun exposure are the culprits behind the yellowing and browning of its foliage.

Adjust the environment supporting favorable conditions if you are facing such a problem.

Droopy and a few yellow leaves
Droopy and a few yellow leaves

Besides, the yellowing and browning of foliage are natural phenomena. Old and mature leaves degenerate through the same process.

Thus, you need not be afraid if only a few foliages show such signs.


Caring for Calathea rufibarba is not a difficult task at all. You need to inspect them and provide a favorable growing environment regularly.

Finally, shower them with diffused light, wet them with slight humidity, quench their thrust with timely watering, feed them timely, and inspect temperature, soil, diseases, and pests around them.

Are you interested in adding more of Calathea’s varieties? Learn about Calathea White Star Care Tips, and Calathea Orbifolia Care Guides 

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