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Calathea Orbifolia: Ultimate Care Guide, Tips and FAQs

Calathea Orbifolia is known for its beautiful leaves that span up to one foot but may quickly turn yellowish and patchy when grown in the wrong conditions.

A prayer plant species native to tropical regions of Bolivia requires good low-growing conditions.

Generally, Calathea Orbifolia thrives best in partial shade or indirect lighting. Provide good drainage, 65°F to 75ºF temperature, and at least 50% air humidity. Additionally, fertilize every month to boost foliage growth.

Calathea Orbifolia Leaves
Calathea Orbifolia Leaves (Source: Pexels.com)

However, strictly avoid pruning and frequently repotting to minimize plant stress.

There is too much to know about keeping Calathea Orbifolia radiant and problem-free.

If you are up to the challenge, use this article as the ultimate guide to knowing everything about growing and caring for this plant.

Calathea Orbifolia Overview

Orbifolia is a popular prayer plant native to South America and is commonly kept as a houseplant for its large, ornamental leaves with the silver-green pattern.

One of the largest Calatheas, it takes longer than usual to grow taller. So, do not get surprised if your Orbifolia is growing slower than expected.

Here is a table with brief information about the plant.

Scientific NameCalathea Orbifolia (Marantaceae family)
NativeBolivia (South America)
USDAZone 10, Zone 11
NatureTropical/Temperate
PruningTrim old or yellowed leaves
PropagationPropagate by rhizome division in late spring/early summer
ToxicityNon-toxic to humans or animals
ProliferationPerennial but a slow grower
Pest/DiseasesRoot rot, powdery mildew, leaf-spot/Thrips, Aphids, Mealybugs, Whitefly

Now that you know the basics let us determine how to best care for this tropical plant.

Is Calathea Orbifolia Difficult to Care for?

Growing Calathea Orbifolia can be challenging for newbie gardeners who are not used to growing Calatheas.

Although an indoor plant, you would need to match the exact conditions to grow Orbifolia like in the tropics.

They naturally grow on the forest floor in a shaded location with high humidity; thus, you must mimic the exact conditions.

Orbifolia in Plastic Pot
Orbifolia in Plastic Pot (Source: Pixabay.com)

When growing a Calathea Orbifolia, take care of these things.

RequirementsOptimum Condition
TemperatureOrbifolia requires a high temperature to thrive.

Ensure to keep the temperature level between 65°F to 75ºF (18°C-24ºC).

Anything below 60°F can severely damage the plant.
Sunlight They do not do well in either complete shade or direct sunlight.

Ensure to provide at least 4-6 hours of filtered light or indirect sunlight.
Soil ConditionThey grow in a potting mix that retains enough moisture to keep the soil evenly moist.

Overtly soggy soil will create waterlogging problems.
HumidityThey require a high level of humidity, at least 50%-60%

They may survive drier air but may not look well.
WateringThey would require 0.5 to 1 liter of water once per week.

Water when the top 1-2 inches of soil dries out.

Underwatering can turn the leaves brown and patchy
FertilizingThey enjoy a balanced fertilizer applied monthly at 1/4 to 1/2 strength during the growing season

Fertilize during the growing season (spring and summer) but cut back in fall and winter.

Quick Tip: Ensure not to overwater the plant, and keep humidity and soil moisture to an adequate level at all times to avoid plant-related diseases.

Calathea Orbifolia Complete Care Guide

Growing Calathea Orbifolia is easy when you avoid common mistakes.

Note: The most critical-care requirements are adequate indirect lighting, proper watering, well-draining soil, and mild monthly fertilizing.

Here is everything you would need to know about your Orbifolia.

1. Adequate Watering

Improper watering habit is one of the common enemies of your Calathea plant.

Both over and underwatering can upset the plant and its foliage growth, while choosing the wrong kind of water may poison the soil.

Proper watering is one of the first things you need to care for when bringing an Orbifolia home.

Tips for watering Calathea Orbifolia

  • Water them every week in the growing season and once in two weeks in winter.
  • Let the top 1-2” of topsoil dry out between watering, assess whether the soil is dry or moist by inserting your finger into the soil. If it feels slightly dry, water them immediately.
  • Water more thoroughly and let the pot drain for over 10 minutes so that the potting mix can retain enough moisture.
  • Avoid using regular water, tap water, or mineral water because they are sensitive to water salts, chlorine, and chemical build-ups. Instead, use distilled water or rainwater.
  • Introducing a self-watering device is a great idea to slowly release water into the soil by constantly checking the soil’s moisture level.

2. Avoid Improper Watering Problems

Your Orbifolia may witness both over and underwatering problems at one point in time, and you should prepare well to tackle both issues.

Overwatering

An Orbifolia suffering from waterlogging will see its roots failing to retain enough oxygen. As a result, they will start yellowing and die shortly.

Excess watering also builds up microbial waste and anaerobic bacteria in the soil that robs the plant of nutrients.

Look for the signs of yellowing leaves, brown leaf tips, foul smell, and wilting or curling leaves to catch in your Calathea Orbifolia.

Problems
  • Soggy soil -If the ground feels wet for days after watering, it means you have overwatered the plant.
  • Pot is too large –When the pot is too large for the plant’s root system, it will take longer than usual for the soil to dry out after watering, causing soggy soil conditions.
  • Few or no drainage holes –Orbifolia loves potting mix that retains enough moisture but lets out the excess water. A pot with few drainage holes makes it impossible.
  • Wrong potting mix –A rich mix made from sand and ground soil traps more water, leading to waterlogging.
Solutions
  • Cut back on watering immediately and gently remove your plant from the pot to inspect its root for possible signs of rot. The rotting root will look dark or black and may emit a foul smell.
  • Immediately prune the infected roots with a sterilized pruning shear.
  • Dip the roots in a diluted solution of hydrogen peroxide to cleanse any remaining bacteria.
  • Change the soil and sterilize the pot before using it again.
  • Repot the Calathea in a pot just big enough for the plant and use a well-draining potting mix.
  • Start watering after the leaves start coming back in their natural state and color.

Underwatering

Underwatering problems are relatively easy to identify.

Look for the signs of yellowing wilted leaves and patchy browning on the edges.

Consider inspecting the soil by inserting your finger and assessing the dryness.

Problems
  • Rootbound condition -A rootbound plant will occupy the entire pot, requiring more watering.
  • Hot weather -The water from the soil will quickly evaporate when the temperature is unusually high.
  • Inadequate watering -Failing to water the plant weekly will leave the soil dried.
Solutions
  • Water the plant immediately and let it drain out the excess water.
  • Check the soil after 2-3 days if it feels drier, water it again until the soil feels moist.
  • Check whether the plant leaves come back to their natural state after a few days.
  • Another way to know if your plant is underwatered is when its leaves fail to fold up at night. They are called a “prayer plant” because the leaves rise upwards in the shape of praying palms at night.

Follow this video to learn more about watering your Calathea Orbifolia.

3. Ideal Temperature

Orbifolia thrives in warm temperatures and may wither when the temperature starts dropping.

Mimic the tropical weather at home and provide an optimum temperature ranging from 65°F to 75ºF (18°C – 24ºC).

Keep them close to the direct light source as much as possible without exposing them to direct sunlight.

If the temperature rises above 80ºF, the leaves will start to curl. Therefore, mist the plant leaves frequently throughout the day during spring and summer.

TemperatureCondition
Below 60°F (15°C)It is too cold for the plant. The low temperature will stall the growth.
Below 65°F (18°C)It is not an ideal temperature. The plant leaves will start drooping.
65-75°F (18°C to 24°C)An ideal temperature that will induce root and foliage growth.
Above 80°F (35°F)The plant can briefly survive the rising temperature, but the continuous exposure will start curling the leaves.

They can manage up to a low temperature of 60°F, but anything below that will cause drooping leaves.

Wilted Leaves
Wilted Leaves (Source: Pixabay.com)

Bring your plant inside when it is cold outside or wind is high, but avoid keeping them in a room with an air conditioner or close to open windows.

4. well-draining Soil Mix

The potting soil is another essential factor to keep the soil moisture at the correct level.

Orbifolia loves potting soil that retains enough moisture while allowing the roots to breathe. It also prefers slightly acidic (5.0-6.0) conditions.

Instead of using regular soil, choose a commercial potting mix with porous and well-drained elements such as peat moss, coco coir, vermiculite, perlite, and pumice.

The porous nature of the soil will allow the plant roots to get enough oxygen while holding the moisture.

Here is how you prepare a potting mix at home.

  • Mix 2 parts of coco coir
  • Mix 1 part perlite
  • Mix 1 part pumice
  • Add a few charcoal blocks
  • Use worm castings for organic microbes
  • Add Sphagnum peat moss (1/4 part) into the mix to make it slightly acidic.
  • A 1-2 gallon mix will fit a standard 4-6 inch pot.

You can also use a commercial potting mix of House Plant and Tropical Plant Potting Soil or Miracle-Gro Indoor Potting Mix 6 qt.

Learn more about choosing the Right Soil for Calathea

5. High Humidity

Calathea Orbifolia ideally needs high humidity to survive.

They require a humidity level of 50% or more to keep their leaves healthy and green.

Average room air humidity may be too dry for Orbifolia.

Therefore, use these quick methods to optimize the humidity level.

  • Mist the leaves when it is hot outside to keep the leaves from curling.
  • For best results, mist the leaves early morning to create a fine mist over the leaves.
  • Place the plant on a pebble water tray so the pot can retain moisture when the water evaporates.
  • Add a room humidifier to help keep air moisture at the right level.
  • Alternatively, add more houseplants in the room that will naturally create a humid environment.

Are you wondering why your houseplant’s leaves are curling. Consider reading out article on Why Are My Rhaphidophora Leaves Curling? to know more.

6. Monthly Fertilization

These perennials enjoy regular yet mild feeding in the growing season that boosts foliage growth.

Ensure to fertilize your plant every month with mild plant food in the growing season.

Ensure to use a balanced organic plant food with diluted strength to improve foliage growth while keeping fertilizer damage at bay.

Using a water-soluble formula in 1/4 strength is a good idea to provide an instant boost to the plant roots.

ProductSpecification
20-20-20 All-purpose balanced fertilizerBest for indoor and outdoor houseplants.

Before applying, mix 1.4 or 1/2 teaspoons in a gallon of water.
Miracle-Gro water-soluble granulesApply it a few inches away from the plant's base to avoid damages when fertilizing.

Use with the Miracle-Gro Garden Feeder or any watering can.

Cut back on fertilizing in winter as the plant goes dormant.

7. Indirect Sunlight

Orbifolias are tropical species that thrive under the shade of larger plants in their natural habitat.

Ensure to keep them away from the direct sunlight when growing at your home to prevent leaf burns. Keep them at least 4-feet away from natural light sources.

However, they will not grow properly in low lighting either. Therefore, the trick is to place them in a bright spot with at least 6-hours of enough filtered lighting.

Indirect Sunlight
Indirect Sunlight (Source: Unsplash.com

They are best grown on a north-facing or east-facing side that receives mild sunlight but move away from the window to avoid the dangers of cold drafts during winter.

Compensate on sunlight by switching to artificial grow lights such as LED Grow light for 8-hours a day.

8. Ideal Location

The location of the plant and the amount of light and humidity it receives plays a vital role in the progression of the leaves.

A light-sensitive plant, they do not enjoy being moved from one place to another frequently.

Find a nice shady spot with enough indirect lighting, such as few feet away from the north or east-facing window or shaded patio.

Find a location where their leaves naturally grab moisture from the air, such as beside the bathroom, kitchen, or laundry.

However, never place them in a damp location or near the air conditioner and heating units because too much humidity or warmth can kill the plant.

9. Moisture Retaining Container

Calathea requires a well-draining pot made with material that retains moisture.

Therefore, choose a glazed ceramic or plastic pot with at least two drainage holes for your plant.

Start growing a young Calathea in an 8 cm (3 in.) diameter container. As the plant grows further, upgrade to 13 cm (5 in.),  18 cm (7 in.), and 25 cm (10 in.) containers subsequently.

Young Orbifolia in Plastic Containers

Young Orbifolia in Ceramic Containers (Source: Pexels.com)Plastic or ceramic is best for retaining excess moisture compared to clay or terracotta, and the two holes in the base will provide enough drainages.

Here are a few recommendations for you.

ContainerSpecification
Classic Planter, 8" (Plastic)They are durable and lightweight. The drainage holes lie at the bottom
LE TAUCI Ceramic Plant Pots (Ceramic)4+5+6 inch, Set of 3, Planters with holes in the bottom
Plastic Planter, HOMENOTE (Plastic)Comes in five different sizes 7/6/5.5/4.8/4.5 Inch

10. Say No to Flower

Orbifolia is a tropical plant known for its signature large leaves with silver and green lining but flowers.

Forget about flowers! Calathea Orbifolia is never grown for its blossoms. Attempting to produce them will take away significant nutrients intended for the leaves.

The large leaves give the plant a sense of prestige that often becomes its sole decorative purpose in the house.

Therefore, it is good to forget about flowering altogether and focus on getting lush, healthy foliage instead.

11. Calathea Pests and Insects

Your exotic plant is not free from common houseplant pests.

The large leaves naturally attract insects like aphids, mealybugs, whitefly, soil gnats, and thrips.

Here is the list of common pests that may attack your Orbifolia at any point in time.

PestsProblemsSolutions
MealybugA tiny insect mainly infects the foliage and roots.

They suck the sap from the leaves, leaving them wilted and discolored.
1. Rinse the plant leaves with a soapy water solution.

2. Spray the plant with insecticidal soap.

3. Apply Neem Oil on the plant.
WhiteflyWhitefly mainly attacks nitrogen-rich plants.
They reside under the leaves, sucking their juices and leaving them yellow, faded, and drooping.
1. Avoid overfertilizing your plant and limit the use of nitrogen-rich plant food.

2. Spray the plant with a mild solution of liquid dish soap and water mixed in a spray bottle.
Soil GnatsFungus gnats or soil gnats are small flies that infest waterlogged or contaminated soils.

They feed on organic matter found in the soil and plant's root system.
1. Apply insecticidal oil or soap on the infected part to immediately kill the crawling pests.

2. Mix four-part water and one part hydrogen peroxide into a spray bottle, and spray directly onto the soil.
ThripsThrips are small, brown insects with yellow hind wings that mainly feed Calathea leaves.

They are attracted to overwatered plants or those placed in damp locations.
1. Let the soil dry before watering again.

2. Use a homemade spray of water mixed with mild garlic and chili pepper.

2. Use an insecticidal soap mixed with water and foliar spray on the plant twice a week.

12. Inspect Calathea Diseases

Calathea Orbifolia is prone to many plant-related diseases that mainly occur due to overwatering conditions.

Root rot, powdery mildew, and leaf spot are common diseases that prevail on overwatered Calatheas.

Here is the list of common horticultural diseases found in Calathea Orbifolia.

PestsProblemsSolutions
Root rotIt appears on overwatered Calatheas.

Primary signs include drooping and rapidly yellowing leaves, stunted growth and a smelling soil.
1. Hold back on watering until the plant revives.

2. Prune the infected root, and repot the plant after bleach washing the pot.
Powdery mildewA fungus that infects the overwatered Orbifolia.

Check for white substance on the plant leaves with powdery spots.
1. Prune the severely infected leaves.

2. Use a solution of baking soda and liquid soap to spray on the least infected parts.

3. Use a sulfur-containing organic fungicide for severe infestation,
Leaf spotIt is caused by bacteria called Pseudomonas cichorii.

Check for appearance of yellow spots around the leaf.
1. Use a mild solution of bicarbonate mixed with water to wipe the plant leaves.

2. Avoid overhead watering your plant.

13. Calathea Propagation

Propagate your Orbifolia in spring or early summer when repotting the plant.

Propagating them in the growing season allows feeder roots to grow further and give out fresh foliage.

Avoid propagating using the seeding method, which tends to be difficult and unsuccessful most of the time.

Instead, try the more common method of rhizome division -cut the healthy root with stem and grow them in a potting mix.

How to Safely Propagate the Plant?

  • Gently slide out the plant and loosen the roots using some water.
  • Using a sterilized blade, cut a section of the tuber that includes a rhizome (stem and some roots)
  • Prepare the potting mix intended for Calathea in a small pot (4-5″) and report the division immediately.
  • Moisten the potting mix to keep it slightly moist, but do not overwater it.
  • Place it in a medium, indirect light at a warm temperature.
  • Provide enough humidity by covering it with a clear plastic bag over the top but remove the cover every other day to let in the fresh air.
  • Remove the plastic once you see the new growth, which may take well over a month.

Once they start growing, follow the same watering and caring schedule as the adult plant.

However, pay more attention to the roots when propagating to avoid plant stress.

14. Calathea Repotting

Repot your Orbifolia only when it becomes rootbound or needs a soil change after root rot.

Frequent or improper repotting can easily stress the plant, so try repotting every two years or when it needs a soil change.

One way to know if your plant needs repotting is when you see slower growth because of rootbound conditions.

Here is how to repot your Orbifolia without disturbing the roots.

  • Choose a container that is 2″ larger than the current one to ensure the pot is not too big.
  • Slide-out the plant using your hand and remove the root ball.
  • Clear the root with some water and check for signs of decay, browning, and mushy problems.
  • Only half-fill the new container with the appropriate potting mix and carefully place the plant (root-down) inside.
  • Lightly fill the pot with remaining soil but do not press firmly.
  • Pat down the soil, water it thoroughly, and let it rest in a warm shaded place.

Quick Tip: When repotting, you can also place the cutting in water to develop roots that may take about two weeks before planting it in a pot.

15. Plant Toxicity

Calathea Orbifolia is non-toxic to humans or pets.

Therefore, you can stop worrying about accidental poisoning from consuming the plant leaves.

ASPCA reported that accidentally ingesting Calathea leaves tends to be non-toxic to dogs, cats, and horses.

It is a good idea to keep your houseplants in an appropriate location out of your children’s or pet’s reach altogether.

Planting Tips for Calathea Orbifolia

Consider checking out these planting tips if you have missed few important sections above.

  • It requires a fertile potting mix rich in natural organisms. Hence, composting it with worm casting may provide it with the necessary organic elements.
  • If you are unsure when to water your Calathea, use the finger formula to check the soil condition every few days by inserting your finger. If it feels drier, then it is already time to water it.
  • It may suffer from plant stress caused by overwatering, underwatering, and low temperature. (Check the watering section above to find out the right way to water your Calathea Orbifolia.)
  • Fertilize the plant only with a mild organic solution in 1/4 to 1/2 strength once a month. It means one part fertilizer with four-part water or one-part fertilizer with two-part water.
  • If you live in an area with lower humidity levels, consider misting the plant leaves frequently throughout the day or installing a room humidifier.
  • It does not need pruning unless you need to remove dead or yellowing foliage.
  • Bring your plant inside when the temperature dips below 60F during the day and 65F during the night.
  • Cutting away the infected root and washing the rest with hydrogen peroxide may help to combat root rot problems. However, throw away the plant/potting mix if the problem seems severe.

Calathea Orbifolia Q&A

Here are answers to some of the frequently asked questions about Calathea Orbifolia grown indoors.

Can Calathea Orbifolia Grow Tall?

Calatheas are slow to medium growers, and so are the Orbifolia species.

Under the right conditions, this exotic houseplant can grow up to a medium height of two feet.

Still, regular feeding may help to push its growth up to three feet.

Trying to grow them anywhere more than these will likely damage your plant for good. Hence, avoid overfeeding it at all costs.

As a matter of fact, Orbifolia is not grown for its height but leaves, so your focus should be on adjusting the conditions to encourage healthy leaf growth.

Does Calathea Orbifolia Need Pruning?

Calathea Orbifolia does not need pruning like other houseplants.

The single-leaved stems make up the foliage; hence, you should avoid pruning.

To improve the plant’s appearance, they would only need pruning to remove dead, browning, or yellowing foliage.

Why Does My Calathea Orbifolia Have Brown Edges On The Leaves?

Low humidity and underwatering are two of the main culprits of brown leaf edges on the Calathea plant.

The browning may imitate similar conditions caused by leaf burn. You will notice brown crispy edges and brown patches on the leaves.

It is more commonly seen during the growing season.

Solutions

  • As per the rule of thumb, water the plant once a week or when an inch of topsoil dries out.
  • Do not let your plant sit without water for over two weeks.
  • Mist plant frequently leaves throughout the summer days to maintain the humidity level.

Why is my Calathea Orbifolia Drooping or Curling?

The leaves start drooping due to a lack of water or when it is cold. Remember, drooping leaves are different from curling leaves that are caused by a lack of humidity.

Here are a few tips to save your plant.

  • Water them more often if drooping leaves rise exponentially.
  • Placing them in a warm location with enough indirect sunlight also helps treat damages caused by cold drafts.
  • In the case of curling leaves, increase the humidity level by misting the plant leaves frequently.

Conclusion

Growing Calathea Orbifolia is relatively challenging, but they are so imposingly beautiful that all the strenuous efforts seem worthy at the end.

Along with purifying the air, it helps to elevate your home decor and ensure a healthier indoor climate.

Therefore, care to provide extra attention to keep your beloved Calathea Orbifolia blooming around the year.

Otherwise, come back to this guide if you are ever confused.

Related Article: How to Care for Bromeliad Pineapple

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