Maranta vs Calathea: What’s the Difference?

Maranta Vs Calathea
Maranta Vs Calathea

Many of us are confused in differentiating Maranta vs. Calathea. They almost look the same, and both are indoor and outdoor foliage plants.

However, even though I have seen both the plants several times, I was fooled by a nurseryman recently, who sold me a Maranta, labeling it as Calathea.

Many of you may have been in the situation as well. Well, after the incident, I decided to take a closer look at both plants.

It turns out it is quite easy to differentiate between Maranta and Calathea once you know about their basic differences and similarities.

Maranta and Calathea belong to the same family but are different species. Furthermore, the shape and texture of their leaves, variegation and leaf color are the major differences. Although they both require similar care, their growth patterns and methods of propagation are distinct.

Maranta-vs-Calathea
Maranta vs. Calathea (Source: Unsplash)

Upon reading the article, you will vividly understand that sharing the same family Marantaceae and growth requirements are the only properties that match between these two plants.

Furthermore, this article describes in detail the similarities and differences between Maranta and Calathea. Hence, please stick along to find out more.

Are Calathea and Maranta the Same?

NO!! Besides belonging to the arrowroot family, Marantaceae, and growing on similar habitats, they are completely different plants.

People often refer to both of them as Prayer plants, which is also only half true.

Both have very artistic foliage with bold colors and patterns, and they are generally mistaken as the same plant.

However, on having a closer look at their foliage, you can easily notice the differences in the patterns.

For example, Maranta has a distinct colored marking on their midrib and veins, while Calathea lacks it.

Moreover, the name Prayer plant is typically for the Maranta species as their leaves undergo a special process called nyctinasty.

Fact: The leaves of Maranta open up during daylight and fold themself upright during evening and night, which makes an appearance like folded praying hands. Hence, they got the name Praying plants.

However, such a response to light is not seen in Calathea plants. So, they cannot be called prayer-plants.

Instead, Calathea is called the Peacock plant, Zebra plant, or Rattlesnake plant due to their rattle snake-like patterns and bold colors in the foliage.

There are many other differences as well between these plants. Please, continue reading the article to find out more.

Differences Between Maranta and Calathea

As mentioned above, Maranta and Calathea have many differences. We are going to look after those differences in detail below:

CharacteristicsMarantaCalathea
Species/ VarietiesFew varieties (14- 20)
Leaves show special movement called nyctinasty
Many varieties (around 60)
Growth HabitVein-like growth habitErect structure
Leaf Shape and textureElliptical or oval with a velvety appearanceElliptical, oval, or round with a waxy appearance
Variegation
Distinct midrib and vein markingCarefully painted, striking patterns
Foliage ColorShades of red and greenBright and bold colors
PropagationStem cutting, root division, and seedsRoot division

1. Difference in Species

As the differences in Maranta and Calathea are mostly from the genetic level, their major difference comes as being different species within the same family.

Arrowroot family consists of several genera to which Maranta and Calathea also belong.

The major difference in these genera comes from the movement of their leaves in response to light, i.e., nyctinasty.

Moreover, looking into the Calathea genus, you can find several dozens of species, i.e., around 60, to choose from, which have their special features on their own.

However, Maranta has fewer varieties for a gardener with only about 14- 20 species to choose from.

The plants in the Maranta genus are less bushier and look great, even in hanging baskets. They have spreading stems which flow beautifully from the basket.

Whereas the plants in Calathea are like shrubs and are not grown as hanging plants, they do not have a spreading stem and stand erect in the container.

ClassificationMarantaCalathea
Kingdom Plantae Plantae
OrderZingiberalesZingiberales
FamilyMarantaceaeMarantaceae
GenusMarantaCalathea

Read more about different types of Prayer plants

2. Growth Habits

Calathea and Maranta have different growing habits, which can be easily distinguished when they grow outdoors untended.

However, keeping them indoors or confined in a pot generally causes them to look similar.

As already said, Calatheas have an erect growth habit and can be up to 2 feet in height.

Moreover, they are slow growers and eventually stop growing after attaining the highest height.

The leaves of Calathea are stiff and are slightly away from the main plant.

While on contrast, Maranta tends to grow continuously and spread as a ground cover. The body of Maranta is rather flowy or vine-like than erect.

Maranta may reach a height of 10 to 12 inches and a width of 15 to 18 inches.

Moreover, each node of Maranta touching ground can produce roots and grow into a new plant.

With such spreading nature of Maranta, they can be grown outdoors in open ground to cover the whole space as a decorative cover plant.

3. Leaf Shape and Texture

The difference in leaf shape and texture of Maranta and Calathea are very difficult features to distinguish upon as they are only slightly different.

Moreover, they have very colorful and showy leaves, which vary among Maranta and Calathea.

The leaves of Maranta are elliptical or oval with a velvety appearance and up to 4 to 8 inches in length.

At the same time, the leaves of Calathea are in various shapes, elliptical, oval, or round in shape with a waxy appearance and up to 12 inches long.

calathea alberti on the left and Maranta leuconeura on the right
calathea alberti vs. Maranta leuconeura (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

4. Leaf Variegation

The variegation is the most notable difference that can be noticed very easily, even at a glance, to distinguish between Maranta and Calathea.

Moreover, different patterns of variegations are the main elements that make these plants beautiful and showy.

The distinct midrib and vein marking is the most distinct feature on the leaves of Maranta. In addition, Maranta generally has boldly striped or splotchy patterns.

On the contrary, the leaves of Calathea have very striking patterns of various kinds.

Maranta-vs-Calathea-variegation
Maranta vs. Calathea variegation

The patterns of Calathea seem to be carefully painted on them with a fine-tipped pen, with each calathea variety having its unique pattern.

Some Calathea has fine lines, while others have patterns like in animals such as rattlesnake, peacock, etc.

5. Foliage Color

Foliage color is another easily distinguishable visual cue for you to differentiate between Maranta and Calathea.

The leaves of Calathea have bright colors. In addition, the underside of the leaves often has bold colors like purple.

The glossy dark-green leaves of Maranta have noticeable red-colored veins.

The leaf’s central part features lighter green patterns that go up the center. The undersides of the leaves of this maranta plant are reddish-purple.

6. Propagation Methods

Propagation is when you should be careful to distinguish Maranta and Calathea as they have different propagation methods.

Knowing the propagation method of these beautiful plants will help you increase your collection to adorn your indoor surroundings.

Maranta is propagated by various methods, like stem cutting, root division while repotting, and seeds.

On the other hand, propagation of Calathea can only be done with root division.

You may also want to read about Calathea Orbifolia.

Similarities Between Maranta and Calathea

Similarly, there are several similarities between the Maranta and Calathea which are described in detail below:

FactorsCharacteristics
SoilLoamy to clayey, acidic soil with 5-6 pH
LightBright indirect light
WaterTwice a week
Temperature and Humidity
60- 80 Fahrenheit (or 15- 25 degrees celsius
high humidity
FertilizerLiquid fertilizer, every two weeks
PruningDead leaves, diseased parts, and leggy stems
ContainerTerracotta, plastic, wooden, or cemented pots with drainage holes
Pest and DiseaseSpider mites, mealybugs, and aphids
fungal rot
ToxicityBoth Non- toxic

1. Soil Type

Maranta and Calathea both need loamy to clayey, acidic soil with an abundance of organic matter to thrive.

The ideal soil pH for both of them is between 5.5 to 6. As long as the soil is well-draining, they may thrive in a range of conditions.

2. Light Requirement

Maranta and Calathea require bright indirect light to thrive. The brightness of the light directly affects the brightness of the color of leaves.

Insufficient light will make the leaves dull; however, direct light also burns the leaves.

Place your Maranta and Calathea in at least 5-6 hours of bright indirect light to keep your plant thriving.

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

3. Watering Requirements

Maranta and Calathea do not like a wet growing medium, and also these plants are very susceptible to drought conditions.

You should water these plants at least twice a week during the actively growing season, i.e., spring and summer.

However, during the winter season, decreasing the frequency of watering to once a week is sufficient.

4. Temperature and Humidity Requirement

Maranta and Calathea thrive at room temperature, i.e., 60- 80 Fahrenheit (or 15- 25 degrees celsius).

Similarly, humid surrounding is more liked by Maranta and Calathea more than dry conditions.

As they love the tropical climate, humidity above 60% is preferred.

5. Fertilizer Requirement

Only a small amount of liquid fertilizer every two weeks during the active growing period, i.e., spring and summer, is sufficient for Maranta and Calathea.

As plants go to dormancy during the winter season, avoid applying fertilizer during winter.

Overfeeding may cause roots to burn and leaves to turn brown; use an all-purpose fertilizer with a 10-10-10 N-P-K ratio to get the best result.

Miracle-Go Indoor Liquid Plant Food.
Miracle-Go Indoor Liquid Plant Food. (Source: Amazon)

6. Pruning Requirements

To keep your Maranta and Calathea in good shape and produce better foliage, you can prune them 2 to 3 times a year, preferably during the fall and spring seasons.

As Maranta keeps trailing around, you may want to prune the plant to keep it within the pot and give a more bushy appearance.

Besides, Maranta and Calathea are both pruned to remove the dead leaves, diseased parts, and leggy stems. Pruning rejuvenates the plant and encourages growth.

 

Pruning yellow leaves
Pruning Yellow Leaves (Source: Pixabay.com)

7. Type of Container

Terracotta pots with drainage holes are the best for planting the Maranta and Calathea plants as ample drainage is provided with such containers.

However, you can also use plastic, wooden, or cemented containers with good drainage facilities.

Note: Due to the vine-like growing habit of Maranta, they are suited best in the hanging pot as well but Calathea cannot be grown in hanging pots.

8. Common Pests and Diseases

Pests like spider mites, mealybugs, and aphids are known to infest Maranta and Calathea. However, spider mites are the most common ones.

Creating humid conditions is something spider mites hate. So, always try to maintain humid conditions to save your plant from nasty insects.

Similarly, diseases like fungal rot are most seen on Maranta and Calathea plants.

Over-watering should be avoided to prevent and treat fungal rot. Also, misting the leaves a lot encourages the leave rot.

Plant pest with eggs
Plant pest with eggs (Source: Pixabay.com)

Also, read in detail about caring of the Calathea plant.

9. Toxicity

Maranta and Calathea are both safe for humans and animals. You can freely place your plants on the lower shelf and not care if your pet or child is near to it.

However, as they are not edible plants, it is advisable not to shallow the plant parts.

Common Tips for Taking Care of Maranta and Calathea

Maranta and Calathea are considered to be moderately difficult plants to grow.

However, following some sets of tips is all that needs to grow a healthy and happy plant.

I have already mentioned most of the tips above, thoroughly following them to improve your green thumb.

Also, try following the below-given tips to make your plant thrive.

  • Repotting is also very important for the healthy growth of Maranta and Calathea. So, try repotting your plant when the pot becomes root bound.
  • It would be best if you repotted them every 2-3 years. And, the best time to repot Calathea and Maranta is spring.
  • While repotting the smaller plants, use a slightly bigger (1-2 inches wider) container each time to give space for the plant to grow.
  • You should provide some space for airflow between the plants to give your plants a happy place to grow.
  • While watering, you should never use very cold water. Instead, try using water at room temperature or slightly warm.
  • Also, using distilled water is most liked by Maranta and Calathea.

Well, there is a long list of work to do while caring for Maranta and Calathea plants.

But if you live on USDA hardiness zones 11 and 12, you will need to do less, as nature itself fulfills the major requirements.

Maranta leuconeura ‘Marisela
Maranta leuconeura ‘Marisela’ (Source: Pexels)

FAQs About Maranta VS Calathea

1. Does Calathea Perform Nyctinasty?

No, Calathea does not perform nyctinasty, and only Maranta species show the nyctinasty character in the Marantaceae family.

Nyctinasty is the characteristics of plants shown in response to the change of light intensity.

However, the leaves of Calathea show slight movements in response to change in temperature and humidity.

2. Which Plant Among Maranta and Calathea is Suitable for the Colder Region?

Maranta and Calathea need a tropical environment to thrive and not get along with extreme temperature changes.

Therefore, the optimum temperature of both plants is 15- 25 degrees celsius.

But, Maranta is known to tolerate colder than Calathea. So, it would be advisable to plant Maranta if you live in very cold regions.

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Conclusion

As you can now understand, Maranta and Calathea are very similar and have many distinguishable features that you can easily notice.

I hope after this article, you will no longer be confused and fooled like me at nurseries with wrong labelings.

Maranta and Calathea are both beautiful plants to grow, which will enhance your indoor for sure.

So, why not give a try growing these plants as a new plant in your collection?

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