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Maranta vs Calathea [6 Major Difference & Similarities]

As much as you fear correctly identifying Maranta and Calathea upon somebodies request due to their close resemblance, let me help you draw a clear difference between Maranta vs Calathea.

Maranta and Calathea belong to the same family, but the former is fast-growing and has an oval or lance-shaped with prominent veins running parallel to the leaf edges. Whereas, Calathea leaves are typically wiser and round with intricate patterns and metallic shine, with erect growth habits.

Although they require similar care, their growth patterns and propagation methods are distinct.

Are Calathea and Maranta the Same?

No, Calathea and Maranta are two different plant that appears identical due to the same botanical family they belong to, Marantaceae.

Belonging to the arrowroot family, the similarities in growing condition makes their differentiation more difficult.

Further, many consider the plants as Prayer, which is only half true. 

So, here are some significant similarities and differences between Maranta and Calathea.

Maranta Vs Calathea: Similarities

As Maranta and Calathea share the same family, they have similar is and environmental requirements along with their almost identical appearance. 

  • Soil Type: Maranta and Calathea thrive in loamy to clayey, well-draining acidic soil with pH 5.5 to 6 and abundant organic matter.
  • Light requirement: Provide at least 5-6 hours of bright indirect light for both plants to fulfill the light requirement that keeps your plant thriving. The brightness of the light directly affects the color of the leaves.
  • Regular Watering: Both plants despise wet feet but are also susceptible to drought conditions. They need watering at least twice a week during the actively growing season, i.e., spring and summer.
  • Warm Humid Conditions: Maranta and Calathea thrive at room temperature, i.e., 60- 80°F (or 15- 25°C). As they love the tropical climate, humidity above 60% is preferred.
  • Occasional Pruning: Being a neutral feeder, both plants do well with a dose of balanced fertilizer every two weeks only during the active growing seasons.
  • Common Pests: Pests like spider mites, mealybugs, and aphids are known to infest Maranta and Calathea. However, spider mites are the most common ones. Use neem oil to halt the pest spread.
  • Non-Toxic Nature: Plants in Marantaceae do not possess any harmful chemicals. Thus, Maratha plants and Calathea are non-toxic to cats, dogs, and humans. 

The non-toxic nature of the plants doesnot make the plants edible. We recommend you contact a nearby vetenerarian, incase your pets devaour on the plant.

Differences Between Maranta and Calathea

The major difference between Maranta and Calatheacomes from being different species within the same family. 

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

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

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
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. Growth Habits

As indoor plants, you must think twice before correctly identifying the Maranta and Calathea. But both plants have different growing habits when you grow them outdoors untended. 

Generally, Calatheas are slow growers that have an erect growth habit and can attain a height of 2-3 feet. On the contrary, Maranta is a flowy or vinelike plant that grows to a height of about 10-12 inches and a spread of 15 to 18 inches. 

While the Calathea stops growing after a certain height, Maranta tends to grow continuously and spread as a ground cover, suitable for landscape covers.

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

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

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

2. Leaf Shape and Texture

Differentiating Maranta and Calathea based on leaf shape and texture might demand a keen eye and quite some experience since there appear identical. 

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, with a waxy appearance and up to 12 inches long.

A cllage with Calathea white star on the left and Maranta on the right.
A side-by-side comparison makes the differentiation easier.

Moreover, Maranta leaves have distinct midrib and veins and some boldly striped or splotchy patterns. On the contrary, the leaves of Calathea have various striking designs that seem to be carefully painted on them with a fine-tipped pen.

For instance, Calathea White Star has white pinstripes and green leaf edges, but Calathea orbifolia leaves are light green with silvery green stripes.

3. Foliage Color

Leaves color is another notable clue to finding the difference between Maranta and Calathea. 

Calathea’s leaves have bright colors, with the underside having bold colors like purple, but the bottom of Maranta leaves is reddish-purple.

Meanwhile, the glossy dark-green leaves of Maranta have noticeable red-colored veins, and the center part features lighter green patterns that go up the center.

4. Leaf Movement

Maranta plants are famous for their unique ability to fold their leaves during the night as if they are praying, called Prayer Plants. 

The response is due to nyctinasty, a phenomenon where plant leaves move in response to light and dark conditions.

Maranta rolls its leaves as the light fades and starts unfolding with the incidence of light gradually throughout the day. 

However, Calathea doesn’t exhibit a distinct prayer movement but slight changes, which is barely notable. 

5. Propagation Methods

Like many other house plants, you can propagate Maranta by stem cutting and root division while repotting and seeds.

Maranta can readily initiate roots from its stem and divided roots when planted in a well-draining medium in a warm location. The growing medium can either be soil, LECA balls, or water. 

But interestingly, propagation in Calathea is only done by dividing the roots. The stem lack

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

Common Tips for Taking Care of Maranta and Calathea

When it comes to planting care, the arrowroot family is not among the easy ones, but it would not bother you like the orchid flowers

But if you live in USDA hardiness zones 11 and 12, you will need to do less, as the climate there is the most suitable for both plants.

Further, here are some additional tips to keep both the plants healthy for an ultimate showdown, Maranta vs Calathea.

  • Repot the plants immediately when they appear pot-bound. The signs include droopy yellow leaves, roots peeking out of the drain holes, and stagnant water on the pot.
  • Usually, when the plants are in good health, repot the Maranta and Calathea in a larger pot every 2-3 years during the spring.
  • Provide winter protection like a burlap cover to both plants if you are growing them in zone 10 and below.
  • Grow a single plant in a pot to avoid unnecessary competition among the plants for food, nutrients, and space.
  • Use a bottom-watering approach to avoid overwatering and underwatering issues in both plants. Also, do not use cold water as it may cause shock in the root zone leading to root rot.
  • Keep the plants away from pests and disease-infected plants to discourage the invasion. 
  • But if your plant is infected and has discolored leaves, prune them. Even in normal growing conditions, prune the Maranta and Calathea every two years to maintain the shape and encourage bushy growth.

FAQs About Maranta VS Calathea

Does Calathea Perform Nyctinasty?

Technically, Calathea does not perform nyctinasty since the movement of Calathea in response to the light and darkness is not relatively notable compared to the Maranta.

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

Maranta is known to tolerate cold climates more than Calathea. However, their temperature requirements are very similar, i.e., 15- 25°C. 

Editor’s Note

Be Aware of Scam!

There are several varieties of Maranta and Calathea, some rare and high-end.

Inspect the plant thoroughly to save yourself from wrong labels and unreasonable prices. 

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