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Kaunda Selisho
Lifestyle Journalist
2 minute read
9 Nov 2021
2:45 pm

Calatheas: Are ‘prayer plants’ the perfect plant for you?

Kaunda Selisho

As more people become 'plant parents', we take a look at different types of plants and what it takes to care for them. This week, we focus on calatheas.

Different tropical house plants in flower pots. Picture: iStock

While the world faces growing anti-natal sentiment, more and more people are opting to raise plants over humans. However, being a plant parent is not as easy as it sounds. 

The work that goes into being a plant parent goes beyond remembering to water your plant. There are a number of considerations to make; like which plant to choose (orchids, calatheas, a ficus), how much light they need, whether they thrive better indoors or outdoors… and so forth. 

This month, we take a look at calatheas (also known as prayer plants) and what goes into keeping them alive.

What is a calathea?

According to plant blog, The Sill, a calathea is a genus of neotropical rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plants that are known for the unique leaf movements of patterned foliage. 

The Sill explains that it is also considered a pet-friendly plant which makes it a great plant for anyone with curious pets. 

Often referred to as “prayer plants” due to its close relation the maranta plant, this plant is easily identified by the appearance of its leaves. According to Garderner’s World, other nicknames for the plant include the peacock plant, cathedral window plant, zebra plant and rattlesnake plant. 

How to care for a calathea plant

Garderner’s World advises taking care cues about this plant from the plants home; the forest floor of tropical rainforests.

“They cope well in low light levels but need plenty of humidity in order to thrive. You may notice your calathea moving its leaves throughout the day as it orientates itself towards the light – something it has evolved to do in its native environment.”

In order for such plants to thrive, they also need to be placed in a consistently warm spot that gets bright but indirect light or sunshine – something South Africa has in abundance.

Caring for such a plant may become a little bit of a chore when it comes to keeping it hydrated. 

Most plant sites advise misting the leaves daily in addition to keeping the plant’s soil moist in all seasons. 

Lastly, Gardener’s World advises watering calatheas with filtered or distilled water, not rainwater or tap water.