Calathea plants, or prayer plants, have at least a dozen species and belong to the family Marantaceae. They are also called cathedral plants, peacock plants and zebra plants, and are often used to add to the aesthetic of homes and indoor offices. They are native to the Amazon jungles of South America. Like most plants, these tropical beauties need water to survive, and neglecting their needs for too long will see them succumb to the effects of underwatering. Read on to find out how to spot an underwatered calathea, as well as how to remedy the situation.
Calathea underwatered – Signs and how to revive
Signs of an underwatered calathea
Underwatered calatheas become droopy and their leaves will turn brown, or even crispy from dehydration. The leaves may also curl. Aside from underwatering, these signs could be seen in leaves subjected to low humidity, air conditioning or too much direct sun.
How to revive your underwatered calathea plants
- Water the plants generously.
Give the plants a good, thorough soaking, making sure that you can see excess water pouring out of the holes at the pot’s base. This is an indication that water has penetrated all of the soil and that all the roots have had access to moisture.
2. Adjust your watering schedule appropriately.
Water your calatheas frequently enough that the soil feels moist but never saturated. The frequency of watering will vary according to your local climate and weather conditions, as well as the soil quality and size of the pot. Monitor the soil’s moisture consistently and water the plants just before the soil becomes completely dry.
3. Keep the plants away from air conditioning drafts.
Air currents can sap the moisture from your plants’ leaves and cause them to become crispy, so choose a spot for them that is out of the way of these and other warm or cold drafts.
4. Mist the leaves every three days.
These are tropical plants native to the jungle, so naturally they enjoy a degree of humidity. Mist their leaves more frequently if your home or your local climate is drier than the plant likes. You can also use a humidifier, or place the pot on a tray filled with water and pebbles, so that the evaporating water increases the humidity around the plant.
5. Place the plants where they can get bright, indirect light.
Calatheas that get bright but indirect light are able to maintain their variegated colors while avoiding leaf scorch from sunburn. This level of light will also prevent the leaves from dehydrating too fast under the sun’s heat.
Avoid watering the plants too lightly, as this only moistens the top layer of the soil. If all of the soil is not penetrated, the roots will not be able to absorb any moisture, which means the plants will start to wilt and droop. Protect the plants from direct sunlight so that the leaves do not become scorched or discolored.
Calathea plant care
Calatheas are easy to care for and can be grown in planters or in the ground. These plants need bright, indirect sunlight to grow well, since these are the conditions of their natural habitat, which is the floor of jungles and forests. Direct sunlight could scorch their leaves and they could lose their vibrant colors.
When watering calatheas, use distilled or purified water. They prefer moist but not soggy soil; too much water could drown their roots, so water them moderately.
Calatheas do not like cold temperatures, because they are tropical plants. They prefer temperatures of 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures outside of this range could cause damage such as curling leaves. These plants prefer humid areas, and are able to absorb moisture from the air via their wide leaves.
Calatheas only need small amounts of fertilizer. Ideally, this should be a standard fertilizer applied during spring, summer and fall, which are the growth and flowering periods.
These plants do not require much pruning, other than the removal of dead or discolored leaves.
Some calathea plant species:
- Calathea ornata
- Calathea roseopicta
- Calathea lancifolia
- Calathea rufibarba
- Calathea orbifolia
- Calathea makoyana
Calatheas can be slightly picky when it comes to their care and cultivation. You will need to maintain your indoor humidity and air temperature at the right levels. This will ensure beautiful, lush green plants that can brighten up homes, offices, lobbies, meeting rooms and any other indoor spaces.
Calatheas are popular indoor houseplants because of their unique, attractive foliage and the fact that they are low-maintenance. Nevertheless, they are prone to the effects of underwatering, common signs of which include curling leaves, droopy leaves, and discolored or crispy leaves. To revive your plants, water them thoroughly until water pours from the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Keep them away from drafts and direct sunlight, and mist their leaves regularly.
Image: istockphoto.com / MilaDrumeva