Calathea Burle Marx Care Tips – How to Grow Fishbone Prayer Plant

The Calathea Burle Marx is a beautiful houseplant that features long oval shaped leaves with stunning V-shaped stripes.

The alternating light and dark green colors make it a very popular plant because it will instantly catch your attention.

And, like many other plants, it goes by many names. As such, if you happen to see these, they all refer to the same plant.

  • Ctenanthe Burle-Marxii
  • Calathea Burle-Marxii
  • Calathea amabilis
  • Stromanthe amabilis
  • Fishbone Prayer Plant
  • Calathea fishbone

That plant itself is fairly low growing which is also one reason why it is well-suited for indoor care.

You can expect it to grow up to between 12 to 20 inches high and extend to about 16 inches from side to side as its foliage will fan out as the plant gets fuller.

Plant Care

Light Requirements

The Calathea Burle Marx is quite versatile when it comes to lighting. It is able to do well in low light, fluorescent light, grow lights all the way to bright, indirect light.

This makes it well-suited for indoor environments including homes and offices.

But, of these choices, natural light from the sun is the best source.

That said, you do want to avoid the two extremes.

  • Direct sunlight or very intense sun – this occurs in the afternoons and the peak of summer. Leaving the plant under this kind of exposure will burn its leaves causing their beautiful variegation and color to fade.
  • Dark areas or very dim locations – the plant’s variegated natural also means it needs more light than those with solid green leaves. And, if light is insufficient, it will lose these beautiful stripes and turn solid green itself to absorb more light.

Thus, indoors, an east or north facing window are best. If you decide to place it in a western or southern exposure, it needs some kind of protection from the afternoon sun, like blinds or drapes.

Outdoors, it does better in partial shade. There’s a lot more light outside the home because there are no walls and ceilings to block the sun from most directions. As such, it does not need as much light as it does indoors. Morning or later afternoon exposure are ideal since the sun isn’t too intense at these times.

 

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Temperature

Your Calathea Burle Marx does best in warm weather. This stems from being a native to the tropical regions of South America.

Ideal temperature for the plant is between 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. But, it can tolerate all the way up to around 85 to 90 degrees without a problem.

On the other hand, you don’t want to let is stay in areas colder than 60 degrees for long periods of time.

At best, it will tolerate conditions down to 55 degrees. But, below that, it will begin to experience stress, which is never a good thing for any plant.

This also means you want to avoid cold rooms or areas where temperature fluctuates quite a bit. This means keeping it away from vents and air conditioning as well as breezy areas like open windows.

Outdoors, it is hardy to USDA Zones 9 to 12. And, below zone 9, it won’t be able to survive through the winter since it cannot withstand frost or freezing temperature.

 

Humidity

While it is fairly easy to accommodate your Calathea Burle Marx with regards to light and temperature, humidity is a bit trickier.

Moisture is where the plant can get fussy. And, this makes it a bit challenging to care for.

Because of its origin, it thrives in humid conditions. And, it needs this throughout the year. Its ideal humidity level is between around 50% to 60%.

The reason for this is that tropical reasons like Central and South America as well as Southeast Asia tend to have humidity that runs from the upper 50s to the mid 60s or so.

Thus, here in the states, summers and winters can get challenging. This is especially true if you live in areas where there are four seasons. Hot summers tend to get dry. Similarly, winters are often the driest times of the year.

More importantly, most homes have humidity between 30% to 50%, which means you’ll likely need to apply some humidity boosting measures.

The simplest way to do this is to mist the plant 3 times a week. Although this can get time consuming after a while.

Other options including

  • Using a humidifier
  • Placing the plant on top of stones in a water tray
  • Grouping it with other plants
  • Keeping it in the bathroom or kitchen, which are naturally humid since we use water in these areas of the home

If you’re not sure what the humidity is in your home, I suggest getting a digital hygrometer. It is inexpensive and will tell you the humidity at different times of the day.

calathea burle marx

source: wikimedia commons

 

How Often to Water Calathea Burle Marx

In addition to high humidity, your Calathea Burle Marx also likes soil that is consistently moist.

As you can guess, it thrives in moist to damp environments.

This means regular watering especially during the warmer months.

But, avoid waterlogged, soggy or wet soil. While its can tolerate wet roots, it won’t be happy if you consistently drown it in moisture or let its roots always sit in water.

After a while, this will lead to root rot which damages its root tips’ ability to ability to absorb water and nutrients. If enough of its roots are damaged, the plant will eventually die of malnutrition since it cannot absorb liquids or nutrients from the soil.

Thus, it is a good ides to let the top few inches of soil dry between waterings. This will allow bulk of the soil to stay moist. Yet, prevent your from watering too frequently.

Also, scale back on moisture during the cold months as it takes longer for the soil to dry.

 

Soil for Calathea Burle Marx

Soil is likewise related to watering. It can help or hinder your depending on whether you use the right kind of soil for the plant.

Because the plant enjoys moist conditions, you want soil that can retain a bit of water.

But, it also needs to drain excess moisture to prevent the plant from sitting in water for long periods of time.

Thus, the perfect soil for your Calathea Burle Marx needs to be well draining.

Fortunately, there are many options available to achieve this kind of soil.

  • African violet mix – if you want to pick something up commercially without having to get individual ingredients or mixing the recipe, this is what I recommend. It is readily available in your local nursery.
  • 2 parts peat combined with 1 part perlite or sand – if you prefer making your own potting mix, which lets you save bit of cash, this is the simplest recipe with only 2 ingredients.
  • Regular potting soil mixed with sand or perlite – if you already have regular potting mix at home, you can use that along with perlite or sand.

Also, make sure to pick a container with drainage holes at the bottom. This way, the drained moisture can escape from the pot.

 

Fertilizer

To help your Calathea Burle Marx grow its best, apply an all-purpose fertilizer during the spring and summer. Once a month feeding during this time is enough to supply it with the nutrients it needs to grow, look healthy and produce vibrant colored leaves.

It does not need to be fed during the fall and winter seasons.

When it comes to the type of fertilizer, you do have a choice between water-soluble (which is powder that is mixed with water before applying) and granular. You can likewise opt for a slow release fertilizer if you wish.

That said, avoid the temptation of over feeding the plant. this can cause the edges of its leaves to turn brown.

As such, never feed the plant when it is dry, this will cause a high concentration of fertilizer salts. Instead, water the before or when you apply fertilizer to dilute the concentration.

 

Pruning

he Calathea Burle Marx is a low growing plant that will grow to about 20 inches upon maturity. It does get fairly wide as well as its leaves fan out.

Like other calathea plants, the leaves are the major attraction of the plant. And, they’re oversized relative to the plant itself.

The good news is, you don’t need to prune it often. But, it is a good idea to do so when its gets too bushy.

This will allow you to control its shape and look.

Additionally, remove any brown or yellow leaves as well as those have gotten damaged.

 

Calathea Burle Marx Propagation

The best way to propagate your Calathea Burle Marx is through division. As such, it is a good idea to do this when you repot the plant.

Spring is likewise the best time to do both.

Dividing the plant also allows it to grow more and become fuller. Additionally it promotes more vibrant foliage as well.

As such many growers recommend dividing your Calathea Burle Marx every few years.

Division is a more tedious task compared to stem or leaf cuttings, at least initially. But, it gives you a semi-grown plant immediately. Thus, you eliminate the wait time (and effort) of rooting the cuttings and waiting for the shoots and leaves to grow (which takes months).

To divide the plant, you’ll need to remove the root ball from the container and separate stems (and their corresponding roots) from the mother plant.

You can divide the plant into 2 giving you 1 new plant. Or up to as many as 4 giving your 3 news plants.

After your separate them, you can repot each of the segments into their own containers with fresh potting mix.

 

How to Repot Calathea Burle Marx

How you repot your Calathea Burle Marx will depend on what you want to do with it.

Repotting allows the plant to get bigger because it gives its roots more space to grow.

On average, you’ll likely need to repot it every 2 years or so. This will give its roots enough space to grow comfortably and not crowd one another in a tight container.

However, you also have the option of dividing the plant. If you choose the do so, you won’t need to move the mother plant to a wider pot since you’ll be taking a segment away, thereby reducing the overall size of the root ball.

This makes it easily fit back into its current container.

 

Toxicity

The plant is non-toxic to humans and animals. This makes it safe to keep around the house even within reach of the kids and your pets.

 

Pests and Diseases

When it comes to pests and diseases, your Calathea Burle Marx is not overly prone to it. However, keeping it healthy and clean is the best way to avoid these headaches.

Avoiding stress or shock is likewise something you want to do. Both will make the plant more susceptible to pests and diseases.

That said, the most common pests that will bother your plant are spider mites and mealybugs.

On the other hand, root rot and fungal infections are the most common diseases. These are often preventable by avoiding too much moisture.

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