Calathea Crocata Care Guide – Tips for Growing the Eternal Flame Plant

calathea crocata

The Calathea Crocata is also known as the Eternal Flame Plant. It features beautiful dark green colored leaves and bright yellow flowers making it very appealing to homeowners.

Like other Calathea plants, it is a member of the Marantaceae family. Thus, it is a prayer plant that closes its leaves at night and opens them up in the morning to absorb more light.

However, one of the biggest distinctions of this plant compared to others in its genus is its gorgeous blooms. The flower spikes up and comes int shape of the flame, which incidentally is where it gets its common name.

It blooms on and off throughout the year with the flowers lasting up to 2 or 3 months.

Of course, as with other calatheas, the plant is first and foremost known for its attractive foliage. These will old their own even without the flower.

Calathea Crocata Plant Care

Light Requirements

The Calathea Crocata thrives in a bright spot indoors. But, keep it away from direct sunlight which can scorch its leaves an cause its beautiful dark green foliage to fade.

In its natural habitat, the plant lives in the jungle floors of Central and South America. Thus, it is not only accustomed to warm and humid conditions, it also receives al lot of bright, indirect light.

That’s because the larger plants and trees take the brunt of the sun’s rays.

As such, it grows best when it receives plenty of sunlight that is not direct. Instead, it does best with filtered, diffused or dappled light.

Mimicking this will allow it to produce vibrant green foliage and bright yellow flowers.

This also means that an east and west facing windows are the best locations in your home. The offer a lot of light but not too much.

On the other hand, do be careful with a south facing window. Here, you’ll need to protect the plant from too much intensity.

A northern exposure also works since the plant can tolerate medium to low light. But, avoid overly dim or dark areas.

A better option though especially of you live towards the northern part of the country is a northeast facing window, which offers more light compared to the north side.

Finally, if you live somewhere you get four seasons, you may need to move the plant depending on the time of year.

Summer provides more intense sun. As such you may need to distance it away from the window more or move it to face another direction.

On the other hand, winters have much less sun, so you’ll want to take advantage of the south facing window during this time to get as much light as possible.

 

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Temperature

As mentioned, you rCalathea Crocata enjoys warm environments. It thrives when temperatures is kept between 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The more stable to conditions, the happier it will be.

In contrast, avoid fluctuations, cold rooms like those with air conditioners and areas with drafts.

As long as you keep temperatures between moderate to warm it will be happy.

And, while it can tolerate higher levels if needed, it does not offer the same leeway going down.

The plant does not like the cold.

As such, keep it away from areas that are below 60 degrees. In fact, if left in 55 degree temperatures it can sustain damage from the cold.

This also means that it won’t get through frost or snowy winters.

Instead, it can only live outdoors all year read if you experience warm weather 12 months of the year.

However, you can still take the plant outside during the summer to soak in some fresh air. Just make sure to bring it back indoors before the climate gets to 60 degrees.

 

Humidity

Similarly, your Calathea Crocata likes humidity. Again, this stems from its native habitat.

Ideally keep humidity between 50% to 60% indoors. Although, it will tolerate 40% to 50% without any harm. Thus, this makes it somewhat easier to care for the plant in most homes.

That said, if you live in a dry region, you will need to employ some measures to increase humidity.

Unfortunately many homes have humidity as low as 30%.

So, it is a good idea to check what the humidity in certain rooms are in your home. You can use a digital hygrometer do easily do this.

If you find that humidity is low or barely keeping the plant happy, you can mist the plant 3 times a week to help it along.

Should you prefer a more hands off approach, you can go with any of these other options.

  • Place the plant over stones in a water tray
  • Group it with other plants
  • Use a humidifier

calathea crocatasource: wikimedia commons 

 

How Often to Water Calathea Crocata

During the summer, your Calathea Crocata appreciates regular watering to keep soil moist.

Warm weather and more sunlight increases evaporation. It is also when the plant is actively growing. As such, it will need more water to sustain this growth (besides sun and fertilizer).

That said, be wary of overwatering or waterlogged soil. Wet or soggy soil ae no-no’s.

All of these can increase its risk of root rot and other fungal diseases.

So, it is a good idea to wait for the top 2 inches of soil to get dry between waterings. Doing so will prevent watering too frequently which will soak the plant or cause it to sit in water for long periods of time.

In winters, cut back on water the weather gets colder. Soil takes much longer to dry during this time.

And, the plant is resting after its growing season. As such, it does not need much water.

Finally, note that the Eternal Flame Plant is sensitive to chemicals in tap water. It does not like hard water which can cause its leaves to change color.

Thus, if you use tap water, always allow it to sit at room temperature for at least overnight. This will allow the chemicals to evaporate before you water the plant.

Alternatively, if you get enough rain in your area, you can collect it and use it to water your plants. Distilled water is another option, albeit more costly over the long run.

 

Soil for Calathea Crocata

Because soil plays a supporting role to water when it comes to root moisture, it is essential you use the right kind of potting mix for your Calathea Crocata.

It prefers light, well-draining soil that is fertile. This allows it to grow optimally.

More importantly the loose, airy and well-draining nature will allow the plant to absorb the moisture it needs while draining any excess to avoid waterlogging. It also allows good air circulation so the plant can breathe.

To achieve this kind of soil, you have a few options. You can use:

  • 2 parts peat to 1 part perlite or sand
  • African violet mix
  • 3 parts compost or high quality potting soil to 1 part peat moss

 

Fertilizer

The Calathea Crocata does not need a lot of fertilizer. As such, you want to be more cautious about overfeeding it as its roots are sensitive to too much mineral residue left behind by the chemicals in these products.

You only need to feed the plant during spring and summer which are its growing seasons.

Apply a water soluble fertilizer diluted to half strength once a month when you water the plant. Avoid fertilizing when the soil is dry because it increases the concentration of the dose to levels the plant does not appreciate.

There is no need to feed during the winter as the plant takes a break from its growth spurt.

It is likewise a good idea to flush the soil every few months to remove any remnants of the salt residues that have accumulated over time.

 

Flowering

For most foliage houseplants, flowering is not a priority. In fact, in many instances, you want to remove any blossoms that appear to make the plant focus all its resources on vegetation.

However, the Calathea Crocata is one worth flowering, much like how you would let hoyas bloom. That’s because they produce beautiful flowers. Whereas many other foliage plants have insignificant looking blossoms.

The Eternal Flame Plant produces flowers throughout the year although in an on and off manner. It is most prolific during the summer when the bright yellow flowers appear.

They key to helping them bloom is providing enough humidity. Also, avoid getting water in the flower.

It favors longer nights and shorter days as well, thus, you’ll see it do well around August.

 

Pruning

Pruning is one of the lower priority tasks when caring for your Calathea Crocata. It is not a huge plant but its leaves can extend outwards to the sides.

In terms of height, you’ll notice that it is its flower spikes that make it taller.

Thus, pruning mostly has to do with shaping the plant and controlling its size relative to where you display it in your home.

You can trim the leaves to reduce its spread. And, prune the spike after the flowers fade.

With the former, you want to trim at the base near the junction where the stalk and the leaves meet. Similarly, cutting the flower spike the base is ideal.

Beyond the aesthetics, it pruning is all about keeping the plant neat, tidy and healthy. This means removing the yellow and brown foliage as well as those that have been damaged.

It is also a good idea to regular clean the leaves. This will allow them to breathe better and absorb more light.

You can do so with a damp cloth. But, be careful with using leaf shine unless you know what you’re doing and what product you are using. I’ve heard a few horror stories where the leaves of the plants ended up sustaining more damage from using the product.

 

Calathea Crocata Propagation

With propagation, division is the way to go. Unfortunately, your Calathea Crocata does not do well when propagated via stem or leaf cutting.

So, you do need to get your hands a little dirtier to grow more of the plant.

The best time to do this is during spring, ideally when you repot the plant so you can reduce the number of times you need to take it out of its container.

To divide the plant,

  • Start by looking for healthy leaves and stems as your candidates. You can likewise divide the plant into 2, 3 or 4 depending on how large it is.
  • Once you’ve found the healthy leaves, trace then down and find their matching roots.
  • Then, mark this segment so you know the exact section you’ll be separating.
  • You can pull that section of the root ball off using your hands. Or, use a sterile knife for blade if you prefer.
  • Once you have the sections separated, plant each of them in their own containers with fresh potting mix. Return the mother plant to its original container and fill with fresh soil as well.
  • Water the soil until moist.

 

How to Repot Calathea Crocata

Your Calathea Crocata will grow to about 1 to 2 feet. It also does not have the biggest root system. Thus, repotting, like pruning, takes a back seat to humidity, sunlight, watering and feeding.

However, every year or two, you will need to repot the plant. Between these times, it will grow enough to need a bigger container.

And, the best way to know is if its roots are coming out of the holes at the bottom of the pot. Similarly, the roots will also being to encircle the container as they get longer and have nowhere to go but around one another.

The best time to repot the plant is during spring. And, you can do so by following these steps.

  • Prepare a new container that is 2 inches wider than the current one. Make sure it has drainage holes that the bottom.
  • Also have some fresh potting mix on hand. Please see the recipes above in the Soil Section.
  • Finally, the last step of preparation is to lay out some old newspaper or plastic on the floor if you’re going to do this indoors. I prefer to do it outside so there’s less cleaning up after. But, either way works.

To repot your Calathea Crocata,

  • Carefully take the root ball out of the container.
  • Inspect the root ball and roots. Untangle any roots that are wrapped around the root ball or amongst one another.
  • Remove any excess soil and dirt as well.
  • Fill the new container with fresh potting soil about a third of the way.
  • Place the root ball into the new container partially filled with soil. Then pack in the extra space with more soil to stabilize the plant upright.
  • Water the soil until moist. Then place the plant in a warm spot with bright, non-direct sunlight.

 

Toxicity

Good news! The Calathea Crocata is not toxic to humans or animals. So, you can keep it anywhere in your home without the risk of getting into problems in case your kids or pets happen to chew or ingest the leaves of the plant.

 

Pests and Diseases

Mealybugs and spider mites are the two most common pests to watch out for with this plant.

They both suck on the sap of the plant causing damage by robbing it of its nutrients. And, the larger the number of the these pests, the more they’re able to overwhelm the plant leading to weaken, get malnourished and eventually die.

As such, avoiding infestations is essential. And, if they happen, make sure to treat it immediately.

The best way to spot it early is to regularly inspect the plant’s leaves where they hide and do their damage.

Cleaning the leaves also lessens the chances of these critters coming around. And, doing it regularly allows to you quickly notice any changes.

On the other hand diseases care somewhat made more likely because of the plant’s love for humidity.

Moisture is the number 1 cause of disease, specifically excess moisture. And, high humidity contributes to that.

The other factor is how you water the plant. Too much watering. Too frequent watering and wetting the entire plant are all no-no’s.

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