Calathea Illustris Plant Care – The Complete Guide

The Calathea Illustris is also known as the Calathea Roseopicta Illustris. As such, it bears a close resemblance to the Calathea Roseopicta. It is actually a cross between the Calathea Dottie and the Calathea Medallion.

This gives you the stunning wide oval shaped leaves with lovely colored patterns.

The plant features deep green colored foliage with light green and pink accents. Meanwhile, the undersides of the leaves are bright purple in color.

Like other Calathea plants, the Calathea Illustris is a member of the Marantaceae family. As such, it is a prayer plant that opens and closes its leaves depending on the time of day.

Similarly, it is a bit fussy to care for. Thus, it is more of an intermediate plant in this regard, and not the best choice for beginners.

It is native to the tropical regions of Central and South America where it lives in the rainforests under the canopy of the larger trees.

Calathea Illustris Plant Care

Light Requirements

The Calathea Illustris enjoys medium to bright, indirect light. It also does well in low light. Its ability to tolerate a wide range of lighting conditions makes it easy to care for indoors.

That said, the plant will grow the fastest in a well-lit location. The only thing you need to remember is to avoid very intense light and direct sun, especially during mid-day between the times of 10:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. This is when the sun’s rays are the strongest.

Outdoors, the plant thrives in partial shade or bright shade. Again, keep it from strong full sun especially during mid-day and in the summertime.

Finally, one of the most fascinating things about the Calathea Illustris are its moving leaves.

It is a prayer plant. As such, you’ll see its leaves open and close depending on the time of day.

Once nightfall comes and darkness sets in, it leaves will fold upwards to conserve energy. But once daytime arrives and there’s sufficient light, its foliage will open up downwards to absorb as much illumination as possible.

If you don’t see your Calathea Illustris open its leaves, it means there isn’t enough light to keep the plant happy. Similarly, if it does not close its leaves at night, try moving it to location where there isn’t as much light after dusk.

It is also worth noting that you may hear some crackling noises when the leaves move.

 

Temperature

The Calathea Roseopicta Illustris has an idea temperature range of 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. This is where it grows at its best.

Although it can tolerate warmer conditions as well. But avoid leaving it in very hot locations as this will stress out the plant.

In general, the farther away from its ideal temperature range you go, the slower its overall growth will be. But it will still do well except past certain levels.

On the warmer end, avoid going far over 90 degrees Fahrenheit. And on the colder end, keep it above 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Of the two ends, the plant is more sensitive to the cold. That’s because it comes from the tropical regions of Central and South America. Thus, it can tolerate warm climate environments better.

However, since there’s no snow in its native habitat, it has low tolerance to cold.

This makes USDA Hardiness Zones 10 through 12 ideal for the plant.

 

Humidity

The Calathea Roseopicta Illustris enjoys humid environments. Ideally, keep it somewhere humidity is 50% and higher.

It can likewise tolerate slightly lower humidity. However, make sure to monitor the plant to see how it responds in this environment.

The thing you’re looking for are dry, crispy leaf tips and edges. When air moisture gets too dry, its foliage can get brittle or even turn brown.

You’ll easily notice this as when you touch the margins of the leaves, they’ll feel quite dry or even break into small pieces because they’ve become very brittle.

These are all signs that the plant needs more humidity.

As long as none of these happen and the plant is growing well, it means it is happy and has no problem with the current humidity in that position.

In case humidity gets too low, you can mist the plant or use a humidifier. Another free option is to place it in the bathroom or on top of rocks in a water tray.

 

How Often to Water Calathea Illustris

Water is the one aspect of care where the Calathea Illustris gets fussy. It also does the same with humidity so do watch out for the signs I mentioned above.

In general, anything related to moisture is something you want to be mindful of at least when you’re trying to get a feel for the plant.

Once you get moisture on point, everything else is easy with this plant.

The main thing with watering your Calathea Illustris is that it enjoys moist soil. But it is sensitive to overwatering. It also does not like wet feet.

Therefore, avoid letting its sit in water for extended periods of time.

The best way to do this is to allow the soil to slightly dry between waterings. I like to wait until the soil is dry halfway. You can also wait a bit longer so between the range of 50% to 75% of the soil being dry before adding more water is a good level to shoot for.

If you prefer to water more often, wait until at least the top 2 inches of soil is dry before adding more moisture.

This way, you cut down the risk of overwatering significantly.

If you do this, you’ll likely be watering the plant around once a week during the warmer months and about once every two weeks during winter.

Of course, this will vary by a few days depending on how hot or how cold the summers and winters get where you live.

 

Related

 

Calathea Illustris Potting Soil

Because soil affects how much moisture is drained or retained, it is another essential part of caring for the Calathea Illustris.

Make sure to use well-draining soil. Avoid water-retentive potting mixes as well.

I also don’t suggest using regular potting mix on its own without any amendments. This will retain too much moisture and keep the roots wet.

Instead, if you prefer something out of the box you can get from stores, go with African Violet soil.

I prefer to make my own DIY potting mix. This not only comes out cheaper but also lets you tinker with the ingredients and amounts based on how the plant is responding.

I’ve found a few combinations that work well. You can use any of them:

  • 60% regular houseplant potting mix with 40% perlite
  • 50% coco coir with 40% perlite and 10% compost
  • 50% potting soi with 20% orchid bark, 20% charcoal and 10% perlite

These combinations allow the soil to retain just enough moisture to keep the plant hydrated. And it will drain any excess moisture so the roots don’t end up standing in water.

 

Fertilizer

The Calathea Illustris is a light feeder. Therefore, avoid overfertilizing it.

It only needs to be fed once a month during its growing season. Also, dilute the application to half strength by adding more distilled water. You can use a liquid houseplant fertilizer.

Avoid feeding the plant when the soil is dry. This will make the fertilizer concentration very strong.

If you notice the plant’s leaves turning yellow or start to droop and wilt, it may be caused by too much plant food.

 

Pruning

The Calathea Illustris is not a big plant. More importantly, its leaves make up most of the plant.

Therefore, you don’t need to prune it much.

It is generally a low maintenance houseplant in this regard as the leaves tend to grove from the center. And they don’t extend too far away from the middle. This makes it lovely to look at.

The only time you may want to prune it is if it has gotten too bushy. Then again, you may want to check the pot as well if the plant needs repotting.

Often, the leaves will outgrow the pot by a lot because the roots have likewise gotten big in the container.

 

How to Propagate Calathea Illustris

The best way to propagate the Calathea Illustris is through division. Unfortunately, the plant cannot be propagated from stems nor leaves. As such, you cannot use stem cuttings or leaf cuttings to grow more of it.

Another option is to start from seeds. Although, this is a much more lengthy and tedious process.

Thus, division is the most efficient way to propagate Calathea Illustris.

The ideal time to propagate the Calathea Illustris is during spring or early summer. It is also a good idea to propagate it when you’re repotting since you’ll be taking the plant out of its container then.

Also, only propagate a mature Calathea Illustris. And, avoid doing so if it is not healthy.

To do so,

  1. Carefully take the plant out of its container just as when repotting it.
  2. Inspect the roots to look for any damage, pests, diseases or rotting. Also, brush off any excess soil and dirt to expose the roots.
  3. Determine which sections you’ll divide the plant into. In most cases, you’ll be splitting the plant in half. The only exception is if you have a large plant. This will allow you to make more than two divisions.
  4. Make sure that each division has corresponding roots, stems and leaves. The roots are the most important part as a new divided plant can’t survive without them.
  5. Once you’ve decided the sections, use your hands to separate the root ball into the determined sections. You can likewise use a knife to do this. But make sure the blade is sterilized.
  6. After dividing, pot up each of the sections into their own individual containers with fresh, well-draining potting soil.
  7. Water the soil until moist.
  8. It will take between 2 to 4 weeks to recover. After that they will start growing again.

 

How to Repot or Transplant Calathea Illustris

As your Calathea Illustris grows, you’ll need to repot it about once every 1-2 years. Ideally, you also want to refresh the soil annually. This will ensure that the soil does not get compacted, has good drainage and nutrients.

Wait until the roots start coming out from the holes at the bottom of the pot. This will be your cue when to repot.

The best time to repot is early spring.

When doing so, choose a container that is 2 inches wider in diameter. Avoid the temptation of going with a much larger pot.

 

Is It Toxic/Poisonous to Humans, Cats & Dogs

The Calathea Illustris is non-toxic. This makes it pet-safe and also safe to keep around the house even if you have very young kids playing around.

While not poisonous, try to avoid letting your cats, dogs or kids chew or ingest part of the plant as it can result in choking, gagging and the usually side effects.

 

Problems & Troubleshooting

Pests

The Calathea Illustris can experience pests at some point during its lifetime. The most common insect that will attack the plant are spider mites.

However, other sap sucking insects can likewise come around. These include mealybugs, aphids and scale.

The best way to prevent pests from happening is to keep the plant healthy. Pests like to prey on stressed out plants as well as those that are sick or weak. They can sense this and will pounce on it when the opportunity arises.

If you see any bugs, wash them away with water. You can likewise use neem oil or horticultural oil.

 

Diseases

Root rot is the biggest thing to watch out for. The plant is sensitive to excess moisture which makes root rot a very possible danger.

Therefore, avoid overwatering the plant and make sure to use well-draining potting mix.

Similarly, bacterial and fungal infections can likewise occur. Thus, don’t wet the leaves too much without letting them dry soon after.

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