The Calathea Insignis is also known as the Goeppertia Insignis. You may also hear it referred to the as the Maranta insignis or the Rattlesnake Plant.
In any case, the plant is a member of the Marantaceae family. And it is native to the tropical forests of Brazil and a few other South American nations.
The Calathea Insignis is best known for its stunning lance-shaped leaves with dark and light green patterns on the top side. This is where it gets its name, the rattlesnake plant, since the patterns resemble the skin patterns of that snake species.
Meanwhile, the undersides of its foliage have a purple color.
As with other prayer plants, it will fold its leaves at night to save on energy and open them back up in the morning to absorb as much sunlight as possible.
Similarly, the plant also produces flower spikes during the spring and summer. The flowers are about 1 to 3 inches and have yellow color.
Calathea Insignis Plant Care
The Calathea Insignis grows as ground cover in the tropical forests of Brazil. As such, they are used to moderate light that is filtered by the leaves and branches of larger trees.
On one hand, this makes the plant tolerate indoor lighting conditions well. And it does not have problems with lower light.
However, it also means that it is important to keep the plant away from direct sunlight, especially that during the mid-day. Similarly, it cannot tolerate full sun (outdoors).
As such, the best light for your Calathea Insignis is medium to bright, indirect, filtered or diffused light indoors. Outdoors, it will thrive in partial shade.
As far as location is concerned, an east facing window is ideal as the plant has no problems with direct light during the mornings. That’s because this is gentler. Just make sure to avoid direct sun between 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. when the sun is the strongest.
Since the plant is native to the tropical regions of Brazil, it also enjoys moderate to warm temperatures.
Its ideal temperature is between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit which is exactly the same as what we humans enjoy.
This makes it very easy to care for indoors as far as temperature is concerned.
However, you do need to be wary of a few things.
That’s because the plant’s minimum temperature requirement is 60 degrees. Therefore, try to keep it away from locations where temperature can dip below this level.
- Indoors, this means staying away from air conditioners and open windows with cold drafts.
- Outdoors, it means bringing the plant indoors once the temperature drops around fall.
If you live in USDA Hardiness Zones 10 and 11, you can grow your Calathea Insignis outdoors all year round in a pot or in the ground. However, if you live somewhere colder, it is important to be wary of when the climate drops.
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The most challenging part of growing a Calathea Insignis indoors is humidity and watering. So, you need to pay more attention to both at least in the beginning.
Once you get a good feel of what the plant wants, then the rest is much easier.
As far as specifics go, the Calathea Insignis enjoys humidity of 50% and higher. This is the environment it is used to in the humid tropical forests of Brazil.
And it will grow at its best under this condition.
It also prefers consistent levels which is why it can be tricky especially if you don’t live in a tropical region, have a greenhouse or grow cabinet.
If the plant does not get enough humidity, its leaves will roll up and turn brown in color.
This is your warning sign that it is struggling with the current level of moisture in the air.
When this happens, you can employ a few humidity boosting measures to keep the plant healthy and happy.
- Move it to the bathroom (provided there is enough light there)
- Mist the plant (but be careful not to wet its leaves too much)
- Invest in a humidifier
- Place the plant in pebble tray
- Group it with your other plants (this only works if you have many plants)
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How Often to Water Calathea Insignis
The Calathea Insignis enjoys moist soil especially during the warmer months when it is actively growing. However, avoid overwatering it.
You’ll know when you’re adding too much water as the soil will get wet and soggy.
It is very important to avoid this as the plant it sensitive to too much moisture. Therefore, watering too often can lead to fungal infections or even root rot.
As such, it is important to maintain a balance between keeping the soil moist and overwatering it.
Additionally, there are a few other things to consider when watering your Calathea Insignis.
- Use room temperature water – avoid cold water or hot, boiling water
- It is sensitive to minerals in tap water – in most cases it will tolerate tap water. However, if your municipality adds a lot of minerals like fluoride and chlorine into the tap, the plant will react adversely to it. So, if this is the case, purified water or rainwater is best. You can let tap water sit overnight to allow the chemicals to evaporate.
Another thing to keep in mind is that it is not a good idea to use a fixed watering schedule.
That’s because the weather changes significantly between summer and winter.
As such, the Calathea Insignis needs regular watering during spring and summer. But you want to cut back on watering come winter as the cold weather and lack of light increases the risk of overwatering.
As such the best way to tell how often to water your is to feel the soil each time before you add more water.
Wait until the top 2 inches of soil is completely dry before watering. You can test this by sticking your finger into the soil and down to the second knuckle.
If the soil feels dry at that depth, you can add water again. However, avoid doing so before then.
Alternatively, if you find it hard to tell whether the soil is moist or not, you can get a moisture meter and stick it into the soil. The gauge on top will tell you whether the soil is dry, moist or wet.
Calathea Insignis Potting Soil
The Calathea Insignis needs moist, well-draining soil with pH between 6.1 to 7.5.
Note the irony here.
The soil needs to retain moisture but not too much of it. This will keep the roots well-hydrated.
But it also needs to be able to drain the excess water so the roots don’t end up with wet feet.
This way, the roots get the water they need to stay healthy while you eliminate the risk of overwatering or waterlogged soil as well.
You can achieve this by using:
- 50% peat
- 40% perlite
- 10% compost
You can likewise substitute coco coir for peat if you want to use something that’s more environmentally friendly.
The important thing is that the soil has sufficient drainage so the roots never end up standing in water.
If you prefer not to make your own DIY potting mix, you can likewise pick up some African Violet soil. This is a good option that will work well for your Calathea Insignis.
The Calathea Insignis does not need a lot of fertilizer. Therefore, less is more when it comes to feeding the plant. However, it does need nutrients to ensure optimum growth and to avoid nutrient deficiencies.
Giving it too much can result in fertilizer burn.
Also, too much fertilizer can cause yellow leaves and drooping.
Use a balanced houseplant fertilizer diluted to half strength during its growing season (spring and summer). Avoid feeding the plant when the soil is dry. Instead, make sure the soil is moist when you fertilize.
You don’t need to fertilize the plant during winter.
The Calathea Insignis will grow to about 1.5 feet tall and wide indoors. Outside it can reach 2.5 feet high in height. More importantly, its leaves make up most of the plant.
Over time, the leaves will get taller and they will fan out towards a 45 degree angle on the sides. This is how the plant takes up space.
As such, pruning is not necessary unless you want to limit its height, width or density. Although, these are what makes the plant look stunning as it is able to show off its patterned green foliage.
So, as far as pruning is concerned, the Calathea Insignis is low maintenance.
That said, it is a good idea to regularly clean its leaves.
Dust will collect over time. And the most dust that settles on its foliage, the more they will clog its pores and block the amount of light it can absorb.
Also, dust attracts pests.
To clean the leaves, simply use a damp cloth and wipe off the dust from the foliage.
How to Propagate Calathea Insignis
The most effective way to propagate your Calathea Insignis is through division. As such, you do need a large enough plant since you don’t want to end up with two very small plants with few leaves on each.
This reduces their chances of survival.
The best time to propagate the plant is early spring since this is when the plant actively grows. As such, it will make quick initial progress before the cold weather arrives.
Since you’ll be taking the plant out of its pot, the ideal time to divide the plant is when you repot. That way, you don’t need to keep unpotting the plant often (which is does not appreciate).
Before you begin propagating the Calathea Insignis, there are a few things to prepare:
- Extra pots – this can be one or more pots depending on how many divisions you’re going to make.
- Fresh, well-draining potting soil – you’ll need this to fill the pots for the new plants. You can likewise refresh the soil on the mother plant well.
Also keep in mind that the Calathea Insignis has fragile roots. Therefore, take your time when unpotting the plant.
- Once you’ve gotten the plant out of its container, it is time to look for segments you can separate.
- How many segments you cut will depend on how many new plants you want to get out of it and how big the parent plant is.
- Make sure each section you choose has enough stems, leaves and corresponding roots.
- The roots are the most important since the new plant needs them to grow. However, you also want the new plants to have enough leaves, so they look good. Plus, leaves are needed for photosynthesis.
- Once you’ve decided on the sections, carefully take the sections apart.
- You can use your hands or a sterile knife to cut up the soil.
- Then plant each section into a pot filled with soil to about halfway.
- Once the new plant is in place, fill the remaining space with soil to stabilize the plant.
- Keep the soil moist is each of these new plants. And place them in medium, indirect light.
- In about 2 to 4 weeks, you should see then growing again.
How to Repot or Transplant Calathea Insignis
The Calathea Insignis usually needs to be repotted once every 1-2 years. The best time to repot is during spring although you can technically do this any time of the year.
Try to avoid very hot and very cold days as the weather can add stress to the shock it already experiences from being moved.
The most important thing is to give the plant good care and living conditions after repotting.
Also, only repot if the plant is healthy. Avoid doing so if the plant is currently struggling or having some problems.
The only time you need to repot your Calathea Insignis is when it has outgrown its container. You’ll know this as its roots will start coming out from the bottom of the pot’s drainage holes.
Choose a container that is 1-2 inches larger than the current one. And prepare well-draining potting soil since it is a good idea to replace the soil when you repot.
You can use 60% potting soil with 40% perlite.
Is It Toxic/Poisonous to Humans, Cats & Dogs
The Calathea Insignis is non-toxic to cats, dogs and people. This makes it safe to keep around the home as it does not pose any poison or toxicity risk even when accidentally ingested.
Nevertheless, try to keep any curious pets and young kids away since consuming the leaves or stems can still cause some unpleasant side effects (as the plant is not meant to be eaten).
Problems & Troubleshooting
The Calathea Insignis usually will not experience any serious pest issues. However, it can still be attacked by bugs. The most common are spider mites, aphids, scale and mealybugs.
Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid pests except for keeping the plant healthy and regularly cleaning its leaves.
As such, inspection is your best defense as this lets you detect these insects early before they grow in number and cause more damage.
Avoiding excess moisture is the most important thing to consider here. That’s because too much water (in the leaves or soil) will encourage bacterial and fungal development.
These can cause leaf infections and more importantly root rot.
Root rot is especially serious since you can’t see it as it happens. So, it gets advanced before the symptoms reach the leaves and stems.
And when roots rot, it prevents the plant from getting water and nutrients from the soil. Over time, this negatively affects its health (and can even lead to plant death).