Growing & Caring for Calathea Lancifolia (the Rattlesnake Plant)

The Calathea Lancifolia is also called the Rattlesnake Plant or the Rattlesnake Calathea. It gets these names from the patterns on its leaves which resemble those of a rattlesnake.

This stunning pattern which features various shades of green, along with its serrated-edged leaves are what make the plant stunning and memorable.

Once you see it, it is unlikely that you’ll forget the way it looks. This is why the Calathea Lancifolia is a popular houseplant.

It is also worth noting that the plant can bloom between late spring and early summer. Although like other flowering calatheas, it is less likely to do so indoors.

The plant is native to South America particularly the rainforests of Brazil. As such, it is fond of tropical climate conditions.

Calathea Lancifolia Plant Care

Rattlesnake Plant Light Requirements

The Calathea Lancifolia does well both indoors and outdoors provided that it gets enough light. It needs this light for photosynthesis. And although it can tolerate low light conditions, you’ll see its growth slow down when it gets less illumination.

The other risk of insufficient light is that its leaves will turn more green. This will cause it to lose its lovely patterns.

As such, indoors, the best location to keep the plant is somewhere with medium to bright indirect or filtered light.

Avoid direct sunlight as this can likewise cause it to lose its leaf patterns. Although this will happen differently compared to when there’s too little light.

In extreme cases when the plant gets too much direct sun, you’ll see brown or black scorch marks appear on the leaves. These are burn marks which damage the leaves.

This is a sign that it cannot tolerate the intensity of the light in that location. Therefore, more it somewhere less bright.

Indoors, the ideal location for the plant is near an east facing window. It will do well in the west and south although try to distance it from the window or give it some protection.

Outside, a spot under a tree or a shaded patio that’s bright is ideal. Anything with partial shade or bright shade will make it very happy.

 

Rattlesnake Plant Temperature

The Calathea Lancifolia prefers moderate to warm temperatures, ideally between 70 and 85 degrees. Just as importantly, it likes consistent climate conditions all year round.

It takes this from its native habitat which are the rainforests of Central and South America.

There, the plant gets very consistent warm weather in a most environment.

This is also why it can tolerate warm to hot temperatures.

However, the same is not true for the cold. Since the tropical regions of Central and South America have sunshine year round, the plant is not accustomed to cold, freezing weather, frost or snow.

In fact, it will does not do well in temperatures below 50 degrees.

As such, avoid air conditioners and areas in your home where cold breezes and drafts can enter. Similarly, be wary of sudden drops in nighttime temperature.

 

Rattlesnake Calathea Humidity

Humidity is another thing the Rattlesnake Calathea enjoys. The most rainforest environment means that the plant is happiest (and will grow at its best) when humidity is kept at 50% and over. Ideally, it would want 70% humidity if given a choice.

This makes it a bit challenging to care for indoors depending on where you live.

And there are two ways to see whether the plant acclimates well to your home’s humidity.

  • Get a digital hygrometer – this is an affordable device that measures humidity. With it you always know what the humidity is in any spot in your home at any given point in time. This will let you monitor the levels where the plant is healthiest and when it begins to struggle. It will also let you prepare ahead of time for certain months when the air gets drier (like summer and winter).
  • Watch its leaves – the leaves of your houseplants tell you a lot of different things. When it lacks humidity, the Rattlesnake plant’s leaves will droop or wilt. They can also turn brown starting from the tip and edges. You’ll also see dry margins that get crispy and brittle. When these symptoms appear, it is time to employ humidity increasing measures.

 

How Often to Water Calathea Lancifolia

Like humidity, watering is the other challenging aspect of caring for the Calathea Lancifolia. The plant gets quite fussy when it does not get what it wants.

Unfortunately, what it wants isn’t always what’s good for it.

What I mean by this is that the plant enjoys moist conditions. Again, this comes from the regular drenching it gets in the rainforest.

However, its roots cannot tolerate sitting in water for prolonged periods of time.

This is where it gets challenging. You need to find that balance between keeping the plant happy and hydrated. But avoid overwatering it to the point that you increase its risk for root rot and fungal infections.

This is why the best way to water the plant is to soak it then let it drain right after.

To do so, water the soil until moisture starts dripping from the bottom of the pot. The goal here is to saturate the entire root ball so the soil is drench. By flooding the soil, you give the roots lots of water to drink (and get hydrated).

But once the bottom of the pot start dripping with water, stop adding moisture and allow the soil to completely drain. This take between 10 to 20 minutes depending on how big the pot is. The bigger the container the longer it will take.

What you end up is moist soil (meaning the plant is safe from overwatering). All the while, it gets the moisture it wants.

The other thing to remember is, you want to wait until the soil dries out a bit before watering.

This means waiting at least until the top 1-2 inches of soil dries before adding more water. You can wait a little longer until 50% of the soil is dry as well.

However, don’t let the soil go bone dry as the Rattlesnake Plant does not like that.

 

Calathea Lancifolia Potting Soil

Because soaking and draining is the best way to water the plant, it becomes imperative that the soil you use has good drainage. Otherwise, once you soak the soil, it will retain most or all the moisture.

As such, what you get is waterlogged soil.

This leaves the plant standing in excess moisture, which is likewise a risk for root rot.

Thus, the most important thing to remember when choosing a potting mix for your Calathea Lancifolia is the soil needs to be well-draining.

You can use African violet potting soil if you prefer something commercial you can pick up from the store. I’ve likewise heard some home gardeners use cactus mix as well. Although, I’ve never tried it so I cannot tell how it works.

If you want to save some cash and be able to customize the soil as needed, go with a DIY potting mix.

This is what I do, although I did start out using commercial mixes as well in the beginning.

A simple potting mix that works great with Calathea Lancifolia combines:

  • 2 parts peat
  • 1 part perlite

If you already have standard potting soil at home, you can likewise go with:

  • 60% potting soil
  • 40% perlite

Finally, make sure that the container you choose has at least one drainage hole. This will allow the drained liquid to get out of the pot and not just pool at the bottom.

 

Rattlesnake Plant Fertilizer

The Calathea Lancifolia needs fertilizer in order to grow optimally and produce vibrant colored leaves.

It also likes being fed regularly during its growing period (spring and summer).

But it is not a heavy feeder. This means avoid overfertilizing the plant.

Instead, use a weak fertilizer or dilute your regular houseplant fertilizer to 50% or 25% strength. This is enough to keep the plant happy.

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

If you notice you notice yellow leaves, drooping or wilting, it could be a sign that you’re giving it too much plant food.

Remember the plant’s roots are sensitive. Therefore, added fertilizer also means more salt residue that accumulates in the soil. This increases the risk of fertilizer burn if you don’t regularly flush the soil.

 

Related

 

Rattlesnake Calathea Pruning

In ideal indoor conditions, the Calathea Lancifolia can grow to about 2-3 feet tall. It leaves will also fan outwards. And the bushier its gets the thicker, denser and wider it will be.

As such, while it won’t take up a ton of space above it, it can reach considerable diameter sideways.

Therefore, while it starts out in a small pot on the tabletop, it will eventually end up closer to the ground usually in an elevated planter or plant stand.

This also means that the bushier it gets, the more likely you may need to prune.

While the plant is stunning when you let it get thick and dense, it may take up more space than you’d want it. Therefore, regular trimming may be in order.

 

How to Propagate Calathea Lancifolia

Unfortunately, the Calathea Lancifolia cannot be propagated from stem cuttings. Instead, the most effective way to propagate it is via division.

This means that the best time to propagate it is when you repot the plant.

Since the Rattlesnake Plant does not like being moved a lot, it is best to do both tasks at the same time. This way, you only need to unpot it once.

To propagate the Calathea Lancifolia using division follow these steps:

  1. Prepare a pot or pots for the new plant. Also have some fresh potting mix ready.
  2. You can divide the mother plant by half (which is usually the case) or multiple sections (if you have a larger plant). However, the more divisions you make, the smaller the resulting plants get.
  3. The best time to propagate the Calathea Lancifolia is during spring to early summer.
  4. Start by preparing the extra pot and filling it with moist soil. You can use African violet mix or the DIY potting mixes above. Fill the pots to about a third or 40% of the way.
  5. Next, carefully take the parent plant out of its container. If it is big, tip it on its side and gently slide it out.
  6. Once you get the plant out, examine the root ball and the roots. Check for any root rot, damage, pests or disease. Also untangle any roots that wrap around one another.
  7. Then, determine which parts you’ll be dividing. Usually, there will be natural divisions. Make sure that each divided section has enough roots and leaves. A new plant wont’ survive if it does not have any roots.
  8. You can then use your hands to separate the root ball. Or, use a sterile knife to do this.
  9. After dividing the sections, plant each on into individual pots and backfill the soil.
  10. It can take up to 2-4 weeks for the plant to recover from the stress of being unpotted and divided.

 

How to Repot or Transplant Calathea Lancifolia

The Calathea Lancifolia will need repotting once very 1-2 years. How often will vary depending on how fast the plant grows. This in turn depends on how much light, fertilizer, humidity, watering and other factors it gets.

When choosing a container for repotting, pick one that is 2 inches wider in diameter. Try not to go bigger than that because it increases the volume of soil you need to use.

The more soil there is, the more moisture is needed to when watering the plant. This means the roots will be sitting in more water as well.

The steps for repotting is similar to propagation above. But you don’t need to divide the plant in this case. Instead, just move it to a larger container with fresh potting mix.

 

Is It Toxic/Poisonous to Humans, Cats & Dogs

No, the Calathea Lancifolia is non-toxic to cats, dogs or humans. This makes it safe to keep around the home even if you have young kids and pest running around.

However, while not poisonous, try to keep pets and young kids from ingesting parts of the plant as it can result in side effects like choking, gagging, vomiting and others.

 

Rattlesnake Calathea Problems & Troubleshooting

Rattlesnake Plant Pests

Spider mites are the most common pests that will come and attack your plant. However, they’re not the only ones. You may also see mealybugs, aphids, scale and fungus gnats.

As such, it is important to be on the lookout for these insects.

Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed way to prevent pests in houseplants. So, the only ting you can do is keep the plant healthy and clean it.

That’s because pests tend to attack stressed out, weak, sick and unhealthy plants. Similarly, they are attracted to dust

 

Diseases

Disease can likewise be an issue. But here, moisture is your #1 enemy.

Overwatering the soil, waterlogged soil, wet leaves and over misting the plant are among the most common causes.

And they can lead to root rot, blight, leaf spot and other bacterial or fungal infections.

Therefore, it is very important to avoid overwatering, use well-draining soil and not wet the leaves too much.

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