The Calathea ornata is a lovely houseplant that features pairs of stripes running from the midrib to the edges of its leaves. Because of this unique look it has inherited many common names. These are just a few of them.
- Pinstripe Calathea
- Pinstripe Plant
- Zebra Plant
- Peacock Plant
The plant itself is not big by any means. It grows up to 2 feet tall and 2 feet wide. As such, this allows it to sit on tabletops or furniture.
If you look at the undersides of its leaves, you’ll see a violet color as well.
Besides its beauty, it also cleans the air, which makes it a good choice for rooms where you and your family tend to spend a lot of time.
The plain hails from tropical regions across the globe including Southeast Asia, Africa, Central and South America. As such, if you want it to bring out its bests colors, it is a good idea to provide it with warm, humid conditions.
Calathea Ornata Plant Care
Calathea Ornata Light
The Calathea ornata does best in bright, indirect light. Indoors, this is pretty much your only option if you want it to grow optimally and produce beautiful leaves.
It can take a little leeway down with moderate light. But, it is one of those plants that never got adjusted to low light. As such, keeping it dim or dark areas will slow its growth and smaller leaves.
You’ll also notice its pinstripes fade in color as it tries to get as much light as possible.
The good news is, it will recover once you move it to a brighter spot.
However, the same is not true if its gets exposed to direct light for long periods of time. This location will scorch its leaves causing it to lose its stripes.
However, the damage from burnt leaves is permanent. The only thing you can do is to move it to a more shaded area and take care of it there by giving it the right amount of water and plant food.
In a few weeks, the plant will begin to recover and the burnt leaves will eventually be discarded.
Unlike other calatheas, the ornata is fussy about light. As such, take the time to find a good position for it.
Often this is an eastern exposure with some kind of distancing from the window or protection in the form of shades or curtains.
And, as an early warning device, you always want to look at its leaves for hints of too much or too little light.
Like light, your Calathea ornata likes moderate to warm temperatures. This is because it comes from tropical regions. As such, is accustomed to this climate.
What this means is that it enjoys consistent temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees. You don’t want to let things go below 60 degrees. And, avoid sudden fluctuations, especially downward.
While the plant can tolerate a little bit higher temperatures, it will begin to experience some stress as the heat gets to 95 degrees.
That said, it is more susceptible to the cold. It cannot tolerate freezing temperatures or any kind of frost. Also avoid areas where cold drafts or breezes can get to the plant.
As such, leaving it outside in winter regions will cause it to become an annual. The only exception to this is if you live in USDA Hardiness zones 10 and 11.
This is why most growers keep it indoors. This way you have better control over environmental conditions.
When it comes to humidity, the higher the better. Since it comes from tropical conditions, it thrives in moist conditions.
Given high humidity, it will grow at its best and produce its most vibrant leaves.
You typically want to give it at least 50% humidity. But, it does well when levels get to between 60% to 70% and more.
This can be a problem for most homes since average household humidity runs from 30% to 50%. The air likewise often gets drier during the hot summer and winter months.
This is why many owners use a humidifier to keep their Calathea ornata happy.
Alternatively, you can keep it in the bathroom or kitchen, which are typically the two most humid areas in the home. Another option is placing it over pebbles in a water tray or grouping it with other plants.
You can likewise mist at least twice a week.
Watering Calathea Ornata
In keeping with its being fussy about its living conditions, you also want to be vigilant about proper watering.
Your Calathea ornate requires soil moisture and humidity to be on point. These two are among the most important aspects for the plant. Just as importantly, one affects the other.
The higher the humidity, the less you need to water. And, vice versa.
That said, your Calathea ornata thrives when soil is kept evenly moist. But, it cannot tolerate wet, soggy or saturated soil.
This means regular watering is needed while avoiding too much water. Overwatering will cause the plant to wilt. Its leaves will likewise turn yellow.
Unfortunately, coming back from this issue requires a slow recovery. And, if not corrected as soon as possible, it can eventually lead to root rot.
However, you also want to prevent the plant from getting too dry. It is not drought tolerant. And, once it experiences dehydration, you’ll see its leaf edges and tips turn brown and become crispy.
Last but not least, know that tap water can harm its leaves as well. The chemicals in tap water and cause foliage discoloration. It can likewise cause them to drop.
So, you always want to rule this out before changing your watering routine.
Soil for Calathea Ornata
Because the plant does not like soil that is too dry or wet, soil plays a huge role in helping your regular moisture.
Fast draining soil like sand will allow water to drain quickly. In contrast, heavier soil or those that are moisture retentive will hold on to more water.
For your Calathea ornata, you need a bit of both.
That’s because it needs enough water retention to keep it from getting dry. But, at the same time it likes well-draining soil so that it does not end up sitting it water or soggy soil.
The easiest way to achieve this is to use a combination of 2 parts peat moss combined with 1 part perlite.
The former is good at retaining water while still allowing for a bit of drainage, while the latter helps keep the soil from compacting while providing increased drainage.
If you prefer not having to mix anything and just get something from the store, then a good quality African violet mix will do the job.
Calathea Ornata Fertilizer
One of the things the Calathea ornata isn’t fussy about is feeding. In fact, it is quite low maintenance when it comes to fertilizing.
All it needs is once a month feeding of general purpose houseplant fertilizer (ideally with iron) during its growing season which are spring and summer. During this time, it is actively growing so it needs plant food to sustain its growth.
You don’t need to fertilize during winter when its growth slows down considerably.
Calathea ornata likewise don’t need a lot of pruning. You can trim it to maintain its shape and size as desired when keeping it indoors.
Other than that, it is all about removing, dead or discolored foliage.
At some point, you’ll see some leaves turn yellow. This is their natural life cycle as they get older. As such, remove them when they happen.
As long as the yellow foliage don’t happen to many leaves at once, you won’t have any problems.
However, it lots of leaves turn yellow at the same time, it means something is wrong. This is often a sign of overwatering. But, it can also mean a few other problems. So, eliminating each one by one is needed to diagnose the issue.
In addition to pruning foliage, cleaning them once in a while likewise helps. These collect dust. And, the dust keeps them from absorbing as much sunlight as possible.
When you clean them, use a slightly damp cloth.
Your Calathea ornata does not respond well to stem cutting. As such, this is not a viable means to propagate this beautiful plant.
Like many other aspects, it will make you work just a little bit more to get the results you want.
This comes in the form of division.
The good news is, with division, you get a semi-grown “new” plant immediately. Thus, unlike stem cuttings, you don’t have to wait a few weeks to it to root, then another few months to start producing some leaves.
How to Propagate Calathea Ornata via Division
- Start by waiting until spring or early summer to do this. Since it is actively growing during this time, it can quickly recover from the shock of being moved.
- Similarly, the best time to do this is when you’re repotting.
- Carefully take out the root ball from the container.
- Brush off any excess soil from the root ball.
- Check the roots to make sure they are healthy. Remove any dark or mushy roots.
- To find a section to separate, pick out healthy stems that make good candidates for your new plant.
- Trace the stems down the root ball. Then, look for where their roots come out in the soil. This will let you “mark” the section you can separate.
- Use your hands or a sterile knife to cut out the section.
- Now you have 2 separate plants. You can take one or two more sections if you want. But, this depends on how big your mother plant is.
- Fill the new pot with fresh soil. Also, refresh the mother plant’s container with new potting mix.
- Insert the new plant, then fil the remainder of the space with soil.
- Do the same for the mother plant. Since its root ball is smaller, it can go back to its original home instead of having to move to a larger container.
- Water the soil and keep it moist.
- Place both plants in warm, humid locations with bright, indirect sunlight.
Repotting Calathea Ornata
Repot your Calathea ornata once you see roots start to peek out from the drainage holes under the container. Often, this is needed every 1 to 2 years. But, it really depends on how quickly your plant grows.
When repotting, choose a container that is 2 inches larger than its current home. You’ll also need fresh potting mix. You can go with African violet mix or a DIY potting mix recipe made from 2 parts peat moss and 1 part perlite.
The best time to repot is during the spring or early summer.
Good news! Calathea ornata are not toxic to humans and animals. This means they’re safe to keep around the home and withing reach of children.
It also makes them a good alternative to other plants that can cause harm to young kids, dogs or cats you may have.
Pests and Diseases
Calathea ornata are typically resistant to pests and diseases. So, if well taken care of, you likely won’t need to deal with any of these problems.
However, like all plants, you may still encounter pests. The most common attackers including mealybugs, spider mites and aphids.
When it comes to disease, root rot, bacterial and fungal issues can likewise occur. However, by regulating water, and making sure the plant gets enough air circulation, you can completely avoid these issues.