Propagating Calathea plants is actually one of the easier parts of caring for the plant. And it is something I do recommend you do for each of your calatheas since they are beautiful, wonderful plants, albeit a bit on the fussy side.
That said, the patterns on their leaves make them worth the extra effort. And since Calathea propagation is generally simple and free, it will allow you to grow the plant continuously (or give some away to friends and loved ones).
Below, I’ll take you through all the things you need to now above propagating Calathea plants, including the step by step process of Calathea propagation.
How To Propagate Calathea Plants
The most effective (and efficient) way to propagate calathea plants is through division. Since you’ll need to take the plant out of its container to do this, it is best to do so when you repot the plant.
This way you reduce the number of times you need to unpot the plant (which is does not like and can cause transplant shock).
Since calatheas have fragile roots, you want to be careful when taking the plant out of its container as well as when handling it.
Similarly, since division requires separating the parent plant into 2 or more sections, you won’t be able to just do it anytime like you would stem or leaf cuttings since the size of the plant matters.
If you divide very small plants, you reduce their risk of survival. And it takes much longer for them to grow big enough.
When is the Best Time to Propagate Calathea Plants?
The best time to propagate a Calathea plant is early spring. That’s because it begins actively growing in spring and continues to do so through the summer.
This also happens to be the best time to repot the plant. As such, it allows the plant quickly recover from the stress of being moved and divided.
Note that you should only propagate your calathea if it is healthy and does not have any problems. If it is weak, stressed, wilting, bothered by pests or other issues. avoid propagating the plant at least until it gets healthy.
How to Propagate a Calathea Plant (Step by Step)
The good news is Calathea propagation through division is fairly simple and straightforward. But you do need to get your hands dirty.
It is also a good idea to do some preparation ahead of time.
- Start by watering the plant about a day before you plan on propagating it. This helps reduce the stress from division and allows the plant to recover quickly. It also makes it easier to take the plant out of the pot.
- Next, have your new pots ready. How many pots you prepare will depend on how many divisions you’ll be making. In most cases, you’ll be dividing the plant’s root ball n half. But, you can likewise split it to more sections.
- Also have fresh, well-draining potting mix ready. You’ll be refreshing the old soil with new one. You can use 2 parts peat moss with 1 part perlite. But other well-draining soil work well too.
- Fill the new pots with the soil up to between a third of the way to 40%. You want to leave some space to put the root balls in.
- On the day of propagation, carefully take your Calathea out of its pot. Tip it on its side and slide the root ball out.
- Once out, remove any excess soil and dirt. Separate the roots to they’re not tangled together.
- Check the root ball for the natural divisions. You’ll want to separate the root ball via these divisions. You can use your hands or a sterilized knife. Be careful not the cut off or damage the roots while separating the sections.
- Place each section of roots into their own pots. Then fill the remaining space with the soil. It is likewise a good idea to include some soil from the parent plant in there. This helps reduce the stress from division.
- Once you’ve potted the plants up, water the soil then let it drain after. You want moist soil and not wet soggy soil.
Can Calathea Survive Without Roots?
Unfortunately, not. Calatheas are propagated by division. As such, the newly divided plants need roots in order to grow and develop.
Without them, that segment will not survive.
This is why it is crucial to ensure that each segment you choose to divide not only has stems and leaves but also has corresponding roots to these stems. Without the roots, the leaves will eventually wilt, get discolored and drop.
Also, because calathea plants don’t have nodes you cannot grow them from cuttings since the roots have nowhere to grow from in this method.
So, a calathea cannot survive without roots.
How Big Should the Plant Be Before Dividing It?
You’ll be able to tell when the plant is big enough to divide as there will be natural division on the root ball. This will become very obvious.
As such, don’t force the issue or try to get ahead of the plant’s schedule. Instead, let it show you when it is ready. When this happens, it will show you the divisions to follow.
With proper care, you’ll be able to divide the plant every year.
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How Many Divisions Can You Get from One Plant?
How many division you can get from one Calathea plant will vary on the size of the plant. In most cases, you’ll be able to divide the plant in half. This gives you 2 smaller plants from the 1 parent plant you had.
However, if you’ve allowed your calathea to grow bigger, you may be able to divide it into more than 2 divisions.
Are Some Calathea Varieties Easier or Harder to Propagate?
Like most houseplants, some calathea varieties are very easy to propagate while others are more troublesome to do so.
The good news is, most Calathea plants are easy to propagate.
That said, those with larger, thinner foliage and those with delicate leaves tend to be more fussy and require more care during propagation. They are likewise more difficult to propagate successfully.
Will Propagated Calathea Plants Be Identical to the Parent Plant?
Like people, houseplants grow based on nature and nurture. And such is the case for Calatheas.
Since you’re dividing the plant when propagating it, you should get an identical plant. This means that both the parent and the two (or more) smaller plants should be the same.
That’s the nature part since they the same genetic makeup.
However, there’s the nurture part.
Let’s say you divided a mother plant into 3 sections. And you kept one in the same spot as the parent, moved one outdoors into the ground in your garden. And another one in a pot and left it in a low lit room.
What happens is, although they should all come out the same, they will eventually grow differently due to their varying living conditions.
The one with the same environment as the parent plant will become identical to the mother plant. But, the calathea you planted outdoors will likely be much bigger.
And the one in low light in a pot is likely to be smaller. It can also lose its variegations (if the original plant had variegations) due to the lack of light.
Post Propagation Care: How to Care for Calatheas After Propagation
After propagation, take care of the newly divided plants like you did its parent. They require the same care.
Calatheas are not beginner plants. Instead, they are better for intermediate gardeners. That said, anyone can grow them if you know the plant’s requirements.
The reason for this is the plant is generally known to be fussy. Thus, it requires a bit more care compared to most houseplants, especially those that do well even when neglected.
The most important thing to watch out for is moisture.
As such, when you water and how you water are important. Additionally, it is important to choose the right soil. And, the plant will need the right humidity as well (although this is less of an issue compared to watering).
Thus, it is important to let the plant dry out a bit between waterings. Also, use a well-draining potting mix. And avoid tap water with heavy chemicals and minerals.
Similarly, the plant does not like the cold. Instead, it prefers a warm location that’s at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Low light can also affect is foliage and growth.
How Long Do the Divisions Take to Grow & Get Established?
Don’t expect your newly divided Calatheas to immediately grow after being propagated. Instead, be ready to wait between 2 to 4 weeks before you see them start growing again.
The reason is that they need time to recover from the stress of being divided. Additionally, you repotted them or just moved the plant from its original container. Thus, there’s some transplant shock involved as well.
Once the plant has recovered, you should see it start growing again.
How Fast Does Calathea Grow?
Calatheas are generally moderate to fast growers. However, different varieties have varying growth rates. So, some will grow faster than others.
Also, how much light, water, fertilizer, humidity, temperature, the kind of soil and size of the pot will all factor in to how fast your calathea grows.
So, no two plants will grow at the exact same growth rate unless they come from the same parent and are given the exact same living environments.
However, in most cases, you should see your calathea reach a mature size of between 1 to 2 feet in height within a year.
How quickly the divided plants will grow to the size of the mother plant will also depend on how many divisions you made during propagation.
If you divided a parent into 2, it will take less time for the smaller plants to reach their original size. But with multiple divisions, it will take longer.
Again, the environmental living conditions will factor into the new plants’ growth rate. For example in low light, the plants will be slow growing.
Therefore, it can take years before it gets to the size of its original parent.
Can You Propagate Calathea Plants from Seed?
Yes, aside from being propagated through division, calathea can be propagated from seed. However, it is more difficult to successfully do so. As such, division is the most effective way to propagate the plant.
Can You Grow Calathea from Cuttings?
Unfortunately, you cannot propagate calatheas from stem or leaf cuttings. Their stem cuttings and leaf cuttings do not have the proper structure to allow them to propagate from these methods.
As such, even if you tried placing stem cuttings in water, sphagnum moss or potting soil, they will not root. Similarly, leaf cuttings also are not able to produce roots.
This is why division is the preferred method. So, you do need to get your hands dirty.