Calathea is a large genus of plants also known as rattlesnake plants for their sinuously patterned foliage. While they can be grown outdoors in tropical environments, they are usually grown as houseplants instead. As with all houseplants, it is essential to know how much growth to expect from your Calathea so you can choose the right location for its size. These tips will help you know what your Calathea may accomplish with care.
- How Big and How Fast do Calathea Plants Grow? – The Essentials
- About Calathea Plants
- Calathea Plant Growth Indoors vs Outdoors
- Factors Contributing to the Speed and Development of a Calathea Plant
- Common Reasons Your Calathea Plant’s Growth is Slow or Stunted
- How to Make Your Calathea Plant Grow Faster
- Calathea Plant Growth FAQs
- Wrapping Up
How Big and How Fast do Calathea Plants Grow? – The Essentials
Calathea generally top out at three feet tall and two to three feet wide, with a few varieties reaching up to four feet tall instead. The Calathea plant can take between one to three years to achieve this growth, depending on the exact variety. The plants tend to grow from six inches to one foot per year.
About Calathea Plants
Calathea is an entire genus, not the name for a single plants. Yet all Calathea are closely related and share essential traits.
Family, Genus, and Taxonomy
Calathea is the genus of the rattlesnake plant in all of its forms. This makes them part of the Marantaceae family, which is also home to arrowroots and many other important tropical plants.
Most Calathea plants have dark green leaves, but many are popular for also featuring colorful patterns on the leaves in distinctive colors. They also tend to grow in a bushy habit with lots of foliage rising up from around a central stalk that produces the occasional flower.
What regions and native habitats are these plants native to?
Despite being introduced in many tropical areas like Hawaii and Florida, Calathea plants are only native to certain parts of Latin America. Many varieties are specifically found in Brazil.
Calathea Plant Growth Indoors vs Outdoors
A Calathea plant kept in the safety of your home or office won’t grow quite as quickly or wildly as one in its native jungles. The wild Calathea receives a lot more humidity, wind, organic nutrients,, and other essential factors for growth from its environment.
However, you don’t have to feel like you’re letting your Calathea down. The home environment is also free from floods, animals, and diseases that might shorten the lifespan of a wild plant.
Calathea Plant Natural Growth Cycle
This houseplant does go mildly dormant in the winter and is unlikely to grow actively. This is due to both the drop in average temperature and the shortened day length. Calathea plants won’t put out many new leaves or gain much size over the winter.
How Long Does it Take a Calathea Plant to Reach Full Size?
If appropriately maintained with the proper care, a Calathea purchased as a small plant of a few inches can reach its mature size in as little as two to three years. Cuttings with just a single full-sized leaf will likely need three years or less to achieve full growth, assuming no setbacks.
Once a Calathea reaches its mature size, it will remain more or less that size as new foliage develops to replace the old.
Factors Contributing to the Speed and Development of a Calathea Plant
The main factor determining the speed of a Calathea’s growth is its care. Giving it poor care won’t slow down its growth but only reduce the chances of it remaining healthy.
Once you’re on the path to a full-sized Calathea, you’re committed to that size unless you stick to thorough pruning.
Care and Maintenance of Calathea Plants
Calathea plants need medium to low indirect light, which is one of the more challenging things to get right when taking this plant indoors. They have their light filtered by the jungle canopy in their native habitat. Aside from giving them indirect but sufficient light for good growth, you’ll need to keep the soil damp but not soaking wet. Once you balance out these two factors, you should see rapid growth from a healthy Calathea.
Placing the plant in a high humidity area is recommended, as long as the light levels can be adjusted there. Calathea dry out quickly and tend to lose otherwise healthy leaves to browning if air humidity is low. Keeping the plant on a rapid growth plan requires humid air to prevent the untimely loss of valuable foliage.
Common Reasons Your Calathea Plant’s Growth is Slow or Stunted
Calathea may suddenly stop growing or even appear to lose size as leaves fall when their care is compromised. Here are a few of the most common reasons a Calathea plant might appear like it’s no longer growing.
While this plant likes damp soil, it can’t take waterlogged soil. This suffocates the roots and leads to root rot. Other signs of root rot include wilted, drooping, or limp leaves despite plenty of water in the soil, yellowing that begins at the leaf tip, and general loss of vibrancy.
Lack of Light
Calathea plants don’t want a lot of light, but a total lack of light makes them stop growing faster than anything else. If you can’t coax another inch of size or new leaves from your rattlesnake plant, try increasing the light levels just a little bit. Keep light indirect since too much illumination also slows down growth.
Pests and Diseases
Pressure from any diseases or pests attacking the plant will redirect any energy it would have used for growing. Calathea plants are prone to spider mites, mealybugs, thrips, and various fungal diseases. All of these can be hard to spot until the plant is suffering, so check the undersides of leaves and the soil’s surface regularly for signs of trouble.
Poor Soil Base
Like all houseplants, a Calathea depends on the soil mix in its container to feed it and stabilize its roots. When the soil is too thick, too loose, or doesn’t drain water as the plant would prefer, it will stop growing. Calathea plants prefer a loose soil mix that drains rapidly without being completely rocky or made only of bark.
This plant doesn’t need a lot of fertilizer to grow well, not even products designed for tropical houseplants. As a plant that thrives under the canopy of larger trees, they have most of the richest nutrients absorbed by their host trees instead. Calathea are used to thriving on just small doses of low nitrogen fertilizer, so avoid using plant sticks or other general applications if you don’t want to risk stunted growth.
Calathea plants are less temperature sensitive than some houseplants, but they still need to stay above 60 degrees F at all times (especially if you’re growing propagated calatheas). Dropping below this point could stunt the plant’s growth for weeks.
How to Make Your Calathea Plant Grow Faster
The Best Soil Types
Calathea plants do best in a soil mix made for tropical or jungle plants, such as orchid bark mix. This mimics the forest undergrowth where the Calathea naturally grow.
The Best Light Conditions
Find an area that provides your calathea plant with medium light but only in an indirect way. A plant bulb of around 25 watts per plant may work best, especially if it’s designed to diffuse the light.
The Most Suitable Potting Vessels and Containers
Calathea can handle almost any well-draining potting container. Plastic or terracotta will work fine, but it can’t hold water in any corners or edges, or the roots may rot. Avoid saucers that could hold overflow water near the roots too.
Ideal Temperature & Humidity
As long as the Calathea is above 60 degrees F and below around 90 degrees F, it should grow fine. Humidity is more important, with the more the better up to the 80% mark. Even rising a little above the home average of 40% humidity will help the Calathea grow faster.
When and How to Fertilize
Only fertilize calathea plants once a year and use a fertilizer that isn’t too strong. A general balanced formula like 1-1-1 should be fine, if used in moderation. Slightly more nitrogen is also fine, such as a 3-1-2.
When and How to Repot
Wait to repot the Calathea until roots are visible growing through the bottom of the pot.
Pruning your calathea plant of past prime foliage will allow for new growth to develop.
Calathea Plant Growth FAQs
Are Calathea Plants slow-growing?
They don’t grow as fast as some houseplants, but they’re one of the faster-growing varieties.
Are Calathea Plants easy to care for?
These plants are a little tricky to give just the right amount of light and humidity.
How do you know if your Calathea Plant is happy?
A happy Calathea plant has dark leaves, bright colors on any patterned areas and grows steadily until it reaches its full size.
Do Calathea Plants like big pots?
Calathea plants prefer to be squeezed a little and only need a pot about ½ inch bigger than its roots.
Do Calathea Plants like grow lights?
As long as the light is indirect and not too strong, grow lights can be a good option for Calathea.
Rattlesnake plants can get two or three feet tall and wide, so give them plenty of space. With care, your Calathea will reach its maximum size after just a few years.
Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.