When it comes to Calathea care, many people have an ambivalent relationship. The genus has a reputation for being finicky and hard to care for, which is why Calatheas are usually not recommended for beginners. You can be absolutely delighted to have plants in your home once you find what works for them.
Here are a few things you need to look for when troubleshooting your Calathea plant.
Before we begin…
Most of the time, excess moisture is the cause of problems with a Calathea. It may be necessary for you to uproot your plant if reducing watering does not help stop this process. Do the stems and roots appear black/brown and mushy? Are they smelly?
Taking the roots and repotting them into a fresh mixture that drains well is necessary if the answer is yes. Rot can occur because of fungal or bacterial infection.
Plant Calatheas in pots with drainage holes, and give them bright indirect light. Soil should be kept lightly moist, but not soggy.
There is unfortunately not much you can do if the stems are rotten.
Calathea yellow leaves
Unfortunately, this is symptomatic of a broad range of conditions:
- Overwatering may occur accidentally, even if you don’t water a lot, if your soil is not well-drained enough. Plants tend to get dehydrated when they don’t get enough light to process the water they’re receiving.
- Natural shedding of leaves at the base. As plants grow, they reabsorb nutrients from the lower leaves, which turn yellow, then crisp and brown, before dropping. Generally, this happens with lower leaves. If they don’t yellow alarmingly, it’s a normal occurrence.
- Leaf pattern loss due to overexposure to the sun. See the paragraph on leaf pattern loss. Leaves will turn yellow and crisp up pretty good if suddenly made to move to a sunny spot or if they are just receiving too much direct sun.
- Plant is cranky. Changes, such as moving (like when you buy it), repotting and division, seem to be very sensitive with Calatheas. Put a few weeks between your actions if you have just done any of those things.
- Calathea leaves can turn yellow when consistently underwatered. Although leaf droop and leaf curl may occur before they begin discoloring, other symptoms may also occur.
- Overfeeding or underfeeding. By flushing your soil with distilled water, you can eliminate excessive fertilizer that was applied. I would recommend a bit of diluted house plant food every month or so during the growing season if you have never really fertilized your plants.
Calathea leaves curling
Watering your plants too little can make Calathea leaves curl and wilt. The frustrating part is that they can also indicate that you’re actually overwatering! It’s also possible that the plant is simply cranky from being moved or repotted.
- Try watering the plant if the soil is dry and watch for uncurled leaves a few hours later. If that happens, you need to adjust your watering schedule. You have been under watering. This is especially true if the leaves are becoming crispy.
- Aerate the soil by poking a chopstick into it if it is moist, but the leaves are wilting. Taking this approach ensures roots get enough water.
- The plants haven’t dried out after that, but the leaves are still wilting. You might have overdone it and rotted the roots, so it may have to be uprooted for inspection.
Calathea brown tips
In the previous paragraph, it was mentioned that browning leaf edges on Calatheas is often linked to low humidity.
This could also potentially indicate the following:
Your Calathea might eventually develop brown leaf tips from constant underwatering. Aerate the soil if it seems to be too humid but the plant continues to be thirsty.
The excess moisture again. It’s a fact: almost every symptom of Calathea can be caused by excess moisture.
Mineral build-up in the soil
It is possible for Calatheas to be sensitive to the minerals and salts found in tap water. Your Calathea’s soil should be thoroughly brushed every couple of months, as you should with all your houseplants. With distilled water, excess minerals will be carried out with the water as it flows from the planter.
Exposure to too much light
If your Calathea leaves are suddenly exposed to brighter light, or are placed in full sun, these can cause the leaves to burn. Make sure to change light conditions slowly every time if you’re changing the plant.
Despite the difficulty in repairing fallen leaves, be sure to check your care regimen and make any necessary corrections.
Old leaves with brown tips should eventually be replaced with healthy, new foliage.
Calathea leaf pattern loss
It’s heartbreaking to see the Calathea patterns fade away when the leaves are loved for their beauty. The following conditions are strongly linked with this symptom:
Too much light
Calathea leaves will seem faded, translucent even, if they are getting too much light. There are not many chances that this happens indoors, but if one does, just move the potted plant several feet away from the window.
Too little light
A plant that’s in a low light spot and has faded leaves is likely to be affected. You have to accept that all plants need light, so they can’t be in a dark spot in your house. Calathea require a warmer location to thrive.
The plant might not be growing well if you have not fertilized it properly over time. Once a month in the growing season, provide an appropriate amount of diluted general houseplant fertilizer.
Mushy stems on Calathea
You know your plants are suffering from rot when they have mushy stalks. If you dig into the soil, you may find that the roots are also mushy and decaying.
In case it’s just the roots, you need to remove the afflicted parts, repot, and pray. The Calathea can probably not be saved if the stems are also damaged.
During the day the leaves of your Calathea plants may droop a bit more. This is completely normal with the leaves folding up at night, then letting loose in the daytime!
There could be another cause if the drooping is significant. Curled Calathea leaves might be related.
This is the most common cause, so check the soil. Aerate the soil if it is moist, since water is having difficulty reaching the roots. If it is dry, adjust your watering schedule.
You’ll need to either plant the plant in a higher light area or reduce watering if it’s fairly wet.
Drafts and low temperatures
It’s nice and toasty for them, since they are tropical! They prefer the temperature in the room.
It might be a good idea to pull out the magnifying glass if you see any speckles on your Calathea leaves or if they are crisping up, drying out or turning brown. There is a possibility that the plant is infested with unwelcome guests!
Also keep an eye out for flies on the underside of leaves and the spots where they join the stem. Some of the most common culprits are:
Calatheas is the place they go to most often, and it gets out of hand. Winter is the best time for their infestation since they prefer dry air. Make sure your plant has plenty of humidity and frequently gives its leaves a shower. That usually works.
This pest will appear if the soil remains consistently moist. Their larvae damage roots. Let the soil dry out a bit more. If that doesn’t work, try mixing one part 3% urea into the soil. a solution of hydrogen peroxide and four parts of water, and apply this to the soil.
Your Calathea’s leaves are sticky if these characteristics are present. An ant colony protects the scale by feeding it honeydew excreted by the scale. You can try an insecticide or removing the scales by hand by dipping a cotton bud in rubbing alcohol and attacking the scale.
Calatheas are plagued with these little cotton-like bugs that hide in crevices of leaves and stems and suck out their life. You can try neem oil and pesticides to eradicate them; however, if you don’t neem oil then the situation gets even trickier.
Increasing humidity for your Calathea
Houseplant enthusiasts will find a humidity meter especially helpful if they don’t already have one. The first thing to fix is if the humidity is below 50%-60% on your journey to discover what is wrong with your Calathea.
Place it in a more humid room like a bathroom, place it on a humidity tray (pebbles and a thin layer of water), group multiple plants together or run a humidifier.
You can submit any additional questions related to yellowing, curling, drooping, or other issues with Calathea leaves by leaving a comment below.
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