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Keeping up with your Calathea Orbifolia

Plant ABC

Words by Georgie Sinclair

Illustrations by Camilla Perkins

Next up in our Plant ABC series is the Calathea Orbifolia. Just like its sisters in the Calathea family, the Orbifolia is popular for its exotic character and dramatic patterned leaves. But beauty always comes at a cost. This plant requires dedicated care and exceptional living conditions.

Latin name: Calathea Orbifolia

Nickname: Peacock Plant, Zebra plant

Family: Marantaceae

Native to: Tropical Americas

Spotted in: any dedicated plant lover’s home

Life Cycle: Perennial

Soil: Light soil such as vermiculite or perlite

Special Feature: Dramatic patterned leaves

Always thirsty

Ensure your plant has moist soil at all times. It will need watering nearly every day, especially in the summer.

Bright light

Your Calathea will happiest in a bright spot with indirect sunlight.

High humidity

The orbifolia needs consistent humidity levels for its good health. If you don’t live in a tropical climate or own an air humidifier, there are other ways you can create this artificially. Try placing the pot on a pebble tray with a shallow pool of water and spraying it regularly with lukewarm water.

Consistent temperature

It will react badly to sudden temperature changes. Place it in a comfortable spot in your apartment and don’t move it. Keep it away from radiators or other unstable sources of heat or chill. You can keep it on your balcony if you live in a warmer climate with temperatures consistently above 18 degrees. It will not survive in temperatures below 12 degrees.

Multiply your plant

Repot your orbifolia every year or two in the springtime by moving it into a larger pot with fresh potting mix. Take this opportunity to propagate your plant by what we call ‘division’. This involves dividing the plant into two or more parts from its roots. Water it well the day before to loosen up the soil and gently tease the roots apart until they are fully separated. Repot the plants immediately by covering the entire root with fresh soil.