How to Care for Calathea Orbifolia

Do you have a beautiful Calathea orbifolia but don't know how to take care of it? This guide will cover everything you need to know, from common problems to optimal care.

Plants make you blissful by adding a sense of serenity to your life. They are believed to have a very positive effect on human emotions and mental states. When it comes to caring for them, all plants are different; many are easier to care for than others. The Calathea orbifolia is a beautiful plant that does require some extra attention. You must take care of its sunlight requirements, watering, and fertilizing needs if you want it to stay healthy and happy. Don't worry; we have you covered!

A Brief On Calathea Orbifolia

The Calathea orbifolia is a gorgeous plant native to Bolivia, South America. This ornamental plant has beautiful big, round and striped leaves. Its veins are dark green, while the surface has a silver sheen.

Family: Marantaceae. (Arrowroot family)

Genus: Calathea.

Species: C. orbifolia

Common Names: Round-leaf plant, the Orbifolia Prayer plant.

Calatheas are a large genus that includes dozens of perennial blooming plants. The leaves of these American natives are known for their enormous, lovely, and brightly colored varieties. Although Calatheas can thrive indoors and outdoors in temperate regions, they are widely purchased to intensify the beauty of the house decor.

The name Calathea comes from the Greek term for "basket." This name was chosen because of its open flowers that look like a basket. Apart from this, they are also a type of prayer plant. The 'Prayer plants' got their unique name from their leaf-folding ritual.

While the sun is out, the leaves are wide open, soaking up that light, but at night they fold in, mimicking folding hands while praying. Due to this feature, it is often said that Calathea "Prays" to keep fungus away by curling in. This entire process is called nyctinasty.


Calatheas bloom throughout the growing season. However, sadly this floral bloom can only be witnessed while the plant is outdoors. They have small, insignificant white flowers often hidden behind the large and green leaves. As a houseplant, Calathea orbifolia is not known to flower.


Height: Indoor plants generally reach a height of 0.6 to 0.9 m (2' to 3'). On the other hand, outdoor growers can get much taller than indoor ones.

Leaf dimensions: The broad, circular leaves develop to be quite big. A mature leaf is about 20 to 38 cm (8" to 15") long and 25.4 to 38 cm (10" to 15") inches wide.


The Orbifolia Plant, like other Calatheas, is non-toxic to humans and their pets. So don't worry if its big and shiny looks attract your toddler or your dog, and they decide to munch on it. They will be just fine.

Growth Rate

The growth rate of C. orbifolia is slow to moderate. No need to worry about frequently transferring it into bigger pots.

Benefits Of C. Orbifolia As A Houseplant

  • It is an excellent air purifier that releases a high amount of oxygen
  • A natural humidifier for your room
  • A decorative and ornamental appearance to class up your decor
  • Improves your productivity and concentration
  • Calatheas are dust trappers
  • Their bright color and calming look act as a stress reliever

Common Problems You May Face With Calathea Orbifolia

As C. orbifolia is a high-maintenance plant, you may stumble upon one or all the issues mentioned below. Let's discuss them one by one:

Edges Of The Leaves Are Turning Brown

A dreaded sight for any owner.

This is a widespread problem faced by plant owners. There can be several reasons behind this, and underwatering is one of them. The leaves of the Calathea have a habit of curling in when they don't get enough water which eventually leads to their tips turning brown. These brownings can also be seen as small patches spread across the surface.

  • To check whether your soil is adequately moist or not, insert a chopstick vertically into the pot. If the chopstick comes out dry, then your soil is under-watered.
  • Another common reason for browning is the lack of humidity in the air. These plants come from the Amazon rainforest, which is why they like their surroundings humid. You can mist the leaves with water or place the pot on a pebble-filled tray to provide extra moisture. However, be cautious; don't use unfiltered tap water for misting. This will do more harm than good.
  • The third reason can be over-fertilization. Plant owners often overcompensate for the lack of nutrition by giving their plants extra food. This not only harms the plant but also kills it slowly.
  • Thrips can also cause unsightly brown spots on Calathea leaves. You'll have to eliminate the pests and trim the damaged leaves.
  • Last but not least is that your plant is aging. Yes, your plant will also show some aging signs like yellowing and browning of leaves. There's no need to worry about it, as this is natural. You can cut off the affected leaves to improve the plant's appearance.

Leaves Are Yellowing

Not as bad as browning, but definitely not as nice as lush green leaves!

Like the previous problem, this can also be caused by several reasons. The first and foremost is overwatering or underwatering. Leaves will also turn yellow when the plant is under stress due to temperature fluctuations or drafts. It is advisable to keep them away from rooms with high sunlight or radiators.

If you have a new Calathea orbifolia, some of its leaves may begin to yellow as it adjusts to your home. In the following case, we'll concentrate on creating ideal circumstances for the plant to thrive.

Drooping Of The Leaves

Like our previous problems, this is also caused by a lack of water. Check the moisture level as explained in the last section using chopsticks and water if needed.

Another reason the leaves droop can be the position of the plant. If you have placed it under direct sunlight, then the leaves may be drooping to avoid getting burned by the sun. It is the plant's way of adapting to the high heat.

Root rot is a more severe concern that can cause leaves to droop. Too much moisture in the soil can cause roots to become soggy and useless. In such situations, repot the plant. The new pot should be sterile and wet. Before replanting, make sure to prune off all the dead roots.

Curling Of The Leaves

This is a very common problem with Calathea orbifolia whenever the plant undergoes stress. There can be several reasons for the leaves' curling; however, it sometimes gets hard to identify.

The first and most important thing to remember is that Calathea must have enough moisture. The second most common issue is low temperature. These are native to a tropical environment, so that the extreme temperature can stress the plant, and the foliage will curl into the shape of tubes.

The next thing to be mindful of is the quality of the water. This means that it should not be loaded with minerals, especially salt. Lastly, it should not be placed directly under sunlight. The leaves will curl to avoid the high heat.

Pest Attack

You'll need to protect your precious plant from all sorts of attackers.

These beautiful plants often attract bugs that can destroy their leaves or cause diseases. The most common pests are thrips, aphids, whitefly, and mealybugs. These pests pierce the plant's tissue to feed on its sap, disrupting the plant's water transport system. As a result, the leaves will curl, eventually, turn brown, and die.

How To Properly Take Care Of Calathea Orbifolia?

Now that we know the most common problems with the Calathea orbifolia, let's talk about how to take care of it properly. The Calathea orbifolia's large leaves are striped with silver bands that are attractive in a very elegant way. In order to maintain this radiance, it requires a little extra TLC. But, don't worry, the following section will discuss all the needs and how to fulfill them in detail.

However, before diving into this section, here is a little sneak peek for the quick readers: Calathea orbifolia prefers moderately wet and soggy soil, medium light, and high humidity. It flourishes at temperatures of 18°C to 24°C (65°F to 75°F). During the growing season, you must use 1/4 to 1/2 strength of balanced fertilizer to keep it plump.

Water Requirements Of Calathea Orbifolia

Remember not to overwater.

This tropical plant loves humid conditions. This is why it is necessary to maintain avid watering conditions where the soil doesn't get soggy or completely dry.

You'll need to pay attention to the moisture level of your soil and rewater it when the top inch or two are nearly dry. Keep the compost moist and don't allow it to get soggy. This helps prevent pests and diseases caused by dampness.

Unlike other plants where the leaves wilt to tell you they are thirsty, C. orbifolia is different. They start to decline instead of wilting, so you need to pay close attention. You can check manually by touching the leaves or using a moisture meter for greater accuracy.

Calathea orbifolia is a very animated plant; therefore, another sign of dehydration is If your plant's leaves become less active. At night if the folding decreases or stops, then you need to water.

Watering frequency: This highly depends on the temperature outside. For example, it needs more frequent watering in summer compared to winter. In the summer, the high heat causes moisture to evaporate faster than in the winter. Watering this potted plant once a week or more frequently in the summer can be required.

That said, misting the leaves or top of the soil is a better hydration method than watering. In the winters, regularly watering Calathea orbifolia is a frequent blunder regarding adequate plant care. As a result, this practice leads to overwatering, so always follow soil moisture levels before watering your plants.

How to do it: Water your Calathea orbifolia deeply until the water runs through the holes in the pot's base. Allow the extra water to run out before replacing the pot on the drip tray. Also, keep an eye on the saucer now and again to ensure the pot isn't sitting in water.

Don't use tap water to water the Calathea orbifolia. Tap water often contains minerals in large quantities, which dehydrates the plant. Distilled water is your safest option.

However, if tap water is your only option, then be sure to use the water that has been sitting out for at least 24 hours. This procedure evaporates the chlorine and brings the water to room temperature. If you have very hard water, leave it out even longer.

Pro tip: Although Calathea orbifolia is not typically a drought-resistant plant, overwatering is still more harmful than underwatering.

Ideal Potting Soil For Calathea Orbifolia

Some soil just works better than others.

The soil in your Calathea orbifolia is essential to maintaining a healthy moisture balance. The mix should also be well-draining to prevent the roots from rotting and have good water retention capacity. It should also have natural organic fertility for optimum results.

The soil mixture: The ideal components for a Calathea potting mix are two parts potting soil, one portion orchid bark, and one part perlite or pumice. Perlite aids drainage, and organic matter retains moisture. One advantage of growing Calatheas in peat-based soil is that it contains all of the nutrients they require. However, peat may compact in time, so it's essential to ensure that the water drains regularly. Avoid using vermiculite as it locks in too much moisture.

Fertilizers To Use

Calatheas do not require much feeding. During summer, give your orbifolia plant a light monthly feeding to satisfy its mineral and nutrient requirements. Add one-quarter strength of an organic houseplant feed to one-quarter water. Don't feed any fertilizers during winter or fall.

Calathea orbifolia requires a balanced dose of fertilizer. This is why overfertilization can kill your plant. You should practice flushing the soil or changing it regularly to avoid this scenario. Between feedings, giving the soil a good drenching prevents mineral buildup.

Synthetic fertilizers are not as safe as organic amendments for building healthy soil. The roots of Orbifolia are sensitive to nonorganic contaminants. An excellent organic fertilizer is compost. Not only is compost a nutritious medium that plants thrive in, but it also helps to condition the soil for ideal moisture and drainage.

Light Requirements Of Calathea Orbifolia

Direct sunlight is not a winner here.

Calathea orbifolia is a tropical plant that hails from the understory of South American rainforests. These areas are shady and humid, so your Calathea will appreciate similar conditions.

The ideal place to keep your plant: The best place to put your Orbifolia is near an east- or north-facing window. If you live in a hot climate, you may need to provide some shade for your plant during the peak of summer. Also, keep well away from the window in a shaded nook when staying in rooms that face south and west.

Too little light will cause the leaves to become pale and may result in the loss of variegation. Too much light, on the other hand, will scorch the leaves and leave them with brown spots. So, ideally, Calathea orbifolia thrives in medium to low light, away from direct sunshine. You can tell whether the light is adequate by reading. If your eyes strain, there is too much or too little light.

Same as in the case of watering, Calathea is not a nocturnal plant, but it can still survive in low light better than in high brightness.

Temperature Requirements Of Calathea Orbifolia

This plant sure does not like the cold!

The Calathea orbifolia prefers warm temperatures and high humidity. The ideal temperature range for this plant is between 60-85 degrees Fahrenheit. This plant cannot tolerate freezing temperatures, so if you live in an area with cold winters, it's best to grow 'Orbifolia' as a houseplant.

Keep the temperature of your tropical plant at a constant 18°C to 24°C (65°F to 75°F), and it should grow nicely. If temperatures are too high, the leaves will start to curl. Too low, and the large glossy green leaves will droop.

The problem with growing Calatheas inside is maintaining them during the peak of both summer and winter months. Calatheas are susceptible to temperature changes that occur quickly. This implies that during summers, keeping them away from chilly drafts, such as those caused by air-conditioners or open windows. In winter, keeping them away from the radiators is a good idea.

Plants of the Calathea orbifolia variety can be kept outdoors in pots during the summer; the only condition, the temperature stays above 15ºC (60ºF). The potted tropical plant may thrive in your backyard if kept in a shaded area.

However, leaves will start showing signs of damage if the temperature drops below 15ºC (60ºF) and you forget to bring the plant inside.

Humidity Care For Calathea Orbifolia

Not a fan of aridity.

This high-humidity tropical plant requires at least 50% humidity to look at its best. This is why the ideal atmosphere to keep the Calathea is in the kitchen or a bathroom with a good light source.

However, if you want to showcase your plant in any other room, you will need to make some changes to increase the humidity. To ensure the proper conditions, an inexpensive hygrometer is a good solution. Here are some things you can do:

Use a pebble tray: Place your plant on top of a tray filled with pebbles and water. This not only enhances the aesthetics but also increases the humidity. The water will evaporate, and the humidity will rise around the plant.

Humidifier: You can also use a humidifier to increase the humidity in the room where your plant is kept. It's an investment and a maintenance burden, but you can grow beautiful Orbifolias even if you live in a desert with the appropriate gadget.

Group the plants: Another great way to enhance the humidity is by grouping the plants. The transpiration of several plants will raise the humidity around them. Just don't crowd them such that they start fighting for resources.

Use sea shells: Place some shells hollow-side up on top of the dirt to increase the evaporation. Fill them with water to provide a humid surrounding for the plant.

Misting: Misting the leaves of Calathea orbifolia will also help to raise the humidity around it. Use distilled water so you don't have mineral spots on the foliage.

Pruning Needs Of Calathea Orbilofia

This is the least detailed part of the care as hardly any pruning is required. There are no branches to trim because this plant is essentially a collection of single-leaved stems. They need no special care except for removing damaged, brown, or yellow leaves. Quickly sanitize your tools with rubbing alcohol and locate the main stem to cut the leaf near its base.

Common Pests And Diseases

This plant is not troubled by many pests; however, their humid requirements attract a few. Here are some of them of which you should be aware:

  • Pests

Mealybugs: These small white insects pierce the leaves and suck out the sap. If left unchecked, they will cause the leaves to be yellow and eventually die.

Spider mites: These tiny pests are not easy to spot with the naked eye, but their webbing and damage to the leaves are a tell-tale sign of their presence.

Thrip: These small black-silver insects are also tricky to spot but can be seen flying around the plant when disturbed.

Aphids: Small transparent insects on stems and leaves that are pear-shaped. The leaves may be wilted and deformed and coated with sticky honeydew.

  • Diseases

Calathea orbifolia plants are not particularly disease-prone, but they can be affected by a few common diseases, such as:

Powdery mildew: This fungal disease appears as a white powdery substance on the leaves. It is caused by too little ventilation or humidity. The best way to prevent powdery mildew is to increase air circulation around the plant.

Leaf spot: This fungal disease appears as brown or black spots on the leaves. It is caused by too much water on the leaves. To prevent any fungal attack, it is best to bring down the room's temperature.

The best way to get rid of these pests and diseases is to carefully inspect your plant regularly for any signs of pests or diseases. Also, to prevent such pest infestation, use neem oil regularly as it has properties that act as a deterrent for most pests.

However, if you see any, in the initial stages, you can use rubbing alcohol on cotton and wipe the infected area. Another option is to isolate the affected leaf and treat it with an appropriate pesticide or fungicide. It is best to cut the diseased part if it's infected beyond healing.

Pots To Use

The best option is to use a plastic container, which keeps moisture in and puts it inside a beautiful pot with no drainage holes. To raise the inner planter, add a layer of pebbles at the bottom of the outer vessel. This allows good space for drainage while also introducing moisture to the air around the leaves.

Don't use a terracotta pot. These pots can cause the soil to dry up too quickly.

Size of the pot: If you are too confused about the size, then always remember that it is better to go for a pot slightly larger than the one your plant came in. This is because when you water the plant, the roots will need space to grow and expand. A 0.25 m pot (10") is ideal if you are starting out.

Propagation Of Calathea Orbifolia

You'll be delighted to learn that your present Orbifolia plants can be divided and propagated to make new plants. However, Calatheas are challenging to propagate. The best time to do it is in the springtime.

Steps to propagate:

  • Take a healthy, mature plant out of the soil carefully. Shake away any extra dirt clinging to the roots.
  • Start by taking a sharp knife and cutting the rhizome, which is the thickened stem that grows horizontally underground, into two or three pieces. Each piece should have at least one stem and leaf.
  • Plant the rhizomes in pots filled with moistened potting soil at the same depth as the parent plant.
  • Cover each pot with a polythene bag or a plastic cover to keep the moisture in. This will aid in the growth of the plant by keeping it wet.
  • After 3 weeks, the roots will start growing, and after 1 month, you can remove the polythene. During this time, you can see tiny shoots growing in the pot.
  • You can transfer it from bright to medium indirect sunlight at this stage. However, repeated short exposures to bright light are necessary. After this, just follow the care guide as mentioned.

Repotting Of Calathea Orbifolia

Calathea orbifolia doesn't react very well to stress, so it is recommended to only repot this plant every two years. But, if you notice a dip in the standard growth rate, then it's time to report.

You can refresh the potting soil, identify any signs of root decay, and move them to a bigger pot while repotting. Here's how you can do it:

  • Pick a pot 5 cm (2") wider than the previous pot.
  • Fill the new pot with fresh potting mix till it reaches the halfway mark.
  • Carefully remove your plant from its current pot, taking care not to damage the roots.
  • Place it in the center of the new pot and fill it around with the remaining fresh potting mix.
  • Water your plant well and allow the excess water to drain away.
  • Place your newly potted plant in a shaded spot for a few days until it adjusts to its new home before moving it back to its usual location.

If you follow these simple steps, your Calathea orbifolia should be a happy, healthy plant. It will grace your home with its beautiful foliage for years to come.

Posted by Pavneet Lobana

Pavneet is a home and lifestyle blogger with a passion for creating beautiful and functional spaces. A self-taught chef, she also loves to cook and share her recipes with others. Whether you're looking to create a cozy reading nook or upgrade your kitchen, she has advice that will help you get the most out of your space.