Picky Plants #2 - Calatheas

Calatheas are gorgeous plants from the tropics of south America. There's are dozens of varieties, with an eclectic spectrum of colours, shapes and textures. One thing they all have in common is that they're a little fussy when it comes to watering.

Calathea ornata is one of the most popular varieties.

In the wild, calatheas live in humid warm rainforests, and creep up to around a metre tall, under the thick canopy above. This means that in the house, they will need to enjoy a consistent level of

moisture, but like a lot of leafy houseplants they won't like full sun.

Calatheas like bright but in-direct light to light shade. Too much sun can scorch the leaves, however too little will leave them looking a little yellow, and won't allow for their vivacity to shine through. They're very reactive to light, and some varieties, namely 'rufibarba', will raise their feather shaped, furry leaves up in the morning, and then back down again in the evening.

Watering is the trickiest thing with calatheas. They're similar to alocasias, which were covered in the last edition of Picky Plants, in that excess minerals and chlorine will 'burn' the tips of the leaves. This is where the extremities of the leaves will start to brown and crisp up. They love rainwater, but again like the alocasias, a good solution is to leave a bowl of tap water out in a container for a day to allow excess chlorine to dissipate and then water.

Rainforest plants will always enjoy humidity in the air, so a shady bathroom or kitchen (with at least a little natural light) would be the perfect environment for these wonderful plants thrive. The main thing to bear in mind all plants is to try and replicate their natural habitat as much as possible. Calatheas will want consistent moisture, indirect light and if possible humidity. The one tricky thing is just trying to use either rainwater, or tap water where the chlorine has dissipated.

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