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Looking for a tropical houseplant with beautiful leaves that can become a focal point of any room? Then look no further than the calathea! 

Not only are calatheas absolutely stunning, but they are also not too difficult to care for. 

You will, however, need to ensure that your calathea’s light requirements are met, as well as a few other simple care needs, if you want this plant to thrive in your home for years to come.

Keep reading to find out just what Calathea needs when it comes to light and how you can help your plant thrive in your home.

calathea plant outside getting its calathea light requirement met

What are Calathea’s light requirements?

Calatheas grow best when they have indirect sunlight for at least 8 to 10 hours a day. These plants will also need 8 hours of darkness to help them thrive. Calatheas cannot tolerate direct sunlight as this will cause their leaves to scorch and burn, and their attractive foliage will start to fade.

Additionally, calatheas can tolerate low light, but if you want this plant to have optimal growth, you should aim to give it no less than 8 hours of indirect sun a day.

If you’re unable to provide this amount of light naturally, you can use artificial lighting to help supplement the sun’s rays. Calatheas can grow and even thrive under artificial light. Just make sure the light isn’t too harsh, as this can damage the plant’s leaves.

Can Calathea grow in low light?

Even though calathea’s light requirements suggest that the plant should have no less than 8 hours of indirect sun a day, these plants can still grow in low light conditions. That doesn’t mean there aren’t downsides to growing calatheas in low light, as this can result in slow or leggy growth.

The main concern is that the calathea won’t get the needed nutrients for strong and healthy growth. 

And as mentioned, when placed in low light conditions, calatheas can experience stunted or slowed growth, legginess, and small leaves. Consider this information when trying to decide where to place your calathea plant.

calathea on a table that meet the calathea's light requirements

Can I grow Calathea in the dark?

While the calathea can tolerate low light, it cannot handle complete darkness. Trying to grow this plant in the dark will leave you with an unhealthy plant. Instead, find a location in your home where the calathea will receive 8 to 10 hours of indirect sun and 8 hours of darkness.

If sunlight isn’t a possibility, then you will need to purchase a grow light for your plant to get the light it needs.

Can Calathea grow in full sun?

Full sun is considered as being six or more hours of direct sunlight. Unfortunately, the calathea’s light needs mean that it requires indirect sun, not direct. Because of this, calatheas shouldn’t be grown in full sun as it can scorch their leaves and even kill the plant.

Remember that in the calathea’s natural environment, the plant is protected from the harsh sun by the tree canopy above it. This means the plant isn’t subjected to direct sun when grown in its native habitat.

With that said, however, you can allow the calathea to receive the morning sun since it isn’t as harsh as the rays throughout the rest of the day. If you allow the calathea to grow in full sun, it can cause the foliage to fade.

Where should I place my Calathea?

The best indoor location for calathea is near a window where it can receive bright, indirect sun for at least 8 hours of the day. The room with the calathea should have a constant temperature of 65 to 80 degrees and a humidity level of more than 50 percent.

Make sure the calathea is away from any area where the temperature rapidly fluctuates up and down. Think of areas near exterior doors, drafty windows, and heating/cooling vents. 

As this means that temperatures in those areas will drastically change throughout the day, this can cause the plant to go into shock. 

calathea on a pot indoor place under indirect sunlight to meet calathea's light requirements

Which window is best for Calathea?

The best window for your calathea is one that faces east or west, as long as the sun shining through the window is diffused with a sheer curtain or blind. This versatile plant will also do well in front of a north-facing window. 

Just make sure that the plant isn’t subjected to full sun as this can damage the calathea’s leaves.

If you start to notice the foliage of the calathea is starting to discolor, looking sun burnt or scorched, the plant may be too close to the window or was placed in direct sun. 

Try moving the calathea back a bit from the window to ensure the sun’s harsh rays are not shining directly onto the plant. 

Will a Calathea thrive indoors?

Calathea are wonderful houseplants that can thrive indoors as long as they are provided with their optimal growing requirements. This includes providing them with the proper lighting, watering, soil, humidity, temperature, and fertilizer. If you simply place the plant anywhere and leave it to its own devices, the calathea’s health will quickly decline.

Growing calatheas indoors is not difficult, but it does take a little work on your part. Just as with other tropical houseplants, the calathea will need the right care to thrive.

Can I grow Calathea outside?

For most people, the calathea plant is one that will need to be kept indoors. This tropical plant isn’t cold hardy or frost tolerant, and subjecting the plant to low temps can quickly kill it. If, however, you live in USDA plant hardiness zones 11 and 12, you can plant the calathea outside.

Whether planted indoors or outside, the calathea’s light requirements are the same. That means keeping the plant out of direct sun, but ensuring it gets at least 8 to 10 hours of indirect light every single day.

calathea outside to meet calathea's light requirements

Can Calathea grow with LED lights?

Yes, calatheas can grow with LED lights, although make sure you keep the LED light about 12 to 18 feet away from the plant. You should also not allow the LED lighting to shine on the calathea for more than 16 hours a day.

LED lights meet the calathea’s light requirements very well. In fact, they’re actually a much better choice than other types of artificial lighting. 

This is because LEDs are much more energy-efficient and don’t produce an abundance of heat like traditional bulbs. With that said, however, you will need to ensure the lights are still far enough away from the calathea to prevent burning.

The exact distance can vary from one type and brand of LED to the next, so you will have to experiment a little to find the best range for your calathea.

How do I know if my Calathea is getting enough light?

If you are meeting the calathea’s light needs, the plant will readily produce new leaves that are deep green in color with that iconic pattern that the calathea plant is known for. Yellow or brown leaves, on the other hand, indicate that it’s getting insufficient light. 

Because each calathea cultivar can have varying leaf colors and patterns, it’s best to research the exact type you are growing to know what to look for. This will help you spot any potential problems before they reach the point of no return.

Signs your Calathea needs more light

It can be difficult to determine what is wrong with your houseplants, especially since they cannot quickly communicate with you about what issues they are experiencing. 

That doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t show you when something is wrong, such as not receiving enough light. In fact, there are several signs that your calathea will give you that can alert you that their lighting requirements are not being met.

1. Yellowing leaves

Yellowing leaves can signal a slew of problems with your calathea, and not receiving enough light is one of them. 

Plants need chlorophyll in order to produce the green color in their foliage, and they get this substance from the sun. Without it, the leaves would begin to yellow.

Remember that yellowing leaves is also a sign that the plant is being overwatered. Thankfully, there are other symptoms associated with overwatering you can look out for, such as the soil being soggy or overly moist.

2. Slowed or stunted growth

A common sign that the calathea’s light needs are not being met is slowed or stunted growth. 

Without the proper amount of light, your calathea cannot grow properly simply because it isn’t receiving the nutrients it needs to grow. If you want to ensure your plant will have the best growth possible, you will need to meet its light requirements.

calathea with other indoor plants under low light to meet calathea's light requirements

3. Leggy growth

When a plant is leggy, it produces more stems or vines and fewer leaves. While a leggy calathea isn’t usually considered a serious problem, it does make the plant look less full and less attractive. A leggy calathea is often caused by the plant not getting enough light.

Once the calathea’s light requirements have been met, you can prune the plant with a pair of pruning shears to help reduce the leggy appearance. 

You should avoid over pruning, however, since this can cause even more issues. Additionally, never prune more than 1/4 of the plant at one time.

4. Producing small leaves

Just as with stunted or slowed growth, a calathea that isn’t getting the right amount of light cannot produce the proper leaf size. 

The simple truth is that light is a vital factor in the overall health and growth of your calathea. Without the right lighting, the calathea will continue to produce these small and sickly looking leaves.

5. Leaves turning brown

While not as common as some of the other symptoms, browning leaves can also occur due to poor lighting conditions. 

Keep in mind, however, that several other issues can cause browning leaves, including the plant not getting enough water or being subjected to dry conditions.

6. Your calathea is leaning towards a light source

Calathea is a plant that will move its leaves towards a light source in an effort to get that vital energy and nutrients. So if you see the plant stretching towards an area, it is usually because the calathea is trying to absorb the light.

Try moving the calathea to an area where it can receive no less than 8 hours of sun a day. Alternatively, use artificial lighting, such as LED lights, as a substitute for natural sun.

calathea on a white pot with other indoor plants

What to do if your Calathea needs more light

If your calathea needs more light, the simple solution would be to move the plant closer to a window. However, make sure that the plant is not placed too close so that it gets burned. You can also consider buying a grow light for your calathea.

Remember that not all light is created equally and simply moving the calathea closer to a light source could cause more harm than good. This is because the calathea cannot handle direct sunlight as it is too harsh and will damage its leaves.

The best indoor location for calathea that needs more light is near an east-facing window that is equipped with a sheer curtain or a blind. The curtain or blind will help diffuse the direct light coming in through the window, which will make it suitable for the calathea.

What are the signs that the calathea is getting too much light?

The most common sign that the calathea is receiving too much light is discoloration of the leaves, such as browning of the leaves or sun scalding. Additionally, the brightly colored pattern of the calathea’s leaves can also start to fade when it is getting too much light.

You may also notice the leaves curling and affected foliage will begin to die and fall off the plant.

Will discolored leaves caused by low light turn green again?

Since low light can cause the calathea’s leaves to discolor, you may wonder whether or not these damaged leaves will turn green again once you have corrected the lighting situation. Unfortunately, once the leaves are discolored, they won’t go back to that stunning shade of green.

However, any new leaves that emerge won’t be discolored as long as you have corrected the lighting problem. If the new leaves still have that same discoloration, then you are still not meeting the calathea’s light requirements.

Are calatheas difficult to grow?

Some people assume that calatheas are difficult to grow simply because it does have a few stipulations if you want to see success with this plant. Remember, this plant is native to a tropical environment, which is much different than your home. 

Trying to make it conform to an environment that is completely different can result in some less than desirable experiences.

That doesn’t mean that the calathea isn’t worth it, or that it is difficult to grow. In fact, the calathea has many of the same growing requirements that other tropical plants have. So if you have experience growing tropical houseplants, you should find the calathea no more difficult than what you are used to.

calathea outside the garden to meet calathea's light requirements

Should I rotate the calathea plant?

It is a good idea to rotate the calathea plant about once every few months. This will help ensure the plant doesn’t grow in only one direction, while also preventing some leaves from losing color. Rotating helps to ensure the entire plant looks uniformed and neat.

Do I have to reduce the light in the winter?

The calathea’s light requirements do change a bit during the winter months when this plant isn’t actively growing. During this time, the calathea won’t need as much light as it does during the spring and summer. That doesn’t mean you can set the plant in a dim corner and expect it to thrive, though.

During the winter, you can reduce the amount of light it receives a day to as low as 6 hours, which is only 2 hours less than during the warmer months. 

Throughout this time, you will also reduce the amount of watering the plant needs and even cut back on its feeding if you are fertilizing the calathea. 

Does my Calathea have brown tips due to underwatering or too much light?

Brown tips are a sign that the plant is either not getting enough water or is receiving too much sun. To confirm which one is causing the problem, look at the soil the plant is growing in. Is it dry and pulling away from the pot?

If you answered yes, then the brown tips are more than likely caused by underwatering the calathea. This can typically be corrected by soaking the calathea in water for 20 to 30 minutes.

However, if the answer is no, the brown tips may be caused by direct sun. Examine the calathea throughout the day, paying attention to where the sun hits the plant when it comes into your home. Move the calathea to an area that is out of direct sun if the rays are shining directly onto the plant.