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Calatheas are one-of-a-kind houseplants that produce large, attractive foliage. Not only are they readily available, but Calatheas have several different cultivars, each with its own unique attributes. 

The Calathea orbifolia is one such variety that produces oval-shaped leaves and is actually one of the largest of the Calathea plants. 

Like the other cultivars, Calathea orbifolia is often thought of as a picky plant that can be hard to grow. But is there any truth to those rumors?

a healthy calathea orbifolia
Source: M L (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Is calathea orbifolia hard to care for?

Calathea orbifolia isn’t the easiest houseplant that you can grow, but it also isn’t the hardest. While this plant does need a certain level of care, it isn’t much more than what most other tropical houseplants need. Keep in mind that novice gardeners may find this plant a bit more needy than some other options.

That doesn’t mean that beginners still can not find success growing this plant. It just means that you may be required to provide a bit more maintenance with the Calathea orbifolia than other common houseplants, such as the spider plant.

If you do decide to grow the Calathea plant, make sure to read up and familiarize yourself with its basic needs. This will go a long way to ensuring you are providing the right care for this tropical beauty.

What’s the best calathea orbifolia soil?

Like other Calathea varieties, the Calathea orbifolia needs soil that can retain moisture while also draining properly. There are commercially available potting mixes made for Calatheas that work well, or you can create your own mixture by combining traditional potting soil with orchid bark.

The addition of the orchid bark helps to promote good root growth. Without this mixed into the soil, the roots of the Calathea orbifolia may have issues moving and growing through the growing medium.

As stated above, mass-produced growing medium designed for Calatheas are available for purchase, but these products are typically overpriced. Creating your own mixture is usually more cost effective and works just as well, if not better, than the more expensive options.

Related: Best Calathea Soil: Tips to Pick the Right Potting Mix

Should I fertilize calathea orbifolia?

Calathea orbifolia doesn’t need much feeding, but it can benefit from monthly applications of a balanced fertilizer during the spring and summer. This is when the plant is actively growing and the most common time when it needs a little boost.

All feeding should be stopped in the fall and winter months since this is when the plant goes into its dormant period. Continuing to fertilize the plant during this time can have a negative effect on its overall growth rate, and could even harm Calathea’s health and wellness.

To help prevent over fertilization of the Calathea orbifolia, make sure to dilute the fertilizer dose by 1/4 or 1/2 its strength. Additionally, you should avoid using fertilizers that are considered of low quality or are out-of-date.

What’s the best calathea orbifolia fertilizer?

Calathea orbifolia grows best when it is given a liquid, balanced fertilizer with an equal NPK ration, such as 5-5-5 or 10-10-10. Before giving the Calathea the fertilizer, dilute it to 1/2 or 1/4 its strength and then apply once a month in the spring and summer.

When fertilizing your calathea, avoid applying too much or too often as this can lead to serious problems for the Calathea orbifolia.

If you notice signs of over fertilization, such as yellowing leaves, brown tips, and salt forming on the top of the soil, immediately stop all feeding and flush the soil with water.

You can help prevent damage to the Calathea orbifolia by reading, and following, the application instructions listed on the fertilizer label. Furthermore, only use fertilizer that clearly states what the NPK ratio is, and stick to ones that have the same number for all three, such as 1-1-1.

calathea orbifolia in a light brown pot
Source: Abel Lopez (CC BY-SA 4.0)

What are calathea orbifolia’s light requirements?

As with other Calatheas, the Calathea orbifolia thrives in bright, indirect light. It shouldn’t be placed in direct sun as this is too harsh for the Calathea’s leaves. This tropical plant should also be kept out of low light conditions, since it does need light in order to grow properly.

While natural light is almost always the best option, artificial lighting can also be used when needed. Just remember that, even if you’re using artificial light, it still cannot be directly on the Calathea orbifolia as it can burn the leaves just like natural light.

Alternatively, not providing the Calathea orbifolia with enough light will result in stunted growth, wilted leaves and stems, discolored leaves, and leaf drop. If you want your Calathea orbifolia to grow as fast as possible, then you will need to provide the plant with the right amount of light.

You may also be interested in: Calathea Light Requirements: The Ultimate Guide

Can calathea orbifolia grow in low light?

No, low light is insufficient for Calathea orbifolia to thrive. Overall, Calathea orbifolia prefers bright light, although it can tolerate medium light as well. Low light conditions are, however, not enough for this plant, whose growth will be stunted if it only gets this amount of light.

The best way to determine if the light is enough for the Calathea is to try to read something. If you can read in that lighting condition without straining your eyes, then the light is probably sufficient for this plant.

Just make sure that the light is indirect. Direct light, be it from the sun or from an artificial source, is too harsh for this plant. When exposed to direct light, the leaves of the Calathea orbifolia will start to discolor, burn, scorch, and even fall off the plant.

Where should I put my calathea orbifolia?

Since Calathea orbifolia needs bright, indirect light, choose a room where the sun shines in abundance. Avoid dim rooms or ones that receive little to no sun. Additionally, the room where you grow the Calathea orbifolia needs to be warm all throughout the year.

West and east-facing windows are usually the best choice, as long as the window is covered with a sheer curtain. This will diffuse any harsh sun that shines in. Furthermore, you should ensure that the room isn’t drafty as this can cause temperature stress to the plant.

Remember that Calathea orbifolia will also need humidity levels of at least 50 percent. This means whatever room you grow the plant in will need to have this higher level of humidity.

calathea orbifolia on a shelf
Source: Bellie R (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Does calathea orbifolia like bathrooms?

The bathroom could make a wonderful location for your Calathea orbifolia, as long as it is well-lite and has a temperature of between 65 and 75 degrees. Bathrooms can actually make an ideal home for tropical houseplants, such as Calathea, since they typically experience periods of high humidity.

The only downside, however, is that some bathrooms do not have an abundance of bright sunlight for at least 6 hours a day. 

This can pose a problem for the Calathea orbifolia, since it does prefer natural light. A workaround for this issue is that the plant can also grow under artificial light.

Just make sure that whatever lighting you choose isn’t directly on the Calathea orbifolia as it can burn and scorch the plant’s foliage.

How often should I water calathea orbifolia?

Calathea orbifolia does well when its soil is allowed to dry out just a little between waterings. You shouldn’t allow the plant to get too dry, however, as this can stress the plant. On average, you will probably water the plant every 10 to 14 days.

This timeframe can change depending on the size of the plant, environmental conditions of the room the plant is in, and the time of year. For example, the amount of water you give the Calathea orbifolia is reduced in the winter months since the plant isn’t actively growing.

You should also avoid giving the plant too much water as this can cause serious problems. Calathea orbifolia cannot tolerate soggy soils or water-logged roots. Additionally, too much water will increase the chance of root rot.

Related: How Often to Water Calathea Plants (So They Thrive)

How do you know if calathea orbifolia needs water?

The best way to determine whether or not the Calathea orbifolia needs water is to insert your finger about 2 inches into the plant’s soil. If it feels dry, water the plant deeply. If, however, it feels wet, wait a day or two and then check again.

There are signs that the plant will give you when it needs watered, but waiting until these symptoms show up is not a good idea. Once the plant exhibits signs of underwatering, the plant has already started to experience stress, which opens the Calathea up to serious problems.

Signs that the Calathea orbifolia is underwatered are brown leaves that feel dry and crispy, wilted and limp stems, stunted growth, leaf drop, and dry soil. 

Remember that you shouldn’t wait until the plant shows signs that it needs watering, and you should instead be proactive about its watering needs.

Do you water calathea orbifolia from top or bottom?

Calathea orbifolia can be watered from both the top and the bottom. Watering from the bottom allows you to deeply hydrate the plant while reducing the risk of overwatering the plant. Watering from above, however, takes less time.

Watering from above is done in a matter of seconds, while bottom watering can take up to 40 or so minutes. 

It also requires you to keep checking the soil moisture level every 10 minutes. This can be a rather time-consuming process that some people just don’t want to deal with.

With that said, however, using the bottom watering method is usually the best course of action. Not only does it ensure you are watering the Calathea orbifolia deeply, but it also reduces the chance of overwatering the plant.

someone holding a calathea orbifolia
Source: Elina Gelzina Norkuviene (CC BY-SA 4.0)

What happens if you water calathea orbifolia with tap water?

Tap water should be avoided when watering Calathea orbifolia. This plant is sensitive to tap water, and using it to keep the plant hydrated can cause a slew of problems. In fact, when tap water is used, the Calathea orbifolia can begin to experience chemical burns.

The most common symptoms of tap water sensitivity include brown spots or brown edges on the leaves, leaf curl, stunted growth, and leaf drop. To help prevent this from occurring, always use distilled water to mist or water the Calathea orbifolia.

If tap water is your only option, make sure to fill the water jug with the tap water 24 hours before you plan on watering the Calathea orbifolia. This gives the chlorine enough time to dissipate from the tap water, but it doesn’t get rid of the minerals, fluoride, and salt that are also lurking in the water.

Should you mist calathea orbifolia?

Yes, misting your Calathea orbifolia can be a good idea. Because they are native to tropical parts of the world, the Calathea orbifolia thrives in areas with higher humidity levels. Unfortunately, most homes do not naturally maintain these levels. This is where misting can come in handy.

Misting not only gives the leaves a bit of hydration, but it also increases the humidity level around the plant without greatly affecting the humidity in the rest of your home. Misting is also a useful tool when conditions are drier than normal.

Just remember to only use distilled water when you mist the Calathea orbifolia. Furthermore, refrain from misting the plant too much as this can result in fungal diseases. If the plant’s leaves are not drying in between misting or the soil is becoming increasingly soggy, then you know you are misting too much.

calathea orbifolia on a rattan pot
Source: Angelika Flank (CC BY-SA 4.0)

How do I know if my calathea orbifolia is healthy?

The best way to know that your Calathea orbifolia is healthy is to simply look at the plant. Healthy Calathea plants won’t have drooping, discolored leaves. Nor will their stems feel brittle or soft. What they will have is lush foliage supported by strong stems.

Additionally, a healthy Calathea orbifolia will move in that iconic manner that has earned this plant the nickname “Prayer Plant.” The leaves of a healthy Calathea will move throughout the day, facing the sunlight, and then close up at night.

This is a natural occurrence that won’t happen if your Calathea is unhealthy or diseased. The reason why the plant does this is to conserve energy during periods of low light, such as at night when the sun goes down. If your Calathea orbifolia is not foliding up at night, then the plant may be experiencing issues that should be addressed as soon as possible.

How fast does calathea orbifolia grow?

Calathea plants are not fast growers, and they can grow only a few inches every year. While there are some things you can do to encourage fast growth, there is no way to change the plant’s naturally slow growth rate. 

So, if you’re looking for a plant that has a fast growth rate, you may want to consider a different species.

calathea orbifolia on a gray pot in the table
Source: Els N. (CC BY-SA 4.0)

What you can do, however, to help encourage strong and healthy growth, is ensure you are giving the Calathea orbifolia the best care possible. This means maintaining warm temperatures and high humidity levels, while also preventing the plant from becoming water stressed.

Additionally, the plant will need bright, indirect sunlight, and be kept out of low light conditions and direct sunlight. Avoid subjecting the Calathea orbifolia to extreme temperature fluctuations, and fertilize the plant once a month in the spring and summer.

How do you encourage calathea orbifolia growth?

The best way to encourage Calathea orbifolia to grow is to ensure the plant is receiving its ideal growing conditions. While this may seem like a no-brainer, some gardeners go to great lengths to try to make their plant grow faster, while still neglecting its basic needs.

The truth is, a happy and healthy plant will always grow better and faster than one that has been neglected. That is why it is important not to overlook the simple needs of your Calathea orbifolia.

If you feel that you have been providing the Calathea orbifolia with the best care and the plant is just not growing, then you may have it placed in an area where the lighting is too low. Try moving the plant to a location that receives bright, indirect sunlight for at least 6 to 8 hours a day.

Does calathea orbifolia flower?

In its native habitat, the Calathea orbifolia will produce white blooms. However, this doesn’t typically occur when the plant is grown indoors. You shouldn’t expect to see flowers on this plant. What the Calathea plant is grown for is its large, stunning foliage and not for any blooms.

Because of this, you shouldn’t be concerned if your Calathea orbifolia has never flowered. It is highly unlikely that the plant will produce blooms when grown indoors. This doesn’t mean that the plant isn’t healthy or that you have done something wrong.

Is calathea orbifolia toxic to cats and dogs?

Thankfully, all varieties of Calathea, including the Calathea orbifolia, are not toxic to cats and dogs. That doesn’t mean, however, that they cannot cause any type of problems if your pet decides to munch on the plant. In most cases, the symptoms are mild and last no more than 24 hours.

The most common symptoms that can occur when your pet consumes this plant are excessive drooling, nausea, lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms are usually more of a discomfort than a serious threat.

If, however, your pet continues to have symptoms for over 24 hours, or they are having difficulty breathing, immediately seek medical attention.

You may also be interested in: Is Calathea Toxic to Cats, Dogs or Humans?

Why does my calathea orbifolia have brown spots?

Brown spots on Calathea orbifolia are typically caused by improper watering or the wrong type of water. This could be not providing the plant with enough or too much water, or using tap water or water that is too cold. All of these can lead to brown spots developing on the Calathea’s leaves.

The best way to prevent these brown spots is to ensure you’re properly watering the plant. Additionally, you should only use lukewarm distilled water when you water the Calathea orbifolia.

Other potential causes of brown spots on the Calathea is leaf spot disease or sap-sucking insect infestation. Leaf spot disease can typically be controlled with fungicide, while the pest infestation will need to be treated with insecticidal soap.

Why do my calathea orbifolia leaves have brown edges?

Brown edges on a Calathea orbifolia are a sure sign that you have watered the plant with tap water. Tap water is the most commonly used water to hydrate plants, but there are some, such as the Calathea ornate, that are sensitive to tap water. 

For this plant, you should forgo tap and instead use distilled water.

Once you have stopped using tap water, the plant will be able to heal. New leaves that emerge should not develop brown edges. Unfortunately, whatever leaves currently have this issue will stay that way.

calathea orbifolia on a white pot near candles and decors
Source: Perez Fox Orlandho Alexis (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Why are my calathea orbifolia leaves turning yellow?

Yellowing leaves are a sure sign that your Calathea orbifolia has been overwatered. Overwatering can be due to simply watering the plant too much, as well as growing the Calathea in soil that doesn’t drain properly. Another potential cause is insufficient drainage in your Calathea’s pot.

All of these issues can lead to overwatering, which causes the plant’s leaves to turn yellow. Overwatering doesn’t just cause discoloration on the leaves, like yellow leaves on calathea; it also opens the plant up to fungal diseases, such as root rot. Root rot is a serious problem that can potentially kill the plant in as little as 10 days.

The good news is that you can prevent overwatering by simply making sure the Calathea orbifolia is in a pot with proper drain holes and has soil that drains well. Furthermore, only water the plant when the top 2 inches of soil start to dry.