It's a bedtime plant today that I'm featuring on leavesnbloom. To being with it's called Calathea crocata 'Tassmania' and each night it looks like it is saying its prayers. In fact, it folds up its leaves to let me know that its time for bed. Hence its common name 'The Prayer Plant'.
It's grown in the UK as a houseplant but originates from the tropical jungles of Brazil.
It has the most touchy-feely leaves which are puckered and ribbed. Actually, even without flowers, the plant looks very ornate. In fact, it grows into a lovely clump of rich dark foliage. The top side leaves are very dark green while on the underside they are purple.
But do you find this a difficult plant to grow in your home?
I know that many people struggle to keep Calathea crocata Tassmania alive. I've spoken in person to so many of you. So I hope that these instructions will help you to succeed with this lovely houseplant.
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Calathea crocata Tassmania Care Instructions
Anyhow, it has got to be said from the start that this plant can be quite demanding.
Light and Temperature
- Keep it away from strong sunlight. Subsequently it prefers light shade in the summer months and brighter light during the wintertime. Strong sunlight spoils the vibrancy of its leaves and fades them.
- Keep the plant warm with a minimum temperature of 16 °C /60 °F. Furthermore it hates draughts.
- Invest in a fine mist spray bottle (affiliate link) and mist the leaves every day with lukewarm/room temperature (soft) water – never cold water! Just make sure you only mist the leaves, not the flowers. Misting the leaves really deters red spider mites from infesting the plant.
- As for its flowers – they are quite spectacular and many call the plant the Eternal Flame due to the shape of its blooms perched on top of the tall thick stems.
- The flowers should last about 2 - 3 months.
- It also likes to be evenly moist especially during the hot summer months. Check what type of compost your plant is growing in when you buy it. Mine grows in a coco fibre type compost. Imports from Holland to the UK are usually in this type of compost. If it's grown in this medium then you need to keep the plant standing in 2 cms of water while in growth. It will say on the back of the label if it needs to be kept like this. So make sure to check the back of the label to see if it needs to be kept like this. Incidentally, it might just have a little diagram showing that it needs to sit in water.
- It isn’t a heavy feeder and only requires half-strength plant food. Once the clocks spring forward an hour in March I start to feed this plant once a month. However, once the clock falls back an hour in the autumn I will only feed the plant once every 2 months. By the way, I thoroughly recommend Houseplant Focus plant food by Growth Technology. (affiliate link)
What is Wrong With My Calathea Crocata Houseplant?
Why Does My Calathea Have Crispy Leaves?
During the 18 years that I worked in a busy houseplant department, the number one problem customers had with their Calathea crocata was crispy brown edges on the leaves. This problem affects all calatheas and not just the crocata varieties and here's the answer ... well, two answers in fact!
It's all down to humidity and incorrect watering!
This plant can get homesick! So you need to remind it of its jungle home but misting is not enough. If it doesn’t have enough humidity it will promptly protest by developing crispy brown edges on its leaves.
But who really wants their house to feel like a jungle?
How To Make Sure A Calathea Crocata Has Enough Humidity
When you see these plants in the garden centre they are usually displayed on tables lined with capillary matting. That matting is always damp and it proves all the humidity the Calathea needs as moisture is constantly in the air around the plants. However, it's very hard to do the same thing in your own home and no amount of misting will provide the humidity the Calathea requires as the water particles are not in the air for very long.
- It's best to fill a plant saucer (affiliate link), decorative plate, or bowl with some decorative pebbles (affiliate link) between 1 - 2 inches in depth.
- Fill the tray with water making sure that it doesn't submerge the pebbles.
- Set your plant pot on the pebbles.
- The water from the tray should evaporate each day around the plant and create a humid atmosphere around the leaves.
- Just make sure to keep the tray filled up with water.
- Don't keep your plant close to a warm radiator.
- Or even better, try using Westland Hydroleca Clay Granules (affiliate link) as they are sold specifically to create humidity around houseplants.
How To Water A Calathea Crocata Correctly
The most important factor preventing crispy brown leaves on a Calathea plant is incorrect watering. Calathea plants like to be moist and cannot tolerate being dry at the roots. So you need to do the finger test every day!
- Stick your finger a couple of inches into the pot and if it comes out dry and the soil falls off your finger - the plant needs watering immediately as it hates being dry. It's ok to let the top inch or so get dry, but no more than that is advisable.
- If your finger comes out with some soil sticking to it - then it's ok.
- You can also use a moisture stick such as the very inexpensive Westland When to Water Plant Watering Indicator (affiliate link).
Keep the Calathea crocata moist and mist it every day and your plant shouldn't develop crispy leaves. If it already has crispy leaves, sadly you'll never get rid of them. However, any new leaves that grow shouldn't have them once you start to water correctly, and eventually, you can cut those older leaves off.
How To Treat An Overwatered Calathea
If you have yellow leaves and brown crispy edges, then you've been too kind to your Calathea and have overwatered it. Take the plant out of its pot. Don't squeeze the water out of the soil ball as you'll damage the roots, Wrap tissue around the roots and let the tissue absorb the extra water.
If your plant doesn't survive you can purchase new Calatha crocata plants here. (affiliate link)
Repotting A Calathea
Calathea plants should be repotted in the Springtime once the clocks have moved forward an hour. The best compost to use is a coco coir based compost such as Coco Grow (affiliate link).
If you are interested in houseplant care I have published some more blog posts:
How to make a bromeliad flower - which also details how to water, feed, repot, and make an indoor bromeliad tree.