Plant Bio: Calathea Orbifolia

The Calathea Orbifolia (Geoppertia orbifolia) is one of those striking plants that intrigues both novice and experienced green thumbs alike. With leaves that can grow to be 30 CM (12 ft) wide indoors, this plant offers luxurious foliage of green and silver symmetrical colored stripes. The unique and mysterious look of this Calathea can inspire anyone for the challenge to raise a not-so-beginner plant.


The Calathea is one of the largest genus from the family Marantaceae. These plants are native to Bolivia, in regions where humidity and temperature play a big role in their overall health. A sequence of studies found that in 2012 this genus had separate ancestors which eventually renamed over 250 plants. This new species was revealed as the Goeppertia- however, most nurseries and research still refer to this plant as the Calathea Orbifolia (and so will we).  As a part of the Marantaceae, this particular genus has a special feature that propels them to change shape. The leaves of this plant are more mobile than others- folding in the night like their cousins “prayer plant”.


Your Calathea is very dependent on the health and moisture level of its soil. While this plant does not prefer to dry out between watering, drainage is vital in order for it to thrive. You will need a rich potting soil that provides your plant with perlite and peat. Peat provides essential nutrients that Calatheas need, but will need to be balanced by other mediums. Utilizing perlite will allow your plants roots to “breath” by maintaining loose soil. If you’re going the extra mile, you can also include orchid bark into your mix as this will aid in drainage.


When it’s time to pot your plant, you will need to factor in balance when it comes to Orbifolias. You will want to repot your plant once a year in a container 1-2 inches larger than its previous pot. When it comes to which material to use, terra cotta might be a better pick if you are concerned at all about potential root rot. Terra cotta will allow for your plant to breath, however it may be a bit more demanding when it comes to watering.

 The trick with this plant is to find the right balance, as this species of Calatheas can be unforgiving if you leave them high and dry for too long. Unlike other houseplants, Calatheas don’t wilt as much when they are thirsty so you won’t be given a fair warning. Simply check the top layers of the soil with your fingers and allow for the top 2 inches of the soil to dry out between watering.


The Calathea is particularly sensitive to its environment and prefers temperatures between 65-75 degrees. Being that this plant derives from the tropics, you’ll want to mimic the climate to prevent any wilting or browning tips. It also demands higher humidity levels than your average houseplant (above 50%) and will begin to decay if its needs are not met. To improve humidity levels, group your Calathea with your other houseplants or keep it in your bathroom. This plant is also sensitive to change so it’s best to keep it in its designated space once decided. When it comes to lighting, Calatheas are accustomed to the forest floors so they prefer medium to low indirect exposure and can burn if directly in the sun (or too close to a window)!


Although this plant is already known for its beauty and sleek foliage, on rare occasions you may also see your plant bloom. These blooms arrive in tiny white clusters of white flowers underneath the leaves. Although this is uncommon for indoor Calatheas, keep an eye out for these flowers during the springtime!

Some of our favorites