Rattlesnake Plant (Calathea lancifolia) Care Guide

Difficulty Level: Modest

What is The Rattlesnake Plant?

Calatheas belong to the Marantaceae family, which includes 200 species of plants native to tropical Americas. The Rattlesnake plant is native to Rio De Janeiro state in Brazil, but can now be found as houseplants in temperate regions across the world.

The species is a popular choice due to its decorative foliage and in some instances, its small yellow flowers that appear in the spring, but flowers will rarely be spotted when living indoors. Like its prayer plant brethren, its leaves curl up at night and unfold in the morning.

Growing up to 30 inches tall, this perennial evergreen needs plenty of heat and humidity to thrive. It can be seen growing in shaded areas outdoors in places that have more tropical climates like Southern California or Hawaii. Indoors, this plant requires partial shade, moist well-drained soil, and a humid environment.

This plant can be propagated easily from a well-established plant, but propagating by seed is much more difficult. A new plant can be cultivated by separating the rootball and placing the divided piece in a new pot, ensuring there will be efficient drainage, and the new and established rootball are both covered with indoor plant potting soil.

Light CareLight Care

Although this plant thrives in shaded zones outdoors, indoors they require partial light, but filtered light is best. If you are looking to enjoy this plant in your home or office on a happy window sill, make sure that there will not be direct light hitting its foliage. Intense light can cause the leaves to fade and lose their markings. A way to help a sun-bleached plant is to place the plant in a low-light area, where the sunlight is just enough to keep the plant alive, the color will be back in no time!

The ideal living situation for this plant is a medium to low light area, with only 2 hours of direct sunlight.

Water CareWater Care

The key to a happy Calathea is to have a consistent watering schedule. Watering the plant when the top 1”-2” of soil is dry is key. Signs that your plant needs watering are when the leaves start curling, start to droop or go limp, or when they start turning brown. However, watering is a delicate dance with this plant! Always make sure that your pot has proper drainage. This can be achieved by adding some rocks at the bottom of the pot while planting. Avoid overly soaking your plant or letting it sit in excess water. Too much water can cause the plant’s foliage to yellow.

Another common problem with this houseplant is their dislike for tap water. Only the best-purified water for the Calathea! Tap water can sometimes contain salts, chlorine, minerals, and fluoride which could cause the tips of the leaves to burn and curl up. Filtering water with a filtration system, or simply leaving the water in an open container overnight will do the trick!

Food GuideFood Guide

Calathea growth is most apparent during the spring and summer months. This is also the ideal time to feed the plant. Apply a weekly dose of a fertilizer that contains iron and is nitrogen-rich during its growing season. Steer clear of fertilizing during winter months, this could cause root burn and could cause it to die.

Your plant will be happiest and will get the most nutrients when planted in a potting soil mixture of peat moss and perlite

Staff Holy Grail Tip:

Calathea Rattlesnake leaf maintenance is a must! Their foliage is prone to getting dusty so rather than grabbing for some leaf shine product, opt to use a damp cloth to clean off the leaves instead. They also love water and will benefit from being misted regularly with lukewarm water or for their pot to be set in a damp pebble tray.

Although Calatheas are generally pest-free, if aphids, mealybugs, or spider mites are present, you can treat the plant by spraying horticultural oil weekly or by setting your humidifier on high.

Pruning yellow leaves or cutting unwanted leaves near the stem with sterilized, clean pruning shears is always a good option for keeping your plant healthy and thriving.