Top tips calathea care in spring - summer

When I started looking for plants for a section of my garden I got into a bit of a dilemma, because I needed to cover the area under the canopy of a somewhat leafy tree. So while I needed semi-shade, low growing plants, I also wanted to add a bit of colour. The temperature is very stable and warm in the area where I live, so the answer was almost immediate: I needed Calatheas, lots of them and all species.

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Calathea Medallion
Regulates humidity
Bird of Paradise
Decorative and resistant

There are those who dare to claim that Calatheas are whimsical and dramatic plants, but the truth is that those who have had this experience have never taken the time to observe this tropical beauty, to understand its needs and habits. As we know that no one has time to sit and look at plants all day (it's my dream job, believe me), we have put together all the tricks to take care of them in the warmer seasons of the year.

Calatheas are magnificent plants, because there are so many varieties, so you can play with their shapes, sizes and colours to create beautiful compositions. If you are not lucky enough to live in a warm climate, know that you can keep them indoors and they will grow beautifully, especially if you follow this care guide for Calatheas in spring and summer.

Knowing the origins: All about Calathea

Calathea is an umbrella name for several species of plants in the Marantaceae family. These neo-tropical, rhizomatous, herbaceous, perennial plants are native to the American tropics, although most varieties come from Brazil and Peru. It is estimated that there are at least 287 varieties of Calatheas, so if collecting plants is your thing you can start with this species.

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Dubai pot -M/15
Ceramic with glossy finish.
Resistant and for beginners

The broad, colourful leaves of Calatheas are thought to have been used by Aboriginal peoples to make baskets (those of calathea lancifolia are elongated and ideally shaped) or to wrap food, if they are broad-leaved species, although in our own time they have much value as ornamental plants. Their leaves are not only tough and eye-catching, but combine a wealth of designs, patterns and shapes that are very attractive. A group of Calatheas will never go unnoticed and are ideal for adding some colour without relying on flowers. Being perennials, they have leaves and live all year round without going through cycles of drought and dormancy.

Believe it or not, a Calathea can reach up to a metre or metre and a half in height but only if given space to grow, for example when planted directly in the ground. In fact, under these conditions some Calathea species can develop beautiful white or lavender flowers. If they are planted in pots, they will stay at 50 to 60 cm in height and rarely develop flowers.

Calatheas in the wild grow on the rainforest floor, so they are sheltered by the light filtering branches of the surrounding trees. For this reason they are considered semi-shade plants. They prefer warm temperatures and high humidity levels are essential.

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Blue Orchid
Delicate and purifying
Venice Pot - S/12cm
Textured ceramic

An interesting detail about Calatheas is that they lift their leaves at night. This movement is called nictinatia and is nothing more than an automatic response to light stimuli. This happens because plants with this ability have a device called a pulvinule, which acts like a photocell. When it does not receive enough sunlight, it commands the flexor cells to decrease their turgor, forcing the leaves to fold upwards. When the sun comes out, it increases the amount of water in the cells (turgor) and forces the leaves to spread out fully. This is thought to maximise the plant's light absorption to optimise photosynthesis processes. It is quite a sight to see the leaves move in the evening. Please don't be like me, I had no idea about this and the first time I saw it, I thought my plant was sick.

Calathea care in spring and summer

Don't be fooled, even if the temperatures are warm it can be a bit tricky to find the right spot to make your Calathea grow beautiful, lush and colourful. Failure to follow the basic rules of Calatheas care in spring and summer can result in plants with burnt leaves, small and weak leaves, poor growth or plants that are drained and sad. If you are noticing these worrying signs in your Calatheas, don't worry, we will show you what to do to get them back on their feet.

  • Watering

This is the hottest time of the year and Calatheas need a cool, moist substrate, which allows the roots to absorb sufficient water and oxygen. Calatheas need their substrate to be moist but not waterlogged. Just in case, it is better to under-water than over-water, because waterlogging can lead to root rot. Always remember to check the drainage holes to avoid this.

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Stainless Steel Watering Can
For precision irrigation
Nice watering can
€19.00 €13.30
100% recycled materials

During the first days of summer you should check the substrate to adjust the watering, because with the heat the water evaporates faster so it is very likely that you will have to water a little more frequently. If you don't know if you should water, put your finger in the soil. If the first 3 centimetres are dry, it is time to water. You can use a moisture meter, there are some really cool terracotta ones that will tell you when it's time to water.

Remember to water directly at the base of the plant, making sure that the substrate is well moistened. Sometimes we make the mistake of watering from above, and the leafy leaves of the calathea can prevent water from reaching the substrate, causing drought problems.
  • Substrate

The substrate is a matter to which you should pay a lot of attention, because if it is not suitable it will have the propensity to retain too much moisture and this is the Calathea's weak point. To avoid this it is essential to have a substrate mix that facilitates drainage, but allows it to retain some moisture.

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Kokedama Ficus Ginseng
Beautiful and elegant
Kyoto Pot - S/12cm
Textured black clay

In my experience, universal potting compost is especially good if you place a layer of pebbles or similar at the bottom of the pot to allow the plant to drain. If you are the fussy type who prefers to make your own soil mix, mixtures of peat, sand and leaf mould are often used for Calatheas.

  • Humidity

The point where everyone has problems when growing Calatheas is the level of humidity needed to keep the plant supple, spindly and beautiful. In summer you have to be very careful, because although there can be a lot of ambient humidity (depending on the region you live in), it is possible that the plant is indoors and you have the air conditioning on full blast to avoid dying of heat. What air conditioning does to your skin, it does to plants: it robs them of all moisture and lushness, leaving them dry and sad.

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Ideal Sprayer
more moisture for your plants!
Glass Sprayer
More humidity for your plants

You can put on a little moisturiser but your plant needs a gentle spritz of water. Get yourself a water sprayer and use filtered or rested water to gently mist the foliage of your plants once a day. This will keep them happy, supple and shiny. Prefer to spray your plants during the day, as at night the excess moisture can be counterproductive if temperatures drop.

Another great trick (and my favourite) is to group plants of similar characteristics together, as they will start to regulate the humidity themselves without so much trouble. This is the perfect excuse to start collecting Calatheas and other Marantaceae.
  • Lighting

This is a plant that requires filtered light, so forget about putting it on the terrace where the sun's rays kiss its leaves, much less in summer or spring. You can put it in a place where a curtain filters the sun, or you can put it under a taller plant, which helps to prevent the sun from burning the leaves, stealing moisture and drying out the substrate.

In summer and spring we may be tempted to leave it outside, because the temperatures are higher and there is more humidity, but you have to be very careful with the location of the plant. It is preferable to place it either under taller, larger plants for protection or in the shade.
  • Transplanting

Late spring is the perfect time to transplant Calatheas. I like to do this at least once a year, I look for a slightly larger pot to give the roots extra space. And that allows the plant to develop better. If you want big leaves and a nice lush plant, you need space for the roots to expand. Remember to always put pebbles in the bottom to improve drainage and use the right substrate.

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Campanula Abella Intense P...
Flowers all year round
Calathea orbifolia
An exotic Calathea

When transplanting, treat the roots with care, carefully remove it from the old pot when the soil is rather dry. There is no need to peel the substrate off the roots, place the entire root ball in the new pot and cover with new substrate. Take the opportunity to water it well once it is in its new home.

Additional tips for your Calatheas in summer and spring

  • The Calathea is a plant that will tell you if it is lacking water by curling each of its leaves upwards and leaving them drained in the pot. Don't worry, as soon as you give it enough water it will return to its natural state. Don't confuse this with the nocturnal movement, which folds all the way up like an umbrella, because you might over-water it. Remember to always touch the substrate.
  • Dry, yellow or browntips indicate direct sunlight or lack of moisture.
  • Remove wilted leaves regularly by cutting them off at the base with disinfected scissors. This will stimulate the growth and development of new leaves.
  • Fertilise your Calatheas once a month using liquid fertiliser from the end of April until September, which are the peak times for development and growth.
  • Draughts are fatal to Calatheas, this includes air conditioning and heating. Keep them away from windows, doors and direct air conditioning.
  • If your Calathea is fading, keep it away from too much direct sunlight, which tends to discolour the surface of the leaves and will eventually burn them.
  • If the leaves look yellow and the base black, you may be overwatering.
  • One of the great advantages of Calatheas, apart from the fact that they are beautiful, is that they are safe for children and pets, as they are non-toxic even if ingested.

What you should NOT do with your Calathea in Spring-Summer

  • Take it outside, so that it can defend itself. The high temperatures and the sun's rays will end up burning the leaves of your plant.
  • Overwatering because it is summer and hot. This will cause the roots to rot, eventually killing your plant. It is better to under-water than over-water. You can recover from a drought, but if the roots are affected, there is no way back. Always remember to check the substrate.
  • Place it near air conditioning. Cold and draughts will kill it. Calathea is tropical and prefers the warmth of summer.
  • Transplant in open spaces, in full sun. Roots are delicate and always suffer during transplanting, but allowing direct sunlight can scorch them.
  • Spray large amounts of water on the leaves, as the excess water will act like a magnifying glass and if it gets any sun, it can burn the leaf. Use an atomiser or water sprayer.
  • Water directly with tap water. Ideally use rainwater, but if this is not possible, use tap water that has been left to stand for at least 24 hours.
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About the author
Ame Rodríguez

Dedicated to creating an army of cacti, succulents, poodles and cats to help me conquer the world. In the little free time I have left, I play, write and dance.

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