Calathea Orbifolia (Round Leaf Calathea): Ultimate Care Guide

Calathea Orbifolias are beautiful, large tropical plants. They are native to Bolivia and are often kept as indoor houseplants in temperate climates. The plant can grow anywhere from 1 to 3 feet tall.

Their oval-shaped leaves are silver-green with dark veins. This plant is sure to be a showpiece in any home. While Calathea Orbifolias may be fussy and difficult at times, they sure do make up for it with their beauty and size.

This plant is commonly called a round leaf Calathea. Calatheas are often called prayer-plants. They receive this name because their leaves lay flat during the day and will fold up at night. When the leaves are folded up they look like praying hands.

This article will discuss how to properly care for Calathea Orbifolia and will provide some information on their common problems. Remember their beauty will make up for any hardships endured while caring for them.

Calathea Orbifolia Care

Caring for Calathea Orbifolia plants is no easy task. They can be moody, testy, and finicky. They are not the best plant for a beginner. These plants often require a lot of patience and problem-solving. This is why they are better suited for people who have previously cared for plants.

That should not discourage anyone from purchasing an Orbifolia. Even if someone has never cared for a plant before, they can still provide an amazing home for any Calathea. Instead, use this as a word of caution because this plant will require constant care and work throughout its life.

Common NamesPrayer plant, round leaf Calathea
Scientific NameCalathea Orbifolia
Sun ExposureLarge amount of bright indirect light
Soil pH5.0-6.5
Watering RequirementRequires sufficient waterings and damp soil
Hardiness ZoneZones 8 and up
Plant Height1 to 3 feet
Leaf Width10-15 inches
Calathea Orbifolia (Round Leaf Calathea)
Calathea Orbifolia (Round Leaf Calathea)

Is Calathea Orbifolia Hard to Care For?

Calathea Orbifolia is a finicky plant and it can be difficult to take care of. They will challenge even the most experienced plant owner, but they are well worth the hassle. This plant is beautiful and when well taken care of it will show its love by growing leaves over one foot wide.

How to grow Calathea Orbifolia Indoors

Calathea Orbifolia grows exceptionally well indoors. They are finicky about temperature and sunlight, both of which are easier to control inside a home than outside. This plant will require a container with proper draining holes as they are very susceptible to root rot.

After purchasing a Calathea Orbifolia it should be planted into a container larger than the nursery pot. These plants grow exceptionally fast and will need room to grow. The plant should not be fertilized until three months after it has been planted.

How to Grow Calathea Orbifolia Outdoors

Growing Calathea Orbifolia outdoors is not easy but it is possible. These plants do not do well in temperatures less than 65 degrees F or higher than 75 degrees F. They can also be damaged very easily by direct sunlight.

A Calathea Orbifolia can grow successfully outside if it is placed in a very shaded area. It is important to note that the indirect light a plant receives outside is stronger than the indirect light inside. Some people have noticed their plants’ leaves begin to scorch or curl within minutes of being outside.

Each plant will require about 18 inches between them when planted in raised garden beds or planted directly in the ground. Mulch can be used to help the soil stay moist, and the plant should be watered at the soil level.

Calathea Orbifolias can be placed outside during the summer and kept indoors during the winter. As long as the plant is receiving adequate light, humidity, and water there is no reason it should not thrive outside in temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees F.

Calathea Orbifolia Light Requirement

Bright and indirect sunlight is the best light for Calathea Orbifolias. If they receive too much direct sunlight their leaves will scorch and burn. However, they can not be placed in a dark corner. The leaves do require some kind of sunlight.

Too much sunlight can also cause the leaves to curl inwards. They need indirect sunlight to keep the beautiful colors on their leaves. North or East-facing rooms will often provide the best light for this plant.

A helpful tip: If someone can read in the room without struggling or requiring more light then the plant should be fine and not struggle for light.

Calathea Orbifolia Plant
Calathea Orbifolia Plant

Soil Type & pH Requirement

A well-draining potting mix with a pH of 6.5 is the best soil for Calathea Orbifolia. These plants are very susceptible to root rot, therefore they need soil that will properly drain, but still retain water as they do not like to dry out.

Most potting mixes that are designed for houseplants will work perfectly for these plants. Coco moir or peat moss can be mixed into the soil if needed. If the pH of the soil needs to be adjusted organic material can be applied in moderation.

Watering Requirement

Calathea Orbifolia loves damp but not drenched soil. It is suggested to water them frequently and with small amounts of water. They should be watered at the soil level as this can decrease the risk of diseases growing on the leaves.

If the leaves start to discolor even though the plant is adequately watered, it could be a sign that something in the water is making the plant sick. The best water to use when watering these plants is distilled water or rainwater.

These plants do not like fluorine or chlorine which are often found in tap water. There is a theory that tap water can be left out overnight and the chlorine will dissolve. However, there is not a lot of research to support that theory. Why risk making a plant sick when distilled water or rainwater can be used?

Calathea Orbifolias are already finicky plants, do not make them mad by watering them with tap water even if it was sitting out overnight. There is no research to determine if leaving the tap water out at room temperature is enough to destroy the chlorine and fluoride in it.

These plants should be watered until the water starts to come out of the drainage holes. All of the excess water should be allowed to drain before placing the plant back on the drip tray. The drip tray should also be checked periodically to ensure the plant is not sitting in stagnant water.

Humidity Requirement

Humidity is very important in the care of Calathea Orbifolia. After all, these are tropical plants. A humidifier can be placed near the plant. Or pebble trays can be laid underneath the pot. Just be sure the water in the tray is not touching the roots of the plants.

Pebble trays may not provide enough humidity. Especially if it is a tall Calathea Orbifolia. Pebble trays work by placing water into a tray that contains draining rocks. The humidity is created when the water evaporates. But, depending on the height of the plant the water evaporation may be too weak and insufficient.

How much humidity is required?

Calathea Orbifolia requires a significant amount of humidity in its environment. Humidity can be created and added to a room fairly easily. But how much humidity needs to be created in a room for this plant to thrive?

Well, that ultimately depends on the climate surrounding the plant. If the plant is in a dry climate it will need more humidity added to the area whereas if it is in a wet climate it will need less humidity created.

This plant is native to Bolivia where the average humidity is 54%. The percentage of humidity changes throughout the year. Sometimes the humidity is only 40% and other times it may be 70-80%. This is important to know as the plants’ humidity requirement may change throughout the year.

Hygrometers can be used to determine the level of humidity in a room. It may be best to place the plant in a naturally humid room, such as the kitchen or bathroom. However, this may not be possible especially when there is no direct light going into those rooms.

A humidifier can be used to add humidity to any room. Some people have successfully used essential oil diffusers without oils to provide humidity for their plants. Oil diffusers can be a nice alternative to a humidifier because they do not have to be cleaned frequently and are less likely to grow mold.

Is misting required?

Misting is not required for Calathea Orbifolia. As long as there is an adequate source of humidity there is no reason to mist this plant. If misting is needed to provide humidity the plant can be misted once a day. The tops and undersides of the leaves should be sprayed in the morning.

Temperature Requirement

65 to 75 degrees F is the best temperature for Calathea Orbifolia. These plants can get cold-stunned very easily, and it is practically impossible to bring them back from cold damage. They should also not be in areas where the temperature is over 90 degrees F.

Additionally, this plant does not tolerate drastic temperature changes and because of this, they should not be placed near heating and AC units. Any exposure to heat or AC can have detrimental effects on Calathea Orbifolias.

Hardiness Zone

Hardiness zones 8 and up are the best zones for Calathea Orbifolia. They are tropical plants and they love to be in tropical environments. However, there is nothing that says this plant will not thrive indoors when the hardiness zone is less than 8.

Fertilization Requirement

Calathea Orbifolia can be sensitive to fertilization and can easily be burned from over-fertilization. They can be fertilized once a month during the growing season and should not be fertilized during the winter.

The first application of fertilizer can occur three months after the plant has been transplanted from its nursery pot to its permanent container. It is also recommended to dilute the fertilizer. The strength of fertilizer can be adjusted after each application depending on how the plant reacts.

Calathea Orbifolia Size & Growth Rate

The leaves on Calathea Orbifolia can grow 10 to 15 inches wide, and the plant itself can grow 1 to 3 feet tall. This plant is considered a moderately fast grower. It will reach maturity within one year and then it will stop growing in height. It is important to note the plant will grow significantly slower in dim light.

Once the plant has reached maturity it will grow bushier by producing more leaves. They can grow a couple of leaves each month. It is not uncommon to see no new leaves during the winter months as the plant’s activity decreases.

Does Calathea Orbifolia Require Pruning?

Thankfully, the Calathea Orbifolia does not require pruning. However, any dead, discolored, or damaged leaves should be removed. The leaf should be cut at the base of the stem using a sterile tool.

When leaves die, plants often send all of their resources to that area in an attempt to salvage that area. This can cause the rest of the plant to take a turn for the worse as it is no longer receiving all of the nutrients it needs to thrive.

How to Make Calathea Orbifolia Grow Large

The best way to make a Calathea Orbifolia grow large is to provide it with the perfect environment. These plants thrive off an indirect bright light, damp soil, and high humidity. It is possible to encourage more growth by repotting the plant into a larger container.

There is no guaranteed way to promote growth in this plant. With most other plants people will suggest fertilizing, but this plant can be burned by fertilizer. It is possible to apply a diluted fertilizer, just monitor the plant. The soil may need to be flushed if too much fertilizer is applied.

Calathea Orbifolia Propagation

Propagating Calathea Orbifolia is not an easy task. Propagation from cuttings is very tricky and rarely successful. The best way to propagate this plant is by rhizome division and the best time to propagate is in the early spring when growth is occurring the most.

Orbifolia plants can become stressed when their roots are disturbed. This can ultimately lead to the plant dying. Therefore, propagation of these plants should only be done by someone who has previous experience with difficult propagations.

Propagation can be done by easing the root ball from the container. Once the dirt is removed a sterile blade can be used to cut the tuber. It is important to choose a piece of tuber with at least one leaf growing on it.

The cutting and the main plant can then be repotted. The new plants should be kept in a bright area and they should be misted once every morning.

Calathea Orbifolia Problems (cause and treatment)

Unfortunately, the damp conditions the Calathea Orbifolia requires to grow put it at risk of fungal infections and pest infestations. This finicky plant is also prone to curling leaves, brown spots, and root rot.

The best way to prevent any of these things from killing a plant is to monitor the plant. Thankfully, this plant already requires routine monitoring to check if it needs more water. That time can be a great opportunity to look for pests and signs of disease on the plant.

Curling Leaves

The number one culprit for curling leaves of a Calathea Orbifolia is too much sunlight. This condition can generally be reversed by moving the plant further from the light. All it takes is 15 minutes of too much light to cause the leaves to curl inwards.

It can take a day or longer for the leaves to unfurl. As long as the leaves are not curling more or browning then give the plant some time to adjust and it will eventually go back to its normal, beautiful self.

Browns Spots

Brown spots on a Calathea Orbifolia can be caused by numerous things. Overfertilization, overwatering, too much sunlight, and more can cause the leaves to turn brown. The most common issue that causes the leaves to turn brown is using the wrong water.

Distilled water or rainwater is the only water that should be used on this plant. It is very sensitive to the chemicals and minerals in tap water. It is also possible that the environment of the plant is not humid enough. These plants need a significant amount of humidity to thrive.

Root Rot

Root rot is a very serious problem in these plants. They love damp water, but they do not like standing water. On the bright side if root rot is caught early these plants can make a full recovery.

How to Encourage New Growth

The only way to promote new growth on a Calathea Orbifolia is to provide adequate light, water, and humidity. These plants will grow more leaves as long as they are properly cared for. Remember that their growth will slow down in the winter months.

How to Re-pot Calathea Orbifolia

Generally, Calathea Orbifolia does not like to be disturbed by repotting. However, it does not grow well if it is in a small pot or when it is rootbound. Many Orbifolias will do well being repotted once every two years. Be careful to not disturb the roots too much.

Below are the steps to re-pot an Orbifolia:

  1. Choose a new pot that is at least 2 inches larger than the current pot.
  2. Remove the rootball: this is a great time to check for root rot. Look for mushy spots or a foul smell.
  3. Fill the new container halfway with the potting mix then place the plant in the container
  4. Fill the rest of the container with the potting mix.
  5. Lastly, thoroughly water the plant before returning it to its home.

Do Calathea Orbifolia Flower?

Calathea Orbifolia does flower, but the plant is unlikely to flower indoors. The absence of flowers does not mean there is anything wrong with the plant. They are simply more likely to flower outdoors than indoors. Their flowers are small and are either white or silver.

Should the Leaves of Calathea Orbifolia Be Cleaned?

Many plant hobbyists recommend wiping the leaves of Calathea Orbifolias at least once a week. Wiping the leaves can spread moisture and will clean the leaves. These plants require a significant amount of light and they are unable to absorb light if their leaves are covered in dust.

Where Can I find Calathea Orbifolia For Sale?

Calathea Orbifolia can be purchased online or from a local plant store. Different regions have different plants in their stores which can make this plant difficult to find, but since they are available online anyone can purchase an Orbifolia for their house.

Calathea Orbifolia Price

The price of Calathea Orbifolia can range from $10-$60. The bigger and healthier the plant is the more it will cost. Some higher-end plant stores will also charge more as their plants are generally better maintained.

In Conclusion

Calathea Orbifolia may be a difficult plant at times, but they make up for it with its beauty. With adequate lighting, humidity, and water they will grow big gorgeous leaves for any at-home gardener.

These plants are notoriously found in homes, but they can be grown outside as well. They will require more careful monitoring when planted outside. However, as long as they are not receiving direct sunlight and the air is humid they should thrive.

Since this plant can be difficult to grow it should be routinely monitored. At the first sign of distress, action should be taken to help the plant. The longer the plant is stressed the more difficult it can be to save it.

Hopefully, this article has provided some insight into this amazing and beautiful plant. They will test any plant owner, but it will be well worth it when guests applaud how beautiful and healthy it looks.

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