Rattlesnake Plant (Calathea lancifolia): Ultimate Guide

Calathea lancifolia are beautiful plants native to Brazil. They have a bright and dark green pattern on the top side of their leaves. The pattern resembles the pattern of rattlesnakes. Therefore, they are more commonly referred to as rattlesnake plants.

The underside of their leaves is dark purple, almost maroon in color. Their leaves are long and narrow with ruffled edges. This plant is a member of the Marantaceae family of plants. The Marantaceae family is one of the most species-rich families in its order.

The rattlesnake plant is also called a prayer plant. It obtains this name because its leaves fold up at night to look like prayer hands. They will unfold in the morning.

Calathea lancifolia is a great plant for someone that loves wild and bright patterns. It is an ideal medium-sized floor plant. It can even be used as a tabletop plant. This article will discuss how to properly care for this particular Calathea.

Scientific NameCalathea lancifolia
Common namesPrayer plant, rattlesnake plant
Native HabitatBrazil
Perennial or annualPerennial

What Are the Benefits of Keeping a Rattlesnake Plant?

The rattlesnake plant will bring color and beauty to any room in a house. It will also filter and purify the air around it. The filtering ability of these plants makes them great for the occupant’s health. These plants are both pleasing to the eyes and to the lungs.

Rattlesnake Plant (Calathea lancifolia)
Rattlesnake Plant (Calathea lancifolia)

Rattlesnake Plant Care

Rattlesnake plants can be grown outdoors in southern parts of Florida, California, and all throughout Hawaii. However, these plants are mostly grown indoors in the rest of the United States. This section of the article will discuss how to properly care for these beautiful plants.

Light RequirementBright, indirect sunlight
Soil Typewell-draining soil
pH RequirementSlightly acidic or neutral
Water RequirementFrequent small watering, requires moist soil
Humidity RequirementRequires around 50% humidity
Temperature Requirement70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit
Hardiness ZoneZones 11 to 12
Fertilization RequirementWater-soluble fertilizer once a month during growing season

Are Rattlesnake Plants Easy to Care For?

Rattlesnake plants have particular heat, light, and moisture requirements that must be fulfilled. However, this plant is well worth the effort. Beginners may want to stay away from rattlesnake plants because they can be tricky to nurture and maintain.

They will reward their caretaker with an impressive display of colors and vibrance. Anyone can successfully take care of these plants. Still, some research may be needed before taking care of a rattlesnake plant.

How to Take Care of Rattlesnake Plant as an Indoor Plant

In most places throughout the united states, the rattlesnake plant will thrive as an indoor plant. These plants can be very sensitive to humidity, sunlight, and water. These factors are easier to control inside a home than outside in a garden.

This calathea plant should be repotted in the spring every year or two. A pot 2 inches larger than the old pot should be used. The leaves of this plant tend to catch dust relatively easily. Therefore, the leaves should occasionally be wiped off with a moist towel.

When dust accumulates on the leaves, it can be more difficult for the plant to absorb sunlight. If the plant appears to be losing color, it may need a thorough dusting. A hand should be placed underneath the leaf for support while dusting.

Light Requirement

Rattlesnake plants require bright, indirect sunlight. They should not be placed in direct sunlight because it can brown their leaves. Direct sunlight can also cause the beautiful leaves to develop scorch marks.

This plant can thrive in a shady outdoor garden or inside a house when not placed near direct sunlight. Filtered light can be used to help this plant obtain adequate lighting. However, it should not be their only light source. These plants still love natural light.

The rattlesnake plant can only maintain its bright and bold colors if it receives enough light. While too much sunlight can scorch the leaves, they can begin to fade when they do not receive enough light.

Rattlesnake Plant (Calathea lancifolia)
Rattlesnake Plant (Calathea lancifolia)

Where Should I Put My Rattlesnake Plant?

The environment outside of a home will dictate where the rattlesnake plant can be placed. These plants do not like direct sunlight, but they love humidity. They can survive being planted outside in southern parts of California, the southern tip of Florida, and throughout Hawaii.

If the plant is going to be planted inside a house, it needs to be somewhere it can receive bright indirect sunlight. The plant should not be placed near a window with intense afternoon sun coming through it.

The plant should also be kept away from heating and/or cooling units. Calatheas are very picky with temperature changes. Suppose a calathea is placed near a heating or cooling unit. In that case, it can react negatively to the drastic changes in temperature.

It may be difficult to find a permanent home for this plant on the first day. It is important to have an open mind when placing this plant. The plant may need to be moved around the first couple of days to determine where it seems the happiest.

Soil Type and PH Requirement

The best soil for rattlesnake plants is well-draining soil that is slightly acidic or neutral. The soil must be well-draining since these plants are prone to root rot. African violet potting mix or peat-rich potting mix can be used for these plants. Alkaline soils should be avoided.

The best time to test soil pH is in the fall, as changes can be made to prepare the plant for the next growing season. If the soil is alkaline, you can add peat moss or other organic compounds. The soil can be tested by using at-home pH strips.

Watering Requirement

The soil of a Calathea lancifolia should be kept moist and never allowed to dry out. This plant is known to require more water during the summer months because most of its growth is occurring. The plant will not need to be watered as frequently during the winter.

Many plant owners recommend letting the top inch of soil dry out between waterings in the winter. It is vital to only use distilled or rainwater for these plants. All Calatheas are sensitive to fluoride and chlorine, which are heavily present in tap water.

The rattlesnake plant should be watered until the water trickles out the drainage holes. Do not water the plant so much that a heavy stream of water runs out. The plant should be watered slowly to avoid overwatering.

The rattlesnake plant should also be planted in a container with good drainage holes. The plant loves to be moist, but it is prone to root rot. The drainage tray should be emptied after the plant is thoroughly watered to prevent soggy soil because soggy soil can lead to root rot.

The water from the drainage tray should be dumped out. It is possible to pour the drainage water back into the soil with some plants, but that should not be done with Calatheas. It will increase the risk of the plant developing root rot.

Humidity Requirement

The average humidity in Brazil, is 80%, and remember, the rattlesnake plant is native to Brazil. Therefore, these plants love high humidity environments. At least 50% humidity should be maintained around the plant.

A hygrometer can be used to determine the humidity inside a room. It is possible to increase the humidity by using a humidifier. Now, these plants will thrive better with a cool-mist humidifier. Dry and warm air can cause the leaf tips to turn brown.

A pebble tray can also be used to increase humidity. When setting up the pebble tray, ensure there is just enough water to cover the pebbles, but not touch the plant’s roots. Remember, these plants are susceptible to root rot, and the roots do not like to sit in water.

Do I Have to Mist a Rattlesnake Plant?

Misting Calathea lancifolia plants is not required. However, it can be extremely beneficial, especially in non-humid environments. These plants can be misted at least once a week. Some plants may thrive with more frequent mistings.

It is important to mist both the tops and underneath the rattlesnake plant’s leaves. The full coverage misting will provide more humidity for the plant. It can also decrease the amount of dust that gathers on the top of the plant’s leaves. Just remember to use distilled or rainwater.

Temperature Requirement

Rattlesnake plants thrive in temperatures between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. If the plant is exposed to cold temperatures, the leaves can wilt and brown. Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can ultimately cause the plant to die.

Keep in mind that sun and temperature changes are very harmful to this plant. For this reason, the plant should be kept away from air conditioning units and heating systems because drastic temperature changes can shock the plant’s system.

Hardiness Zone

Hardiness zones 11-12 are the best for rattlesnake plants. These plants are tropical evergreen perennials. While zones 11 and 12 are the best zones for these plants, they can thrive indoors with the proper care no matter what zone a person lives in.

Fertilization Requirement

Fertilization of rattlesnake plants should occur monthly in the spring and through the fall. A balanced, water-soluble fertilizer can be used. These plants should not be fertilized in the winter months as they are not growing as much.

Read the instructions on the label to determine the amount of fertilizer to use. All Calatheas can be sensitive to over-fertilization. It is best to start with a small amount and slowly increase the fertilizer if the plant is handling it well.

Rattlesnake Plant Propagation

Propagation of rattlesnake plants is easier to accomplish by dividing the plant. The division can occur when the plant becomes too large for its current pot. The best time to propagate is in the spring before the plant begins its vigorous growing stage.

A nursey pot can be used for the propagated plant. It is important to still choose a pot 2 inches larger than the previous pot for the established plant. The larger pot will ensure the plant has plenty of room to grow throughout the next two years before it needs to be repotted again.

How to Propagate Rattlesnake Plant

As long as the plant is well established, division can easily propagate it. It is best to perform the division when repotting the plant. The rattlesnake plant should be watered the day before repotting and division. The water will lessen the amount of stress placed on the plant.

Below are the steps on how to propagate a rattlesnake plant:

  1. Fill the new containers halfway with a well-draining potting mix
  2. Remove the plant from the old pot.
  3. Trim off any damaged or diseased parts of the roots with sterile and sharp gardening scissors. Use this time to search for signs of root rot and other diseases.
  4. Brush the soil off the root and carefully tease apart the roots with your fingers.
  5. The roots should be fully separated where they seem to naturally want to come apart. Do not force any roots to separate, as this can break the roots.
  6. Place the divided root ball into its new container and fill the rest of it with soil. It is highly encouraged to use some soil from the original pot to help reduce the plants’ stress.
  7. Water the newly potted plants until water drains from the bottom of the container.

Can You Grow Rattlesnake Plant From Seed?

It is possible to grow rattlesnake plants from seed, but it is very difficult. The seeds would have to be purchased from a well-known and reputable supplier. Seeds purchased from a normal chain store may not grow properly and can be difficult to find.

Below are the steps to grow rattlesnake plants from seeds:

  1. Add a seed-starting potting mix to small pots or propagation trays.
  2. Moisten the soil to prepare it for the seed. Plant the seed ½-1 cm deep in the container.
  3. Cover the pots with plastic wrap. The wrap will help maximize humidity and keep the seedling warm.
  4. The pots should be placed in bright, indirect sunlight, and the soil should be kept moist.
  5. When the seedlings are 3-4 cm tall, they can be transplanted into larger pots. Be careful to not disturb the roots too much during the transplantation.

Rattlesnake Plant Size & Growth Rate

The rattlesnake plant is considered a moderate grower when grown indoors. The plant can grow 24 to 30 inches tall, and it can be 2 feet wide. It is important to note this plant can grow wider than 2 feet. As long as the plant is happy, it will continue to produce leaves and grow wider.

Calatheas grow more during the spring and summer than during the fall. It is not uncommon to see little to no plant growth during the winter months. Keep in mind the plant will also stop growing or slow down if it is in unfavorable conditions.

Rattlesnake Plant Problems

Calatheas are fussy plants, making them prone to developing a couple of problems. The most common issues with the rattlesnake plant are yellow leaves, brown spots, and root rot. They are also prone to some pest infestations.

Remember that this plant does require frequent waterings and dustings. Those activities can help spot trouble before it overtakes a plant. This section will look at some of the most common issues with these plants.

Yellow Leaves

Yellowing leaves are very common on Calatheas. It is often a sign of over-watering. Try frequent small waterings to help alleviate this issue. The plant should be watered until the water trickles out of the drainage holes. The water should never pour out of the drainage holes like a stream.

The presence of chlorine and fluoride in the water can also cause Calathea leaves to turn yellow or brown. It is important to use rainwater or distilled water to not expose the plant to these harsh chemicals.

Common Diseases

The most common disease that affects rattlesnake plants is root rot. These plants despise standing water. The drainage trays of these plants should be routinely monitored and dumped when standing water is noticed.

Powdery mildew is another disease that commonly affects these plants. It is characterized by spots or patches of white talcum powder-like growth. This fungus favors humid environments, which, unfortunately, is the same environment the rattlesnake plant favors.

Pattern Fading

Rattlesnake plants are known for their bright and vivid patterns, but sometimes that pattern can fade. If the coloring on the plant’s leaves begins to fade, it is a sign the plant is not receiving enough sunlight.

Does Rattlesnake Plant Flower?

In its Native habitat, the rattlesnake plant will produce small yellow flowers in the spring. However, this plant rarely blooms when it is placed indoors. Many home gardeners believe the flowers are not as beautiful as the leaves and do not mind that the plant does not bloom indoors.

Do Rattlesnake Plant Leaves Move?

Just like any other plant, the leaves on Calathea lancifolia will move to obtain more sunlight. The leaves may flatten or twist and turn to obtain more sunlight. The leaves are also known to curl inward at night.

Calatheas are commonly called prayer-plants. They obtain this name because they look like praying hands when their leaves curl inward at night. The leaves will unfold the next morning when the sun comes up.

Are Rattlesnake Plants Toxic to Pets?

Luckily, rattlesnake plants are not toxic to cats or dogs. They should still be placed where pets can not reach them. This is mostly for the safety of the plant. Cat bites or dog nibbles can easily overtake the plant and stunt its growth. No one wants to see bite marks on their plants’ beautiful leaves.

Where Can I Find Rattlesnake Plant for Sale?

Calathea lancifolia can be found at local nurseries and home improvement stores. They can also be ordered online. Care should be taken when ordering any kind of plant online. It is very difficult to know the condition of the plant when ordering online.

Some online retailers will also show a picture of what the plant will grow into and not what they are sending. For example, they may be selling small propagations, but the photo shows a full-sized rattlesnake plant.

When searching for a rattlesnake plant, it is important to be mindful of its common names. Calathea lancifolia is this plant’s scientific name, but it can often be called other names at plant stores. Do not confuse rattlesnake plants with snake plants as these two plants are very different.

Rattlesnake Plant Price

The price range for rattlesnake plants varies from $10 to $32. The price often depends on what store or online site the plant is purchased from. Specialized plant stores typically charge more than normal home improvement stores. 

However, keep in mind that specialized plant stores normally take better care of their plants. Therefore, plants purchased from them tend to be easier to maintain. It is easier to purchase a healthy fussy plant than to purchase a fussy plant that needs to be revived.


Calathea lancifolia is a beautiful tropical plant. It can be easily grown indoors, but it may not be the best plant for beginners as it can be a bit fussy and tricky to work with. The plant will definitely pay off any hassle with its beauty.

The plant is temperamental regarding temperature, humidity, sunlight, and water. They do not like drastic temperature changes and prefer extremely humid environments. They require bright indirect sunlight and frequent small waterings.

Remember to always use distilled or rainwater for the Calathea, and always be on the lookout for trouble. It will be much easier to stop root rot, yellowing leaves, and pest infestations when they are caught early on.

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