Growing a tropical plant could be challenging even for an expert. Thankfully, Calathea musaica is one of the perfect houseplant for new green fingers. It might not be as spectacular as other Calathea varieties, still this plant holds its own statement.
Calathea musaica is a native plant of Brazil, South America. This plant is a part of genus Calathea and family Marantaceae.
- Maranta bella = original name, William Bull documented this plant first in 1875
- Calathea musaica = common name, more understandable, people often use this
- Goeppertia kegeljanii = official/current name
- Network Plant = given due to the mosaic pattern on the foliage
- Prayer Plant = because the leaves curl at night like praying hands
- Bright indirect light
- Moist and well-drained soil
- Stable temperature from 18°C to 30°C
- High humidity 60%-80%
- Proper watering
- Diluted fertilizer
Calathea musaica plants have a bright green oval foliage with fine yellow-green patterns which create a mosaic like impression. People call them “network” plants because the pattern looks like a binary code. Compare to their siblings, instead of red or purple, the undersides also have green color similar with the leaf surface.
As an evergreen plant, people grow Calathea musaica for its leaves rather than the flowers. Even so, the small stalks straight of the rhizome are able to produce tiny plain white flowers.
The problem is, It is even harder to produce this flower indoor than in the forest. Besides, the flowers only bloom for around a week. Additionally, due to its insignificant presence, you might not realize that a flower has bloomed.
Calathea musaica is a non-toxic plant. Thus, it is safe for human and pet.
Generally Calatheas grow from rhizome, which is why propagation through seed or cutting is impossible. A mature version of this plant reach 0.6 m tall and 0.9 m wide.
The growth rate is rather slow, therefore you may get smaller size of Calathea musaica from the market/stores. With proper care and maintenance you can fasten the growth rate in indoor setting.
Is Calathea Musaica Rare?
Since Calathea musaica is a direct species (not hybrid or cultivated), it won’t be that difficult to find this plant in plant stores or online shops.
We can say that its position is right in the middle. It might be more expensive and rarer than Calathea ornata or Calathea roseopicta. However, variegated Calatheas would have higher prices and are harder to find.
Surprisingly, Calathea musaica is able to tolerate various lighting condition including some direct sunlight and low light. Yet, this plant prefers a bright indirect light on daily basis.
Get the balance
Too much direct sunlight would scorch the leaves and make it yellow. With too little light, plants unintentionally produce more chlorophyll than usual. Consequently, the foliage will have darker green color and might lost its distinct pattern. This will lead us to choose the right location for this plant.
North or east-facing windows would provide the morning and evening sunlight that the plant needs. On the other hand, south or west-facing room tend to have more intense light. In this case, move the plant 30 cm to 3 meters away from the window. Or put some shade by using sheer curtain or any means to filter the light.
It might be outside the topic, but when the light shines through the leaves, you could appreciate its beauty a bit more.
A proper watering is essential because of the delicate roots of Calathea. If the roots are sitting in a water for a long time, it will eventually rot. You need to follow the rules when watering Calathea.
Check soil moisture
Watering once a week is the regular pattern, but you should not rely on that schedule. Checking the top soil moisture on daily basis will ensure the plant won’t suffer from either under watering or overwatering. The signs of improper watering are wilting, curling, and yellowing leaves.
If you finger feels dry after touching the top soil, it means the plant needs watering. Sometimes, this method become insufficient for the following reasons:
First, your plant is big and you aren’t sure on the soil dryness level.
Second, you might have more plants but too busy to check their soil one by one.
The answer to this worry is a moisture meter. This device will tell you exactly the right time for watering. It is easy and you don’t get dirty.
Use chemical free water
Similar to lighting, Calathea musaica also a bit more resistant to water quality. Nevertheless, you should not let your guard down.
This plant will appreciate free chemical water such as rainwater, filtered, or distilled water. Then, how about investing in water distiller? In this way, you can use the distilled water for another purpose such as for wiping the leaves.
Tap water is NOT a favorite due to the minerals and compounds inside. Substance such as chlorine and fluoride causes crispy and brown leaves. You must leave tap water in a jar for 24 hours to let the chemical gone through evaporation before using it.
Moreover, lukewarm or room temperature water is better for Calathea. Water with contrasting temperature would shock and harm the plant.
Water the plant thoroughly
Soil as the main event must be soaked in room temperature water for good. Wait for a few minutes or 30 minutes until all the excess water drains. Also throw the water left in the saucer or tray because fungal problem may occur.
- You can increase the watering frequency in summer, but you must reduce the frequency in winter.
- The key to Calathea watering is a little water but frequent.
- If your plant suffers from tap water, you may cut the leaf tips.
- Beware of brown color on the leaf tips or edges. Although wrong watering could be the culprit, other plant issues also have similar symptoms like these. Before you focus on the water type, try to correct the basic things first.
Even though regular houseplant potting mix is good enough for Calathea musaica, many experts recommend to add more useful materials. The examples of good amendments are perlite, coarse sand, coco coir, gravel, and fine moss.
These materials usually assist in three aspect: to improve drainage, to hold enough moisture, and to provide organic matters. You can try mixing peat or coco coir and perlite (2:1) or regular houseplant soil, peat moss, and perlite (1:2:2).
Effects of poor soil
- A compacted or clayey soil retain more water than necessary. In each watering the aeration is getting worse and the oxygen is blocked. As a result, the plant is starving since the distribution of important mineral and nutrients is fail.
- A too porous soil means the plant is going to experience drought. The roots are too dry to even do their job, so the leaves start to wilt.
- In addition to good soil, it will be useless without drainage holes, moderate watering, and high humidity.
- An ideal potting mix should have a pH level around 6-7.5.
- In mixing the planting medium, the soil must contain materials that support good drainage at least 1/3 of the whole composition.
A regular household can easily achieve a humidity level above 50% that the plant requires. Ideally, it is better to keep the humidity level between 60%-80% range.
Too high humidity level (above 80%)
It is true that Calathea likes living in a higher humidity, but this condition could increase the risk of bacterial and fungal disease. To combat this problem, the solution is to improve the air circulation. Placing a fan near the plant could help, yet remember that the air changes might shock the plant.
Too low humidity level (under 50%)
Calathea musaica plants cannot stand drought although they could overlook a slightly low humidity level. Besides, a heated house during winter worsen the condition because it creates an arid climate indoor. Such a climate would naturally lower the humidity and ruin the plant mood. What you can do is to raise the humidity level so that your plant feel comfortable.
How to increase humidity
- Gathering tropical plants
(+) the simplest method, free, and less effort
(-) must consider the distance between plants
Tips. Never do this when you get the plants for the first time. They need isolation in case of pest and disease problem.
(+) able to cover wider area with more plants, automatic setting, and a good future investment
(-) would be too expensive for some people
- Water tray
(+) affordable method, effective for small number or plants
(-) must change the water frequently, only able cover a smaller area, the moisture might disappear before reaching the plant
(+) work well temporary, more beneficial to keep pest away especially those that like dry condition
(-) probably have to mist everyday depends on how low the humidity level is, excessive misting would hurt the plant
Utilize hygrometer for checking the exact humidity level at home.
According to its original habitat in tropical forest, the average temperature for Calathea is 18°C to F 30°C. And this is normally how an indoor area temperature would be.
When the temperature starts to get colder, this plant would pretty much show its frustration. Once the temperature hits under 15°C, the plant will stop growing. For this reason, growing the plant inside is safer than outside.
This plant is also not a fan of sudden temperature change. Both hot and cold draft are the enemy of Calathea genus since they cause brown and wilting foliage. Therefore, you must keep the plant away from the following sources.
- Heating sources: oven, heating vent, fireplace, radiator, sunny hot window
- Cooling source: AC, fan, open window/door/balcony
Read also : Calathea Makoyana: Astonishing Peacock Plant
Dos and Don’ts
- Wet the plant before applying fertilizer to avoid root burn.
- Always follow the ½ strength dosage rule when fertilizing.
- Feed the plant during growing season (spring and summer).
- Don’t feed the plant after repotting and propagation.
- Don’t give too much fertilizer as this plant is not a heavy feeder.
- Wrong dosage and harsh/strong fertilizer would eventually kill the plant.
Organic fertilizer comes in various form. It is a common practice to add 10% worm casting or compost in the potting soil to support plant growth. These materials are able to provide enough nutrients for months as they release the nutrient slowly. Moreover, nutrient burn is not likely to happen.
Over the time, the plant will use up the nutrients in the soil. However, keep adding this kind of fertilizer is not a wise decision. Actually, the abundant organic matters in the soil would ruin the drainage. Consequently, overwatering risk increases.
Many people say to use a balanced, water-soluble plant fertilizer for Calathea musaica. You just need to dilute it with water at ¼ or ½ strength based on the recommendation. It is easier to monitor how much food the plant get with this kind or fertilizer. The recommendation is to apply once every 4-6 weeks in warm months.
Deal with over fertilizing
The main causes of over fertilizing are applying too much fertilizer or using chemical/synthetic fertilizer. One of the visible symptom you will notice is white powdery things on the soil surface, which is usually the accumulated salt.
Flushing the soil with water regularly can easily remove the salt deposit. If it does not work, the problem might be more serious than it would be. You might have to change the soil and cut the affected plant parts.
Use a sharp and sterile shears or knife to cut the stem near the soil level/plant base. Damaged, dying, and dead leaves could be the signs of other issue. So, you can groom the plant and check its health at the same time.
Piled dust and debris would hamper the photosynthesis process and light absorption. They also make the plant looks dull. Hence, you need to wipe the leaves using cloth after soaking it in distilled water. Don’t use cold water because the plant will get shock and show wilting leaves.
There are two things you should know about Calathea musaica plants before repotting.
- They like to be in at the same pot for as long as possible (rootbound).
- These plants hate to move often.
- Encourage better growth. You should repot the plant if the roots popping out through the drainage holes and even the soil surface. Basically, the roots are expanding and the current pot will not be able to handle this.
- Refresh the soil. If the soil dries out faster than usual, repotting is the right option to replenish the soil. The soil probably has lose its nutrient and ability to drain water and retain moisture well.
- Save the plant from pest/disease. In a severe condition, it is necessary to force repotting as soon as possible. Disease and pest could spread unbelievably faster than you think.
Rootbound might occur after 1, 2, or 3 years while the plant is in the same pot. So, there is no use to rush repotting. Likewise, doing this in early spring would spare more time for the plant to recover from transplant shock.
Ideal pot characteristics
- One size larger than the old pot, but 5 cm (2 inches) wider is the maximum. If the pot is too big it’ll be harder to avoid overwatering.
- Plastic is the recommended pot material for Calathea. Certain pot material such as terracotta or ceramic have poor drainage which is not suitable for this plant.
- No matter what, the pot must have drainage holes. Some choose double potting method because they want to make the plant prettier. Nonetheless, this is impractical.
- After watering the plant, wait for 1-2 days before repotting. It aims to keep the roots from drying out.
- Squeeze the pot a little bit and then lift or slide the plant from it.
- Check any sign of unhealthy root and remove them using disinfected knife if necessary.
- Try NOT to disturb the root ball too much at this time.
- Fill half of the new pot with fresh, well-drained soil and make some space for the plant.
- Put the plant in the pot center. Make sure the plant position is at the same level with the old pot.
- Add the remaining soil, but DON’T press the soil too hard. A compact soil will disrupt the drainage and aeration. Later it could damage the roots too.
- You must water the plant lightly because the roots still need time to work as it used to be.
After waking up from dormancy period, Calathea musaica is ready for propagation in spring. To reduce the risk of transplant shock, you can propagate and repot the plant at the same time.
Since propagating is a traumatic experience, you can only propagate a healthy and mature plant. Once propagating finishes, the plant won’t be growing for around 1-2 months. Furthermore, young plants and sick plants have smaller chance to completely recover even just to survive during the process.
- Similar with repotting, you must water the plant first.
- Use quality soil and pot with drainage holes.
- Prepare a flat area free from any disruption.
- Take the mother plant carefully from the pot.
- You can divide Calathea in 2 ways.
This method is available if your plant still doesn’t have tubers. It allows the mother and baby plants to heal faster from the shock. In other words, it is a more delicate method for the sensitive roots.
Simply divide the plant into 2 or 3 if the plant is big enough. Separate the leaves and roots gently. Each divided part should have at least 3 stems and some leaves for a bushy growth.
Compare to plant division, this method is a bit harsher. As the plant becomes more stressful, the recovery time takes longer.
Use a clean blade to divide the rhizome. For a successful propagation, each rhizome need to have several leaves. You might get more than three divisions if your plant is very healthy.
- DON’T overwater the plant. The baby plants have smaller size and are not strong enough to receive a lot of water.
- Wrapping the plant in plastic bag for ± 1 month would keep enough moisture. In addition, it greatly helps the plant recovery pace.
- Once the roots have established, new leaf production will start around 2 months later.
Note. Remember not to feed the plant after propagating and repotting since the plants still have ample nutrient from the fresh soil.
When the plant is under stress due to improper care, pests will have a bigger chance to attack your Calathea. A good habit to have is inspecting the plant health in every watering. Check closely especially under the leaves, along the stalks, and the soil.
|1.||Thrips||Brown and yellow spots, as well as bruised leaves.||First, wipe the leaf with insecticidal soap or neem oil solutionSecond, remove the infected leaves.Third, spray the rest of plant with neem oil for prevention|
|2.||Spider mites||White cotton materials covering the leaves.||Put the plant under a running water (shower/faucet) without too much force.Mix distilled water and isopropyl alcohol (4:1) or neem oil solution, then rub the affected parts.|
|3.||Mealy bugs||Curling and yellowing foliage.||Remove the pest using a cotton swab. Soak the cotton swab in the mixture of isopropyl alcohol and water.Continue this step to eliminate both the adult pest and the eggs.Spray the leaf, stem, and soil surface with neem oil solution.|
- If you’re unsure, isolate the plant first before continuing the treatment.
- In case of severe infestation you must repeat the treatment for several weeks to achieve a pest-free condition.
- Try test the treatment solution first in one area to make sure it works and won’t hurt the plant.
As a matter of fact, Calathea musaica is rarely get sick. There is no disease that particularly attacks this plant. You just have to maintain proper ventilation and avoid overwatering.
Common disease and the causes
- Yellowing leaves: overwatering
- Brown and dry leaf edges: dry air, hard water, excess direct sunlight
- Drooping and curling leaves: under watering
- Root rot: overwatering
Issues regarding water, moisture, and humidity often affect the root health. Yellowing leaves could be the sign of root, but most people don’t expect that. In the worst case, you’ll finally notice this problem when foul smell is in the air and the roots become brown and mushy.
The treatment include:
- quarantine the plant,
- discard the unhealthy roots then save the white and firm ones, and
- replant Calathea in new pot with good soil.
Why you should grow Calathea Musaica
Firstly, it has crisscross pattern instead of the plain straight motive on the leaves.
Secondly, it is not a drama-queen plant which means it requires easy care.
Thirdly, this plant is more resilient to: water type, low humidity, and various lighting condition.