Calathea lancifolia with captivating foliage

Calathea lancifolia (Rattlesnake Plant)

This captivating tropical plant that showcases dazzling variegated leaves had us really smitten when we first sighted it.

Potted Calathea lancifolia (Rattlesnake Plant) at our courtyard, 7 June 2013Then, it was out of sight, out of mind until we needed to source for some variegated foliage plants for our courtyard. The quarter-moon pebbled border therein seemed somewhat bare, with many potted plants being devoured by mealy bugs and red spider mites.
Hence, there was an urgent need to replenish the bareness.

Fortunately, during our plant-shopping spree, we came across several potted Calathea lancifolia about 3 years ago that were readily available for sale at a garden nursery in the neighbourhood for just RM5 per pot.

Of course, we grabbed one without hesitation for our garden. This gorgeous plant with impressive variegated foliage fitted our desire perfectly!

Plant Profile, Culture and Propagation :

  • Botanical Name: Calathea lancifolia (Rattlesnake Plant) seen at a garden nursery 9 Nov 2011Calathea lancifolia (syn.: Calathea insignis).
  • Common Name: Rattlesnake Plant.
  • Family name: Marantaceae.
  • Etymology: The genus name, Calathea comes from the Greek word, kalathos, meaning a basket, in reference to the inflorescences borne by some species. The species epithet lancifolia, referring to its lance-shaped leaves.
  • Origin: Native to Brazil..
  • Plant type: An ornamental, evergreen and tropical perennial.
  • Features: Several potted Calathea lancifolia (Rattlesnake Plant) seen at a garden nursery 9 Nov 2011Calathea lancifolia is an attractively beautiful species of the genus, Calathea that consists of about 300 species that are valued for their decorative foliage.
    It is an evergreen perennial that grows moderately to between 60-75 cm tall
    A clump-forming plant with an upright habit that reproduces vegetatively by underground rhizomes.
    Calathea lancifolia produces slender pale green leaves to 45 cm in length and heavily marked above with dark green blotches on either side of the midrib. In lovely contrast, the underside of each leaf is deep purple in colour.
    Their eye-catching undulating blades are held atop stiff and medium green petioles that emerge from the rhizomes. The petioles grow up to varied heights, presenting a captivating multi-level display.
    Calathea lancifolia (Rattlesnake Plant) showing the top and underside of its variegated leaves, 22 May 2013Like many species of the Marantaceae family, Calathea lancifolia is no exception. It has the characteristic feature of folding up their leaves by means of a tiny joint in the leaf stalk, from dusk onwards or on cloudy days, like hands held upright in prayer.
    And, in the morning till early evening, the leaves will return to normal position, that is, almost perpendicular to the petioles.
    Calathea lancifolia (Rattlesnake Plant) grown elsewhere in the neighbourhood, 20 Nov 2011 Spikes of small lowers are rarely produced in cultivation. Should it bloom once in a while, small yellow flowers appear in short spikes.
  • Culture (Care): Calathea lancifolia or Rattlesnake Plant can be somewhat easily grown if the conditions of tropical rain forest where it originated is maintained, that is, providing it sufficient water, warmth and high humidity.
    Light: Bright indirect light or partial shade. Direct sun bleaches, burns and curls the leaves. Tolerates low light or full shade but may slow growth and results in dull-looking foliage.
    Moisture: Average water requirements. Water moderately and regularly. Overwatering can cause root rot. At lower temperatures, water sparingly and allow soil surface to dry slightly between watering.
    Soil: Humus-enriched, loamy and well-drained soils. Potted Calathea lancifolia (Rattlesnake Plant) grown elsewhere, 20 Nov 2011
    Others: Feed once monthly with a balanced liquid fertiliser for foliage plants. It is sensitive to salt accumulation from unabsorbed fertilizer salts that will cause leaf margins to curl, so flush the soil occasionally with water to neutralize it. Excessive wind can also cause curling of leaves.
    Calathea lancifolia is intolerable of dryness in the air and requires high humidity to prevent browning of leaf margins. For an indoor plant, use a room humidifier, mist it regularly or stand it in a saucer of pebbles filled with water almost to the base of pot to maintain humidity.
    To keep plant tidy, prune off brown or withered leaves together with petioles, and spent flower heads if any. Being a rhizomatous perennial, it can stand being cut back to ground level if plant seemed unhealthy or unsightly and new growth will eventually emerge.
    Captivating variegated leaves of Calathea lancifoliaRe-pot only when it is overcrowded or the need to propagate arises as it likes to be pot-bound. Calathea is prone to attack by red spider mites, otherwise relatively free from pests and diseases.
    For subtropical and temperate regions: Hardiness: USDA Zone 10b-11.
    Keep Calathea lancifolia plants in a draught-free location and ensure constant moderate-to-high temperatures as draughts may cause leaves to curl. Water and feed sparingly in winter but water well during summer and maintain high humidity by misting as best as you can as it does not tolerate dry air. Brown leaf margins is a sign of insufficient humidity. Provide bright light at all seasons but avoid direct sunlight that will burn the leaves.
    Calathea lancifolia (Rattlesnake Plant) thriving well at our courtyard, 7 June 2013To propagate new plants, best to divide the crowded clumps when you repot them in late spring.
    In non-hardy regions, it can be grown outdoors in summer. Alternatively, plant them in containers to bring them indoors during winter.
  • Propagation: By dividing crowded clumps. Separate the plants carefully and ensure that each division has a few leaves and strong roots intact. Pot each division individually in a good potting medium and firm the soil around the roots. Wet soil thoroughly, drain and site at a partially shaded spot, misting regularly during the early stages to ensure success.
  • Usage: Calathea lancifolia is an impressive decorative foliage plant that is most ideal as a container plant, located indoors as a houseplant in homes or offices, and outdoors in the garden, porch, deck or patio.
    Mostly foliage plants incl. Calathea lancifolia, 22 May 2013Excellent too, when placed amongst a crowd of other foliage plants as seen in the right image. It can be used in mass planting in garden beds or borders or as groundcovers under large shady trees. An attractive tropical ornamental and landscape plant that will look great as a stand-alone specimen or grown in front of a shrub border as well.

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