Peacock Plants – The Calathea

One of the things that I enjoy about many of the plants from the tropics are not the flowers, although they are an added feature, it’s the foliage.

That was one of the things that got me hooked on plants, was the amazing array of textures, colors, and shapes of the plants.

Let’s face it, many of the plants used indoors offer many different shades of green.

That’s why plantscapers are excited about many of the new Aglaonemas which have hit the market. It adds a whole range of new looks to their landscape pallet.

I’ve always marveled at one group of plants though and that’s Calatheas.
Roseo Picta Calathea
If you’re looking for plants with usual colors and leaf patterns take a look at the Calathea family. They are among one of the most beautiful and exotic collections of foliage produced today.

Through the process of plant tissue culture or cloning many new varieties have been introduced in recent years.

Many plants just do not receive enough light to flower indoors. For the Calathea that’s not a problem, their leaves do all the talking. Calatheas have long been very popular in Europe because of the plant’s colorful foliage assets.

Here are a few particulars on Calatheas…

  • Calatheas do not like heat, they like the same temperatures most people prefer… 65 – 85 degrees. Generally they like the soil to be moist. This means watering the soil well and allowing the plant to drain off the excess water.
  • Plants allowed to sit in water or kept too wet develop root rot very easily.
  • Fluoride toxicity, as we’ve made reference to so many times in our plant tips, can be a problem with Calatheas. It will show up as tip burn mostly on the older leaves.
  • You might also be tempted to think that all that bright foliage requires regular feeding. Stay away from it as that will just increase the salt level in the soil, which can cause burn to roots and show up on leaves.
  • They come in a wide range of size from small plants used in dish gardens to 6 foot landscape plants. I’ve seen very recently a simple 6 inch Calathea used as center piece in a restaurant adding a very unusual look to the table.

burle marx

Calathea ‘Burle Marx’

‘Burle Marx’ is a small plant growing to about 15″ in height. It is sometimes referred to as the Ctenanthe ‘Burle Marx.’ 

Botanists say that it belongs to the Maranta family and it is not to a type of Calathea.  But whatever name it carries, this plant is surely known for its wonderful foliage.  Its pale green leaves have dark green markings that radiate out of the mid-vein.

Many shops show Burle Marx growing in dish gardens, terrariums, or in hanging baskets. 

Gardeners and growers make the most out of the compact growth habit of Burle Marx and its wonderful foliage by growing it indoors.  It does well as a ground cover or as a container plant in shady patio and in shady areas of few tropical backyard.  This beauty is definitely a wonderful houseplant.

So where can you get them? Contact your favorite local garden center or nursery and ask about Calatheas. If they don’t carry them have them contact their indoor plant supplier, they’ll be able to find them.

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