Calathea Orbifolia Plant Care


Calathea Orbifolia

Lemon-Lime Prayer Plant, Round Leaf Orbifolia

Calathea Orbifolia, or the round leaf plant, is a beautiful houseplant with large round leaves and natural variegation.

True to its roots in the Maranta family, this plant is related to the prayer plant. It folds up its beautiful leaves in the dark and unfolds them to greet the daylight.

You’ll love this inspiring beauty for its prayer-like habit, large glossy leaves, and striking silvery veins.

This particular type of Calathea is originally from the forests of Bolivia. It grows naturally in the warm, filtered sunlight of humid forests. It can certainly make a big statement when grown as a houseplant where impressively, it grows quickly reaching as much as three feet in height, and leaves that can grow up to a foot long.

All varieties of Calathea have a crazy reputation for being a bit fussy and difficult to care for. They may seem intimidating and tricky to grow, but with a bit of knowledge and some practice, you’ll be able to enjoy your Calathea for many years.

Quick Guide

Position Bright, indirect sun

Watering Keep moist in well-drained soil

Size 2 to 3 ft Height

Climate Prefers warmth of 65 to 85 °F. Min 60 ˚F

Propagate Division

Seasonality Perennial

Toxicity Non toxic

Flowers Rarely flowers indoors

Calathea Orbifolia Care

In this article, I’ll be taking an in-depth look at the Calathea Orbifolia – the beautiful plant with large round leaves. I’ll show you just what your Calathea Orbifolia needs to grow and thrive, and I’ll guide you through everything you need to successfully care for your plant so you can enjoy it for many years to come.

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The Calathea Orbifolia does not like direct sunlight. If you try to keep your plant in a window that receives strong, direct sun, the sunlight can burn your plant. At best, too much sun will fade its beautiful leaves and striations. Over time, though, it will burn and even kill it. Bright indirect light or filtered sunlight will help to keep this plant looking its best.

For example, you may want to grow your plant in a south-facing window with a sheer curtain hanging between the sun and the plant. This way, it will receive plenty of bright light without getting burned.

 If this type of set-up doesn’t work for you, you could also try a west-facing window. These windows get less direct light, so the sun is more gentle on the plants. If you don’t have a window that receives indirect light, you may want to consider purchasing grow lights for your Calathea.

Height & Spread

The Round Leaf Orbifolia is a relatively large houseplant with leaves that quickly grow to a foot long and a foot wide, and possibly even larger. Under the right conditions, the entire plant will grow up to three feet tall and three feet wide, giving it a striking presence wherever you choose to position it.


Improper watering is one of the biggest reasons that these plants fail to thrive. Too little water will make the leaves of a Round Leaf Orbifolia plant turn brown and wither. On the other hand, too much water will cause the plant to get root rot. Balance is the key to a healthy plant.

Generally speaking, Calatheas prefer moist but not soggy soil. Water the plant thoroughly, and allow all of the excess water to run out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot before returning it to its decorative pot or container.

Hold off picking up the watering can again until the top of the soil begins to dry out.

You may need to water every week or every month, depending on your climate. One thing is for sure, you’ll need to water more frequently during times of growth and less frequently during the winter when the plant is somewhat dormant.

Although these plants like neither soggy nor dry soil, they do need humidity to thrive. There are various ways to increase the humidity of your plant. You can group a few other plants closely around it or you can set the plant on a tray of pebbles. To do this, fill the tray with water so that the pebbles are wet, but not so much that the water reaches the bottom of the plant’s pot.


The type of soil you use is an essential aspect of ensuring your Calathea Orbifolia has the right amount of moisture. This plant needs moist but not soggy soil so avoid any potting medium that holds in too much water for long periods of time.

Always use well-draining soil that contains either peat or coco coir to accomplish this perfectly. You may want to consider the fact that peat is not a sustainably sourced type of soil. For more eco-friendly soil, you could choose a mixture of potting soil, coco coir, and perlite. This combination will allow excess water to drain away while maintaining just enough moisture around the roots.

I prefer to use pre-made soil created for African Violets such as Espoma Organic African Violet Potting Mix.

I find works perfectly well for Calathea plants without the fuss of trying to blend my own.

Espoma Organic African Violet Potting Mix


Calathea plants are grown for their dazzling foliage with their intricate designs and beautiful colored leaves. This species of Calathea is no different with its impressive size and grey-green foliage. And although these and other species of Calatheas can produce flowers, they aren’t grown explicitly for their blooms. Most of the time, a Calathea won’t flower indoors, anyway.

Calatheas in their natural habitat will bloom. When they do, they produce small white clusters of flowers on the ends of stems. The flowers are small and star-shaped. Even if the Calathea does bloom, the flowers are secondary to the plant’s fantastic foliage.

Don’t be too concerned if your Calathea doesn’t flower because they often don’t. But if it does, you can be sure you’re doing a great job with its care.

How to fertilize Calathea Orbifolia

Calatheas, I’ve found, benefit from a bit of fertilizer. They aren’t heavy feeders, though, so a little bit will go a long way and you’re probably only going to need to fertilize these beauties on a slow-release basis or about once a month with a liquid feed. Their typical growing season is from early spring through the fall and this is the only time they will need feeding. For the rest of the year, the plant will be dormant or grow very slowly, so it won’t need any fertilizer at all.

You can feed your plant with any typical tropical houseplant fertilizer. If you are using a liquid fertilizer dilute it to 25% and mix it with water and apply it monthly.


I personally prefer Jobes Houseplant Food Spikes because they are so easy to use and mess-free.

The spikes just need to be inserted into the soil and I can use this type of fertilizer not only for my Calathea Orbifolia but also for most of my other houseplants too.

If you do choose a time-release fertilizer such as the Jobes Spikes, you won’t need to fertilize your plant again until all of the fertilizer in the soil has been used up. By that time, it is usually the end of the growing season anyway, and time to give your plant a break from too much watering and feeding.


There may be times when you need to prune your Calathea Orbifolia. It isn’t uncommon for these plants to lose a leaf now and then. Sometimes, a plant will drop a leaf that is getting old.

Occasionally a leaf will be deformed or grow crooked, and you just want to get rid of it. Dropping a leaf is fine and certainly won’t hurt the plant to remove a leaf here and there.

If you are going to prune away a leaf, use a sharp pair of scissors or plant shears that have been sanitized or, preferably, sterilized. Carefully clip the leaf off at the base of the plant and dispose of it.

It’s very common for Calatheas to get brown tips from improper watering or too much sun. These can look unsightly, but you can safely trim them off. It won’t hurt the plant to clean up the edges. Cut away the brown spots, following the natural shape of the leaf and removing as little as possible. You can remove just the brown parts without destroying the entire leaf.


Calatheas don’t need to be repotted too frequently, which is good because they can become very stressed. Thankfully, you’ll only need to repot if your plant is becoming root-bound.

Choose a pot about 1 to 2 inches larger than the current pot and make sure the pot has drainage holes. Start by covering the bottom of the pot with some fresh well-draining soil.

To remove your Calathea from its current pot, lay the plant carefully on its side and slide it out of the pot. Gently set it upright in the new pot and backfill the rest of the space with more fresh, new soil. Water the plant as normal and allow the excess water to drain away.

Try to keep the rest of the plant’s surroundings the same. Repotting is not a good time to move it to a new location. If the plant becomes stressed, it may look a little wilted and can even drop a few leaves. Keep taking excellent care of your plant, and it should bounce within 4-6 weeks.

How to Propagate Calathea Orbifolia

You won’t be able to propagate your Calathea from seed or by stem cuttings; they just don’t grow that way. However, if you have a healthy and growing plant, it will begin to produce off-shoots on the sides of the plant. These shoots can be divided from the mother plant and repotted to grow into another Calathea Orbifolia.

The process is similar to repotting your plant. Place the plant on its side and gently slide it out of its pot. Gently separate the pups from the mother plant. Each baby plant needs to have some roots and at least one healthy leaf to grow. As you divide the plant, try to disrupt the roots only as much as is absolutely necessary.

Place the pups into their own pot and fill it with the appropriate soil. Water as usual, then place the plants back into the same conditions, so they experience the least stress.

Common problems with Calathea Orbifolia

Calathea plants are subject to a few common problems. Knowing what they are can help you troubleshoot why yours isn’t thriving.

Root rot

This is a common problem of all Calathea plants. It occurs when the soil does not drain quickly enough, and too much moisture is trapped around the roots.

The roots of the plant will become soft and slimy and will turn brown or black. You can prevent root rot by watering your plant correctly and making sure it has well-draining soil.

To rid your Calathea Orbifolia of root rot you will need to remove it from its pot and cut away all signs of the diseased roots. I find that re-sanitizing your cutting tools will help to prevent the spread.

Brown leaves

Brown or yellow leaves on your Prayer Plant is typically a sign of either too little water or too much sunlight. Discolored leaves can also be a sign of salt build-up in the soil. Tap water can contain a mix of minerals, salts, and chlorine and over time, these build up in the soil and cause the plant’s leaves to turn brown.

You can prevent this by using rainwater, distilled water, or by letting your tap water sit out overnight so the chlorine can dissipate.

Curled leaves

A Calathea plant will curl up its leaves when trying to conserve moisture or protect itself from the sun. If you notice leaves curling you’ll need to check the soil to see if it is dry and if not, consider moving the plant away from the direct sun.

Wilting leaves

Most of the time, wilting leaves are a sign that the plant is not receiving enough water. A thorough drink should perk it up quickly. Sometimes, however, it can signify that the plant has been chronically overwatered and is now suffering from root rot. See my tips above on how to troubleshoot root rot.

Faded color

Calatheas are naturally vibrant plants. But if yours starts looking a little faded or washed out, it might be because it receives too much sunlight. You’ll need to move your plant away from the strong sun or put up a sheer curtain.

If you wait too long to fix the problem, your Calathea Orbifolia may burn and die.

Calathea Orbifolia FAQ