Calathea Ornata Plant Care | Pinstripe Plant, Cathedral Plant, Zebra Plant

Calathea Ornata

Calathea Ornata

Pinstripe Plant, Cathedral Plant

The Pinstripe Plant, also called Calathea Ornata, is a gorgeous tropical houseplant with a reputation for being a bit, well, finicky to grow. Reputation aside, you’ll love this houseplant if you’re crazy about its lush foliage, unique patterns and stripes, and burgundy undersides.

You’ll also love this plant if you are looking for a dramatic centerpiece too. Pinstripe Plants are well-loved by plant collectors and make bright and cheery conversation pieces in your home or office. 

This beauty is a member of the prayer plant or Maranta family. Prayer plants are named because their leaves fold up when the sun goes down, giving them the appearance that they are praying.

The Calathea Ornata plant is native to South America, where they grow in damp, woody forests where they can grow anywhere from three to nine feet tall. Grown indoors, however, they’ll probably only grow to about three feet tall and three feet wide, if that.

The large, glossy, oblong leaves grow on the end of tall stems, and new growth occurs from the center of the plant.

The name Calathea comes from the Greek word for basket, which refers to the shape of the plant’s flowers. Ornata is Latin and refers to the plant’s ornate or flashy designs.

Quick Guide

Position Bright, indirect sun

Watering Keep moist in well-drained soil

Size Approx 3 ft Height by 3 ft wide

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

Propagate Division

Seasonality Perennial

Toxicity Non toxic

Flowers Pretty orange blooms when grown outdoors

Calathea Ornata Care 

You don’t have to be worried about this plant’s challenging nature, though. As long as you know what this plant needs, you’ll be able to keep your plant looking beautiful and healthy. I’ve got you covered when it comes to all the best hints and tips for growing and caring for a healthy, thriving Calathea Ornata.

Position 

Calathea Ornata prefers to grow in bright, indirect light. If you put them in direct sunlight, like I’ve done by mistake in the past, the natural striations that make them so unique can fade.

Direct sunlight can also burn their delicate leaves, giving them a charred appearance, brown spots, or brown tips. All of which are very common.

An ideal location for Calathea Ornata is in a south-facing window with a sheer curtain between your plant and the window. Using a curtain sheer will give your lovely plant plenty of bright light without the risk of getting burned. If that’s not an option for you, try a west-facing window, instead.

Pinstripe Plants love a warm home that is free of draft or wind so avoid putting them in front of a fan or near a drafty window, which can cause leaf drop

They also dislike cold temperatures. Indeed, cold can kill your Calathea so it’s best to keep them in an area that maintains an average temperature of 65 to 85°F and definitely no lower than 60˚F.

In addition, Calathea plants need medium to high humidity, which should range somewhere between 50 and 60%. You can increase humidity around the plant by grouping a few plants together or placing them on a pebble tray filled with water.

Height And Spread 

In their native habitat of a warm tropical forest, a Calathea can grow up to nine feet tall. Although these plants make great tropical houseplants, they won’t grow nearly as large indoors.

You’ll likely find that your Calathea Ornata grows around two feet tall and two feet wide but no larger than three feet tall and three feet wide. Still a sizable houseplant nonetheless and one that will have a big impact without being overwhelmingly large.

Watering 

Watering is probably the most challenging aspect of Calathea Ornata plant care to get just right, and it’s one I have battled with before being able to get the balance just right.

You see over watering will cause your plant to wilt and look sickly, while under watering can cause brown, droopy leaves or crispy edges.

Ideally, your Calathea Ornata needs moist soil that isn’t soggy. Think of it this way: your plant loves humidity, but it can’t stand to sit in a puddle.

Here’s what I’ve found works for Calatheas:

Water your Pinstripe Plant until water flows out through the pot’s drainage holes. Giving it a good drench will make sure the entire plant gets a good drink!

Always allow any excess water to drain away before returning it to its decorative pot or container. This is so the plant’s roots don’t sit in soggy soil or have the chance to absorb excess water. Otherwise, they’ll end up with root rot.

Hold off on picking up your watering can again until the top of your plant’s soil begins to dry out. Waiting for the top of the soil to dry will help prevent fungus or mold from growing on top of the soil.

Your plant will probably need more water in the warm summer months and a little less when its growth slows in the winter months.

Soil 

Pinstripe Plants prefer a lightly moist soil that isn’t soggy. As previously mentioned, these plants love high humidity, but they can’t stand sitting in a puddle. A soil that holds in too much water will cause root rot and other problems, while soil that dries out too quickly will cause the plant to turn brown.

A peat-based soil will do a good job of creating a balance between moist but not soggy soil. However, peat-based soils are not very sustainable, and the use of peat is sometimes controversial.

An excellent alternative is coco coir mixed with potting soil and a little bit of perlite. The perlite will prevent the coco coir from becoming a hard clump when it starts to dry out.  The coco coir will retain enough moisture to keep the mix damp without being overly soggy.

If creating your own soil mix sounds too complicated, consider premade African Violet soil. It will meet all of the conditions that your Calathea Ornata needs.

Flowers 

In its natural habitat, a mature Calathea Ornata plant produces pretty orange flowers that grow in spiral-shaped bracts from the base of the plant.

However, this plant, along with most other Calathea species, will rarely flower indoors. In my opinion, aside from the slightly unpredictable nature of a flowering Calathea, it really is the flashy foliage anyway that makes this plant so special and attractive.

How to Fertilize Calathea Ornata

Calathea plants aren’t heavy feeders, but they do need some fertilizer to help them grow and produce their beautiful foliage. The best time to fertilize your plant is during the growing season, which generally occurs from spring through early fall.

You can feed your Calathea with a regular tropical houseplant fertilizer. However, you’ll need to dilute it to prevent burns to the roots. Dilute your fertilizer to half strength or less. Choose a fertilizer with plenty of micronutrients to keep your plant healthy and strong.

You’ll only need to fertilize during the summer months when your plant is growing. During the winter, the plant is somewhat dormant and won’t be putting out new leaves, and therefore, you do not need to fertilize during this time.

The best time to start fertilizing is when you begin to see signs that the plant is waking up in early to mid-spring. Once you start seeing signs of new growth, you can start fertilizing it again.

I love, love love a fertilizer spike and can highly recommend Jobe’s Houseplant Food Spikes

They are convenient to use, mess-free, odor-free because you simply need to pop them out of the packet and insert them into the potting mess. And, they are slow-release which means less chance of root or leaf burn.

I use them for my Calathea plants as well as my other houseplants.

jobes houseplant spikes

Pruning 

Occasionally, you’ll find a brown or dead leaf around the base of your plant. If it only happens from time to time, this isn’t a cause for concern.

It’s only natural that as plants mature, they sometimes shed old leaves. Where this happens, simply prune away the dead or dying leaves to improve the appearance of your plant.

To do this, use a pair of sharp scissors or handheld plant shears to snip off the stem where the leaf joins the base of the plant and then carefully dispose of the leaf.

It is always a good idea to sanitize any cutting implements so that you don’t cross-contaminate a sick plant by accident. To

It is also a good idea to clean up leaves that have brown tips. Brown tips can come from over-fertilizing, too much sunlight, or even under watering.

Thankfully, seeing a little bit of brown on the edges of your plant does not mean the entire leaf is dying, and you do not need to get rid of the whole leaf when this happens. Take a clean pair of scissors, and trim away the brown parts following the natural curve of the leaf.

Repotting 

Repotting is a sort of risky business when it comes to Calathea plants in general. They are very disturbed by the shock, so you don’t want to repot your plant unless you need to.

You’ll know it’s time to repot when your plant has become rootbound, and there is no more room for the plant to grow. Don’t repot your plant if it is a little unhealthy. Nurse it back to health, first. It will need full strength to recover from the shock of being repotted.

The best time to repot your Calathea Ornata is in early spring, right before it begins the process of rapid growth. Use a houseplant pot or container that is one to two inches larger than the current one. Choose a well-draining potting mix, such as discussed above.

Lay the plant on its side, and gently squeeze the pot to loosen it. Slide the plant out of the pot and move it to the new one. Try not to disturb the roots if possible, but if any are black and slimy, you can trim them away.

Backfill new soil around the plant and give it a little water. Your plant may look wilted or show no signs of growth for a few weeks until it settles in but continue to water it in line with its watering schedule and position it in a bright spot out of direct sunlight and before long, it will bounce back better than ever.

How to Propagate Calathea Ornata

Calathea plants cannot be propagated through stem cuttings or seeds. However, you can propagate a Calathea Ornata through root division. So, if you have a healthy, growing plant, and you are happy to split it, you can divide it at the roots.

Only propagate a Calathea Plant in the early spring, before the rapid growing season begins. Look for a robust and healthy plant that has new clumps of growth at its sides. This is a good sign that the plant is ready to divide.

Carefully remove the plant from its pot. You’ll want to disturb the roots as little as possible so you’re going to need to break them apart with as little disruption as possible.

With a clean, sharp knife, cut off the clumps growing off to the sides of the plant. Ensure each section you are separating has both roots and at least one leaf, or the plant will not grow.

Plant each new segment in a sufficiently sized pot with well-draining potting soil. Water lightly and keep the babies and mother plant in optimum conditions. It may take several weeks for all of the plants to recover and begin to grow again.

Common Problems with Calathea Ornata

If your Calathea Ornata isn’t doing well, you might need to do a little bit of troubleshooting to help it along. Here are a few common problems you might see with your Calathea plant or plants.

Curling Leaves

If you see curling leaves on your Calathea, it could be too much direct sunlight, too little humidity, and not enough water. When the leaves curl in, the plant is in distress and is trying to protect itself by conserving water.

Try moving your plant away from the light, increasing the humidity, and watering it more frequently.

Wilting leaves

It is normal for Calathea leaves to move in response to the light. However, if the leaves are wilting, it might be a sign that your plant is not receiving enough water.

Occasionally, though, leaves can look wilted in response to too much water.

Feel the soil to see if it is dry. If you can poke your finger down into the soil and not feel any moisture, it’s a good sign your plant needs a drink.

Brown Leaves

If the tips of your Calathea Ornata are turning brown, you might have a water issue. Tap water can contain chlorine, fluoride, minerals, and salts, all of which can build up in your plant’s soil, causing the tips of the leaves to turn brown.

If you have chlorinated water, you may want to leave your water out overnight in a bucket to allow some of the chlorine to dissipate before watering your plant.

Other reasons for brown leaves include under watering and too much direct sun.

Color fading

If the vibrant colors of your Calathea are fading and it is turning pale or yellow, it may be receiving too much light. Try moving your Calathea away from any direct sunlight.

Calathea Ornata FAQ