Calathea Ornata Care: A Guide to Keeping Your Pinstripe Plant Thriving

Calathea Ornata Care: The Ultimate Guide to Keeping Your Pinstripe Plant Thriving

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Calathea ornata, also known as Pinstripe Plant or Pinstripe Calathea, is a stunning foliage plant that belongs to the prayer plant family.

With its large, dark green leaves adorned with pink stripes and reddish-purple undersides, it adds a touch of elegance to any indoor space.

However, caring for this tropical plant can be a bit challenging. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to keep your Calathea ornata looking its best.

Understanding the Basics: Calathea Ornata 101

Before we dive into the specifics of caring for your Calathea ornata, let’s take a closer look at this beautiful plant. Calathea ornata is native to the jungles of South America, specifically Colombia and Venezuela.

Like other members of the prayer plant family, its leaves fold up and point upwards at night, then settle back down during the day. Over time, the pink stripes on its foliage may turn white.

Light: Finding the Perfect Balance

Proper lighting is essential for the health and growth of your Calathea ornata. It thrives in bright indirect light, so finding the right balance is crucial. If you’re in the northern hemisphere, a north-facing window is ideal as it receives no direct sunlight.

For those in the southern hemisphere, a south-facing window without direct sun exposure is recommended. An eastern exposure window, which provides gentle morning sun, is also suitable for this plant.

To measure light intensity, you can use a lux meter like the Dr. Meter LX1330B. The UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center suggests 1000-2000 foot candles of light for optimum growth.

If your windows receive too much direct sunlight, you can either move your plant further away or use sheer curtains or partially closed blinds to diffuse the light.

Water: Finding the Right Balance

Proper watering is crucial for maintaining the health of your Calathea ornata. These plants do not like to dry out, so it’s important to keep a close eye on soil moisture.

As a general rule, water your plant when the top inch of soil feels dry. Maintaining a fairly evenly moist soil, while allowing the surface to dry out slightly, is key.

However, be cautious not to let the potting mix go completely dry, as this can lead to ugly, crispy brown tips and edges on the foliage.

On the other hand, avoid letting your plant sit in water for extended periods, as it can contribute to root rot. Always empty out any excess water from the saucer below the pot to prevent waterlogging.

When it comes to water quality, Calatheas are sensitive to hard tap water and fluoride. Using distilled or RO water can help achieve a pristine-looking plant. If using tap water, make sure it’s at room temperature or lukewarm.

Rainwater is also an excellent option if you live in an unpolluted area. Remember, once leaf edges turn brown, they will stay that way, so monitoring new foliage is essential.

Fertilizer: Providing Essential Nutrients

Giving your Calathea ornata the right nutrients is crucial for its growth and overall health. A urea-free fertilizer like Dyna-Gro Grow, which contains all the necessary micro and macro nutrients, is recommended for tropical foliage plants.

Dilute the fertilizer as instructed, typically around 1/4 teaspoon per gallon of water, and use it every time you water.

To prevent built-up fertilizer salts in the soil, periodically water your plant with plain distilled water to flush out any accumulated salts.

This can help prevent brown leaf tips, which Calatheas are sensitive to. Proper fertilization will ensure your Calathea ornata remains vibrant and healthy.

Soil: Finding the Perfect Medium

Choosing the right soil for your Calathea ornata is crucial for its overall well-being. It requires a well-draining potting mix that retains moisture.

Many different potting soils can work, so find one that suits your preferences. Here are a few examples:

  • A mix of 3 parts all-purpose mix (such as Espoma organic) and 1 part perlite or pumice. Pumice has the advantage of not floating to the surface like perlite.
  • Tilth Soil’s House mix, an organic potting mix that is ready to use out of the bag.
  • University of Florida recommends a 3:1 ratio of peat to coarse sand as a suitable medium, with a slightly acidic soil pH of 6.5.

Always use pots with drainage holes to prevent waterlogging, as it can lead to root rot.

Humidity & Temperature: Creating the Perfect Environment

Calathea ornata thrives in high humidity environments, so paying attention to humidity levels is essential. Misting is not recommended, as it does not effectively increase the relative humidity of the air and can encourage fungal diseases if overdone.

Instead, set your plant on a moist pebble tray or use a humidifier to elevate humidity levels. Aim for 50-60% humidity, especially if you live in a cold-winter area with dry forced heat.

Maintaining a temperature range of 60-85°F is crucial for the optimal growth of your Calathea ornata. Avoid placing it in areas with cold drafts or near heater vents that can produce dry, hot drafts. Providing a warm and humid environment will ensure your plant thrives.

Pests: Protecting Your Calathea Ornata

Calathea ornata can be prone to pests such as spider mites and fungus gnats. Spider mites thrive in dry air, so maintaining higher humidity levels can discourage their presence.

As a precautionary measure, give your plant a gentle rinse once a week with lukewarm water to help prevent and manage spider mites.

Fungus gnats, on the other hand, thrive in constantly moist soil. This can be a challenge with Calatheas, as they prefer slightly moist soil. Monitoring soil moisture and allowing the surface to dry out slightly can help prevent fungus gnat infestations.

Propagation: Expanding Your Calathea Ornata Family

If you want to propagate your Calathea ornata, the most effective method is by division during the active growing season. This is typically done when it’s time to repot your plant or when it has outgrown its current pot.

Gently remove the plant from its pot and separate the clumps into individual plants, ensuring each clump has some roots attached. Watering your plant the day before can make the process easier.

Common Problems & Questions: Troubleshooting for Success

To ensure your Calathea ornata remains healthy, it’s important to address common problems and questions. Here are some frequently asked questions and their solutions:

  • Why are my Calathea ornata leaves curling? Curling leaves can be caused by cold temperatures, drafts, and soil drying out too much. It can also be a sign of root rot from waterlogged soil.
  • Why is my Calathea ornata not growing? Insufficient light is often the main culprit. Ensure your plant is situated in a bright location while providing proper watering and temperature conditions.
  • Is Calathea ornata poisonous to pets? According to the ASPCA, Calathea plants are non-toxic to dogs, cats, and horses.
  • Why are the edges of my Calathea ornata leaves turning brown and crispy? This can be caused by dry soil, low humidity, excessive direct sunlight, or water with high fluoride content.
  • Why are my Calathea ornata leaves turning yellow? Yellow leaves can be a result of extremes in soil moisture, either dryness or root rot.

Remember, each plant is unique, so monitoring your Calathea ornata’s specific needs and adjusting your care accordingly is key to its success.


Caring for your Calathea ornata doesn’t have to be daunting. By providing the right conditions in terms of light, water, soil, humidity, temperature, and pest control, you can ensure your plant thrives and remains a beautiful addition to your indoor space. With the tips and techniques outlined in this guide, you’ll be well-equipped to keep your Calathea ornata healthy and vibrant for years to come. Happy gardening!

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