How To Care For Calathea Warscewiczii – Step by Step Guide

Calathea warscewiczii is a popular houseplant grown for its velvety and colorful leaves. It’s more commonly referred to as Jungle Velvet Calathea. This Calathea is native to the tropical areas of Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

Being a tropical plant makes Calathea warscewiczii the perfect specimen for growing indoors, where the climate is more easily controlled. This plant is a relatively slow grower but can reach a height of around 3 to 4 feet.

The leaves on this plant are quite stunning and add an extra dimension to your indoor plantscape. The tops of the leaves are velvety dark green with lime-green vein markings. These markings often follow a fishtail pattern. On the other hand, the undersides of the leaves and the leaf stems are a rich dark burgundy to purple color.

In recent years or around ten years ago, this plant was reclassified as Goeppertia warscewiczii.

Here is the complete growing guide for this attractive tropical houseplant.

Quick Start Guide For Growing Calathea Warscewiczii

  • Grow in a moist but free-draining potting mix with a pH level between 6.0 to 7.0.
  • Indoors, place the plant near a north or east-facing window, so it gets plenty of indirect light to ensure the plant’s colorings will be as bright as possible. Keep out of direct sunlight as this could burn the leaves on the plant.
  • The plant requires regular watering and does not like the soil to dry out. However, excess water should be allowed to drain away, and the roots should never sit in water.
  • Indoor temperatures should be in the range of 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 29 degrees Celsius) or slightly higher. 
  • The plant prefers a fair bit of humidity (over 50 percent), so you may need to invest in a humidifier or position the plant in the bathroom or kitchen where increased humidity is likely.
Krzysztof Ziarnek, KenraizCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In Which Hardiness Zones Can You Grow Calathea Warscewiczii?

Calathea warscewiczii can only be grown outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 10 to 12. People who live in all other zones will need to grow this plant indoors in a warm environment with plenty of humidity.

A good place to grow this plant is in the bathroom or the kitchen. These rooms generally have higher humidity than other areas in the home. Alternatively, you can use a humidifier to raise the humidity levels in other areas of your home. 

Sometimes, placing bowls of water among your houseplants is enough to provide additional humidity for your plants, especially during winter when heating can easily dry out the air.

If you do live in USDA hardiness zone 10 or above, you can plant your Calathea outdoors in a spot that receives dappled sunlight. Remember, these plants grow naturally in tropical rainforests where they are living underneath tall trees that only let dappled sunlight through.

What Soil Is Best For Calathea Warscewiczii?

Calathea Warscewiczii prefers to grow in loamy soil that has really good drainage. You can use a commercial African violet mix or make your own.

A good homemade mix would consist of two parts coconut coir and one part perlite. Gardeners used to use peat moss for their homemade growing mixes. However, due to the degradation of the peat bogs where this came from, many are now opting for coconut coir instead. 

Coconut coir or coco fiber, as it’s also commonly called, is a by-product of the coconut industry and has similar properties to peat moss. Coco coir is quite light and airy but has the capacity to hold enough moisture for the roots of the plant to absorb.

If you only have a standard potting mix available, you can amend this by adding products such as composted bark, pumice, or charcoal bits. This will help to open up the mix and allow for better drainage. 

In general, you want a mix that does not dry out easily but that is also free-draining so that the roots of the plant are not allowed to sit in water.

If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where you can grow Jungle Velvet Calathea outdoors, you must select an area that has sandy loam and is free-draining. You can add some well-rotted compost to the soil but ensure that it does not get waterlogged. This plant will not do well in heavy clay soils, so those should be amended or avoided altogether.

Where Should You Plant Calathea Warscewiczii?

Ideally, Calathea Warscewiczii should be grown indoors in most areas except for those living in warm or tropical climates. This plant prefers medium to bright light but needs to be protected from direct sunlight.

If you have a nice bright north or east-facing window, then this is the ideal spot for your Calathea. It will also do well on a protected patio or veranda that gets a little indirect morning sun in the warmer months. 

If the plant is exposed to direct sunlight, this can bleach the leaves and cause them to lose their lovely rich coloring. Too much light might also cause the leaves to curl. On the other hand, when the plant receives too little light, the leaves will darken.

That’s precisely why this plant is so good for growing indoors, either in the home or in the office. It adds some extra color and also helps to keep the air nice and clean. The most important thing to remember is to ensure that your plant gets lots of humidity.

It’s also fine to place your Calathea outdoors for a while in the summer months as long as you keep the plant out of direct sunlight. But remember to bring it inside if the nighttime temperatures are likely to drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius).

What about if the inside of your home is quite dark and you don’t have any north or east-facing windows? Many indoor plant growers have overcome this by using grow lights. Not only do grow lights provide plenty of light, but they also provide warmth as well. This is definitely something that your Calathea will love.

If you do live in a warm or tropical climate, you can plant your Calathea in a shady spot under a tall tree. If the tree lets in some dappled sunlight, this would be ideal. In tropical gardens, Calatheas are often planted in the ground among other leafy tropical plants under tall-growing palm trees.

How Much Water Does Calathea Warscewiczii Need?

Jungle Velvet Calathea likes to be kept moist but not soggy. If there’s too much moisture in the soil all the time, the roots are likely to rot. Therefore, it’s important to get the watering just right for this plant to allow it to thrive.

The best way to tell if your plant needs water is to put your finger into the mix. If the top 1 inch of soil is dry, then it’s time to water your plant. When you water, you should thoroughly soak the mix in the pot and then let all the excess water drain away. Don’t let the plant sit in a saucer that’s filled with water, as this may cause the roots to rot.

Another easy way to ensure that your Calathea warscewiczii gets enough water is to invest in a moisture meter. You can easily purchase one of these at your local garden center or hardware store. The meter will tell you how much moisture is in the soil and will give you an indication of when to water. This also makes it easy for you to check your plant on a daily basis to see whether it needs water.

If the leaves of your plant start to curl up or turn brown, then your plant is not getting enough water. Remember that your plant is likely to need more water in the warmer months than it does during winter. This applies even when grown indoors because the plant will be growing more slowly.

Calatheas grow more aggressively in hot temperatures and will need more water during this time. Plus, you’ll also find that the soil will dry out much faster too. And, if you are growing your plant in a terracotta pot, it will require more water than one grown in a plastic pot.

That’s precisely why setting a regular watering schedule for tropical plants just doesn’t work. It’s much better to use a moisture meter to help you determine when your plant needs water.

How To Ensure Your Calathea Warscewiczii Gets Enough Humidity

All tropical plants, including Calathea warscewiczii, need high humidity to thrive and grow at their best. There are a number of things that you can do to increase the humidity in your home to keep your plant happy and healthy. Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Use a room humidifier. A humidifier will raise the level of moisture in the air. This is also healthier for humans as well as plants.
  • Sit the plant on a pebble tray with some water in it. To do this, just select a deep tray and cover the bottom with a layer of pebbles or decorative stones. Then, fill the tray with water so that the water covers half the depth of the pebbles. Sit your pot plant on top of the stones but make sure that the pot is not sitting in the water. As the water evaporates, you’ll have to keep topping it up.
  • Group all your tropical plants together and mist them regularly. You can use a spray bottle with a fine mist attachment to mist your plants with distilled water on a daily basis. This will help to keep the moisture in the air around the plants.
  • Keep your plant in the bathroom as long as there is enough light. When your Calathea lives in the bathroom, it benefits from the steam that is created every time you use the shower. This is actually one of the best ways to ensure that your plant gets enough humidity on a daily basis.

Should You Fertilize Your Calathea Warscewuczii?

Calathea Warscewuczii doesn’t require a lot of fertilizer, but you should give it a light feed during its major growing season in spring and summer. It’s best to use a liquid fertilizer suitable for houseplants.

Use the fertilizer at half strength and apply once a month. Calatheas are sensitive to over-fertilization, so you should ensure that you don’t apply a strong solution or fertilize too often.

Because the mineral salts from fertilizers can build up in the soil after a while, you should flush out the soil every 2 or 3 months to remove any excess salts. You can do this simply by flushing the pot with water when the plant needs more moisture and letting all the excess drain away.

Is Calathea Warscewiczii An Annual Or A Perennial?

Calathea Warscewiczii is a tender evergreen perennial. More commonly, it’s referred to as a herbaceous plant. This means that it will continue to grow year after year for as long as the plant lives.

This lovely houseplant can grow to a height of 4 feet (1 meter) if the growing conditions are ideal.

Does Calathea Warscewiczii Need Pruning?

All houseplants need a regular tidy-up once every month or so, and Calathea warscewiczii is no exception. Although the plant doesn’t need a lot of pruning, it’s important to remove dead or dying leaves on a regular basis.

To do this, use a sharp pair of pruning shears or secateurs and cut the leaf stalks off at the base of the plant. This allows the plant more energy to focus on producing lovely new leaves.

As part of your regular maintenance schedule, you should also clean the leaves. Because the plant has quite large leaves, these will gather dust and dirt from the air in your home. If left to accumulate, this dust reduces the plant’s ability to photosynthesize.

You see, plant leaves have tiny pores that are called stomata. These allow the plant to breathe and absorb the carbon dioxide in the air that it uses to photosynthesize. Photosynthesis is what gives plants their green color by producing chlorophyll.

So, if the leaves are covered in dust, your plant will have trouble breathing and absorbing the gases in the air to allow photosynthesis to occur. As a result of photosynthesis, the plant will expel oxygen through the stomata. This is precisely why plants are so important for maintaining good air quality.

Additionally, plants also use the stomata to expel excess water. This process is called transpiration.

Now you understand why it’s so important to keep the leaves nice and clean. You can do this easily by wiping down each leaf with a damp cloth. Make sure you support the leaf while you’re doing this so that you don’t damage it.

Does Calathea Warscewiczii Need Repotting?

Most houseplants need to be repotted once they’ve outgrown the pot that they’re growing in. This is also a good time to refresh the soil to improve the nutrient levels and air levels in the growing medium. How do you tell whether your plant needs to be repotted? Here are the signs to look out for:

  • Your plant has stopped or slowed down its growth.
  • The roots are poking out through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
  • Water is not draining out of the pot as quickly as it should

The best time to repot your Calathea warscewiczii is in the spring. This will give the plant enough time to re-establish itself before its dormant period during the winter.

To repot your plant, choose a pot that is just a little larger than the current one or the next size up. This will give the roots more room to spread out and will mean that the plant will continue to put on new growth.

Take the plant out of its current pot and carefully remove some of the old mix from around the roots. Do this carefully so that you don’t damage the roots.

Place some new growing medium in the base of the new pot and carefully spread the roots of your plant over this mix. Then add more mix around the roots to fill in the gaps. When the pot is full, gently firm down the top of the mix.

Give the pot a good soak and let all the excess water drain away before placing the plant back in its normal spot.

Note: This is also a good time to divide your plant if you want to propagate some additional ones.

How To Propagate Calathea Warscewiczii

The best way to propagate Jungle Velvet Calathea is by root division. This plant’s roots are rhizomes that can easily be divided up into 2 or 3 parts. Here’s what to do:

  • Take the plant out of the pot.
  • Carefully wash the potting mix from the roots.
  • Look carefully at the rhizomes to identify the individual clumps.
  • With a sharp knife, separate the clumps into individual plants, making sure each one has plenty of roots attached.
  • Place each plant in its own pot filled with the appropriate potting medium.
  • Water each plant thoroughly and place it in a warm, brightly lit spot indoors.

Common Problems And How To Fix Them

Calatheas are prone to common houseplant pests such as spider mites, scale insects, and mealybugs. These pests can be controlled by spraying the plant with insecticidal soap or by using a Neem solution. Here’s how to identify whether your plant is infested with these pests:

  • Mealybugs. These are tiny white insects that look like pieces of cotton wool. Check for them on the undersides of the leaves. You can either spray these or dab them with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to kill them instantly.
  • Scale insects. These look like tiny brown or black bumps on the stems. Another symptom of a scale infestation is a honey-dew-like substance on the leaves or even some sooty mold. The insects secrete the sticky substance while they feed on the sap of the plant. This substance then attracts fungal spores that cause mold. You can treat scale insects in the same way as mealybugs or just spray them with a solution of Neem oil.
  • Spider mites. These sap-sucking insects get their name because they spin tiny webs of silk on the undersides of the leaves. These pests can also be sprayed with a Neem solution but remember to spray the potting mix as well, as these pests will also feed on the roots. Making sure that your plant has plenty of humidity and moisture is a great way to deter spider mites.

Apart from common houseplant pests, Calatheas can also be prone to a fungal disease called root rot. This is primarily caused by overwatering or potting mix that does not drain readily. Common signs of root rot include yellowing leaves that begin to wilt.

There is no cure for root rot, and the plant will eventually die. It’s far better to prevent this disease altogether by ensuring that you don’t overwater the plant or let the roots sit in water.

How To Deal With Brown Leaf Tips On Your Calathea Warscewiczii

Brown tips on leaves are a common problem for Calatheas. Here are some common causes and what you can do about them.

  • Your tap water contains too many mineral deposits, salts, and chlorine. 
  • Your plant is not getting enough humidity.
  • The plant is getting too much water.
  • Your Calathea is getting too little water.
  • The plant has a pest infestation, such as spider mites and mealybugs. This problem, however, is usually accompanied by other symptoms, such as holes in the leaves or drooping foliage.

But don’t worry. These problems can be easily overcome with the following solutions.

  • Use filtered water on your Calathea plants, even in the spray bottle that you’re using for misting. If you don’t have a water filter, you can easily distill your own water. Just fill your watering can with water from the tap and let it sit for a few days before watering your plants. 
  • Increase the humidity around your plants. 
  • Control any pests using Neem oil or insecticidal soap.
  • Make sure you are watering your plant correctly.

Other Common Problems

Apart from brown leaf tips, there are other symptoms that your plant might display if it’s not totally healthy. Here are some signs to look out for, their causes, and how to fix the problem.

  • Drooping leaves. This is most likely caused by underwatering. In this case, you should check the moisture in the soil, and if it’s dry, thoroughly water your plant, remembering to let the excess drain away.
  • Curling leaves. If the leaves of your plant are curling, it’s also likely a sign of underwatering. Therefore, check the water level in the soil and water if needed. Cold temperatures and lack of humidity can also cause the leaves to curl, so check the growing conditions and adjust if necessary.
  • Yellowing leaves. More often than not, this can be caused by overwatering, but it can also be a sign of underwatering if the leaves also feel a little dry. Once again, you should check the moisture level in the soil and add water if needed.
  • The leaves are paler than normal. This is most often caused by a lack of light or sometimes even too much light. Make sure your planting is receiving a few hours of bright, indirect sunlight every day. Also, take care that your plant is not exposed to direct sunlight.

Does Calathea Warscewiczii Flower?

Velvet Calathea does produce flowers, but it’s very rare for one grown indoors to actually flower. Calathea flowers are quite unique. They are white and cone-shaped.

If you’re lucky enough to grow your Calathea outdoors, you might get to see it flower when it has reached maturity. Primarily though, people grow this plant for its lovely foliage.

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