How to Care for Calathea Ornata (Your Final Guide!)
Calathea ornatas, or pinstripe plants, are prized for their gorgeous pink-striped leaves that fold up and down during the day. But is this plant easy to care for? You might be surprised!
Calathea ornatas thrive in plastic containers with adequate drainage, 50% humidity, and 8 hours of bright and diffused sun. Filtered water is required to keep the soil moist. Nitrogen-high liquid fertilizer can be given every 2 weeks but must be diluted and avoided in the winter. It must only be pruned when dead or discolored leaves are present.
Many plant owners consider their calathea ornatas as fussy plants. However, with a little bit of understanding, you can make this plant much easier to care for. Simply keep on reading, and you’ll know exactly how to care for your calathea ornata!
Plastic containers up to 7 inches large are ideal for calathea ornata plants. Non-porous materials like plastic are extremely beneficial in retaining the high amounts of moisture that this plant needs. However, they must have adequate drainage.
While calathea ornatas can be grown in all types of different planters, they rarely require more than the same plastic nursery pots they come with.
Because plastic is a non-porous material, unlike terracotta or clay, these planters can hold a larger amount of water to keep calathea ornatas happy.
Calathea ornatas typically only reach 3 feet (91.44 cm) tall as houseplants, so you don’t need very large pots. These gorgeous pinstripe plants grow very well inside smaller pots between 4–7 inches and can be moved around with ease if needed.
But as always, be sure that the pot you choose has drainage holes, at the very least, and a saucer or catch pot to help gather excess water.
4 Easy Steps in Repotting Calathea Ornatas
The 4 steps in repotting calathea ornatas are:
- Clean and prepare the new pot
- Remove the plant from its old pot
- Examine the plant’s roots
- Transfer the plant into the new pot
This plant doesn’t grow very quickly and won’t need to be repotted often. But if you can start to see the plants’ roots poke out through the drainage holes, it may be time to give it a new home!
1. Clean and Prepare the New Pot
To prepare for repotting calathea ornatas, planters must be thoroughly cleaned and left to dry completely. A solution of 1 part unscented household bleach and 9 parts water can be used to sterilize new pots.
Newly purchased pots do not need extreme cleaning. However, if you’ve owned plants for a while, the chances of you reusing an older pot are pretty likely.
To clean older pots, be sure to clean both the outside and the inside of the pot to be completely sure there are no residual bacteria or diseases.
With a clean and stiff brush, scrub the pot with 1 part unscented bleach and 9 parts water.
2. Remove the Calathea Ornatas From its Old Pot
To prevent the plant from dying from transplant shock, calathea ornatas must be repotted only in the spring. Loosen the soil and grasp the plant by its base to ensure a smooth release from its old pot.
Once the new pot is ready, you can now start repotting.
When repotting calathea ornatas, however, it’s important to only do so in spring when the plant is actively growing and is more likely to survive the transplant.
This pot on amazon is what I often recommend for calathea ornatas. It even has matching saucers!
If the pot is made of flexible plastic, you can pinch the sides of the pot to help loosen the soil. Then, firmly but gently hold the plant by the base and gently release the plant from the pot.
3. Examine the Calathea Ornata Roots
The roots of calathea ornatas must be inspected before being placed into the new pot. Root systems must be healthy and without unpleasant odors. Avoid trimming the roots as this may harm the calathea ornata.
Take a moment to look over the roots of your calathea ornata after it has been removed from its old pot. Are the roots healthy? Is it rootbound? Is there an unpleasant smell?
This is a great opportunity to further inspect your plant and make sure all is okay. Dead roots may be trimmed away but it’s best to under-trim these delicate root systems rather than overcut.
The roots of calathea ornata are highly sensitive, so removing or even disturbing their roots too much can potentially harm your plant, so be gentle with them!
4. Transfer the Calathea Ornata to the New Pot
Calathea ornatas can be repotted with their older roots placed at the center of the pot and covered with fresh potting mix. Close observation is a must after the transplant to ensure the plant does not die shortly after.
After looking over and checking the health of the roots, place the entire root system untouched in the center of the pot.
Again, calathea ornata plants are quite finicky. So avoid disturbing the roots as much as possible! Unless there is root rot, you can pop the entire root ball with the old soil into the old pot without worrying.
Pour in the fresh potting mix around the calathea ornata and gently pat it down to ensure the roots are covered.
It’d be ideal to water this plant afterward and keep a close eye on it while it recovers from stress and adjusts to its new home.
For optimum growth, calathea ornatas require peat-based potting mixes to consistently stay moist and well-drained. An ideal growing medium would be made of 50% coir or peat moss, 30% pumice or perlite, and 20% worm castings. Top soil can be used but too much can be too heavy for the plant.
This plant hails from warm and wet tropical rainforests and will grow best in similar conditions.
For you to be able to replicate this, go for coco coir-based mediums with perlite or orchid bark are highly recommended.
If you like to create your potting mix by hand, a good measurement you can use would be 50% peat moss or coco coir, 30% pumice or perlite, and 20% worm castings.
A potting mix like the one below from Amazon is a great option and is often what I recommend.
Whether you buy your potting mix online or make it at home, the most important thing is to make sure the soil is moist and well-drained.
Calathea ornatas are highly sensitive to hard water and flourish in soft and filtered water 2 times a week. This plant must be watered when the top 2 inches of soil are dry. Nevertheless, it is inadvisable to let calatheas fully dry out. Water should be reduced in the winter to 1 session every 3 weeks to avoid root rot.
This is where it gets tricky, so read closely!
Pinstripe plants are highly sensitive and cannot be given just regular tap water due to the number of fluorides in it. Calathea ornatas prefer soft rainwater, so you can leave them out in the rain from time to time.
If that’s not an option though, distilled or filtered water are good alternatives for this fussy plant. You don’t need to buy distilled bottles of water to do this, though.
Water purification tablets can be bought at very low prices, and you can just drop these tablets in a jug of water to filter them out.
Moist soil is ideal so long as it is not swampy. It’s best to never let this plant fully dry out.
Water it when the top 2 inches (5.08 cm) of soil are dry, and check it using a moisture meter or just your finger. In the winter, however, calathea ornatas require much less water and must only be given water every 2-3 weeks.
Calathea ornatas grow best in at least 8 hours of bright and diffused sun daily by a north or south-facing window. Exposure to direct sunlight can burn leaves, while indirect light will encourage the plant to move its leaves up and down.
This plant is in the same family as marantas and is heliotropic, meaning they actively move to follow the sun.
If you place them by a bright but filtered light, you can watch their leaves open and close throughout the day.
I love this because it can look like these plants are waving!
Calathea ornatas also make great indoor plants because of their tolerance for medium to low light. These plants can be placed as far as 12 feet (3.66 m) away from the north or south-facing window with very little worry.
The worst place to leave this plant would be in front of a harsh and sunny window. The dark green leaves striped with pink may eventually fade and be bleached by direct light, so try to avoid this.
Place your calathea oranata where it can receive bright but diffused light for at least 8 hours for you to enjoy its delightful foliage all day long!
Humidity levels must be over 50% for calathea ornatas to thrive. Plants can be grouped and left on a tray of pebbles covered with water to increase the humidity surrounding the plants. Calathea ornatas cannot be placed in the bathroom or kitchen where unfiltered water is used.
Poor and low humidity levels are one of the main reasons calathea ornata plants die, if not the biggest one.
With a humidity meter, you can check the humidity levels of your home. Calathea ornatas require at least 50% humidity and will suffer if it’s below 40%.
A humidifier is an easy way to solve low humidity. But to help you save money, consider grouping your calatheas and placing them on trays of pebbles and water to help create their very own humid microclimate.
You might be thinking, “what if I put them in my bathroom or my kitchen?” Typically, this isn’t a bad idea!
But remember, calathea ornatas are highly sensitive to the water they absorb. In other words, they will not thrive in bathrooms and kitchens that use unfiltered water.
Furthermore, if a humidifier is used, make sure to only use filtered water in the humidifier as well.
Keep the plants in a well-ventilated room free from air-conditioners and heaters, where the air tends to be dry.
Calathea ornatas require frequent fertilizing but are highly prone to fertilizer burn. For optimum growth, provide diluted liquid fertilizer high in nitrogen every 2 weeks. Halt all fertilizing activities in the autumn and winter when the plant is dormant.
When it comes to fertilizer, some may call this plant a little more greedy than other houseplants.
Slow-release fertilizer can be used but this is much harder to control compared to liquid fertilizer.
Calathea ornatas enjoy being given nitrogen-high fertilizer once every two weeks but the fertilizer must be diluted. Even half-strength fertilizer may be too much for them and may burn them, so consider using ¼ of the usual amount and filling the rest up with water.
It’s better to give this plant more diluted fertilizer than it is to give them a strong one. Avoid giving your calathea ornata any fertilizer in the winter, as there is hardly any growth in this season.
Calathea ornatas do not require pruning unless the presence of dead or discolored foliage can be seen. With a sterilized pair of scissors, dead leaves must be cut at the base of the stem. Pruning in the winter must be refrained from to avoid killing the plant.
Calathea ornatas hardly ever require frequent pruning. But it’s still very easy to handle this plant when it comes to pruning. Like other attractive houseplants with precious foliage, it’s not uncommon for folks to avoid pruning completely.
But to keep your plant healthy, it’s advisable to snip off dead leaves at the base of the stem.
Pinstripe plant leaves that turn brown or yellow, unfortunately, do not ever turn green again. Sso you can remove them and wait for new leaves to emerge.
Try to avoid pruning this plant in the winter, as they do not grow much at all. They may even suffer from heavy pruning sessions during this season.
6 Most Common Pests and Problems for Calathea Ornata
The 6 most common pests and problems calathea ornatas face are:
- Spider mites
- Fungus gnats
- Brown and crispy edges
- Bleached leaves
- Drooping leaves
Calathea ornata plants can be quite dramatic sometimes for the smallest reasons but are there any pests or other growing challenges for its cultivation? Here are some of the most common struggles you could potentially see when growing these pinstripe plants.
1. Spider Mites
One of the most common pests that calathea ornatas face is spider mites.
As the name suggests, the presence of these pests can easily be detected by searching for their tell-tale white webs on leaves.
Spider mites can lay up to a hundred eggs and just a week without observance can easily lead to a severe infestation!
For an easy way to control spider mites, you can carefully hose spider mites off leaves with filtered water or rainwater.
These messy eaters enjoy softer leaves and stems, which makes younger calathea ornatas a prime target for these bugs to infest.
You can tell aphids have begun feeding off of your plants when you can spot honeydew all over the foliage where aphids have pierced your plants.
A mild but effective solution to this would be to mix one teaspoon of dish soap with one liter of distilled water. This must then be sprayed on the plant regularly every 2-3 weeks.
3. Fungus gnats
Fungus gnats are not as commonly seen on calathea ornatas as spider mites and aphids but can be just as difficult to control.
The consistently moist soils that calathea ornatas require can create an ideal environment for fungus gnats to live in.
If you’re able to see glossy and clear larvae moving around in the soil, you may have a fungus gnat infestation.
A mix using 2 tablespoons of neem oil and 1 tablespoon of castile soap in 2 cups of water can be poured into the pot to help kill fungus gnats and their larvae.
4. Brown and crispy edges
This is the top most common issue that many calathea ornata owners struggle with, including me!
Browning leaf tips and crispy edges can be due to a wide range of reasons. Underwatering, overwatering, too bright light, too little humidity, etc.
Check out our article here on why calathea ornata leaves turn brown.
The most common reason this happens, however, is because the plant does not have enough humidity.
It can be confusing at first but with a little inspection, you should be able to find the problem quickly.
5. Bleached Leaves
When the leaves start to become white and look bleached in appearance, this is usually because the plant may be suffering from light that is too harsh.
Double-check to make sure your plant is out and away from direct sun to help preserve the pretty patterns of your pinstripe plant.
6. Leaves Drooping
If the leaves of your calathea ornata plant start to droop, this can be a sign that the plant is either being overwatered or underwatered.
An easy way to check this is to examine the soil and think back on your previous watering sessions.
Calathea ornatas can be dramatic houseplants and are very likely to perk back up again once you fix the problem at hand, so don’t fret!
Simply cut back on the water if it’s too much or be sure to provide it with more water if it needs it.
Are calathea ornata plants toxic to dogs and cats?
According to the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), calathea ornatas are safe and non-toxic to both cats and dogs. But like many other houseplants, heavy consumption of this plant can potentially lead to vomiting.
Is calathea ornata easy to care for?
Calathea ornatas are considered difficult plants to care for. They require a higher amount of observation than other houseplants and have many needs like watering and humidity that must be tended to exactly. However, this plant is often treasured for its unique pink-streaked leaves and is often said to be worth the extra care.
Summary of Caring for Calathea Ornata
Calathea ornata plants are known for being difficult houseplants to take care of. The biggest requirements of growing this plant is to ensure they are exposed to at least 50% humidity and 8 hours of bright indirect sun daily.
Plastic pots with drainage holes are best to retain sufficient moisture for calathea ornata. Soil must be well-draining and peat-based. They cannot tolerate hard tap water and only flourish when they are given filtered water or rainwater. Watering should be done as soon as the top 2 inches of soil is dry.
Ideally, the calathea ornata should be given diluted nitrogen-rich fertilizer every 2 weeks. Avoid fertilizing and pruning this plant in the winter when growth is slow. More importantly, only dead leaves should be pruned.
- “Calathea ornata” by n/a in University of Iowa State
- “Calathea picturata” by n/a in University of North Carolina