Calathea vittata is a highly sought after house plant, with distinct bands across its asymmetrical leaves adding a fresh zesty pop to any color room. Like any calathea, there are challenges to growing vittata that go beyond the basic “low maintenance plants they are sold as”, but overall they are easy to care for, provided you get the basics right from the start.
In this article, we’re going to talk through plant care tips for Calathea vittata, and share the history of this mystifying plant, from the natural habitat of Calathea vittata to its unlikely culinary uses.
What is Calathea Vittata?
Calathea vittata has bright green pointed leaves that curve around, earning it its common name, Calathea Elliptica, due to the apparent rotation of the leaf that looks like they’ve been stretched out around a coil and released.
This is an extremely tender tropical plant that should never be kept outdoors in climates where temperatures close to freezing are possible as the entire root system will rot away in spring if it drops below 40°F.
Calathea Elliptica (often sold as Goeppertia elliptica)
Indoor (grows outdoors in most parts of Australia)
Tropical flowering house plant, grown for its foliage
50cm tall; 50cm wide
Bright, indirect light
Pastel green with thick pairs of white strips from the midrib to the outer edge of each leaf.
Small white flowers
Flowers are unlikely in cultivation, but can appear in summer in ideal conditions
Poisonous for Pets:
Non-toxic to cats and dogs (edible starchy roots for humans)
Calathea Vittata’s Natural Habitat
Calathea vittata, or Calathea elliptica, is a standalone species of Calathea with no common variants developed by horticulturalists or breeders, so these are incredibly delicate Calatheas that have evolved to suit one particular climate. If you want a genuine natural Calathea, then Calathea vittata is the one for you!
Calathea vittata is most commonly found growing wild in the more northern parts of the Amazon rainforest, but due to deforestation and destruction of habitat it is now more likely to be found in Venezuela, or even Thailand in similar forests where there is high humidity, heat and filtered light.
Thanks to their selective breeding, remaining true to their natural species, they are slightly harder to keep happy than other Calathea, and less forgiving if you forget to water them, so should be watered as soon as the soil surface is at all dry.
Calathea Elliptica's Growing Habits
Calathea vittata is one of the original arrowroots, (aur-aru; ‘meal of meal’ plants) and is still used as a food source for communities on Caribbean islands and in South American forests.
While their roots don’t have any even remotely interesting flavor they are packed with starchy carbohydrates – a trait that evolved to maintain the plant through periods of drought.
You’ll notice though, that vittata have distinctly smaller rhizomes than other calathea species, so they do not store as much water or energy in their root system, meaning you need to water them more religiously.
How to Grow Calathea Vittata
Calathea vittata is becoming increasingly popular with houseplant collectors, so are easier than ever to find in garden centers, and you can buy young Calathea vittata online.
When you get your hands on a young Goeppertia vittata, make sure it’s watered as soon as you get home as they are often under-watered in garden centers, or kept in direct sunlight for a few days before you buy them.
Once you’ve got your Calathea vittata settled in and watered, find a good spot to grow it indoors. Vittata need help to retain water in their roots when grown indoors in America and Europe or any colder climate.
So make sure to keep them in a plastic pot which will help reduce evaporation and moisture loss through pot walls, but place that pot in an outer ceramic pot that can hold water.
This means you can water your calathea right through and give it the chance to soak up any lost water, before draining the outer pot. Find a bright spot away from direct sunlight and test your plant there for a week.
If it’s showing no signs of weakening, and its leaves look good and full of life, that’s a good enough spot, and you should be able to keep your Calathea there for years to come.
Calathea Vittata Propagation
Calathea vittata is difficult to germinate from seed, so the best way to propagate them is by division. In the guide below we’ll go through the steps for both methods of propagating new calathea vittata plants, and the challenges you’re likely to face along the way.
Propagating Goeppertia Elliptica from seed
Because Calathea vittata are tropical plants with no significant breeding in cultivation, they are particularly hard to grow from seed, needing a combination of heat, humidity, and shade, which can be hard to achieve without the right tools.
Before you get started you’re going to need a heated propagator to reliably germinate vittata with any success. Ready? Here’s your step-by-step guide to sowing calathea vittata:
- Fill a seed tray with moisture retentive houseplant compost that has some gentle nutrients. This will help to replicate the natural conditions for germination, leaving a small gap between the soil surface and the top of the tray.
- Sow vittata seeds across the soil surface (1 seed every inch to increase the likelihood of germination).
- Cover the seeds with a thin layer of vermiculite, which will help aeration, allow moisture to move around the seeds, and add gentle nutrients as they begin to germinate.
- Place the seed tray in a covered propagator, heated to at least 65°F.
- Water the tray lightly, and return the cover, misting every two days to keep the humidity levels steady.
- Leave in a bright spot away from direct light for 4 weeks. Germination can be erratic and may take up to 6 weeks.
Propagating Calathea Elliptica from Division
Any Calathea parent will know that the best way to create new plants is by division, which is also the only truly reliable way to propagate this Calathea variety.
This plant grows in visible clumps above the soil surface, so before you start the process of division you should already be able to tell which parts of the plant can be separated. Use the guide below to get you started with dividing your Calathea vittata:
- Gently tip your goeppertia vittata out of its container, making sure the leaves stay clean, and don’t bend or snap.
- Look for natural division between the leaf clumps above the soil, and follow those sections down to select roots to divide.
- Gently prise apart sections of the root by hand, or use a trowel to wedge them apart if the roots are stubborn.
- Pot the divided clumps into new containers, each no more than 2” wider than the root ball.
- You can divide vittata quite a few times, but make sure to leave at least one-third of the original plant intact so it can recover properly.
Calathea Vittata Care Guide
Fertilizer for Calathea Vittata
Goeppertia vittata should be fed with a balanced organic fertilizer where possible, avoiding foliage specific feeds, or spray feeds. Use pouring feeds that target the roots and support overall plant health with equal amounts of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus (10/10/10 Fertilizer or similar).
In late winter when your calathea is about to start growing again for spring, it can be helpful to add some general-purpose garden compost to the surface of the pot as a mulch. A 2” mulch of compost helps to support overall plants health, and reduce water evaporation as the days get warmer.
Watering Calathea Vittata
This Calathea variety should be watered between one and two times per week. In the ideal location in a bright room out of direct light, where they receive regular temperatures over 75°F in summer, they should be watered twice a week, and healthy plants will dry out the soil surface between each watering.
In shadier rooms, they should be watered once a week, or when the soil is starting to dry out. Avoid overwatering Goeppertia vittata as they are very susceptible to root rot when grown indoors.
Pruning and Repotting Calathea Elliptica
Calathea vittata doesn’t ever require pruning. They are foliage only plants that are highly unlikely to flower, so have no stems to prune in the same way as other plants.
If there are dead, damaged or diseased leaves, remove them with clean scissors as soon as you see them so they don’t infect other growth, but that is the only time to cut out any part of the plant.
To repot a Goeppertia vittata, select a pot that is 2” larger than its root ball, shake off the old soil, and plant it into the new pot with fresh compost. The fresh compost gives it a great boost and is a great way to add to overall plant health, even if your calathea isn’t due a bigger home yet.
Make your own fresh compost using the best compost tumblers we have reviewed for 2022.
Common Calathea Vittata Pests and Diseases
Goeppertia vittata suffers badly from mealybug when grown as a houseplant. The underside of their satin leaves are the ideal hiding place for these hard to manage pests and, while it might sound unusual, hoovering is the best way to get rid of mealybugs.
Use a gentle, low powered, vacuum cleaner and directly target the white, fluff covered insect. As long as you’re careful you won’t damage the plant, and you can hoover up the top layer of soil to remove any potential eggs and larvae too.
The same method works for spider mites, but they are easier to deal with using neem oil or rubbing alcohol applied directly using a cotton swab.
This Calathea variety have denser, lower, foliage than most indoor calatheas which can cause over humidification in shady conditions, so it’s important to place them in bright, warm, rooms, where moisture is easier to tolerate and isn’t left sitting around to go stagnant.
Overwatering calathea, or not providing them with enough light, can lead to mildew, botrytis and root rot. For mildew and botrytis, the plant should be sprayed with neem oil to kill the fungus, and then left to dry out before any misting occurs. Any affected leaves should be removed before treatment to avoid cross-contamination.
For root rot in calathea vittata, the plant should be inspected for black, brown or mushy roots. Any dead or diseased roots should be removed, and the soil should be replaced. Rinse off the roots before repotting.
Early signs of root rot are wilting leaves that lose their luster, soon followed by pale, wilted tips.
Calathea Vittata FAQs
Do Calathea vittata leaves move?
Goeppertia vittata’s leaves move dramatically in the evening, often standing vertically in the ‘prayer position’ that gives Calatheas their name; ‘Prayer Plant’.
This Calathea variety needs bright conditions to move, with natural light so they know the time of day, but should never be in direct sun.
Should I mist Calathea vittata?
Calathea vittata should be misted once a week if your plant is in a bright room with adequate temperatures above 65°F. Misting is a great excuse to keep an eye on the health of your Vittata too, making sure to check over any leaves for signs of infection.
How big does calathea vittata get?
Compared to most Calathea, Calathea vittata is quite slow-growing, but at full maturity, can reach up to 50cm tall, and 50cm wide so can be a beautiful impact plant for any contemporary home.
Calatheas are getting closer to us than expected. See a list of varieties of growing guides we have made below:
Wrapping Up Our Calathea Vittata Guide
Our guide to growing vittata is aimed at growers in the northern hemisphere, most of whom are in areas with high risks of frost over winter, but if you’re slightly further south and frost isn’t a risk in your garden, why not try growing vittata in containers outdoors? You can bring them in when temperatures drop below 40°F, but should be safe for most of the year.
Calathea vittata is one of the purest forms of Calathea in cultivation, and their unadulterated natural form brings a genuine touch of the tropics to any house. They might not have the flashy red and pink markings of their cousins, but there is something soothing in the natural appeal of Calathea vittata.