The stunning foliage on the Calathea musaica is sure to turn heads, but only invest in this pretty prayer plant if you're ready to put the effort in. As with most calathea varieties, it can be tricky to keep this beauty thriving. You'll need to offer high humidity and the perfect balance of water and light.
If you're up for the challenge, it will reward you with unique, eye-catching variegation on the large light green foliage. And it's no surprise the main cultivar available in the US is called Calathea Network. The cream-colored mosaic network of patternation is even more pronounced on the cultivar's foliage. It also has a more bushy, compact form than the main species.
|Common Name||Calathea Network|
|Botanical Name||Goeppertia kegeljanii, syn. Calathea Musaica|
|Plant Type||Perennial, Rhizome|
|Mature Size||Up to 2 feet tall|
|Soil Type||Moist, Well-drained|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral|
|Bloom Time||Spring, summer (but rarely flowers indoors)|
|Hardiness Zones||10-12 (USDA)|
|Native Area||South America|
Calathea Musaica Care
While this calathea is known for being a little less of a diva than some species in the genus, it still isn't an ideal beginner houseplant. Here are the main care requirements for growing a Calathea musaica:
- Finding the right balance of filtered light.
- Fertilizing monthly during the growing season with a balanced liquid fertilizer.
- Needing a high humidity, warm, draft-free environment.
- Needing a loose potting mix that retains moisture.
A little more tolerant of lower light conditions than some species in the genus, Calathea musaica still needs the right amount of diffused light to bolster the stunning foliage. Too much intense, direct sunlight quickly results in brown spots and leaf scorch, and the striking patternation will fade. But, if you go too shady, the variegation can diminish and the foliage won't flourish.
Try mimicking the dappled light these plants get in their native tropical habitats on the rainforest floor. Experiment a little with their position, but steer clear of the sill of sunny south or west-facing windows or a bathroom with no natural light.
Calathea have delicate roots, so you want a loose, lightweight potting mix. But it also needs the right balance of moisture retention and drainage—these plants are thirsty, but root rot sets in quickly if they are waterlogged. An African violet mix is a ready-to-go option, or you could make your own blend using equal parts peat moss (or sustainable coco coir), perlite, and vermiculite. Peat moss retains moisture, while perlite helps improve drainage.
Wayward watering methods are one of the quickest killers of Calathea musaica. They like to be kept evenly moist but are sensitive to overwatering, and root rot is common in soggy soil.
Wait for the top couple of inches of soil to dry out, but don't leave it too long after that, and don't rely on sight to assess dryness. Pop a finger in, and if the soil feels damp and comes off on your finger, hold off for a couple more days before rechecking. The leaves of the plant also start drooping when it needs a drink.
Water from the bottom so the moisture reaches the roots and doesn't just drain right through. Water and then recheck the soil a few hours later. If it feels moist to the touch make sure you drain away excess water sitting in the tray underneath the pot. If it still feels dry, carefully top up the water levels.
During the growing season expect to water your Calathea musaica around once a week. In the winter months, it will be considerably less.
If you're in doubt about when to water, it's better to risk having some brown leaf tips from underwatering rather than a dead plant caused by root rot.
Temperature and Humidity
These tropical beauties won't thank you if you stick them in a chilly room or one that experiences temperature swings or drafts. Consistent warmth and high humidity is the key.
It's no wonder plant enthusiasts often pop Calathea musaica in steamy bathrooms. You'll want a spot where temperatures remain above 60 degrees Fahrenheit for continual growth, with the sweet spot being around 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Your plant won't survive temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, so if you have them on your warm patio during the spring and summer, transition it back indoors before the chilly weather arrives.
One advantage of this calathea species is that its thicker leaves are more tolerant of dry air than some others in the genus. However, it still appreciates humidity levels of around 60% to produce the most impressive foliage. If the humidity drops to between 40% and 50%, you might see the foliage brown around the edges.
To increase the humidity levels, try grouping tropical species, pop your plant on a pebble-filled tray with water, or invest in a humidifier.
Fertilizing in moderation during the spring and summer growing period is best for Calathea musaica. Feeding too often or too much can scorch the foliage, so stick with a weak dose of nitrogen-rich fertilizer around once a month.
You won't have to habitually hack your Calathea musaica with shears. These plants need little to no pruning. It's just a case of removing dead or dying leaves at the base of their stems. This saves your plant from looking untidy and directs the energy to healthy growth.
Propagating Calathea Musaica
Most Calathea musaica sold commercially in the US are the cultivar Calathea Network. This plant was bred and patented in the Netherlands, and Costa Farms have the exclusive rights to propagate this plant in North America.
So, while you can propagate your Calathea musaica by division in the late spring, you risk infringing copyright laws by doing so. Thankfully, there are many unpatented species of calathea out there if you want to add more to your indoor plant collection or gift it to friends and family.
Potting and Repotting Calathea Musaica
Calathea musaica aren't fans of having their roots disturbed, so tread carefully when repotting this plant. Thankfully, they are relatively slow-growing, so you should only have to do this every two to three years.
Don't try to get all the old soil off the root ball—loosen it gently, move the plant to a pot a couple of inches bigger, and then fill it with some new nutrient-rich, loose potting mix.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
Because your Calathea musaica loves high humidity, they can sometimes be bothered by pests drawn to muggy conditions. Look out for fungus gnats and mealybugs, and if conditions are too dry for your plant, spider mites might settle on this species.
Thankfully, if you get in there quickly, you can get rid of pests like mealybugs before major infestation sets in. Clean each leaf with a damp cloth and then use neem oil or insecticidal soap to keep any bugs from making a comeback.
Common Problems with Calathea Musaica
While caring for a Calathea musaica can be tricky, thankfully, the plant offers some early warning signs that you need to adjust conditions before you kill it off. Watch out for the problems below.
Leaves Turning Brown
Browning leaf tips and edges usually indicate you need to up the humidity levels or cut back on watering. Brown spots can also develop if your Calethea musaica is sitting in a spot where it's subject to too much intense direct sun.
If it's only older leaves that are browning on the tips, it might not be cause for panic. This happens naturally, no matter how diligent you are with the plant's care.
Prayer plants like the Calathea musaica close their leaves at night before reopening them at dawn. However, if the lush, large leaves of your plant are staying curled up during the day, consider if you're letting it get too dry.
Occasional leaf drooping during the day is normal on even the healthiest Calathea musaica. As long as they perk up again at night, it isn't something to worry about. When they stay droopy, it's typically a sign your plant needs more water or higher humidity levels.
Leaves Turning Yellow
Yellowing leaves on your Calathea musaica usually mean you're going overboard with water or that your plant is in a spot where it's receiving too much direct sunlight. If you've ruled both of these things out and your plant's leaves are still discoloring, you could have it sitting in a drafty or overly cold position.
Are Calathea musaica hard to care for?
While calathea are notoriously difficult to keep alive, if you get it right with their care, their beautiful foliage makes it all worthwhile. On a plus point, Calathea musaica might be fussy about watering, light, and humidity levels, but they are still a little more forgiving than some species, like the calathea white fusion.
Where should I put my Calathea musaica in my home?
It's all about getting it right with lighting when you're picking the perfect place for your Calathea musaica in your home. Steer clear of south-facing windows where scorching sun streams in. Somewhere with bright but diffused light works best—or invest in a sheer curtain to act as a filter. And don't put this plant next to a drafty door or window.
How big does Calathea musaica get?
Calathea musaica are compact plants that rarely grow beyond 2 feet tall. They're the perfect size for a shelf, tabletop, or floor plant stand and, with their large foliage, they'll make an impact in any space.