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How do you care for tricolor Calathea?

Tricolor Calathea, also known as Calathea ornata, is a popular houseplant admired for its striking, variegated foliage. With proper care, this tropical plant can thrive indoors and add a touch of the rainforest to any home. To keep your tricolor Calathea healthy and vibrant, there are some important care instructions to follow.

Watering Tricolor Calathea

Calathea prefer moist soil but do not like to sit in soggy conditions. Allow the top inch or two of soil to dry out between waterings. The frequency will depend on factors like temperature, humidity, light levels, and soil type. In general, tricolor Calathea need watering about once a week in the summer and every 10-14 days in the winter when growth has slowed. More important than a watering schedule is checking the soil moisture. Stick your finger into the soil and if the top few inches are dry, it’s time to water. When watering, add enough so that liquid drains through the drainage holes to flush out any built up salts.

Always use room temperature distilled water or rainwater. Tap water with added chemicals like fluoride can burn the leaf tips. The minerals in hard water can also build up in the soil over time, negatively affecting the roots. If your only option is tap water, let it sit out for 24 hours before using so the minerals can dissipate.


As tropical plants, Calathea need relatively high humidity around 60-70%. In dry indoor environments, the leaves can start to curl or brown around the edges if the air is too parched. Run a humidifier nearby to increase moisture in the air. Group plants together so they can benefit from each other’s transpiration. Place the pot on a pebble tray filled with water to create a localized humid microclimate around the plant. Mist the leaves occasionally with room temperature water, keeping the foliage dry going into nighttime to prevent disease.


Tricolor Calathea thrive in bright, indirect light. Direct sun will scorch and fade the leaves. A north or east facing window is ideal. Sheer curtains can filter intense afternoon sun from a south or west window. If light levels are too low, the leaf markings can start to fade. Supplement with a grow light if needed. Place new plants in a shadier spot for a few weeks until they acclimate before moving to a brighter permanent home.


Calathea prefer daytime temperatures of 70-80°F (21-26°C) and around 60°F (15°C) at night. Keep them away from cold drafts from windows or air conditioning vents. Dropping below 55°F (12°C) can damage the foliage. Overly warm spots should also be avoided. High heat coupled with dry air causes leaf edges to turn brown.


Tricolor Calathea thrive in an airy, peat-based potting mix that retains some moisture but also drains well. Regular potting soil is usually too dense. Amend it with perlite or bark to improve drainage. Soil mixes specially formulated for aroids and tropical plants often work well. Re-pot every 1-2 years in spring, moving it to a slightly larger container if rootbound. Repotting yearly encourages faster growth and keeps the plant from getting pot-bound.


Feed tricolor Calathea monthly in the spring and summer with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength. Look for a formula made for tropical foliage plants. Fertilize every 6-8 weeks in fall and winter when growth naturally slows. Ease up on fertilizer if leaf tips start to brown, which can signify over-fertilization.


Remove any damaged, diseased, or dead leaves as needed to keep your Calathea looking its best. Snip the stems all the way down to the base. Healthy tricolor Calathea can be divided when re-potting to propagate new plants. Gently separate sections with a sterile knife, making sure each division has some roots attached. Take divisions from the perimeter rather than breaking up the main plant.

Common Issues

If your tricolor Calathea leaves are curling, the problem is likely either underwatering, low humidity, or cold drafts. Increase water, mist more frequently, move to a warmer spot, or raise the humidity level. Leaves that are turning brown on the edges indicate the air is too dry. Adding a humidifier, grouping with other plants, and misting should help. If new leaves emerge small and distorted, it usually signals a need for re-potting into fresh soil.

Overwatering can cause yellowing leaves and rotten roots. Allow more time between waterings and make sure the container has drainage holes at the bottom. Yellow spots on the leaves may be due to minerals building up from tap water or soggy soil. Use filtered or distilled water and amend soil to improve drainage.


With the right care, the eye-catching tricolor Calathea can be a stunning houseplant. Provide this tropical plant with evenly moist soil, high humidity, warm temperatures, and indirect light for the best results. Feed monthly, prune when needed, and re-pot every 1-2 years. Avoid dry air, direct sun, and cold drafts. Watch for curling, browning, or yellowing leaves as signals more humidity or adjusted watering is needed. With a little attention to its preferences, a tricolor Calathea will reward you with its gorgeous striped foliage.

Light Requirements Bright, indirect light
Watering Keep soil moderately moist, allow top inch to dry between waterings
Humidity Prefers 40-70% humidity
Temperature 70-80°F/21-27°C during the day, around 60°F/15°C at night
Soil Peaty, airy potting mix that retains moisture but also drains well
Fertilizer Balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength every 4 weeks during growing season

Tricolor Calathea are visually striking houseplants famous for their painted leaves containing combinations of green, white, and pink. Native to the tropical forests of Brazil, they thrive in warm, humid environments and make excellent indoor specimens. With high humidity, filtered sunlight, warm temperatures, and consistent soil moisture, a tricolor Calathea will flourish and produce vibrant foliage. Their colorful striped and oval-shaped leaves can reach heights of 12-15 inches tall on short stems. The leaves unfurl from shoots as they mature and rise in an upright vase shape.

There are around 300 diverse species of the genus Calathea that fall under the family of plants known as Marantaceae. They are sometimes referred to as prayer plants due to the characteristic habit of their leaves folding upward at night. Tricolor Calathea are one of the most ornamental prayer plant varieties. They showcase bands and stripes of pink, white, and dark green on their leaves for a showy appearance. Native to the rainforests of Brazil, they grow along the forest floor and receive dappled sunlight filtered through the tree canopy above. Houseplant varieties have been selectively bred to intensify the coloration.

The eye-catching stripes and colorful patterns on Calathea leaves are not due to pigmentation like many other plants. Instead, they utilize a physiological phenomenon called leaf variegation. Specialized cells in the leaves contain crystalline deposits called chromatophores that refract and reflect specific wavelengths of light. This creates the vibrant shifts between pinks, greens, whites, and purples across the surface of the leaves. The striking markings serve as camouflage under the shades of the rainforest to help conceal the plant from predators. The color variation depends on the angle of light reflection and can change slightly as the leaves move and twist throughout the day.

Caring for tricolor Calathea requires paying close attention to four important factors – light, water, humidity, and temperature. They thrive in bright, indirect lighting found near north or east facing windows. Direct hot sun will scorch the leaves. Water when the top inch of soil dries out, taking care not to oversaturate the soil. Mist the leaves, use a humidifier, or place on a pebble tray to boost humidity around the plant. Calathea prefer daytime temperatures of 70-80°F and 60-65°F at night. With the proper conditions, tricolor Calathea will show off their hallmark striped foliage.

The eye-catching leaves of tricolor Calathea make them Instragram darlings, but their ornate patterns come with some care requirements. Low humidity causes the leaf edges to turn brown. Tap water containing chemicals and minerals will also burn the foliage at the tips. Stop using tap water and only use filtered, distilled, or rain water for these sensitive tropicals. If the air becomes too dry, the leaves will start to curl and wrinkle. Mist them daily or invest in a humidifier to recreate the lush environment of their native rainforest homes.

Protect tricolor Calathea from direct sun which will fade the delicate pastel colors in the leaves. Sheer curtains or shade from other buildings and trees help brighten an indoor space with soft, filtered light. Avoid drafty areas as cold air can also damage the foliage. Group with other tropical houseplants to create a warm, sheltered microclimate. Repot when rootbound every 1-2 years, choosing an airy potting mix that won’t retain too much moisture. Divide congested plants while re-potting to propagate brand new tricolor Calathea.

With the proper care, tricolor Calathea will reward plant parents with their stunning striped leaves in shades of pink, green, and white. Their vivid colors and tropical appeal make them ideal as indoor container plants. Pay attention to their humidity, lighting, and watering needs to keep them healthy and happy in a home environment. Anyone looking to add vibrant living art will be delighted with these iconic prayer plant beauties.