The Beginners Guide to Calathea Exotica Plant Care

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If you’re fascinated by the exotic beauty of a plant and its less light requirements, Calathea Exotica is the houseplant for you.

It is a tropical plant so we can trace its origin to South America and the rainforests of Brazil. The plant isn’t demanding, but some basics are must-haves for your Calathea to thrive.

The plant fancies moderate sunlight and regulated watering. However, extreme sunlight exposure and excessive watering can damage this beauty.

The following guide will come in handy for you to grow healthy and vibrant Calathea Exotica in your house.

Read on to find out

Plant Description

Calathea Exotica comes from the famous family of Calathea, consisting of more than 200 varieties of plants.

Other names include; Rattle Snake and Zebra plant.

It’s not a tall plant; it can grow to a maximum height of 3 feet and 2 feet wide.

This plant is a natural air purifier, releasing linalool chemical, which cleanses impurities in indoor air, thus enhancing its quality.

Calathea is not only an elegant plant but also a striking character that can transform your space tremendously. Monstera Siltepecana and Marble Queen are some of the plants fitting into the category of Calathea, especially with their variegation traits.

Plant Profile (Notable Characteristics)

Common Names: Rattle Snake, Calathea Exotica, and Zebra Plant

Botanical Name: Calathea exotica

USDA Hardiness Zones: 10a-12a

Maturity Height: 3 feet

Maturity Spread: 2 feet

Native Area: South America and the rainforest of Brazil

Temperature: 55⁰F- 85⁰F

Blooming Time: Does not flower

Toxicity: Pets friendly

How to Care for Calathea Exotica

This plant can be finicky, primarily if the optimal conditions are not provided. However, with the following tips, you can take good care of it correctly.


Calathea is a low-light plant and do not perform well under direct sunlight. Surprisingly, it is a tropical plant but prefers indirect sunlight exposure.

Therefore, identify the location in your house near the window; where your plant will be exposed to indirect sunlight at least 4 hours a day.

Please note if the plant is exposed to direct sunlight, the leaves will wilt and probably get burned.


Watering is an essential part of Calathea Exotica’s growth. Like any other indoor plant, regulated watering is crucial to sustainable thriving.

However, do not leave your soil dry; the plant loves water, and the soil should always be moist.

Preferably, you should use rainwater or filtered water because the plants are sensitive to minerals in the water, especially sodium. Excess water will likely cause root rot, so it is prudent to keep the watering to 3 days or a week, depending on the prevailing weather conditions.


Calatheas prefers warm temperatures but can tolerate extremes in temperature changes upto 50⁰F.

Ideally, 55⁰F to 88⁰F is the most optimal temperature to grow your Calathea plants. Acute changes beyond 50⁰F can cause harm and ultimately drying out if not checked and controlled.


Increased humidity is important especially for young seedlings. A humidifier would be perfect or covering them with glass to manipulate humidity levels.

Relative humidity level depends on where you live; if it is too dry, try to build up using a humidifier or grouping the plants together.

Soil Preference

Slightly cidic soil, with a PH of 6.5, is best for use in the potting mix. The soil should be able to retain water moderately to avoid root rot or waterlogging in case of poor drainage.


Applying a liquid fertilizer when watering your plant is imperative, especially during stressful periods, mainly after repotting.

Indoor plants’ organic fertilizer will also help stimulate vigorous growth.

How to Propagate Calathea Exotica

You first need to purchase a healthy plant that is already potted. Tend to it for a year using the above-highlighted ways, and it will be ready for propagation after that.

There are two ways to propagate your Calathea; Stem propagation and root division during repotting.

The best way to propagate it is through the root division system. Follow these steps to successfully propagate your plants.

  • Gently lift the Calathea Exotica pot to avoid causing any harm to its foliage.
  • Tap on both sides of the pot using your hand until the soil is released from the edges of the pot.
  • Remove the pot smoothly to dissociate the plant from it.
  • Before deciding to remove all the soil attached to the roots to start the division, first analyze the state of the rooting system to establish if it is possible to divide or if the plant will be damaged from the action. If the Calathea is rootbound, the division will not be possible; repot into a bigger pot and wait another year to propagate.
  • If the rooting system is in good condition, remove all the soil around the root area until the division sections are visible.
  • Trace the natural divisions present in the roots to specific plants and divide gently to avoid damaging neighboring roots or division sections.
  • Ensure that each stem removed from the mother plant should have roots and tubers to increase its chances of survival and eventual development.
  • Prepare small pots and fill them with the right potting mix, prepare for repotting, and subsequent planting of propagated plants.
  • Plant the plantlets in a 10-inch pot and refer to how to take care highlighted above to tend to your newly obtained seedlings.
  • Repot the mother plant into a bigger pot, probably 2 inches larger than the previous pot.

Repotting Calathea Exotica

Repotting should be done yearly or two years, depending on the initial growth rate and pot size.

When you notice the slow growth of your plant, consider repotting it into a larger pot to give it adequate growing room.

Repotting should also be considered after you have propagated the plant and extracted many new plants from it.

For better results, repot during spring and be gentle to avoid any damage to its foliage and the roots.

Water your plant immediately after repotting it with water and liquid organic fertilizer to support its recovery and growth.

Common Pests and Diseases


Spider mites, mealybugs, Scales, and whiteflies are some of the common pests.

A routine check on the leaves will aid in spotting infestation early to mitigate the risks. The presence of spider-like webs signals the presence of spider mites, while scales attach themselves to the stem and under the leaf, leaving honeydew-like residue, which attracts extra insects.

Regular monitoring should also include a thorough look on the underside of the leaves to check if mealybugs and scales are present.

To control the infestation, use soapy water once a week to wash your leaves; this will eliminate any pests already established on your plant’s leaves.


Bacterial Leaf Spot

When your plant is stressed, or the leaves are constantly wet, Calathea Exotica will be susceptible to an attack by the bacteria, causing brown, sometimes black spots and subsequent drying of the leaves.

Ensure the leaves dries out before the next watering round to avoid bacterial infection. Alternatively, avoid spilling water on the leaves surface.

Root Rot

Overwatering can easily damage the root system. A sign of root rot starts from leaf yellowing, which later drops or wilts away. Consider a well-drained potting mix to enhance drainage, and reduce chances of water logging and root rot.

Consider using garden pumice in your potting mix to help absorb water, keep the soil moist to the recommended level, effectively drain, and prevent the occurrence of root rot.

Before resuming watering, please prune the affected leaves with sharp scissors or secateurs, leaving strong and healthy ones on the plant.

Learn more about calatheas and physiological problems.

Growing and Caring for Calathea Exotica: Recap

  • Purchase a healthy plant from your nearest garden center.
  • Place the plant near the window, with access to at least 4 hours of indirect sunlight, and avoid direct sunlight.
  • Water at an interval of three days to a week, depending on the climate and soil moisture.
  • Increased humidity is vital for Calatheas to thrive, consider using a humidifier if you reside in a dry place.
  • The temperatures should be kept at 55⁰F to 85⁰F, but the rattlesnake plant can tolerate a low of 50⁰F but nothing lower.
  • After a year, your plant will be ready for propagating and repotting.
  • Propagate by identifying the natural rooting division and separating the plant attached to the identified roots.
  • Plant the newly propagated exotica plants into a new pot and water immediately and regularly for a few days to enhance ease of adaptation and rapid development.
  • Transplant the mother plant to a larger pot, water, and fertilizer to contribute to its growth and health, and avoid the dangers of propagation stress.
  • Common pests include; scales, mealybugs, spider mites, and thrips; wash your plant’s leaves consistently with soap water to get rid of any buildup of pests.
  • Root rot and bacterial leaf spots are some diseases. Avoid over-watering to reduce or solve the risk of root rot and allow leaves to dry, limiting the chances of bacterial infection.


Exotica plants are a beautiful and low-maintenance addition to any home. With the right care, they can thrive for years.

By following the tips in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to keeping your calathea healthy and happy.

And, remember to do your research before purchasing a plant and be patient when caring for it - gardening is a learning process! With proper care, your Calathea Exotica Plant will thrive and add some serious jungle vibes to your space.

Do you have any other tips for caring for exotica plants? Share them with us in the comments below!