Calathea & Goeppertia- Plant Bio: Podcast Ep#24

Updated: Oct 11

Calathea and Goeppertia have some of the most unique patterns and colors. These plants are for the tolerant, understanding, and experienced houseplant owner. If you are new to houseplants and REALLY want that cool-looking Goeppertia, keep reading! This blog post will hopefully give you all the tools you need to succeed!


Reclassification- Yup this again!

As some of you may know some Calathea has been reclassified to Goeppertia. If you didn't

know...now you do! Visually and maintenance-wise these plants are basically identical. Since these plants are SO similar, this blog will include both of them (and the podcast does too)! The images you see will be a mix of Calathea and Goeppertia.

  • The Plantopedia states it best... "A series of genetic tests undertaken circa 2012; however, revealed that one of the subgenera of Calathea had, in fact, a different ancestor and, as such, the Goeppertia genus was revived and 250 species were reclassified back."

After doing more research I realized lots of the popular Calathea varieties have been reclassified to Goeppertia! But I found VERY conflicting data about whether or not some plants should be Calathea or Goeppertia. What is listed below is based on my own detailed research. But I wouldn't take these variety names to the grave!


Here are some of the most popular varieties that are now Goeppertia...

  • Goeppertia insignis (was Calathea lancifolia) Rattlesnake Calathea

  • Goeppertia majestica (was Calathea majestica)

  • Goeppertia makoyana (was Calathea makoyana) Peacock Plant, Cathedral Windows

  • Goeppertia kegaeljanii (was Calathea musaica) Network

  • Goeppertia orbifolia (was Calathea orbifolia) Round-Leaf

  • Goeppertia ornata (was Calathea ornata) Pinstripe, Beauty Star, Sanderiana

  • Goeppertia zebrina (was Calathea zebrina) Zebra Plant

  • Goeppertia roseopicta (was Calathea roseopicta) Rose-Painted, Eclipse, Medallion, Rosey, Dottie, Corona

  • Goeppertia concinna (was Calathea concinna) Freddie

  • Goeppertia warszewiczii (was Calathea warscewiczii) Jungle Velvet

  • and MANY more...

Here are some of the most popular Calathea varieties...

  • Calathea lietzei-White Fusion Calathea

  • Calathea rufibarba- Furry Feather Calathea

  • Calathea Crocata- Eternal Flame

  • Calathea picturata- Argentea

  • and MANY more...

Even though they have been reclassified, the majority of the plant community still calls ALL of them Calathea or one of the common names (Zebra Plant or Peacock Plant). Similarly, many people call Snake Plant, Sansevieria, even though they are now reclassified to Dracaena.


Plantopedia listed Goeppertia kegaeljanii, Goeppertia orbifolia and Calathea lietzei in its book under those specific botanical names. I am 100% confident those are correct!


Sun Requirements:

Calathea and Goeppertia both thrive in moderate to bright indirect light. This light ensures the most bold color and distinctive patterns. Some varieties can handle low to moderate light (Goeppertia orbifolia and Goeppertia majestica for example) but most need moderate to bright indirect light. Avoid direct sunlight all together. If you are noticing leaves looking bleached or turning white, that could be a sign it is in too much light. Placing Calathea or Goeppertia just off an East or West facing window is best!


Water Requirements:

Calathea and Goeppertia are notoriously known for having browning leaf tips and edges. You can see them in almost every image I put on this blog. Some of these pictures were taken in the humid, tropical dome of the Milwaukee Domes and still had browning leaves!


The best way to prevent that is a good watering routine and increased humidity. Keeping the soil evenly moist is a MUST for these plants. You don't want them to dry out completely. Only water once the first layer of soil is dry. The best way to measure that is to stick your finger in the soil or use a moisture meter reader. Calathea and Goeppertia are also sensitive to fluoride and salts in water so using rainwater or distilled water can also prevent browning leaves (NOTE: in the winter you may cut back a little bit on watering- emphasis on a little bit).


Just as keeping the soil evenly moist is a must, increased humidity is ALSO a must! There are only a few varieties that don't require as much humidity. For example, Goeppertia kegaeljanii is one of those varieties. You can increase humidity by...

  • Misting it with a spray bottle.

  • Placing a humidifier near by.

  • Placing a tray of water and pebbles below the plant (you can use a larger saucer for this).

  • Put your plant in the shower! Make sure the water beating down on the leaves isn't damaging them first! Putting them in the shower can definitely help increase humidity, help water your Calathea or Goeppertia thoroughly, and even help prevent pests.

Overall, misting will not provide as much humidity as an actual humidifier. Or even a tray of water filled with pebbles underneath. But it still helps!


Fertilizer:

I know I repeat this every time but there is not a bad way to fertilize unless you are applying too much. Always use the recommended amount (or even a little less) on your houseplants.


The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual by Barbara Pleasant says "from spring through summer, feed with a high nitrogen foliage plant fertilizer every 3 weeks. In fall and winter, feed monthly." Nitrogen fertilizer is meant for plants that are strictly grown for its foliage. There are other fertilizers, for example, that focus on blooms but that wouldn't help your Calathea or Goeppertia because you bought this plant for its lush foliage. If you want to learn more about fertilizer composition check out the Fun Fact section of my Dieffenbachia blog!


I fertilize about every 2 weeks in peak growing season and every couple months in winter. I use Espoma Indoor! Houseplant Food on all my houseplants. Every source you will find says something slightly different about fertilizing. If you are using a houseplant or indoor fertilizer use the recommended amount or slightly less. If you are using a fertilizer that is not specific to houseplants, I would reduce the recommended amount.


Propagation:

Calathea and Goeppertia can only be propagated by splitting the plant. Since they are sensitive plants you want to make sure the plant is very mature before you decide to split it. I would also expect the plant to suffer a bit from splitting it. It may take awhile for the plant to bounce back from the disturbance to its root system.

If you do split them successfully, plant both of your split sections in brand new well-draining soil.


Other Facts:

  • Part of the Marantaceae Family

  • Other plants in this family are Prayer Plant, Ctenanthe, Stromanthe, Stachyphrynium

  • Just like Prayer Plants, Calathea and Goeppertia visually respond to lighting changes, which almost looks like the leaves are dancing!

  • Native Southern Tropical Americas

  • Calathea range in size, from 1ft up to 3ft, depending on the variety

  • These plants come in a range of colors, from shades of green, pink, red, purple, and white

  • Calathea and Goeppertia are not toxic to pets or humans! One of the few houseplants.

  • One of the most common pests are spider mites. It is best to cut back most of the infested foliage and apply an insecticide immediately to prevent spreading. I've used insecticidal soap, systemic houseplant insect control (the link is a 2 pack), and neem oil all to help prevent and get rid of pests. I've always used the Bonide brand items but there are many others out there!

  • If you can avoid using terra cotta pots for Calathea, Goeppertia or even Maranta, Stromanthe or Ctethanthe that would be beneficial! Terra cotta absorbs water and could take the moisture away from your Calathea! Keeping it in its nursery pot or transplanting to a plastic or ceramic pot is best. If you want to put it in terra cotta (like I always do!) keep it in it's nursery pot and use the terra cotta pot as a cover. Or if transplanted direct into the terra cotta pot make sure the plant is placed somewhere you monitor it frequently for water and humidity.

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FUN FACT

I do have a Goeppertia! Originally I thought it was a Calathea but I now know it is Goeppertia ornata 'Beauty Star' (pictured to the right). I got it from Lurvey in Des Plaines, IL around May 2020 but it was struggling a bit. They had it on their clearance shelf for 50% off so I decided to bring it home and try to revive it! About a month later, I noticed it had spider mites and as of December of 2020, it still has spider mites. I have them somewhat under control but they just won't completely go away. Even though it is being harmed by mites it gained a few new leaves. So that is positive! Next spring I am going to remove all the soil and repot it in new soil and hopefully that will help more! Do you have a Calathea? If so, how has your experience been? Comment below!!!