Peacock Plant, Zebra Plant, Rattlesnake Plant
Admired by many for their unique, intricately patterned and colourful foliage, Calatheas make for stunning statement plants to add a tropical flair to your home.
Calathea insignis is a Prayer Plant with magnificent soft green swords, inked with dark blotched patterns and deep burgundy-purple undersides.
The genus Calathea consists of more than 300 species which usually live in the relatively lowlight and humid conditions of the understories of tropical forests. Whilst many plants in this environment, such as climbers, have evolved to get closer to the light above, Calatheas have adapted to the conditions provided by the forest floor.
In their natural habitat, many Calatheas produce beautiful and boldly coloured flowers, but its their striking foliage which has led them to become a popular houseplant. So much so, that there are now countless cultivars each with their own unique foliage, ensuring that there’s a Calathea for everybody, and every home.
Calathea insignis is native to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, where it lives on the rainforest floor. The distinctly patterned, lance-shaped foliage of insignis, as well as its tolerance of shadier rooms, has made it a popular Calathea to keep as a houseplant.
Plants in its native rainforest floor environment often evolve purple undersides to the leaves. After the light passes through the green tops of the leaves, purple coloured undersides reflect the useful parts of the light spectrum back through the leaf, allowing the plant to effectively consume twice as much light, and enabling it to survive in such dimly lit conditions.
Why Prayer Plants 'Pray'
As a member of the Prayer Plant family, the leaves of this Calathea will characteristically ‘pray’, folding up at night before re-opening again as the morning sun rises.
At the base of each leaf is a joint-like thickening called the pulvinus, which swells and shrinks in response to pressure developed in the leaves. This is what enables the ‘praying’ to take place.
This movement of the leaves is a process known as nyctinasty, which serves a number of purposes. It allows the plant to absorb as much light as possible in its low light rainforest environment, helps to absorb and retain water, and reduces the risk of fungi and bacteria forming on their leaves.
Calatheas can be fussy when placed in the wrong location, so choosing a good spot is essential.
A place with bright but indirect light is ideal. Avoid south facing spots with too much intense direct sunlight, unless you diffuse the light with a sheer curtain.
Like other Calatheas this plant enjoys high humidity, but overly wet soil can quickly lead to root rot.
Wipe the leaves regularly to prevent a build up of dust.