Introduction to the Calathea Medallion
Native to Brazil’s rainforests, the Calathea Medallion is a member of the Marantaceae family, often referred to as the prayer plant family. Much like its relatives, the Calathea Medallion has a fascinating feature – it is known to move its leaves from a horizontal position during the day to an upright one at night, a movement often likened to the act of praying (hence the name).
Care Difficulty Level
The Calathea Medallion is regarded as a moderately challenging houseplant to care for. Its care requirements are specific and it does not respond well to less-than-ideal conditions or neglect. However, equipped with a little knowledge and attention, even a beginner indoor gardener can successfully nurture this stunning plant.
The degree of care required primarily stems from the Calathea Medallion’s native conditions. Originating from the tropical regions of South America, it is accustomed to a warm, humid environment with filtered light. In the home, these conditions must be replicated as closely as possible for the plant to thrive but not close enough that you find yourself living in the uncomfortable climate of the tropics.
Symbolism and Cultural Significance
In certain cultures, the Calathea Medallion is believed to symbolize a new beginning. This concept is derived from its ‘prayer’ behavior, which represents the closing of one day and the start of another. For this reason, it is often given as a gift during moments of change or transition, such as housewarming or graduation events.
Calathea Medallion Characteristics
The Calathea Medallion is well-regarded for its remarkable foliage, which presents an exquisite blend of colors and patterns. Each leaf displays a stunning medallion-like pattern, which is where the plant derives its common name from.
The top surfaces of its broad, round leaves showcase a dark green color with a beautifully intricate pattern in shades of green and silver and the undersides of the leaves present a rich, deep purple hue. This stark contrast adds a dramatic touch to the aesthetic appeal of the plant.
When it comes to size, the Calathea Medallion grows to an average height of 2 feet in an indoor environment. However, if given the right conditions and care, these plants can occasionally reach up to 3 feet in height but it’s more common for them to be taller when grown in their native environments. As a houseplant, the leaf size usually varies between 6 to 12 inches in diameter, making it a relatively compact plant suitable for tabletops and shelves.
The growth habit of the Calathea Medallion is generally upright, but its leaves tend to spread outwards, giving the plant a bushy appearance. This plant is a slow grower and it usually takes several years for it to reach its full size.
In its natural habitat, it grows throughout the year. However, in an indoor setting, the growth slows down in winter and resumes in spring and summer.
Ideal Growing Conditions for Calathea Medallion
This tropical plant thrives under specific conditions, so understanding and replicating these in your home is essential. Let’s dive into what the ideal growing conditions are for a Calathea Medallion.
Calathea Medallions prefer medium light, as direct sunlight can scorch their leaves. They thrive in places with filtered, indirect light, such as near a north or east-facing window. The ideal light intensity can be likened to the natural light found on a rainforest floor.
While they can somewhat adapt to lower light conditions, note that you may see less variegation and smaller leaves.
As tropical plants, Calathea Medallions prefer warmer temperatures ranging from 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. They don’t do well in the cold and should be kept away from drafts and windows during the winter months. In summer you need to watch out that your plant isn’t too close to an air conditioning unit as the cold air coming from those can cause real issues.
The Calathea Medallion thrives in humid environments, mirroring its tropical origins. A relative humidity level of at least 50% is ideal. This can be achieved by using a humidifier, placing the plant on a tray with pebbles and water, or frequent misting.
The ideal soil for a Calathea Medallion should be well-draining and rich in organic matter. Adding some perlite, and compost to a traditional houseplant mix is typically recommended. The soil pH level should ideally be between 6.0 and 7.0.
They prefer their soil to be consistently moist but not waterlogged. It’s also important to use lukewarm, filtered water, as cold or hard water can cause leaf curling and spotting if the plant becomes shocked or the roots become scorched.
On average you want to water your Calathea Medallion once a week during summer and once every other week in winter. However, this is simply a guide and you need to adjust your watering habits to suit your individual plant and its environment. There are so many factors such as temperature, age, pot type and sunlight that will impact how much and how frequently you need to water.
Another top tip is to water enough so that some water flows out of the drainage holes. This ensures that you have evenly watered your plant deeply enough to encourage strong root growth.
Fertilizing a Calathea Medallion
This tropical plant thrives on a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer that is rich in macro and micro-nutrients. More specifically, a Calathea Medallion needs a fertilizer with an NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium) ratio of 20-20-20.
When fertilizing your Calathea Medallion, there are a few key points to bear in mind:
- Frequency: The plant should be fertilized every four weeks during the growing season, which typically falls between March and October. For the rest of the year, cut back all fertilizing.
- Amount: Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the correct amount of fertilizer to use. Over-fertilization can lead to leaf burn and other issues.
- Timing: Apply the fertilizer after watering the plant. This will help to avoid shocking the root system or burning the leaves.
Using fertilizer is great for supporting new healthy growth but it’s equally important to remember that less is more when it comes to feeding a Calathea Medallion. Over-fertilization can lead to a build-up of salts in the soil, which can eventually damage the plant. It’s always better to err on the side of caution and use less fertilizer than to risk overdoing it.
Pruning a Calathea Medallion
Pruning a Calathea Medallion is an essential aspect of its care that ensures the plant remains vibrant and healthy. This process involves careful trimming of the plant’s leaves to enhance its growth and maintain its distinctive appearance.
When to Prune Calathea Medallion
Typically, Calathea Medallion should be pruned during its active growing season, which usually falls between spring and summer. However, if any leaves become discolored, wilted, or damaged, it’s advised to prune them immediately as they will cause more harm than good being on your plant.
How to Prune Calathea Medallion
- Inspect the plant: Begin by closely examining the plant. Identify any leaves that are yellow, brown, or wilted or if you are pruning for aesthetics, mark the leaves that have outgrown the space.
- Sanitize your tools: Always use a clean, sharp pair of pruning shears or scissors. Sanitizing your tools before use can prevent the spread of disease or pests.
- Prune at the base: When pruning, make sure to cut the affected leaves at their base. This prevents the remaining stub from rotting and potentially causing further harm to the plant.
- Careful disposal: Dispose of the pruned leaves properly. Do not leave them around the plant, as they could attract pests or spread disease.
Pruning your Calathea Medallion can be quite straightforward when done correctly but here are a few additional tips to consider:
- Remember not to over-prune your plant. Removing too many leaves at once can stress the plant and stunt its growth. It’s best to prune a little at a time and monitor the plant’s response.
- It is also beneficial to prune the plant early in the day. This gives the plant ample time to heal before the cooler, damper evening hours, which is ideal for preventing the onset of diseases.
- If you notice a significant number of leaves requiring pruning, this could be an indication of an underlying issue, such as improper watering or lighting. In such cases, it may be advisable to review your plant’s care conditions.
Flowers on a Calathea Medallion
Appearance of Flowers
The flowers of a Calathea Medallion are small and delicate. They tend to appear very infrequently, typically during the summer and fall months. When they do bloom, they are a plume-like shape, growing in clusters from the base of the plant. The flowers are usually white in color, contrasting beautifully against the dark green and purple leaves of the plant.
It’s important to remember that a Calathea Medallion will only flower under certain conditions. Firstly, the plant must be mature enough as young plants will focus their energy on leaf growth before they begin to bloom.
Secondly, the plant needs the right environmental conditions. This means high humidity, warm temperatures, and indirect light.
While flowering is not the primary goal of most Calathea Medallion owners, those who wish to encourage blooming can follow a few simple steps.
Increasing humidity, either through a humidifier or by placing the plant on a pebble tray with water, can help promote flowering. Regularly feeding the plant with a balanced fertilizer during the growing season can also be beneficial and ensuring that the plant is not exposed to extreme temperatures or direct sunlight will help maintain overall plant health.
It’s worth noting, however, that even with perfect care and conditions, not all Calathea Medallions will flower. Their blooming is very unpredictable and doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with your plant if it doesn’t happen.
Pest and Disease Management
Like any other indoor plant, it might occasionally be affected by a variety of common pests and diseases. However, with proper care and vigilance, you can ensure that your plant thrives and remains pest-free.
The most common pests that threaten Calathea Medallion are spider mites, mealybugs, and aphids. These tiny bugs can suck the sap out of the plant, causing the leaves to yellow and wilt.
- Spider Mites: These are tiny, spider-like creatures that spin delicate webs on the undersides of leaves. If you notice fine webbing on your plant, it’s a clear sign of a spider mite infestation.
- Mealybugs: These pests appear as white, cottony masses on the leaves and stems of your plant. They can severely weaken your plant by sucking out its sap.
- Aphids: Aphids are small, green or black insects that feed on the sap of your Calathea. They can cause the leaves to curl and yellow.
To manage these pests, you can use an insecticidal soap or a neem oil solution and regularly wiping the leaves with a damp cloth can also help prevent infestations.
- Root Rot: This is often the result of overwatering or waterlogged soil. Symptoms include yellowing leaves and a wilting plant. To avoid root rot, make sure your plant’s pot has proper drainage and avoid overwatering.
- Leaf Spot: This disease manifests as brown or black spots on the leaves. It’s often caused by bacterial or fungal infections. Proper watering techniques and good air circulation can help prevent leaf spot.
Disease management involves proper watering and ensuring your plant is in a well-ventilated area. If a plant is affected by root rot, it might be necessary to remove the affected roots and repot the plant. For leaf spot, removing the affected leaves and applying a fungicide may help.
Calathea Medallion Toxicity
The Calathea Medallion is considered safe and non-toxic for humans and pets. This feature makes the Calathea Medallion a perfect choice for households with children or pets.
Calathea Medallion poses no threat to humans, even if ingested in small amounts. It’s always prudent, however, to discourage children from ingesting any houseplants as it can cause discomfort when ingested in large quantities.
Pets, particularly cats and dogs, are often attracted to the vibrant, colorful foliage of houseplants. Fortunately, the Calathea Medallion is non-toxic to both cats and dogs, as confirmed by the ASPCA.
Despite its non-toxicity, it’s important to note that any plant material, when ingested by pets, may cause mild digestive upset. Signs of this can include vomiting or diarrhea. If your pet exhibits any distressing signs after ingesting Calathea Medallion, it’s best to consult a veterinarian.
Repotting a Calathea Medallion
Typically, it’s best to repot your Calathea Medallion every other year, ideally during the spring or early summer when the plant is in its active growth phase. Repotting doesn’t have to be daunting so we have prepared a brief step-by-step to guide you through the process.
Step 1: Preparing the Potting Mix
Start with a well-draining potting mix. You could use pre-prepared mix for tropical plants or make your own.
Step 2: Preparing the New Pot
Choose a pot that’s only slightly larger than the current one, as Calathea Medallion prefers to be root-bound. If the pot it too large it can cause issues with overwatering and stability. The new pot should have good drainage to prevent water-logging. Fill the bottom of the pot with some potting mix.
Step 3: Removing the Plant from the Old Pot
When you’re ready to repot, gently loosen the soil around the edges of the old pot and carefully lift the plant out, taking care not to damage the roots.
Step 4: Planting in the New Pot
Place the plant in the new pot, making sure the top of the root ball is level with the rim of the pot. Fill in around the roots with the potting mix, pressing gently to remove air pockets. Water the plant thoroughly.
Step 5: Aftercare
After repotting, keep your Calathea Medallion in a shaded spot for a week or two to allow it to recover. Resume normal care afterwards, ensuring that it gets sufficient indirect light, high humidity, and regular watering.
Common Problems with your Calathea Medallion
Why does my Calathea Medallion have brown leaf edges?
The most common cause of dry brown leaf edges on a Calathea Medallion is underwatering. Check the moisture levels in the soil to check and slowly increase how much or how often you are watering your plant.
It can also be that a lack of humidity is causing the dry brown leaf edges in which case make sure you are misting your plant regularly and using a humidifier.
Why are my Calathea Medallion's leaves curling inwards?
Calathea Medallion plants curl their leaves inwards if they aren’t getting enough water. Check the soil to see if there is any moisture and increase your watering going forward. You can also give your plant a quick bath where you let it soak up as much water as it needs to in about 15-20 minutes before taking it out of the water.
Do note that Calathea plants do curl their leaves overnight (it’s where they get the prayer plant name from) so be sure that this isn’t natural curling before making any changes to how much water your plant.
Why does my Calathea Medallion have yellow leaves?
The most common cause of yellow leaves on a Calathea Medallion is overwatering. They are quite sensitive to waterlogged soil and this may have caused the roots to rot, leaving the plant unable to take up necessary nutrients. Check the potting soil and replace if waterlogged. In future cut back on how much water you are giving to your plant each time and make sure it has time to dry out before watering again.