Common Calathea Orbifolia Problems | Causes and Solutions

Famous for their large round striped leaves, the Calathea Orbifolia is one of the trendiest houseplants right now.

Famous for their large round striped leaves, the Calathea Orbifolia is one of the trendiest houseplants right now and we couldn’t be happier to see it popping up in more and more plant shops around the world. Although they aren’t cheap, when cared for properly, these beauties will reward you with some of the most luscious growth. However, if you have started to spot problems such as brown leaves or a drooping Calathea Orbifolia, it’s important you get to the bottom of it before it completely takes over your plant. 

Spotting and treating the issue early is the number one thing when it comes to saving a dying Calathea Orbifolia. In this post, we will go over the causes of various common Calathea Orbifolia problems, as well as how to treat the issue and prevent it from happening again in future.

Top Causes of Brown Calathea Orbifolia Leaves:

  • 1

    Underwatering.

    Too little water over a longer period of time can be really harmful to your Calathea Orbifolia and cause it to develop dry crispy brown leaves. Your plant will forgive you if you forget to water it every now and again but if you are consistently underwatering your plant, this is where issues will begin. Check the moisture levels in the soil and reintroduce water slowly to stop more brown leaves from developing.

  • 2

    Low humidity can cause brown tips.

    Native to the tropical rainforests of Central and South America, Calathea Orbifolia plants love a humid environment, so if your home has dry air, this can cause dry brown leaf tips and edges. Luckily, this is an easy issue to prevent progressing any further and we recommend misting your plant with a spray bottle every few days, sitting your Calathea Orbifolia in a pebble tray or using a humidifier to keep a nice stable humidity level.

  • 3

    Chemical sensitivity.

    Although this is quite a rare issue, if your Calathea Orbifolia has brown leaf tips and the issue isn’t humidity, then you should also consider sensitivity to chemicals in the tap water. The salts, chlorine and fluoride that are found in tap water can build up in the soil and suffocate the roots, thus turning the leaves brown. This is a very slow process so you won’t see brown leaf tips occurring everywhere overnight but you live in a hard water area, we recommend using rainwater or filtered water for your Calathea Orbifolia.  

  • 4

    Cold temperatures.

    It’s really important that you keep your Calathea Orbifolia away from areas that are often drafty, for example, drafty doors or windows as during winter, the cold air from outside can severely damage your plant. But it’s not just over winter that a drop in temperature can cause brown leaves on your Calathea Orbifolia as air conditioning vents can have a similar impact so be wary of these too.

Causes of Yellow Calathea Orbifolia Leaves:

  • 1

    Overwatering.

    Too much water is the most common factor in why Calathea Orbifolia plants turn yellow and this is where we would always start when diagnosing this issue. Waterlogged soil can very quickly lead to root rot which prevents your Calathea Orbifolia from getting any of the needed nutrients, which in turn leads to yellow leaves. Measure the moisture in the soil and replace it if needed. Don’t wait for the soil to dry out naturally as this risks more damage to your already suffering Calathea Orbifolia. In future, make sure that the soil has time to dry out between waterings to prevent root rot.

  • 2

    Direct sunlight.

    If watering isn’t an issue with your Calathea Orbifolia, then you must consider other causes, such as direct intense sunlight. During summer, if your Calathea Orbifolia is too close to the window and is receiving a lot of direct light, this can lead to the leaves burning and developing yellow patches. Although these are irreversible, moving your Calathea Orbifolia to a slightly shadier spot will prevent any more yellow patches from forming. 

  • 3

    Pests.

    Whilst rarer than some of the other problems, your Calathea Orbifolia’s leaves may be developing yellow patches or spots due to a pest infestation. Give your plant a thorough check with a magnifying glass so you can spot any pests crawling around on the leaves. To treat the issue, spray your plant with neem oil daily for a week. We also recommend removing the worst affected leaves to try to control growth of the infestation.

  • 4

    Natural ageing.

    If none of the above causes fit with what is happening with your plant, then you might be lucky and the yellowing is just part of the natural cycle. As your Calathea Orbifolia matures, it’s normal for it to lose a leaf or two each year as it prioritises that energy for new growth. Before dropping the leaf, it will often turn yellow first. This is nothing for you to worry about as long as the rate of yellowing is slow (slower than the rate of new healthy growth).

Calathea Orbifolias can Lose Leaves for a Variety of Reasons:

  • 1

    Cold temperatures.

    Extreme temperatures and drafts can also be very harmful and this can definitely be why your Calathea Orbifolia is losing leaves. Move your Calathea Orbifolia away from any drafts coming through windows and ensure they are at least one meter away from any air conditioning or heating vents/radiators. We recommend picking up a digital thermometer to check the temperature across the day and night in various spots in your home.

  • 2

    Shock or stress.

    It’s not just cold temperatures that can shock your Calathea Orbifolia but any sudden change in environment. For example, repotting, propagating, moving house or simply moving to a new spot in your home can all be causes of stress for plants and may result in a few leaves falling off. Shock is never really a long-term cause of leaf drop in Calathea Orbifolia plants so the initial shock should wear off over a few days.

  • 3

    Natural ageing.

    If your Calathea Orbifolia is only losing a few leaves each year but nothing in the environment is changing that would indicate stress, then this leaf drop might be natural. This happens when your plant needs to focus its energy on growing new growth so will lose some of its smallest and oldest leaves. Ensure that your plant is growing more new leaves than it is losing them throughout the year and things should be fine. 

Why is my Calathea Orbifolia Drooping?

  • 1

    Underwatering.

    Although a lack of water can cause brown leaves on your Calathea Orbifolia, one of the earlier warning signs that your plant is thirsty is dropping leaves and stems. Your first instinct might be to give your thirsty plant a bucket full of water but this can actually be harmful to your Calathea Orbifolia if the soil goes from one extreme to the other. Instead, you want to reintroduce watering by giving your plant a little bit once a day for a week. This ensures the soil gets a nice even soak and doesn’t shock your plant. Over time it’s important to keep an eye on how much you are watering your Calathea Orbifolia by checking the moisture in the soil frequently. 

  • 2

    Overwatering.

    Yes, both extremes can cause the same issue and that is because both can cause root rot which cuts off nutrients, moisture and oxygen from your plant, causing it to droop. Check the soil to see if it is soggy or holding onto too much excess water and replace the wet soil with fresh mix to allow your Calathea Orbifolia to recover. Never wait for it to naturally dry out as you risk too much damage which can make reviving your plant tricky.

Causes of Curling Leaves on a Calathea Orbifolia:

  • 1

    Natural curling.

    As part of the Calathea family, Calathea Orbifolias naturally curl their leaves at night and unfold their leaves in the morning. This might not be as extreme as other Calathea/Prayer Plant types but it happens more than you would imagine. It can be easy to mistake this curling for an issue, but monitor how the leaves move and see if you can spot some other issues alongside the curling leaves to see if there’s something wrong with your Calathea Orbifolia. 

  • 2

    Underwatering.

    If the leaves are not uncurling, then this would suggest it is not natural praying but that instead, your Calathea Orbifolia might be struggling with a lack of moisture. Your plant will curl up its leaves in response as this is the best way to retain as much moisture as possible. Inspect the potting mix and give your Calathea Orbifolia plenty of water over the next few days and you should see the leaves starting to uncurl soon.

  • 3

    Temperature extremes.

    If you’ve checked the potting mix and there aren’t any issues with the moisture levels, then high heat might be why your Calathea Orbifolia has curling leaves. Although they thrive in warm environments, intense hotspots can dry out the plant and cause it to curl up. Use a digital thermometer to check that your room sits within the ideal temperature bounds and if needed, adjust your plant’s positioning away from the window and you should start to see the leaves uncurl. 

  • 4

    Low humidity.

    Calathea Orbifolia plants need high humidity levels or you will notice a range of issues including curling leaves. This will often be the precursor to brown leaf edges so you want to fix it before it gets to that stage as brown leaves are irreversible. We recommend picking up a humidity monitor and getting into the habit of regularly misting your plant to make sure the curling leaves don’t develop into a more serious issue. 

Those are the most common issues you will experience with Calathea Orbifolia plants. The key to preventing the issue from taking over your plant is catching it early and taking the right steps to solve it. The longer the issue progresses, the more it damages not only the root system but the stems and leaves as well and reviving your plant will only become more difficult. 

To learn more about how to best care for your plant and avoid any of these issues cropping up, check out our Calathea Orbifolia care guide.


Written by Billy Dawson


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