Known for their incredible foliage, Calathea plants can be a little tricky to take care of. However, when it comes to propagation, Calatheas are super easy to propagate if you know how to do it. We have written this post to give you a complete guide to Calathea propagation and luckily for all of us, each type of Calathea can be propagated in the same way.
Below you will find a step by step process, as well as what tools you will need, what issues you may face and all of our top tips to help you propagate your Calathea successfully.
Why propagate a Calathea plant?
There are several reasons why you might choose to propagate your Calathea, The main one is simply wanting to multiply the number of plants you have without actually having to buy any more. Who can say no to free Calathea plants?! Calathea cuttings also make great gifts for friends, especially when it might be hard for them to get their hands on their own.
The other main reason why many plant parents choose to propagate is that their plant is either becoming too big or very leggy. Cutting your Calathea back encourages bushier growth and is a great way to cut back that winter growth which may have become straggly or leggy. But instead of simply throwing away those beautiful Calathea cuttings, why not propagate them and start a whole new mother plant.
You may also want to propagate your Calathea if you notice that it is starting to die. If you are unable to revive your plant, then propagating the healthy parts of it is a great way to save your plant.
What tools will I need to propagate a Calathea plant?
Let’s start off with the easy part. It’s important to make sure you have all the right things before taking the first cutting!
Healthy and mature Calathea plant
Fresh soil and water
Newspaper or plastic sheet if propagating indoors
What methods can I use to propagate my Calathea plant?
Unlike many other houseplants, the disadvantage of propagating Calathea plants is that there is only really one way to do it. Whilst you can also propagate through seeds, this is very difficult, takes a very long time and is not always successful. The main method of propagating Calathea plants is through the division of the mother plant. This means you will need quite a mature Calathea to be able to make two or more plants out of it.
How to propagate Calathea plants through division
Follow this quick guide and hopefully you’ll have a successfully propagated Calathea in no time!
Take your Calathea out of its pot
In order to locate the various sections of the Calathea plant, you will need to take your plant out of the pot so you can divide the root system. Carefully lift the plant out and shake off the potting mix around the roots. A good way to loosen the soil is to run your fingers through the roots to start to separate them.
Locate the various offshoots
When looking for a part of the plant to divide it will become very obvious if there are various offshoots on your Calathea. They will be completely separate and growth will stem from the middle of each section.
Separate the sections
You may have to trim off the odd root if they aren’t detangling easily but you should be able to carefully pull the sections apart from each other. It’s ok if you have to slice around the plant a little to separate them but just make sure that each part of the plant has a substantial amount of the root system to aid a successful Calathea propagation.
Place in water or fresh potting mix
Pot the main mother Calathea plant back into its original pot and decide whether you want to place the offshoot in water first or straight into potting mix. This depends on the size of the cutting and the maturity of the root system. If the offshoot has quite mature roots then it will be totally fine growing in potting mix already. However if you feel the roots need to grow a little more, then we recommend placing them into water as a middle step.
Continue normal care
If your cutting is now in fresh potting mix then you can care for it as you would your other Calathea plant. If it is in water first you want to refresh that water every couple of days and repot into potting mix once the roots have matured a little.
Calathea Propagation FAQs
Whilst propagating a Calathea plant is a fairly simple process compared to some other plant propagation needs, it’s still really important to understand the basics, such as time of year, equipment and fertiliser needs. Below you will find all the answers to your Calathea propagation questions!
Although there are many different types of Calatheas, you can propagate them all in exactly the same way. Division is the best and most successful method of propagation for all Calatheas.
We always recommend propagating houseplants in spring, and you want to do the same when propagating a Calathea. This gives your Calathea plants the best chance at a successful propagation. Try to make sure that any wintery cold weather is behind you so that your new Calathea plants are growing in warmer brighter months.
Propagating in autumn or winter will mean that your new Calathea plants will be trying to grow in the dormant period and you won’t see much growth. Cold temperatures can lead to an increased risk of root rot which can kill your plants quite quickly if their root system is delicate. If you really want to go ahead, we strongly recommend using a heat pad to keep the temperatures up.
Propagating your Calathea in spring gives quite a few months of sunshine and a warm environment which will encourage new roots and leaves to grow. It will also allow the mother plant to recover quicker from the shock of propagation.
Whilst it is not essential, you may wish to use rooting gels or powders to increase the success of your Calathea propagation. Rooting hormone products help to stimulate root growth on new cuttings. This helps to speed up root growth as well as produce stronger, healthier roots.
You can buy rooting hormone in 3 forms: powder, liquid or gel. When using a powder rooting hormone you dip the cutting into water and then into the powder before planting directly into fresh potting mix. The moisture helps the powder to stick to the cutting. You only want to cover the bottom section of the cutting where the roots will grow out from. Gel and liquid forms work in a similar way but are great when choosing to propagate your Calathea in water before potting mix.
Grow lights are great to use when propagating houseplants as they provide ideal light conditions for young seeds, cuttings and plants. LED grow lights can help avoid problems such as slow and leggy growth caused by a lack of sunlight.
Grow lights are also a great investment beyond just propagation. If you don’t get much natural sunlight in your home then you can use these to help all of your plants grow stronger. We use them during autumn and winter when the days are a lot shorter and darker.
It’s important to clean all of your tools before and after contact with any plant to stop cross-contamination between your houseplants. Scissors and shears can transfer pests and diseases across plants without you even knowing.
Another crucial reason to clean your tools after touching the plant is that many houseplants are toxic. Therefore you want to make sure that there is no trace of the plant on your tools as this can be harmful to you and anyone who might come into contact with your tools. Although Calathea plants are largely non-toxic, it’s a good habit to get into!
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to propagate a Calathea from just a single leaf cutting. This is because there is no node for roots to grow out from. Division is the most successful method of propagation for your Calathea plant!
We never recommend fertilising your cuttings until they are around 1 year old. However, because you are propagating your Calathea through division and each of the sections will already have an established root system you can fertilise after a few months.
You’ll need to give your new plants a few months to get over the shock of propagation before fertilising.
The amount of new plants you can divide depends entirely on the maturity of your mother plant. When dividing, you want to make sure that each section has a good amount of the overall root system. This will help speed up the growth of healthy new leaves.
Common problems when propagating a Calathea plant
Propagating plants will never have a 100% success rate and you may encounter some problems along the way. But don’t worry, we have learnt the hard way to bring you all the different problems that might arise as well as what this means and how to solve them!
After dividing up your Calathea into several new plants, it’s totally normal for them to feel shock. Think about how stressful humans find it to move home, well it’s kind of the same for plants. It will take them a few weeks or months to full settle into their new home and grow new roots.
As long as the environment and care are right for your Calathea, then you should start to see new roots and leaves growing. If you are trying to propagate when the temperatures aren’t super high in your home then this may be the cause of the lack of growth. You can help to speed up root growth by using a heat pad that you place underneath your plant. This warms up the area and provides an ideal environment for new growth.
If your cutting is turning brown and mushy then unfortunately this isn’t a good sign. This is usually due to overwatering of the new younger Calathea plant. You want to make sure you are letting the potting mix dry out between watering. We recommend trimming away the mushy parts of the cutting and hoping that it can still recover and grow roots.
After propagating your Calathea it’s totally normal for some of the new leaves to start off smaller. This is completely natural and simply due to the root system being less mature than that of the larger plant. Give it time and slowly the new leaves will start to get bigger and you can trim away the smaller leaves to encourage new healthy growth.
If the leaves on your Calathea are turning yellow then it may be due to too much direct sunlight which has burnt or scorched the leaves. Root rot could be another cause so inspect the roots closely.
We hope you have found this complete guide to Calathea propagation useful. It’s never an exact science and some divisions of the plant will take longer to grow than others. But with the right methods, care and environment you should be successful.
Check out our Plant Index to find all of our Calathea care guides for more information on how to care for your Calathea plants after propagation.
Written by Billy Dawson