With its long green leaves and maroon undersides, the Calathea Rufibarba has one of the most unusual leaf shapes of all Calathea plants. Not to be confused with the rather similar looking Calathea lancifolia, the Calathea Rufibarba is also often referred to as the ‘velvet calathea’ or ‘furry feather Calathea’ on account of its fluffy feather-shaped leaves.
Part of the prayer plant family, i.e. the Marantaceae family, the Calathea rufibarba originates from Brazil. Rather unusually for a calathea, the green leaf tops are smooth, whereas the maroon undersides of the leaf are fluffy and velvety with little hairs on them, hence leading to its common names. At maturity, the plant can reach up to 1 metre in height.
Calathea Rufibarba Plant Care & Watering Guide
Watering your Rufibarba Plant
Calatheas like to be damp at all times and, unlike philodendrons, don’t enjoy drying out in-between waterings. With this being said, one of the most common causes of plant death is root rot and so it’s worth noting that the plant likes to have its feet moist, but not sitting in water.
One of the biggest problems plant lovers face when caring for their calathea plants is browning leaf edges. This is particularly common in cultivars such as the Calathea Orbifolia, though much less common in the Calathea Rufibarba.
If brown tips occur, it likely means that your plant is receiving the wrong kind of minerals in the water it is being given. To combat this, I typically allow water to sit in a jar for several days before using it to water my plants. Alternatively, you could try using rainwater.
Another common reason for brown tips is lack of humidity. This can be solved by keeping your calathea plant in a bathroom or kitchen (provided that they still have adequate light) or grouping some of your calathea plants together in an arrangement.
Best soil conditions for the Rufibarba Calathea
Like many tropical indoor houseplants, Calatheas do well in a well-draining soil mix, which can be typically purchased at your local garden centre selling indoor plants. Similarly, there is no specific recipe you have to follow and so you can mix up your own potting mix if you so prefer. Typically the plant will need repotting into a larger container every year or two, depending on growth conditions and the like.
Best light conditions for the Calathea Rufibarba
Though many people might say that Calatheas are the perfect low-light plants, this is simply not the case. While it is true that calatheas can tolerate lower lighting conditions than other tropical houseplants, they certainly need bright indirect lighting in order to thrive.
Calathea Rufibarba Propagation
Like other calathea varieties, the Calathea Rufibarba sadly cannot be rooted in water via stem or leaf cuttings. Instead, propagation of the plant should be done via root division during repotting (which should typically be done during the beginning of the growing season; i.e. in spring or early summer).
When you’re repotting your calathea plant, simply shake off the excess soil and divide the plant at the roots and stems. If you’re repotting the Calathea because it’s rootbound, then be sure to repot both halves of the plant in pots which is similar in size to the one that the calathea just came out of. Of course, if you have a larger plant, then you can even divide your plant into three, four, or five, plants.
Calathea Rufibarba Pests
Calatheas are particularly susceptible to scale and spider mites. Spider mites tend to appear when the plant is stressed, such as from under-watering and not receiving enough humidity. Another common cause of plant stress is when the plant is root bound.
This is when the pot is too small and, at this point, the plant should either be repotted in a larger container or divided into smaller plants before repotting. Spider mites can be treated using insecticidal soap. Scale can be treated with neem oil.
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