Calathea medallion is one of the most common varieties of Calathea you’ll find in the houseplant trade, for several reasons.
Not only does it have spectacular foliage, but it’s also very beginner-friendly compared to other prayer-plants.
And, as a bonus, it’s also non-toxic to pets.
What Is a Calathea Medallion?
Calathea medallion is a tropical houseplant native to Brazil. It belongs to the Marantaceae family, commonly known as ‘prayer plants,’ because their leaves erect during the night, then drop back down during the day.
The leaves of the medallion Calathea are its main feature. They are oval or pendant-shaped, striped with thick bands of dark green, silver, and bright green. Underneath, the leaves are just as showy, displaying a rich shade of pink or purple, which is visible when the plant is ‘praying’.
When grown as an indoor plant, it usually reaches a height of up to 30 inches (76 cm), with the leaves developing longer stems as the plant matures. In the wild, the Calathea medallion also produces small, light green, star-shaped flowers. However, it will rarely flower indoors.
Variations and Cousins
The Medallion plant is a cultivar of Calathea roseopicta. All roseopicta cultivars are best known for the round shape of their leaves, bushy growth, colorful foliage, but most importantly, the fact that the underside of the leaves is a deep, vivid pink or purple. The leaf vein and midriff are also pink, which is likely where the name ‘roseopicta’ (or ‘pink-painted) comes from.
If you’re looking for companion plants for your Calathea medallion, look no further than the other cultivars it’s related to.
Here are some exciting varieties to consider:
- Calathea roseopicta ‘Dottie’: dark green, almost black leaves, with bright pink stripes;
- Calathea roseopicta ‘Rosy’: intense fuchsia-colored leaves, with dark green edges;
- Calathea roseopicta ‘Corona’: silvery, pale green leaves with dark green borders;
- Calathea roseopicta ‘Silvia’: silvery-green leaves, with dark green edges and pink stripes.
Calathea Medallion Care Guide
Here’s what you need to know to get started.
– Light Requirements
The medallion Calathea grows as a ground cover in its natural habitat. It is used to receiving dappled sunlight, which trickles down through the tree canopy. When you’re growing it indoors, pick a location where it receives plenty of bright, indirect light.
Calathea medallion can grow in partial shade, but this can also lead to leaves losing their unique patterns. Meanwhile, direct sunlight will scorch the leaves, causing discoloration and browned edges.
The best room for this plant is one with eastern or western exposure, in a spot where the direct sun can’t reach the leaves. You can also place it in a north-facing room, as long as you make sure that it still receives plenty of light throughout the day.
– Temperature Requirements
Calathea medallion grows best in a temperature range between 65 °F to 77 °F (18 °C to 25 °C). Like all plants in this family, it is frost intolerant. Its growth will become stunted if it’s exposed to temperatures below 55 °F (13 °C) for extended periods. As a result, it’s best to grow it as an indoor plant, but if you live in US hardiness zones 11 and 12, you can also keep it outside.
Providing your Calathea with a constant temperature is essential, as this plant doesn’t like cold or hot drafts. Avoid keeping it next to a window or a door that’s in constant use, especially in winter, or placing it next to a radiator, heating vent, or air conditioning unit.
– Water Requirements
Calathea medallion enjoys moist soil. Watering Calathea medallion too often can be very harmful to the plant, leading to fungal problems, such as root rot, and even attracting pests, including fungus gnats.
In general, it’s best to water it when the top ½ inch of the soil is dry. You can test the soil with your finger, or for more accurate results, we recommend using a moisture meter.
Watering your Calathea medallion plant correctly takes a bit of getting used to. Always make sure that the water is distributed evenly across the soil so that it reaches all the roots.
We suggest giving it a good soak, then allowing the pot to drain until there’s no more water coming out through the drainage holes. This ensures the water gets through to all the roots, and it also helps wash any fertilizer salt deposits in the soil.
– Can I Use Tap Water?
All Calatheas are sensitive to chemicals in the water, which can cause yellowing and brown leaf edges. Tap water is usually full of chemicals, such as fluoride, chlorine, and other minerals.
Allowing the tap water to air out in an open container overnight will help chlorine evaporate, but it won’t get rid of the other chemicals. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to water your Calathea medallion with distilled water, although rainwater is also an excellent alternative.
– Reduce Watering When It’s Cold
Overwatering can be a real problem for Calatheas at the best of times, but especially in winter. As the plant slows down its growth, it needs less water than usual, so remember to cut back. During the colder months, you can water your Calathea once every 10 to 14 days.
– Humidity Requirements
Calatheas are humidity-loving plants. Luckily, the medallion plant is a bit more forgiving when it comes to air moisture, and will grow in humidity levels of around 50%, which is typical for most homes. But if you can, try to boost those levels to around 70% — your plant will thank you for it.
The best way to increase humidity around your Calathea is by using a humidifier. This can be a real lifesaver, especially in winter, when indoor heating makes homes much drier than normal. If you notice that the leaves are starting to crisp up at the edges or beginning to curl, that could indicate that the air in your home is too dry for your plant.
Here are some other ways you can increase humidity in your home, apart from using a humidifier:
- Group plants together: plants release moisture in the air as they breathe. By growing tropical plants together, they will help each other out by maintaining humidity.
- Use a pebble tray: placing your Calathea on top of a pebble tray half-filled with water will help boost air moisture through evaporation.
- Misting: use a spray pump filled with distilled water to mist the air around the plant. You will need to do this at least once a day for any noticeable effect.
- Put your plant in the bathroom: bathrooms are the dampest room in any home, so they provide a great location for moisture-loving Calatheas. Make sure that your bathroom has a window so that the plant can receive enough light to grow.
– Fertilizer Requirements
Feed your Calathea medallion once a month, from the beginning of spring until the middle of autumn. A fertilizer with a nutrient ratio of 10-10-10 is perfect for this plant, as it will promote healthy leaf growth. Calatheas go dormant during winter, so there’s no need to feed them during those months.
As mentioned earlier, Calatheas are very sensitive to minerals building up in the soil, and this also applies to fertilizers. Try using organic fertilizer for this plant, or a diluted solution of synthetic fertilizer. Never fertilize your plants when the soil is dry, as this can burn the roots.
If you notice white deposits on the top of the soil, they’re most likely caused by fertilizer salts. Give your Calathea a good flush with distilled water to remove them.
– Soil Requirements
Calathea medallion needs a potting mix that is porous, well-draining, moisture-retentive, and slightly acidic. Peat makes an excellent substrate, but you can also use coco coir or, in a pinch, even universal potting mix. Regardless of the potting medium you go for, always make sure that you add amendments to improve drainage.
It’s best to plant your Calathea medallion in a mixture of 2 parts peat, coir, or universal potting mix, and 1 part perlite. You can also substitute perlite for orchid bark, coarse sand, or pumice, all of which are essential in facilitating well-draining soil.
Using the right soil mix for your Calathea will provide it with not just nutrients, but will also prevent watering issues. Striking the right balance between moisture retention and drainage is crucial for this plant. Bear in mind that watering will gradually compact the soil over time. Therefore, always make sure that ⅓ of your potting mix consists of a material that helps drainage, such as perlite.
– Repotting Calathea Medallion
Calathea medallion has a medium growth rate, and only needs repotting once every 2 years. Like all Calatheas, it enjoys being a bit root bound, so try not to move it into a container that’s too large. A new pot that’s one size bigger, or about 2 inches (5 cm) wider is more than enough.
The best time to repot the medallion plant is in spring. This is when the plant begins its growth cycle, and it will have a better chance of recovering from any transplant shock.
Here’s our step-by-step guide to repotting Calathea medallion:
- Water your plant 1 or 2 days before repotting, to reduce the chances of transplant shock.
- Slowly lift the plant from the pot, tipping the container at an angle, and handling the plant by the bottom of the leaf stems.
- Gently remove some of the old soil from around the roots. Calatheas have very delicate roots and don’t like having them disturbed.
- Inspect the roots for any signs of rot. If the soil has a musty, unpleasant smell, or if the roots are black and soft, that’s a clear sign of root rot damage. Use a sterilized pair of scissors to trim off any roots that are unhealthy.
- Pour some fresh potting mix in the new container, and create a dip in the center to fit the root ball.
- Fill any gaps around the roots, and add some soil on top if needed.
- Lightly water your Calathea, and keep an eye on it for a couple of weeks for any signs of drooping or wilting, which could indicate transplant shock.
– Pruning and Maintenance
The only pruning your Calathea medallion will need is removing the occasional old, yellow leaves from the bottom of the plant. Use a sharp, sterilized blade to prune them, cutting as close as you can to the top of the soil.
Once a week, wipe the leaves with a cloth damped in distilled water, to remove any dust. This is also a good time to check for pests, both on the top and underneath the leaves.
Calathea medallion has naturally glossy foliage, so you shouldn’t need to use any leaf shine products. They can be very harmful to the plant, blocking the pores that the leaves use to breathe.
Calathea Medallion Propagation
Calathea medallion can be propagated through either plant or rhizome division. This method essentially creates a ‘clone’ of the mother plant, so make sure that the plant you’re propagating is healthy and pest-free.
The best time to propagate your Calathea is in spring and summer, preferably at the same time as repotting it, to avoid disturbing the roots too often.
Can you propagate Calathea medallion through leaf cuttings? Unfortunately, no. Although this method can be used on a few plants in the Marantaceae family, such as Maranta leuconeura, the medallion plant doesn’t produce the right type of leaf tissue for this to work.
Here’s our Calathea medallion propagation guide:
- Gently lift the plant from the pot, and remove some of the soil to expose the roots.
- Look for any rhizomes that are large enough. They should be brown, similar to corms or small tubers, and at least 1 inch long. Use a sharp, sterilized blade to cut the rhizome in half, keeping at least 1 leaf and some of the thinner roots attached.
- If you can’t find any rhizomes that are large enough, you can simply propagate the Calathea through plant division. Find the place where the leaf stems are separated at soil level, and very gently pull them apart, taking care not to tear the roots.
- Place the new plant in a well-draining potting mix.
- Give it good watering, and keep the plant in a humid room with plenty of bright, indirect light until it becomes established.
Common Pests and Problems
Calathea medallion is resistant to most plant diseases, but it can suffer from fungal problems caused by overwatering.
1. Root Rot
Root rot is the most common disease with this plant. Symptoms usually include yellowing leaves, discoloration, and stunted growth. If you notice that your Calathea is struggling, take action immediately, and you may be able to save it.
Calatheas can recover from root rot, but only if just some of the roots are damaged. Take the plant out of the pot and inspect the roots. If the entire root ball is black and mushy, your plant is sadly a goner. If only a small portion is damaged, you can trim the rotted roots with a sterilized scissor.
Always clean your tool after each cut, to prevent the rot from spreading to the healthy roots. Plant your Calathea in a fresh, well-draining potting mix. Never reuse the old soil, as any pests and diseases in it will come back to haunt your plant after repotting.
2. Water and Humidity Issues
Another common problem Calathea medallion encounters is crispy, dry leaf edges. This can be caused by either low humidity, or by harsh chemicals and minerals in the tap water. If you can, always water your Calatheas with distilled or rainwater. Also, keep in mind that a humidity level of 70% is ideal for this plant.
3. Spider Mites and Thrips
Spider mites are the most common pest for Calatheas. Our recommendation is to check the underside of the leaves at least once a week for small, white dots and webbing. If you find spider mites on your Calathea, isolate it from other plants and take action immediately.
Wipe the leaves with a solution of distilled water and isopropyl alcohol once every 4 to 7 days, and repeat the treatment for at least a month.
Calathea medallion can also be susceptible to thrips. Like spider mites, they cluster on the leaves and suck the sap from the plant, causing discolored spots on the foliage. You can use neem oil or insecticidal soap to wipe the leaves once a week.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
The easiest way to keep your Calatheas healthy is to provide them with the right growing conditions. A healthy plant is more resistant to pests and diseases. Meanwhile, a stressed plant that’s overwatered, root-bound, or suffering from a nutrient deficiency is more likely to not recover from a pest infestation.
Calathea medallion is a wonderful tropical plant with bright colors and lush leaves to brighten up any home. Easier to manage than similar prayer plant species, they’re perfect for beginners.
Just remember the basics:
- For the best results, place your Calathea medallion somewhere it will get plenty of indirect sunlight;
- Don’t overwater it, and aim for humidity levels of around 60-70%;
- Well-draining soil is a must, but be sure it does retain some moisture;
- Take care with fertilizer, and if possible, only use distilled or rainwater to water your Calathea medallion.
Whether you’re looking for a gorgeous tropical plant to add to your collection or even a gift for a plant lover, the Calathea medallion should definitely make it on your wishlist!
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