Calathea musaica can add a veritable exotic vibe to any room. The best thing is that it’s much easier to grow than most other Calatheas.
It’s also non-toxic, making it a great choice for homes with pets or kids.
So, if you’d like to grow your own at home, this guide will show you all you need to know!
What Is Calathea Musaica?
Calathea musaica, also known as Calathea ‘Network’, is a tropical plant from the Marantaceae or ‘prayer plant’ family. Native to Brazil, it is popular in indoor home decor due to its showy foliage. It is a slow-growing plant, and usually grows to a height of 2 feet (60 cm), with a width of up to 3 feet (90 cm).
Nowadays, scientists officially use the name Goeppertia kegeljanii for this plant. Calathea musaica remains an accepted synonym, and it’s also the name under which you’ll find it available in the houseplant trade. Other names for this plant are Goeppertia bella, Calathea bella and the common name of ‘Network prayer plant’.
At first glance, Calathea musaica doesn’t seem as spectacular as other plants in the family, which are renowned for their vivid colors and striking leaf patterns. But upon closer inspection, the plant reveals its unique charm. Each leaf is covered in a network of dark green lines, which crisscross each other to create a mosaic-like pattern.
Calathea Musaica Care Guide
– Light Requirements
Calathea musaica prefers growing in bright, indirect light. Unlike other prayer plants, it can tolerate some direct sunlight. However, it’s best to avoid keeping it in full sun for too long.
Too much light will scorch the leaves, resulting in a faded look and sunburned edges. On the flip side, too little light will prompt the leaves to produce more chlorophyll, resulting in dark green leaves where the network pattern will start to fade.
Which is the best room for Calathea musaica? We recommend placing it in a part of your home that has eastern or southern exposure, in a spot where direct light won’t touch the leaves.
This way, you will strike a fine balance between keeping the plant happy and maintaining the pattern on the leaves. Rooms with a northern exposure are typically too dark, while rooms facing south can receive too much light throughout the day.
– Temperature Requirements
Calathea musaica tolerates the average temperatures found in most homes. A range of 65 °F to 77 °F (18 °C to 25 °C) should be perfect for this plant. Avoid exposing it to temperatures below 55 °F (13 °C) for too long, as this can stunt the plant’s growth and can result in permanent leaf damage.
Make sure that the temperature in the room remains steady. Calathea musaica doesn’t like sudden changes in temperature, which can cause the leaves to wilt. Avoid drafts from windows and doors, as well as placing the plant next to a radiator or heating vent, or an air conditioning unit.
If you live in US hardiness zones 11 and 12, you can even keep your Calathea musaica outdoors throughout the year. Otherwise, it’s best to grow it as a potted plant indoors.
– Water Requirements
Keep the soil of your Calathea musaica moist, but not soaked. Although it loves moisture, it is sensitive to root rot, which can permanently damage the plant. Water your Calathea regularly and evenly, making sure that the water gets through to all the roots.
A good practice is to give it a good soak, then allow the water to drain for half an hour, before placing it back on the pot tray. Make sure that there is no water sitting in the tray, as this can lead to fungal problems.
If you’re not sure when to water your Calathea, using a soil moisture meter is a good option. This tool is especially useful if you have a mature plant sitting in a large container, as it allows you to determine whether the soil is dry at root level.
Can I Use Tap Water?
Like all prayer plants, Calathea musaica is sensitive to chemicals in the water. Hard tap water will cause the leaves to turn yellow and crisp up at the edges, and can also result in mineral deposits building up in the soil. We recommend using rainwater or filtered water for this plant. Distilled water is also a great choice, and you can also use it to mist and wipe the leaves of your Calathea.
– Humidity Requirements
Calathea musaica loves high humidity levels, but it’s also more forgiving compared to other prayer plants. If the humidity in your home is around 50%, the plant should be happy. But if you can, try to raise those levels to around 70%.
How To Improve Humidity Levels
There are several ways you can increase the air humidity in your home in order to keep your prayer plants thriving. Misting your Calathea musaica leaves regularly does help, but it only does so for a brief period of time, before the water evaporates
When it comes to Calatheas, using a humidifier is always a good practice. This will create a steady humidity around your plant, promoting healthy growth and even discouraging some of the pests Calatheas are very susceptible to, such as spider mites.
Another way to increase humidity is by placing your Calathea musaica on top of a pebble tray, or grouping it with other tropical plants. Or, if your bathroom has a window, it will make an ideal location for this humidity loving plant.
– Fertilizer Requirements
Apply a liquid fertilizer once a month throughout spring and summer, during the plant’s growing season. Calathea musaica doesn’t need too much feeding, but regular applications will result in more leaf growth. You can use a universal fertilizer with a 10-10-10 nutrient ratio.
When fertilizing your Calathea musaica, always make sure that the soil is not dry. Applying fertilizers to dry soil will burn the roots. Also, make sure that the solution is slightly more diluted than the manufacturer indicates, especially if you’re using synthetic fertilizers. Once every two months, it’s a good idea to flush the soil with plenty of water, to get rid of fertilizer salts building up in the pot.
– Soil Requirements
The best soil for Calathea musaica should be well-draining, but it should also retain moisture. This plant is just as sensitive to drought as it is to overwatering, so finding the right potting medium is crucial. In fact, many of the watering problems Calatheas encounter aren’t just caused by an incorrect watering schedule, but also the wrong mix of soil.
If you use poor draining soil, it will retain more water than the plant actually needs, which will cause the roots to rot. Also, the soil will gradually become more compacted with each watering, losing aeration and starving the roots of much-needed oxygen.
On the other hand, soil that drains too fast won’t allow the plant to get all the water it needs, which will cause the roots to dry out and the plant to wilt.
The Perfect Mix
We recommend using a mix of universal potting soil and perlite for your Calathea musaica. Combine two parts soil with one part perlite, which will provide the plant with nutrients, moisture retention, aeration, as well as optimal drainage. Another soil mix you can use is one part universal potting mix, one part coco coir and one part perlite.
As a rule of thumb, always make sure that at least ⅓ of the soil for your Calathea is made up of a medium that helps drainage. Whether you use perlite, orchid bark, pumice, coarse sand, peat moss or a mix of them, they will provide a much-needed blend of aeration, drainage and moisture retention.
– Repotting Calathea Musaica
Calathea musaica enjoys being a bit root bound, so you shouldn’t need to repot it too often. It can also be sensitive to having its roots disturbed while being moved to a larger container, so if you can, try to postpone repotting until you see small roots poking out through the drainage holes. In general, you should only repot your Calathea once every 2 or 3 years.
The best time to repot Calathea musaica is in early spring, just as the plant is entering its growing season. This way, if there’s a chance that it will suffer from transplant shock, it will have the rest of spring and summer to recover.
Picking the right pot is just as important. Use a container that’s one size bigger than the previous one, or no more than 2 inches (5 cm) wider. Containers that are too large also retain too much water, which will lead to rot. In general, plastic is the best material for potting your Calathea plants. Just make sure that the pot has plenty of drainage holes at the bottom.
Let’s take a look at our step-by-step guide for repotting your Calathea musaica:
- Water your plant 1 or 2 days before repotting. This way, the soil will be easier to work with, and the roots won’t dry out too much while the plant is relocated.
- Gently squeeze the sides of your container to loosen the soil, then lift the plant up.
- Inspect the root ball for any signs of rot. If you notice brown, black or soft roots, or if the root ball has a musty, unpleasant smell, that’s a sign of rot.
- Avoid handling the roots too much while you’re inspecting and moving the plant. Calathea roots are very delicate and don’t like being disturbed, which can cause the plant to go into shock after repotting.
- Fill the new container with fresh potting mix, but leave some room for the root ball to sit on.
- Place the root ball in the pot, then gently top it up with more soil as needed. Avoid pressing the soil too much, as this can compact it and even damage the roots.
- Lightly water your newly repotted Calathea.
You might also need to repot your Calathea musaica if you notice that the plant is unhealthy.
Overwatering can be very harmful for this plant, and sometimes the only way to save it is to move it to a better draining potting mix. Repotting and changing the soil is also recommended in case of severe pest infestations, especially if you’re dealing with fungus gnats or thrips.
– Pruning and Maintenance
Calathea musaica doesn’t typically require pruning. Now and then, you will need to remove old, yellowing leaves from the bottom of the plant. Use a sharp knife or a pair of scissors to cut the leaf stem as close as you can to the base. Make sure that the tools you use for pruning are sterilized after each cut, to help prevent the spread of pests and diseases.
Every week, it’s best to give the leaves a wipe with a damp cloth, to remove any dust building up on their surface. If you can, try using distilled water for this, but water that has been left in an open container overnight will also work. Avoid using cold water to clean the leaves, as this will shock the plant and cause the leaves to wilt.
Calathea Musaica Propagation
You can propagate your Calathea musaica through either plant division or rhizome division. Unlike other houseplants, this variety of Calathea doesn’t produce the right type of leaf and stem tissue that would allow propagation through cuttings.
Before you get started, here are some essential tips to bear in mind:
- The best time to propagate Calathea musaica is in spring, when the plant is waking up from its dormant period.
- Try to propagate your Calathea at the same time as repotting it. The roots of this plant are very delicate, and it might not recover from the shock of being repotted and then propagated in the same year.
- Only propagate healthy plants. If the mother plant is struggling or if it’s infested with pests, the problems it has will be transmitted to the new plant. Sick plants also have a smaller chance of recovering from the shock of being propagated, and you risk losing both the mother and the baby plant in the process.
- Water the plant the day before propagating, to reduce shock.
- Give your plants time to recover. Even at the best of times, propagation can be very stressful for the plant, and it may take it at least 1 month before it perks up again.
Which propagation method is best for Calatheas: rhizome or plant division? Honestly, it depends on the plant. Older Calatheas will produce tuber-like rhizomes that can be cut in half to produce a new plant. But if your Calathea doesn’t have any tubers, plant division is the only option.
It’s worth mentioning that rhizome division can be very stressful for the plant. Cutting the rhizome will shock your Calathea, and even if propagation is successful, it may take at least 2 months before it starts producing new leaves.
Plant division is gentler on the roots, and it gives both the mother plant and the new one a better chance of a quick recovery from the shock.
Here’s our guide to propagating your Calathea musaica:
- Gently lift the plant from its container.
- Remove some of the soil around the roots, taking care not to break or disturb them too much.
- If you find any rhizomes, you can use them to propagate your Calathea. Use a sterilized blade to cut the rhizome in half. Each rhizome should have some leaves and roots attached in order for the propagation to work.
- If you don’t find any rhizomes, simply propagate the Calathea through plant division. Gently separate some of the leaves and roots attached from the mother plant. Depending on how big your plant is, you can divide it in half or thirds. Try to keep at least 3 leaf stalks on each divided part, in order to maintain a bushy look.
- Place the divided plant or the cut rhizome in a fresh potting mix, then water well.
- To help speed up the plant’s recovery, you can wrap it in transparent plastic for a month or so. This will help retain moisture around the new plant until it becomes established.
Common Pests and Problems
1. Common Pests
There are several pests that Calathea musaica is very susceptible to.
Here are some main offenders to keep an eye out for:
– Spider Mites
Like all prayer plants, Calathea musaica is famous for hosting spider mites. These small pests can be very difficult to detect and get rid of, and can be devastating if they’re allowed to form large colonies. They form clusters underneath the leaves, using a web-like cover to hide while they suck the sap from the plant.
Spider mites are not insects, which is why insecticidal sprays won’t work on them. The easiest way to combat them is by using a solution of 4 parts distilled water and 1 part isopropyl alcohol. Rub the infested areas every 4 to 7 days, and repeat the treatment for at least 1 month. In severe cases, removing the infested leaves is highly recommended.
Thrips are small insects that feast on plant sap. If you notice that your Calathea leaves are developing bruised, yellow and brown spots, that’s often a sign of thrips infestation.
To remove them, wipe the leaves with a neem oil or insecticidal soap solution. In the case of large thrips attacks, you might need to prune the damaged leaves, and spray the remaining ones with neem oil as a preventive cure.
These small insects will also target Calathea musaica leaves, damaging them as they feed on the sap.
One of the signs of mealybug infestation is curling or yellowing leaves. Use a cotton swab soaked in a water and isopropyl alcohol solution to dislodge the clusters of adults, then continue wiping the leaves with the same kind of solution until they’re gone. You can also use a neem oil solution for spraying the leaves, stems and the surface of the soil.
2. Common Problems
Apart from pests, there are several other symptoms that will tell you that your Calathea musaica is struggling:
– Yellowing Leaves
This is typically a sign that your Calathea is overwatered. Gently lift the plant from the pot and inspect the soil and roots. If you notice that the soil is soaked and the roots have started to turn brown, that indicates that the plant is also suffering from root rot. Trim off any damage roots and repot in fresh, well-draining potting mix.
– Dry, Brown Edges on the Leaves
Usually, this indicates that the air is too dry, or that the water you’re using is too hard. Calathea enjoys a humidity level of at least 50%, so try to boost the air moisture around the plant. If you’re using tap water, it might be worth finding out how hard the water is in your area. This plant is very sensitive to chemicals and minerals, and ideally it should be watered with either filtered, distilled or rainwater.
– Curling or Drooping Leaves
If the leaves on your Calathea musaica are starting to curl and droop, that’s a sign that the plant is thirsty. Calatheas do not tolerate drought, so make sure that the soil is kept moist, but not soaked.
The stunning Calathea musaica can brighten up any home. The good news is that it’s one of the easiest Calathea to grow at home, especially if you follow this guide!
Let’s go over the basics:
- The right soil mix is essential for Calathea musaica — it should retain moisture, while being well-draining enough to prevent waterlogging;
- Calathea musaica enjoys around 70% humidity, although it can tolerate as little as 50%;
- Be sure to provide your Calathea musaica with plenty of bright, indirect sunlight.
So, now you know how it’s done, why not grab your own Calathea musaica and grow it in your home?
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