Calathea Rufibarba Care InfographicThe Calathea rufibarba has elongated, smooth, and waxy green leaves on the top surface. The undersides of its leaves are maroon, velvety-textured, and have tiny hairs.

The yellow Calathea rufibarba flowers are eye-catching and are produced during spring and late summer.

Usually grown for its lovely foliage that spreads up to two meters, Calathea rufibarba needs specific care requirements to be met and we shall look at these in this article, and keep reading to know all about it.

What Is Calathea Rufibarba?

The Calathea rufibarba is a tropical plant whose gorgeous variegated foliage makes it perfect for indoor decoration. It is commonly termed the furry feather plant or the velvet Calathea.  Apart from beautifying your places, its large foliage also has air purifying qualities that keep your atmosphere fresh.

Calathea Rufibarba Care

We recommend that you get equipped with useful information on how to care for your Calathea rufibarba before attempting to grow it. Remember, this plant’s original growth environment is tropical so replicating such conditions indoors is critical. 

– Water Requirements

The velvet Calathea enjoys soil that is consistently moist but not soggy. To achieve these conditions, water this plant every five to seven days during summer or when one inch of the topsoil dries up. 

Avoid watering more than three times during winter because plant development is reduced during this season. The key to remember is that when you overwater the Calathea rufibarba, it responds by wilting, drooping, discoloration, and falling off of leaves.

An overwatered furry feather plant looks limp and soft while its roots start to rot. When the roots are rotten, nutrient and water supply to the rest of the plant is negatively affected.

Continued exposure to these conditions leads to plant death. Once you notice some overwatering symptoms, stop giving your plant a drink and place it in a dry and warm spot to allow water to dry up.

Also, consider inspecting the plant for root rot and if you notice any mushy and limp roots, cut them off using sterilized shears. An underwatered Calathea’s leaves are also susceptible to wilting, discoloration of leaves, falling off foliage, and drooping. Reduced water supply causes the plant to appear crispy and dry. When you notice underwatering symptoms, use tepid water immediately to replenish it.

Bush room Calathea Rufibarba in a pot on a white background

– Light Requirements

Calathea rufibarba grows under moderate light conditions. Ensure that you expose this plant to an average of eight to ten hours of bright and indirect light. Direct or scorching sunlight has the effects of burning the leaves, leading to their discoloration. 

Additionally, when exposed to low light levels for a prolonged period, chlorophyll pigments disappear from the foliage. The latter is why it would be harming the plant’s beautiful variegation because the plant will not be able to perform photosynthesis properly, hence the rich green color would be messed up.

Position your Calathea rufibarba close to the southern or eastern-facing window. Considering the light intensity is more minor, consider providing this beauty with seven to eight hours of light using LED lights. Using artificial lights is effective, especially during winter. Alternatively, you can move the plant outdoors but avoid exposing it to drafty or frosty conditions. 

The Calathea rufibarba leaf edges develop black and brown spots when exposed to too much light. You may also notice some dry and crispy leaves within the foliage. If this condition is not rectified earlier, the leaves end up falling off.

This reduces photosynthesis, further leading to ill-looking foliage and eventual plant death. When low light provisions are prolonged, the Calathea becomes leggy and thin, followed by drooping, wilting, and curling of greenery, all of which also interrupt photosynthesis.

– Temperature Requirements

Being a tropical plant, Calathea thrives in warm temperatures. Ensure that the temperatures around this plant are around 64 to 73 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the temperature falls below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, the plant’s cellular activities stop, and the cells risk bursting. The Calathea plant starts losing its pretty leaves and flowers.

Extreme temperatures lead to increased moisture loss, leaf discoloration, and drying of leaves. Calathea rufibarba does not adapt to higher temperatures which may destroy it entirely.

Try to avoid placing your Calathea plants close to drafty areas and cooling vents. During winter, consider providing cold insulation to the plant using dried grass, mulch-like straws, and other alternatives.

We do not recommend that you place your plant on windows as it is prone to temperature fluctuations that may shock the plant. During summer, consider covering the windows with light curtains to filter in the light, considering that direct sun also fluctuates the temperatures. It is advisable to introduce Calathea rufibarba to greenhouses during winter so that it can access controlled temperatures.

– Humidity Requirements

The Calathea rufibarba loves high humidity for its development and upkeep. It does well in relative humidity levels above 50 percent. Although this feather Calathea can survive low humidity, prolonged exposure to such conditions has the risk of drying the plant.

You will notice that the leaf tips will dry up quickly and the leaves start drooping. The leaves will also start to curl, wilt, and eventually fall off.

Lower humidity exposure causes the foliage to turn brown and lose its once beautiful color. Given that the humidity levels are low, you can mist Calathea rufibarba or use a humidifier. You can also consider placing a wet pebble tray below the container. Grouping the plants also resolves moisture loss, although this method increases the risk of disease and pest transmission from one plant to the other.

We also recommend that you keep the humidity levels balanced to enhance the vibrancy of your plant’s foliage. Excessive humidity gives way to disease and bacteria build up within the foliage and this may cause future problems. 

– Soil Requirements

When considering growing Calathea rufibarba, ensure that the soil is light, nutritious, porous, and well-draining. To achieve proper plant development, a quality growing medium is needed. You can use a potting mix that is well-draining, light, and containing organic matter to absorb sufficient water as well as aid proper circulation of air. Calathea does well in soil mixtures that encourage excess water draining to keep a constant moisture.

The soil also needs to be slightly acidic with pH ranges of 6.5 to seven. You can purchase pre-made mixes like Sun Bulb Better-Gro Commercial Orchid Mix or Espoma AP8 8-Quart Organic Potting Mix which are good for the Calathea plant. 

Nonetheless, you can also go for custom-made soil mixes and these are made by mixing one-part regular potting mix, half part of organic compost, half portion of pumice or perlite, one-third part of coarse sand, one-third part of orchid barks, and one-quarter part of activated charcoal. Alternatively, you can use wood chips, dried leaves, rice husk, and dried grass to lighten the soil and increase porousness.

A good soil mixture must be able to release excess water which will be disposed of through the pot’s drainage holes. Water-holding soils are not recommended because they put your plants at risk of root rot as well as bacterial infections. Use a clean fork or any other suitable tool to loosen up the soil regularly so that you improve air circulation as well as water infiltration. 

– Fertilizing Requirements

Fertilizing your Calathea rufibarba regularly is important to keep it healthy and glowing. However, this Calathea species is not a heavy feeder so you need to feed it once or twice a month using a soluble nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Organic feeds like animal manure, worm casting, chicken litter, and several others are also good for this tropical plant. 

We recommend that you use synthetic fertilizers for instance nitrogen-rich liquid fertilizer or all-purpose liquid fertilizer is also recommended. NPK fertilizer can also be applied to Calathea rufibarba at the ratio of 10:10:10 or 10:5:5. 

A nutrient-deficient Calathea rufibarba plant is seen by drooping, curling, discoloration of the foliage, and stunted growth. Some of the fertilizers you can use include Miracle-Gro Indoor Plant Food, Dr. Earth Nitro Big High Nitrogen Plant Food, and Southern Ag All Purpose Granular Fertilizer.

Try not to overfertilize your pretty plants to curb salt accumulation which results in the burning of foliage. Fertilize your plant during the growing season only and avoid feeding in winter because plant development is low during this season. Consider flashing the soil regularly to do away with excess salts and minerals that may burn the plant’s roots.

– Pruning Requirements

It is very important to prune your Calathea plants every year to encourage new healthy growth that helps to keep your plant stunning. Although the discolored foliage or yellow foliage naturally falls off, pruning remains a necessity to do away with old, damaged, and infected foliage.

Pruning the Calathea rufibarba before the onset of spring is a wise idea because new growth starts appearing in this season. It is encouraged to use sterilized pruning utensils to reduce bacterial transmission within your plants. 

Avoid pruning during the growing season as it suppresses the vibrancy of the foliage. When pruning this tropical plant, also avoid overdoing the procedure as this beauty is mainly grown for its gorgeous foliage. Consider pruning only 10 to 20 percent of this plant when the need arises. Pruning helps to increase air circulation as well as do away with pest and bacterial infections.

Pruning your Calathea rufibarba helps you to maintain its beautiful appearance or shape by removing any protruding foliage. Always be careful not to make deep cuts to the plant as deep incisions increase bacteria and disease susceptibility.


Propagating plants is easy when using stem cuttings. However, it is unfortunate that you cannot propagate Calathea rufibarba using stem cuttings. You can instead use the root ball or seed propagation methods. It is advisable to propagate this plant during summer or spring as these seasons support favorable development and environment adaptation for the Calathea rufibarba. 

Propagating during winter may destroy the new plants as it is characterized by harsh weather or climatic conditions.

– The Rootball Division

Ensure that you water the plant a few hours before the propagation procedure begins to avoid transplant shock. The next step is to loosen the topsoil and remove the top 25 percent of the potting soil. Tap the pot gently from its bottom and sides to remove the soil. Hold the base of the plant’s stem and pull it out. 

The next step is to clean the roots to remove all the soil. Now, bifurcate the Calathea plant into two parts. Make sure you do not disturb the roots and if the process proves to be difficult, use a sterilized sharp knife to separate the plant. You can separate the plant into as many parts as you need but make sure that each has two to three leaves and some roots.

Plant the Calathea rufibarba parts into the soil, sphagnum moss, or LECA medium. Ensure that you plant them using the same depth as before and thoroughly water them. 

– Propagation in Soil

Use a proper potting mix to fill up one-third part of the pots. Filling up with two-thirds of peat moss and one-third of perlite is a good alternative. Now, backfill the containers with soil to the root level of the new plants. Ensure that the pot has good drainage qualities or drainage holes.

– Propagation in Sphagnum Moss

When considering using sphagnum moss, keep it wet for a few hours before planting takes place. Put part of the sphagnum moss into the pot and place the plant on it. Fill up the pot with the remaining sphagnum moss parts and press the medium lightly to leave air pockets that aid aeration. 

Follow the same process when using the LECA medium. The only difference is that the medium has to be soaked in water about 12 to18 hours before propagation begins. However, soil and sphagnum moss are the most recommended mediums. Consider using terracotta pots because they allow excess water to drain off the walls. 


Just like any other Calathea plant species, the Calathea rufibarba has problems that affect its growth as well as appearance. Detailed below is the information containing the everyday difficulties of Calathea rufibarba, effects, and solutions. 

– Pests

The Calathea rufibarba is quite resilient to pest attacks, but when plant care is not done properly, it becomes very vulnerable to pest infestation. It is wise to regularly inspect your beautiful plants so that any pest attacks can be dealt with in their early stages. The most common pests that affect Calathea rufibarba include spider mites.

Spider mites live by sucking the plant’s fluids thereby making the plant look droopy and dull. You will also notice some fine webbings on the foliage and the leaves will begin to discolor.

Mealybugs also attack the Calathea rufibarba and you will see small cotton-like beetles on the leaves’ undersides if that is the case. Mealybugs are usually found on the cracks of the stems and leaves.

When attacked by mealybugs, the Calathea rufibarba leaves respond by drooping, wilting, and curling. Also, be on the lookout for scales as they cause some black or brown structures on the leaf undersides.

Stunted growth, drooping of leaves, curling, and wilting of leaves are also symptoms of a scale attack on your plant. Fungus gnats attack also causes sudden wilting, foliage discoloration, stunted growth, and a dull appearance caused by the larva that feeds on the roots of Calathea rufibarba. 

– Diseases

The Calathea rufibarba species is less susceptible to pathogen attacks as compared to other Calathea varieties. However, there are several diseases that you should look out for in your endeavor to maintain the beauty of your tropical plants.

Be on the lookout for the Alternaria leaf spot disease in which the leaves develop some ring-like patches that are circular and concentric. This disease also causes the leaves to turn yellow and black as well as discoloration of the foliage.

Also, be on the lookout for Helminthosporium leaf spot disease. When attacked, the Calathea rufibarba leaves develop small purple or brown lesions. These lesions tend to spread into large patches with time, thereby discoloring the leaves. Grey mold is another threat to your beloved plants and you notice it when the leaves become slimly black or brown in appearance. 

– Grey Mold

Grey mold causes Calathea rufibarba to produce a rotten smell and black spots that come together with yellow halos.  Another disease to look out for is Fusarium root rot which causes the thinning of roots as well as mushy brown roots.

Once you notice infected foliage parts, cut them off using sterilized shears so that the disease does not spread. Prioritize inspecting the plant roots; if you find them mushy, remove the damaged parts and clean the rest with clean water.

Give the roots time to dry off before applying antifungal powder. The next step is to repot your Calathea rufibarba into a new well-draining potting mix that is free from infection.

Use Helminthosporium fungicides to spray the plant’s foliage as soon as you notice any disease infections. Fungicides containing chlorothalonil are best for treating grey mold. Fusarium root rot does not have any chemical treatment so, you just have to be very watchful and take regular root checks to remove bad roots as soon as possible.

To curb Helminthosporium leaf spot disease, do not mist the leaves during the afternoon or night. Also, consider applying fungicides to the plant’s foliage once or twice a year. Loosening the topsoil with a blunt knife or fork helps in preventing fungal growth. Avoid overwatering and overhead watering as diseases manifest in wet foliage and soggy soil conditions. 

– Yellowing and Browning of Foliage 

The yellowing or browning of Calathea rufibarba’s foliage is natural and you will notice the leaves falling off on their own. However, be careful when watering because overwatered plants develop yellow or brown leaf colors.

Low humidity, high temperature, and exposure to the direct sun also cause the yellowing and browning of foliage. To curb this problem, adjust the aforementioned growing conditions to suit the favorable growing conditions for this plant. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Calathea rufibarba is one of the most sought tropical plants but growers have various questions about its care requirements.

– Why Do My Calathea Rufibarba Leaves Turn Yellow?

Old Calathea rufibarba leaves turn yellow just before falling off so, you need to carefully check your plant to see if maturity is the cause of leaf yellowing. The yellowing of Calathea rufibarba leaves is also caused by several factors including overwatering. When overwatered, this plant responds by yellowing its leaves. Also, when underwatered, the leaves turn yellow.

Extreme temperatures also lead to the yellowing of leaves and stems of the Calathea rufibarba. We recommend that you always closely monitor your plant’s foliage color to rectify any problem quickly before further damage is done.

– Can I Water My Calathea With Tap Water?

Tap water contains additives like chlorine and other minerals that are not good for your furry feather Calathea. These chemicals make the soil hard and when they are absorbed into the plant, the foliage loses its beauty. Apply filtered water which is free from chemicals and minerals to your plants. 

Calathea Rufibarba Wavestar in a greenhouse


If you are looking for color and foliage cover, Calathea rufibarba is your destination. In your endeavor to enlighten your places with this beautiful tropical plant, always remember the following:

  • Calathea loves well-draining soil mixes containing organic matter.
  • Water this plant only when the top inch of the soil is dry to avoid overwatering which takes away the beauty of its foliage.
  • Calathea rufibarba is sensitive to over-fertilizing, that is why you have to be very careful and prioritize fertilizing during the growing season.
  • Propagating the velvet Calathea using the rootball division method is best as it is not possible to propagate using stem cuttings.

From the onset of the growing process, be on the lookout for pests, bacteria, and diseases that may take away the gorgeousness of your plants. Following this care guide, you have just embarked on an adventurous journey to the tropical forests in the comfort of your homes!

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