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How to Care for a Rattlesnake Plant Calathea lancifolia

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Rattlesnake Plant (Calathea lancifolia) care is not complicated and knowing it will help you to have healthy and beautiful plants. Rattlesnake Plant is a genus of herbaceous perennial plants of the family Marantaceae. Almost all species are native to tropical America, especially Brazil and Peru. They are also known by more colloquial names such as ‘prayer plant’ or ‘prayer plant’, because the leaves, at sunset, close like a person’s hands when praying; and also ‘zebra plant’, because of the elongated stripes on the leaves.

Rattlesnake Plant leaves are used in the tropics (mainly Brazil) for wrapping food and making handicrafts. There are Rattlesnake Plant with very diverse leaf shapes, baskets are woven with the lanceolate leaves, and food is wrapped with the broader leaves. The colored markings on the leaves of most rattlesnake plants make them economically important as indoor plants, and their popularity continues to increase. Calathea veitchiana ‘Medallion’ (Calathea medallion), Calathea lancifolia (Snake Calathea), and Calathea ornata (Pin-striped Calathea), are some of the most popular species.

Moving Leaves

The daily movement of the foliage of the so-called ‘Prayer Plants’ is very peculiar and arouses great interest. The leaves fold upward at night and downward during the day according to a circadian rhythm related to light. They move the leaves by changing the water pressure in the roots, and thickened nodules at the roots run along the petioles. These movements are thought to follow the movement of the sun in the sky to maximize light absorption.

If you don’t like the architectural shapes of sansevierias or are tired of the common Pothos, Rattlesnake Plant may be your perfect plant to grow in low light conditions. They are available with velvety dark green leaves, geometrically patterned leaves in various shades, and maroon undersides. Rattlesnake Plant has some of the most decorative foliage found in nature.

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Care of the Rattlesnake Plant

Follow all these tips to know how to properly care for your RattleSnake Plant.


The light requirements make this plant a very interesting choice for low-light homes. Rattlesnake Plant lives best in bright light, but never in direct sun. If the sun’s rays hit them, the leaves will burn and turn whitish. Place your plant in a spot in a room that receives low to bright indirect light. In general, the darker the foliage – as with Calathea ornata – the lower the light requirements.

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Rattlesnake Plant is like a moist environment, although depending on varieties they can tolerate lower humidity levels. Ideally, a humidity level of 50 percent or more should be maintained around them. You can increase the humidity level by using a humidifier or by placing the pot on a tray filled with pebbles and water. The natural evaporation of water will help keep the air around the plants moist. Another way to increase the humidity around plants is to place several plants in a group.

When spraying the plant with water, be careful not to spray directly on the tops of the leaves or to get the moisture into the tightly curled straws that make the new leaves. It is preferable to spray from the bottom up.

Like most houseplants, Rattlesnake Plant prefers non-chlorinated water. If you water with tap water you can avoid this by filling the watering can the night before and letting it sit to dissipate the chlorine. If tap water contains other chemicals, try using filtered or distilled water.

watering calathea lancifolia


The ideal temperature range for Rattlesnake Plant development is between 65°F-85°F (8°C-30°C).  Below 60°F (15°C) the plant may die.


Rattlesnake Plant does well with moist soil, but not with wet soil. A good substrate for them can be a mixture of 50% potting soil, 20% pine bark, 20% charcoal, and 10% perlite.

It is also bad for them if the soil is completely dry. Every few days, check with your finger or a wooden stick that the substrate feels dry. If so, water generously, making sure that excess water drains completely. We recommend this soil for the proper care of the RattleSnake plant (Order it here).

substrate rattlesnake plant

Plastic or Terracotta Pot?

This is a question that experts have long debated, although there is evidence that both types of containers work well. Contrary to the old-school belief that rattlesnake plants do not perform well in terracotta, these pots are breathable and help keep the roots moist, but not wet.

Terracotta removes excess moisture, leaving the soil optimally moist. But if you live in a very dry place you’ll probably do better with a plastic pot that retains more moisture.

Make sure that any pots have drainage holes, as excessive water can cause root rot.

plastic or terracotta pot rattlesnake plant

Rattlesnake Plant Flowers

These plants usually bloom in summer, but they are difficult to bloom indoors. You may be able to get them to do so if you follow Rattlesnake Plant care with dedication. The flowers, small and delicate, appear at the end of flower stalks and are usually white. Some varieties bloom in shades of pink and orange.

Common Rattlesnake Plant Care Problems

Learn to identify the symptoms and causes that make your plant unsightly, these are part of the Rattlesnake Plant care you need to know.

SYMPTOM: Wilted, shriveled leaves, and dry substrate.

CAUSE: Lack of water

SYMPTOM: Yellow leaves with black base.

CAUSE: Excess water

SYMPTOM: Foliar stains

CAUSE: Fungal infection or mineral buildup from tap water. Use distilled water and water directly into the soil around the plant, without wetting the leaves.

SYMPTOM: Mosquitoes in the soil.

CAUSE: If you notice small insects that look like fruit flies around your plants, high soil moisture may have made the soil an ideal home for fungus gnats. While they are harmless, they can be a nuisance. Try watering the plant from the bottom by submerging the pot in water and letting the first inch of the substrate dry. If this doesn’t work, a little diatomaceous earth mixed on top of the soil may be the ultimate solution.

Plants a Bit Ugly or In Poor Condition?

Don’t be afraid to cut off the shriveled and poorly maintained leaves of the Rattlesnake Plant, this encourages healthier growth. Even if you end up with a completely bald plant, know that Rattlesnake Plant is hardy and, given moist soil, warmth, and some (indirect) light, you’ll see new leaves in no time.

Rattlesnake Plant Care Recommendations

Among the care of the Rattlesnake Plant, you have to keep in mind to change the pot to a slightly larger one when the one the plant has becomes too small. This should be done towards the end of winter. You can take advantage of this time to multiply the specimen by dividing the bush.

Some easy and low maintenance Calathea:

Calathea roseopicta ‘medallion’.

Calathea cocinna ‘Freddie’ (created specifically for low-light conditions)

Calathea ornata ‘beauty star’.

Some high maintenance Calatheas, in case you want to become an expert:

Calathea warsewiczii

Calathea zebrina

Calathea ‘white fusion’ Calathea

We hope this article on how to care for the RattleSnake plant will be useful. Learn more about How to Get Rid of Mold in Plant Soil – Effective and Simple Ways.

rattlesnake plant care tips

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About Henry Morgan

Henry Morgan is an agronomist horticulture founder of The Garden Style Company and The Garden Style Website. He previously worked for Mondelēz International as an Agronomist Engineer specializing in agricultural products management in highly populated areas. In 2000, Henry started working with farmer-producers in agricultural businesses selling wholesale fresh produce and retail plants in Van Buren, Arkansas. Nowadays, Henry lives in California, where he offers expert consulting services for organic vegetable gardening. As a science writer working with his wife, Julia, Henry shares his passion for gardening and farming, trying to reach and teach as many folks as possible.

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