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The Complete Step-by-Step Guide on How to Propagate a Calathea

Posted on April 20 2021

The Complete Step-by-Step Guide on How to Propagate a Calathea

You’re probably looking at this blog for one of two reasons: (1) You have mastered Calathea parenthood, and you are looking to multiply your collection. (2) You have a dying Calathea you’re desperate to save. Whatever your reasons, check out this step-by-step guide on how to propagate Calatheas.

Identifying Your Prayer Plant

Correctly identifying your plant’s genus (type) is essential in determining how to propagate your Calathea. Keep in mind, not all “Prayer Plants” are Calatheas, and some of these unique plants come mislabeled from large department stores.


Calatheas, Stromanthe, Ctenanthe, and Maranta are all often referred to as “Prayer Plants” because they are cousins within the same family. Why do you need to know which ‘family member’ you have? Ctenanthe and Maranta have somewhat similar growth patterns and can both be propagated from stem cuttings. Calathea and Stromanthe cannot. 


How to Propagate a Calathea:

The most reliable way to propagate your Calathea is by division at repotting. This process probably sounds more intimidating than simply chopping off a stem and sticking it in water. So, how can you propagate your Calathea successfully?


Before You Get Started

Firstly, choose the correct season: the early spring. Why? Your Calathea starts growing new leaves and roots during the spring-summer months. Your newly divided plant will need this boost of energy to repair and develop its root system. 


Secondly, pick the right time. What do we mean? Calatheas do not take kindly to being regularly uprooted. You should correspond your propagation with your plant’s repotting needs. How can you tell when a Calathea needs repotting? Growth will be slower and new growth may be smaller than usual. These plants prefer to be “snug” in their container, so you should not repot your Calathea more frequently than once every year.


Don’t forget to evaluate your plant’s health before you consider propagating. If your plant is sickly, dividing it is not recommended, as neither section is likely to survive. Consider repotting your plant if it is suffering from overfertilization or an extreme pest infestation, but do not propagate it. 

Preparing for Propagation

If you’ve determined that “it’s time” prepare your Calathea by watering it thoroughly one day before you plan to propagate it. Why? Moist roots will not break as easily, and your plant will be less likely to experience transplant shock. Calatheas have incredibly fragile roots, and unless you are dividing your plant, you should never tamper with them.


Carefully select the proper soil. Calatheas prefer a well-draining soil that is kept evenly moist. Remember, the soil is like a sponge: improper soil will hold water, overwatering your plant without you ever lifting a finger. What is the recommended mix? If you’re using a traditional indoor potting mix, mix two parts potting soil to one part perlite to achieve the proper drainage.


Lastly, you will need to ensure that you have two adequately proportioned containers for your “mama” and “baby” Calathea. Select a pot that is 1-2 inches larger than the root ball for both plants. This likely means that your “mama” plant will not need a container ‘upgrade’; expect to place her back in her original pot or one that is smaller.


Getting Started: How to Propagate Your Calathea By Division


  1. Gently set your Calathea on its side, taking care not to damage its delicate foliage.

  2. Lightly tap the sides of the pot with your hand or on a soft surface. (You should feel the soil release from the pot’s edge.

  3. Remove the pot. If the soil is not releasing, softly brush your hands against the inside surfaces of the container.

 

  • Analyze your plant’s root system. You should not propagate rootbound plants because dividing the tightly-wound roots will damage the plant too severely. If your Calathea is rootbound, repot it in a container that is 2-inches larger, and propagate your plant the following year.

    1. Remove excess soil. Take your hands and gently remove dirt from around the roots. Be patient, and take your time.

    2. Notice the natural divisions. After you remove most of the soil, you will notice divisions or separations within your plant’s root system. Your Calathea is actually made up of several “plants.” Select which sections you want to divide.

    3. Divide. Each stem you want to remove should have a tuber with roots. To the best of your ability, untangle the section you want to “harvest” from the central root system. Doing so takes time and patience: go to your zen place, and don’t yank any of the roots. If your struggle exceeds your patience, cut as few roots as possible with sterile scissors.

    1. Repot. Place your “mama” and “baby” Calatheas in the soil and pots you prepared. 

    2. How to Care for your New Calathea Propagation 

      It will take your newly divided Calathea 2-3 weeks to root in its soil and three months to fully acclimate. During this time, do not fertilize. Why? Your plant needs to be established before you encourage it to grow. After three months, fertilize your Calathea with a balanced, half-strength fertilizer every two weeks.


      The Calathea divisions need even more humidity than their parent, so place them near a humidifier or consider creating a make-shift “green-house.” Do this by putting your new plant in a plastic bag or a large glass jar. Distance your plant from any heating and air vents.


      Aside from those two areas, maintain your established routine for your new and old Calathea. Are you looking for a few reminders?


      • Water: When the top 1 inch of soil is dry during the growing season. 1-2 inches during dormancy.

      • Light: This depends mainly on your variety of Calathea. Those with pigment on the front and back usually benefit from low-medium indirect light. Other types that are green-on-green benefit from medium-bright indirect light.

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      Now that you know how to propagate your Calathea, your plant collection and circle of plant-obsessed friends can continue to expand (propagated divisions make the perfect gifts!). 

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