Calathea Rattlesnake Plant (Care and Grow Guide)

Calathea lancifolia, also known as the Rattlesnake plant, is a striking plant in the Marantaceae family. They have gained a lot of popularity over the years due to their unique foliage and distinctive markings.

Like many other beautiful tropical plants, the Calathea Rattlesnake is native to the rainforest. Here, it happily thrives with the warm temperatures in it’s native habitat.

Calathea rattlesnake

Calatheas have a reputation for being fussy and difficult to care for. But, I have found that with proper care and attention, these plants can do very well in the home and survive for a long time.

The Calathea Rattlesnake Plant is one of my favorite houseplants to keep. They’re inexpensive, non-toxic to pets, and also add unique visual interest to the home. The wavy edges on their leaves and rich purple undersides really makes them stand out in the indoor garden.

Calathea rattlesnake

After bringing a new Calathea home, it may go through a short period of shock. It will take some time to acclimate to it’s new conditions. Here are my best care tips for ensuring your new plant happily thrives!

Temperature and Humidity for Calathea Rattlesnake

In order to keep your Calathea Rattlesnake happy, you’ll want to make sure the temperature and humidity levels in your home are adequate. These plants prefer temperatures of 65°F to 85°F (18°C to 29°C) and they don’t do well with exposure to cold drafts.

So, be sure to keep the plant away from air conditioner vents or drafty windows. If you notice the leaves on your Calathea Rattlesnake developing brown tips, it may be due to the humidity levels in your home. However, this can also happen when the leaves are exposed to drafts.

Our Calathea plants do just fine in the summer months without supplemental humidification. In the winter months, we like to provide a bit of humidity to offset the dry air. Our home hovers with humidity levels around 45% with the evaporative humidifier running in the winter. These plants also do best when they’re grouped with other plants, which can help increase the surrounding humidity levels.

While it is common practice to mist the leaves of your houseplants to raise humidity levels, I do not recommend doing this. Misting houseplants is not very effective, and it can also cause fungal issues.

Lighting Requirements for Calathea Rattlesnake

​In order for your Calathea Rattlesnake to grow and thrive, you’ll want to ensure it is receiving adequate light. Bright, indirect light is best for this plant, and I find it tolerates our East-facing windows very well (bright morning light).

Calathea rattlesnake

If your plant is getting enough light, it will reward you with healthy new leaves. If you notice a lack of new growth, it may not be getting enough light. Too much direct sun can burn the leaves, so keep this in mind when deciding on the perfect placement for your plant. Indirect sunlight is best.

Watering Tips for Calathea Rattlesnake

As with any houseplant, it is important you understand the best way to water them. These plants do not like to dry out, so keep the soil evenly moist. When you notice the surface of the soil drying out (and a few inches down), give the plant a good and thorough drink of water.

Browning or yellowing of the leaf tips can also be a sign that your plant is sensitive to your hard tap water. Hard water often contains minerals that can build-up in the plant, resulting in discolored leaves. These plants do very well with filtered or distilled water if that is an option for you.

I like to water this plant directly in the sink. Thoroughly soak the soil and then allow the excess water to drain from the plant. You want to provide the plant with enough water to thrive in moist soil. If your container has good drainage, you’ll reduce the risk of root rot from soggy soil.

Best Soil Mixture for Calathea Rattlesnake

When choosing what soil to use for your Calathea Rattlesnake plant, the most important takeaway is to ensure you have a well-draining soil mixture. It is also important you have adequate drainage holes in whatever pot you choose for your plant.

Calathea rattlesnake soil

Recommended soil mixtures for Calathea Rattlesnake:

  • Indoor potting mix (75%) with perlite or pumice (25%) for drainage and aeration
  • Equal parts perlite and coco coir, plus worm castings for nutrients
  • 50% coco coir, 30% perlite, 10% horticultural charcoal, 10% worm castings

Best Fertilizer for Calathea Rattlesnake

When you first bring your new plant home, it’s likely been potted in a rich soil that already contains nutrients. You can hold off on fertilizing for at least a couple of months. After these nutrients are depleted, you’ll want to begin fertilizing the plant to encourage new growth.

In my experience, DynaGro Foliage Pro 9-3-6 is the best fertilizer for this plant. I’ve never had an issue with over-fertilizing when using this liquid fertilizer as directed. I also supplement with earthworm castings to provide some slow release nutrition to the soil.

During the summertime, I fertilize with every watering (once every 2 weeks or so). Then, I always cut back to once every month or two during the winter months.

Calathea rattlesnake in pot

Common Pests and Problems with Calathea Plants

The most common issue with Calathea Rattlesnake plants is browning of the leaf tips. After ensuring your plant is not situated near any drafts, you’ll want to consider other issues. 

Things that can cause brown or yellow leaves in Calathea plants:

  • Hard water and mineral build-up – try watering with distilled or filtered tap water
  • Overwatering or underwatering – ensure you are watering consistently and thoroughly 
  • Low humidity levels – group with other plants or provide supplemental humidification if possible 
  • Drafts – keep the plant away from drafty windows, air conditioners, or heating units

​While not as common as some other houseplants your Calathea may also become a victim of pests. Spider mites, mealybugs, and aphids may take a liking to your plant, but there is no need to panic! If you find an infestation on your plant, use the following steps for treatment. 

  1. Remove the plant and isolate it immediately from any other houseplants. This will help ensure the infestation does not spread. 
  2. Hose the plant off with lukewarm water in your sink or shower to knock off any pests.
  3. Use an insecticidal soap (such as Lost Coast) for treatment. 
  4. If needed, use systemic granules to treat the pest problem. Only use these if the plant will not be brought outdoors. These are toxic and will also make your plant toxic to pets if they are in the home.
  5. Continue regularly inspecting the plant until the problem resolves.

Propagating Calathea Rattlesnake Plants

While some plants can be propagated by leaf or stem cuttings, the Calathea Rattlesnake must be propagated through division.

In the spring or summer, you can divide the rhizomes of your plant, being sure to keep at least one leaf in place. Gently brush the excess soil off of the root system and divide the plant.

I like to divide Calathea plants when I am repotting the plant. You want to disturb the root system as little as possible, and up-potting is a good time to inspect the roots and take any divisions.

If you have a Calathea Rattlesnake plant at home, let me know your favorite care tips in the comments below. These houseplants are incredibly rewarding to grow and care for. If given the right environment, they will thrive happily in your home for many years.

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