Calathea Exotica: Plant Care Guide

Calathea exotica is a low-maintenance tropical plant that only needs occasional watering and doesn’t need a lot of sunlight. However, it is essential to note that it does not like to be overwatered, so proper care is vital for its growth.

There’re several ways to care for your calathea exotica plant, some of which are listed below!

Water Requirements (Avoid Overwatering)

Watering is essential for your calathea exotica every 1-2 weeks (depending on environment) till the soil dries between waterings.

Water more frequently in bright light and less in low sunlight.

Calathea exotica likes to be moist but avoid waterlogging in the soil. Water your plant from above by placing it in a bowl of water 2 inches deep. When top watering calathea exotica, always keep its surroundings moist when the top 1 inch of soil is dry.

Bottom watering calathea is not recommended as fertilizer can pool in the standing water and create problems.

Sunlight Needs (Loves Medium Indirect Light)

Calathea exotica thrives in indirect light that ranges from low to medium. It is tolerant of modest indirect light.

Makes an excellent indoor houseplant and grows best in medium sunlight.

This plant does not thrive and tolerate direct light (it is used to being protected by a tree canopy in the tropical climate), so protecting your calathea exotica from harsh sunlight is critical.

Temperature (Tropical)

Generally, your calathea exotica prefers 50°F temperature, but it can also tolerate a range of 55°F to 85°F.

The calathea exotica plant can survive in small temperature changes, although extreme temperature changes can be harmful.

Cold frames or greenhouses can help maintain suitable conditions for this plant. Plants grown indoors will grow slowly outdoors if kept in a cool environment during their first year of life.

Humidity (Mist or Pebble Tray)

If possible, calathea exotica grows better under increased humidity. Morning dew or a humidifier in the room will help your plant.

The humidity in your home depends on where you live. If you’re in a dry area, you need to find ways to increase the humidity in your home. A humidifier helps keep the humidity high enough for your calathea exotica.

Alternatively, you can mist your plant daily or use a tray of pebbles and water to place under your plant. If you have multiple tropical plants, you can group them to increase humidity.

Soil (Slightly Acidic pH)

Plant your calathea exotica in a pot with drainage holes in the bottom, although they prefer moist soil. An excellent potting mix would be:

  • 20% coconut coir
  • A small amount of activated charcoal
  • 20% orchid bark
  • 50% fertile and good quality potting soil
  • 10% perlite

Calathea plants generally like slightly acidic soil (6.5pH is ideal). If planting outside, read our guide on how to make your soil more acidic.

The roots should not remain wet for too long due to the possibility of root rot which can eventually kill the plant if left untreated. Only water when needed, and it’s good to use water-retaining soil so that less water is needed to fill a pot with these plants.


Add half-strength liquid plant fertilizer when you water your calathea exotica plant, and use a balanced houseplant fertilizer monthly.

Most commercially available houseplant fertilizers work well.

Fertilize regularly with a micronutrient-rich fertilizer such as organic multi-purpose plant food. It is crucial after periods of stress, such as repotting or transplanting.


Calathea exotica can be easily transplanted. Most growers recommend repotting every two to three years.

The plant grows naturally in small pieces, is easily uprooted, and can be divided by uprooting the rootstock, which does not harm the plant.

When Should You Repot Your Calathea Exotica?

Repotting is necessary when your plant has outgrown its container- so ensure you keep an eye on its growth. A healthy plant can be repotted annually or semi-annually in spring and summer.

You can change the pot every two to three years. Winter is the best time of year to do this.

When planting in a deeper container, it is also suggested to pot up its roots; it makes shooting downward easier.

When repotting your plant, use a pot with small drainage holes. The soil must be very well drained but moist. Add a layer of a thick material like broken pieces of terracotta to the bottom of its container.

Alternatively, placing a layer of perlite on the bottom of the pot will help drainage and prevent water from pooling.

During the growing season, calathea exotica likes to be lightly fertilized but not during the winter.

Fertilizing can kill or damage roots and leaves stored over the winter, preparing them for spring growth. Fertilize once a month with a semi-strong fertilizer solution during the growing season, and do not fertilize during the winter dormancy.


Propagation can be done through stem cuttings. When repotting, the rhizome can also be divided. The rhizome has many suckers that can be easily removed along the stem.

Calathea exotica is best propagated with stem cuttings, which can also be done from side shoots. The stems should be placed in a plastic bag and kept moist until they root. The rooted cutting can then be transplanted into the ground.


FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

Where Should You Cut Your Calathea Exotica Leaves?

Regular removal of yellowed or browned outer leaves will improve the appearance of your calathea exotica plant.

Using sharp scissors, cut the leaves where the plant attaches to the live stem. It would help to keep a few leaves at the ends to protect the plant when it rains.

You should also trim your calathea exotica near the end of the stem as it tends to grow too long and become cumbersome.

Is Calathea Exotica Plant Hard to Care For?

Calathea plants are challenging to care for due to their exotic foliage and special water, light, and fertilizer requirements. It takes a lot of patience.

This plant will not thrive in an unfavorable environment and is not recommended for beginners.

Because they are grown as a houseplant, they are relatively easy to care for and propagate but require a level of care from their keepers that is often lacking.

Unfortunately, many die shortly after purchase because they were not adequately cared for. It needs plenty of indirect sunlight and should be watered regularly, so watering adjustments can be challenging.

In addition, calathea exotica needs a humid environment to mimic its natural tropical habitat.

Does Calathea Exotica Plant Clean the Air?

Calathea exotica is an air-purifying houseplant that is an eye-catcher in any environment and contributes to a more pleasant and healthy indoor climate. It is a favorite of people who live in hot and humid homes because it purifies the air.

Calathea exotica leaves are a natural air purifier. They secrete a chemical called linalool that flushes toxins out of the air, making the air clean.

Removing toxins from the air that other plants cannot remove, improves indoor air quality.

Owning a calathea exotica plant can be difficult if you live in an arid environment. In that case, try placing a vase of water or a small bowl with some calathea exotica leaves. The water evaporates, and the leaves use their natural chemical compounds to purify the air in your home.

Where Should You Plant Your Calathea Exotica?

It is best to locate your plant in an area that receives indirect light. Calathea exotica plants, and indoor palms, typically thrive in indirect sunlight.

They do well, provided they are well watered, and the soil is slightly moist. When you’re sure your plant needs water, place it on a newspaper or tray and let it sit until it’s dry.

Although calathea exotica is best placed at waist level, you can also keep it on stands or other high spots.

Why Are the Tips of Your Calathea Exotica Leaves Turning Brown?

Tap water is the most common cause of browning around the edges of your calathea exotica leaves as it contains salts, chlorine, minerals, and fluoride.

Such components are the leading cause of your plant’s leaves burning at the tips, turning brown, and curling. Change the water if you suspect the problem is causing your plant to turn brown.

Use sharp scissors to trim off the brown tips if you can’t alter your calathea exotica’s watering routine. You can use a water filter or filter your water before watering your calathea exotica.

If you have a problem with calathea exotica leaves turning brown, it is due to too much water. Cut off the brown tips and let the soil dry before watering again.

Is Calathea Exotica a Houseplant?

Calathea exotica plants are popular as houseplants due to their low maintenance requirements. It grows better in different types of containers and locations.

If you’re hoping to use your calathea exotica as a houseplant, look for one about 6 to 8 inches tall. Be careful to keep the soil moist and not overwater the plant.

They are slow growers but make up for their ability to adapt to any environment. Although this is primarily a houseplant, it does well outdoors in tropical gardens.

How big does Calathea Exotica get?

Generally, calathea exotica will only get to be about one to three feet tall (same in width). They are easy to control due to being slow growers.

Is Calathea Toxic to Cats or Dogs?

According to the ASPCA, calathea is not toxic to cats, dogs, or horses.

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Davin is a jack-of-all-trades but has professional training and experience in various home and garden subjects. He leans on other experts when needed and edits and fact-checks all articles.