Plant hobbyists looking to add to their collection should consider the Calathea Leopardina – a beautiful tropical plant with seriously impressive foliage.
The plant’s large spade-shaped leaves are a beautiful bright green and feature a prominent deep green, spot-like pattern – hence the fun name.
Its’ leaves sit on long, upright stems that fan apart, providing a unique display for any space. Best of all, unlike many Calathea varieties, Calathea Leopardina care is a breeze, making it the perfect houseplant for any plant enthusiast!
Origin & Backstory – A Brief Overview
The Calathea Leopardina is a member of the Marantaceae family and goes by many names, including Goeppertia concinna calathea, or more commonly Calathea Freddie.
They are native to South America, along with many other Calathea varieties, but are predominantly found in Brazil.
Like most Calatheas, these plants are nyctinastic, meaning their leaves follow a circadian rhythm where they open each morning and close again every night.
Calathea, also referred to as the Prayer Plant, are quite accustomed to the warm, humid temperatures of their natural jungle habit, but the Leopardina variety is known to be more adaptable.
Calathea Leopardina Care Brief Overview
- Soil: Well-draining, loose, airy
- Light: Bright, indirect
- Watering: Soil kept lightly damp all the time
- Temperature: 18°-30°C (65°-85°F)
- Humidity: 70%+
- Fertilizer: Balanced or nitrogen rich
Calathea Leopardina Care
Despite being an easier variety to care for, the Calathea Leopardina aka Freddie does have certain requirements.
While the plant is low maintenance, for the most part, there are a few key things you should know, including which soil mix is best, how much light, water, and fertilizer it needs, and the ideal temperature and humidity to encourage strong growth.
The best way to keep your Leopardina happy and strong is by providing it with a soil mix that is porous but doesn’t hold too much moisture.
Soggy, waterlogged soil can cause issues for many plants, Calathea’s included, which is why a nutrient-rich soil that is well-draining is key.
Recommended Soil Mixture
You can choose from a variety of potting soil mixtures for this variety.
When I was looking for cheaper alternatives, I also used Miracle Gro’s potting mix and amended it with perlite for drainage and orchid bark for chunkiness.
If you’re more ambitious, you can mix your own soil.
A DIY Soil Recipe for Calatheas
- 50% potting soil (or coco coir)
- 20% orchid bark
- 20% activated charcoal
- 10% perlite
The Calathea Freddie, or Leopardina, can be somewhat tricky when it comes to maintaining a watering schedule.
How Much Water This Plant Likes
While they like their soil kept moist, they absolutely don’t like to be oversaturated with water either. Waterlogged soil can lead to bacterial leaf spot as well as dreaded root rot.
Rather than sticking to a strict once every 7-10 days schedule, I highly recommend learning to spot when your plant actually needs water.
How to Tell When your Plant Needs Water
- Drooping Leaves
- Top 1-2 inches of soil are dry to touch
- Yellowing or Browning Edges (though this can have other causes too!)
- Wrinkling or ruching of leaves
Trust me when I say, this variety will let you know when it’s not being watered properly!
To avoid overwatering, always check the moisture of your soil first. To check the moisture simply stick your finger in the soil about 2 inches deep – only water your plant when it’s dry!
A Quick Note on Drainage
One of the most critical parts of Calathea Leopardina care is ensuring your plant has plenty of drainage.
Aside from using a well-draining soil mixture, make sure each of your plant’s pots has drainage holes in the bottom for water to escape.
Be sure to keep your plants on a plate or tray to catch any excess water! Oh, and empty that tray afterward so your plant isn’t just sitting in it.
Like most other varieties, the Leopardina is *tolerant* of lower light levels – but that won’t achieve the best results.
Plants that don’t receive enough light will often suffer from stunted growth, producing fewer leaves in a growing season, or perhaps none at all.
Recommended Light Intensity
Your Calathea ‘Freddie’ will be happiest and thrive best when provided with plenty of bright, indirect sunlight.
Despite what you might have been told, calatheas can handle 1-2 hours of cool, direct morning sun too without burning or bleaching (losing their color).
Place the plant a few feet from an east or west-facing window for the most sun exposure.
Watch out for brown, crispy, leaves, or a color that is dull, or less vibrant – early signs your plant needs less direct light or more distance from the window.
What is Bright, Indirect Light Exactly? How do I Measure it?
Bright indirect light is probably brighter than you think. And as light is so subjective, I love and use my trusty light meter!
Lightmeters measure light in either LUX or FC (foot candles), and are incredibly handy when working out where to place your plant friend.
This is the Dr. Meter LX1330B Light Meter that I’ve been using – pricing varies on this model but it should be around $40-60.
It also measures light from grow lights too in case you’re using those.
The Right FC for the Calathea Leopardina
Bare minimum for maintenance is 200FC. For best growth, you’re looking at 400FC.
If you want to encourage strong, robust growth you should use either a complete nutrient fertilizer or an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer.
I love and swear by Dyna Gro’s 7-9-5 NPK formula which lasts forever once it’s been diluted. It’s a complete formula with all 16 key nutrients and is urea-free, meaning it’s far less likely to cause root burn.
I’ve seen remarkable growth in foliage because of it. You can also use this with philodendrons, orchids, monsteras, and ferns.
If you’re on a tighter budget, you can also opt for a balanced all-purpose houseplant fertilizer. I’ve used Miracle Gro’s indoor plant food in the past and saw great results!
One of the most critical aspects of Calathea Leopardina care is providing the appropriate temperature and humidity.
To achieve the best growth from this tropical plant, provide temperatures between 18°-30°C (65°-85°F).
Avoid temperatures below 15°C (59°F) altogether, as it can result in stunted growth, shock, or possibly even the death of your plant.
Oh, and also try to keep them away from drafts – such as vents, windows, or A/C units – as Calathea are known to be picky about sudden temperature changes!
Recommended Humidity Levels
As a plant that originates in warm, humid tropical jungles, most varieties of Calathea thrive best in high humidity conditions (think 80%+).
Purchasing a hygrometer is a super easy way to check your room’s humidity levels.
Signs Humidity Level is Too Low
If you notice the leaves of your plant getting a little dry and crispy, it could be that you need to increase the humidity near your plants.
I recommend investing in a small humidifier if you’re consistently struggling to provide the humidity calatheas need.
If you don’t have a humidifier, you can move your plants to a more humid space, like your laundry room, or you can try grouping your plants together to naturally increase humidity resource sharing – though this method needs a lot of plants to work!
What You Can Expect Growth Wise
The growth of your plant is ultimately determined by the conditions of its environment and the overall care you provide it, however, there is an average expectation for Calathea Leopardina.
The stems of the Calathea Leopardina grow upright and can reach up to 2 feet (60cm).
Its leaves can reach up to 5 to 7-inches (12-17cm) long and will slowly weigh the stems down, spreading them apart to give the plant a broader, widespread presentation.
In the right conditions, the Calathea Leopardina can experience a moderately fast growth rate, reaching its full size in only a few years.
The Calathea Freddie should be transplanted to a bigger pot soon after roots begin to emerge from the drainage holes.
These plants are not fond of being rootbound, so to encourage a happy plant, be sure to upgrade to a slightly bigger pot when you see the signs.
If your Leopardina has a steady growth rate, you’ll likely need to repot it once every 1-2 years.
Remember to do so at the beginning of the growing season, in Spring or early Summer, and to soak the soil thoroughly before transplanting to avoid shock!
In terms of pruning, the Calathea Leopardina is very low maintenance. Unless there are yellow, browning, or damaged leaves there is no need to prune your plant.
If you see damaged or diseased leaves, use a sanitized pair of clippers to remove them from your plant.
These leaves hinder the growth of your plant, as it’s focusing energy on trying to heal, rather than grow – it will be healthier without them!
The propagation of this plant is a bit different from other plant varieties. This plant can’t be propagated by rooting a leaf clipping, but the process is still pretty easy.
Like most kinds of Calathea, the Leopardina is propagated by division, meaning the whole plant is dug up and divided into smaller sections.
Since you need to uproot the Leopardina for propagation, it’s best done during the repotting process.
- Divide your plant when it’s thriving and has plenty of stem’s protruding so that each cutting section is left with at least five stems – this will help increase the chance of survival.
- To divide the plant, simply uproot it, shake off any excess potting mix, and use a sharp, sanitized knife to cut through the roots.
- Replant each of the cuttings into their own pots, and water them – don’t forget the water drainage holes!
Common Problems and Pests
Usually, the Calathea Leopardina has no issues with pests, unless they’re not being properly watered.
Spider Mites – A plant with dry soil is more likely to attract pests like spider mites. If you suspect spider mites or the infestation of other pests, you must take immediate action to prevent further spread to other plants in your home.
Separate the affected plants and give them a brisk shower to wash away as many unfriendly pests as possible. You may need to use horticultural soap or isopropyl alcohol to ensure they take a hike!
Disease and Distress
You may experience a few hiccups along the way as you try your hand at Calathea Leopardina care – but many issues are often a result of unfit conditions.
When in doubt always review the conditions of your plants’ environment as well as its leaves and soil.
This will help steer you in the right direction to resolving the problem and get your plant back in good health.
Yellowing leaves are a very common problem experienced by Leopardina plant keepers, and it can be caused by a few things.
If there are no other issues visible, it’s likely that your plant has been overwatered, or is not receiving enough sunlight.
This is why you should always check the moisture of the top 2-inches of soil to see if the plant needs watering first.
Avoid watering until the soil has dried out if you suspect overwatering to be the culprit for your plants’ yellowing leaves.
If the soil is plenty moist, your plant may not be receiving enough sunlight to absorb the moisture. Try moving it to an area with more direct light.
Brown, crispy leaves can also be a problem for Calathea Leopardina, which can be a result of too much sunlight or not enough water.
If you find you’re frequently watering your plant and its leaves are still drying out, it’s getting too much direct sunlight.
You can try moving your plant a few feet away from the window or to a space with a more diluted light supply.
Monitoring your plants’ needs closely over time will help you determine the best conditions for them to thrive, and how to troubleshoot issues as they arise.
Plant Toxicity – Is This Plant Harmful to Pets or Children?
Calathea Leopardina is a non-toxic plant for animals or small children.
FAQs – Your Care Questions Answered
Q: Why is my Calathea Leopardina drooping?
A: These plants have a tendency to be a bit picky when it comes to water and temperature fluctuations – both of which can cause drooping in Calathea plants.
To determine the cause of your situation, you should evaluate your plants’ conditions.
Double-check the moisture of the soil by sticking your finger in to check – it shouldn’t be too dry or soaked, if it is this could be the problem! If the soil seems fine, it could be the result of a draft or drastic temperature change.
Q: Does the Calathea Leopardina produce flowers?
A: While these plants are known to flower when grown in their natural tropical habitat, it’s very rare to flower indoors.
If you happen to achieve the right conditions to encourage flowering inside, you won’t be very impressed.
During the early Spring months, the Leopardina may produce a small white spathe flower.