Calathea Rattlesnake Plant Care: The Definitive Guide🌱

The calathea rattlesnake is an absolutely beautiful plant that originates from Brazil. This plant is known for the distinctive wave pattern along the edges of its leaves, as well as the pattern of dark green spots against the light green background. It is certainly a unique plant that will draw attention!

This plant is not for beginners! While it can be a bit of a diva, the reward for all your care will be the breathtaking beauty of a mature rattlesnake calathea. Don’t panic – we will cover everything you need to know about rattlesnake calathea care and leave you feeling prepared to care for this lovely plant.

How to Care for a Calathea Rattlesnake Plant?

As a tropical plant, humidity and temperature are very important aspects of care for the calathea rattlesnake; high humidity and consistent warm temperature will help it flourish! In addition, bright and indirect sunlight, as well as well-draining potting soil, will be your secret weapons in growing a gorgeous calathea rattlesnake.


Many people believe that the rattlesnake calathea can tolerate low light, but that is actually a myth! They may appear to do well in low light, but what they really need to grow is bright, indirect sunlight. Indirect sunlight means it is filtered through something like curtains before reaching the plant; this mimics the plant’s natural habitat on the rainforest floor.

To get naturally bright but indirect sunlight, try placing the plant in a northern or eastern-facing window. After the sun has risen and is at its brightest, the window plant will get hours of great indirect sunlight. You can also invest in some sheer curtains or tinted window panes to allow light to filter through!

Best Soil and Mixture Type

This tropical plant needs soil that can retain moisture well and allow it to properly absorb water. However, it also needs to be able to drain well. This is very important to avoid standing puddles of water in the soil, which could cause root rot. Here are some elements to look out for in homemade or storebought soil mixes:

  • Peat moss for moisture (2 parts of the total mixture)
  • Perlite for drainage (1 part of the total mixture)
  • Sand or coconut husks to help with drainage (added in small quantities)

With these elements or similar ones, you will create a soil that is perfect for the calathea rattlesnake! Keep in mind that the pH of the soil should be slightly acidic to neutral, avoiding any alkaline soils. Therefore, the best pH on the scale will be between 6.5-7.0.


It is not hard to guess why humidity would be very important to this tropical houseplant! In fact, humidity is one of the most important parts of caring for your rattlesnake calathea, sometimes known as the goeppertia insignis. If your plant is not getting enough humidity, you may notice crispy leaves as well as curling and brown tips or edges.

The ideal range of humidity for this plant will be between 50% to 65% humidity. Consider keeping it in a room like your kitchen or bathroom that regularly has high humidity. If you have many tropical plants, buying a humidifier would also be a great and easy way to monitor humidity.


Watering is an important aspect of plant care, and for the rattlesnake calathea it can also be the most difficult! One important tip to cover right away is that you should never water this plant with tap water – the minerals, fluoride, and salt levels will impact the plant and cause irreversible damage. Use filtered water to keep the beautiful leaves and coloring intact.

Another tip is to never let the soil dry out completely between waterings, as this can lead to spider mite attacks. Water the plant so that all soil is moist but without standing puddles of water. Feel the first few inches of soil every day and determine when it begins to dry and promptly water again. This may take time to figure out, but this will become your watering schedule.

Signs your plant needs water include browning leaves and a drooping appearance. If you are consistent in monitoring the dryness level, you will find a watering schedule that works for you and help this plant grow.


Much like humidity, temperature will also be important for this tropical plant. It is important temperature is kept consistent, and sudden drafts or cold snaps be avoided. In general, the ideal range of temperature for this plant will be between 65°F to 80°F, or about 18°C to about 27°C. The absolute lowest that the plant can tolerate is about 60°F or 15.5°C.


When you want you plant to grow or get that extra boost, fertilizer is a big help! The best time to fertilize will be during the spring and summer when growing conditions are ideal. Do not fertilize your plants in winter, since no growth is occurring. Here are some great nutrients to look for in your fertilizer:

  • Nitrogen (important)
  • Potassium (important)
  • Phosphorus (important)
  • Magnesium (bonus)
  • Calcium (bonus)

The top three nutrients should be your priority! In the spring and summer, fertilize once a month for the best results.


The rattlesnake calathea is a great houseplant and decorative piece. In their main growing season, they can gain a few centimeters each week and slowly reach maturity. The maximum size a rattlesnake calathea can reach is a little over 30 inches, or about 76 cm. The average size they will reach in the home is usually 24 inches, or about 70 cm.


Repotting is something you will only need to do occasionally, about once every two years if the growth rate is average. Make sure to move the plant to a new pot that is only a few inches bigger to avoid too much room for the roots.

The best way to tell if repotting is needed is to look at the drainage holes of the pot. If any roots are peeking out or creeping near, it is time to move to a bigger pot. Set a calendar reminder and sit back and relax!

Pruning – Is it Needed?

Unlike watering or humidity, you can relax when it comes to pruning! The calathea rattlesnake does not need to be pruned. The only time you may find yourself pruning is if a leaf is ill and needs to be cut away, or for purely personal aesthetic or space expectations.

Can a Calathea Rattlesnake Plant Be Propagated? How Do I Do It?

What if you love your plant so much you want to grow another one? Don’t worry! The calathea rattlesnake can be propagated by division, and you can even do it yourself. Here are some steps to properly propagate your calathea rattlesnake.

Remember that the best time to proceed with propagating is during the spring when it is time to repot!

  1. Prepare a new pot with soil and set it aside. Get a sharp, sterile knife.
  2. Remove the plant from the pot and examine the natural gaps between the roots. Identify a section to divide.
  3. Using the natural separation of the roots, separate one small shoot from the rest of the plant. Make sure the roots all the way up to the leaf is intact! Use the knife to make small cuts if necessary.
  4. Place the cutting into the new pot with moist soil and plenty of temperature and humidity. Repot the original plant.

There you have it! Propagating by division is relatively easy to do as long as you are gentle with the leaves and roots. Be careful and patient, and hopefully soon you will have two beautiful plants!

Plant Toxicity

If you have any children or pets and are concerned about them accidentally ingesting your calathea rattlesnake, don’t panic! The plant is non-toxic to humans and animals, so there will be no negative side effects. If large amounts are ingested, there may be mild irritation or an upset stomach. However, the plant is non-toxic and ingestion is not serious.

Why is my Calathea Rattlesnake Dying? – FAQ

Now that we have covered many aspects of care, let’s review some common problems with the calathea rattlesnake. Many owners face these issues and have no idea what to do, so we will answer all your concerns and questions to ensure you are prepared for anything!

#1 Pests

In terms of pests and bugs, your biggest worry with the calathea rattlesnake will be spider mites and aphids. Both are small, hard to spot insects that are drawn to plants; spider mites are drawn to dry environments, and aphids are sap-sucking. If you see any small white spots or notice holes in the stems or leaves of your plant, pests may be the reason.

To get rid of these pests, treat your plant with regular sprays of horticultural oil to remove them from the plant and keep them from returning. You can also gently wash the leaves with water to remove any pests that refuse to let go.

#2 Diseases

The most common illnesses or diseases that you will deal with include root rot and bacterial or fungal leaf spot. If your calathea rattlesnake is overwatered or has soil that does not drain, root rot will likely set in. It is hard to recover from root rot, but try to lift the plant from the pot and cut away the infected roots. Hopefully, the plant will eventually recover and grow new ones.

When it comes to bacterial or fungal leaf spot, you may notice small growths along the leaves. Go to a plant care store and find a good quality bacterial or fungal spray and treat the leaves regularly according to the directions. If all goes well, the plant will quickly recover.

Q. Why Does My Calathea Rattlesnake Have Brown Spots?

If you notice any brown spots ruining the beautiful coloring of your calathea rattlesnake, you’ll probably wonder why. Brown spots can be a potential sign of fungal leaf spot, as well as overall dryness in the air and a lack of humidity. A lack of water can also lead to the browning of the leaves.

The most important way to tell what the issue might be is where exactly the browning occurs. If the spots appear all over the leaves and are small, it may be fungal leaf spot. If the tips and edges of the leaves are turning brown, the issue is most likely humidity. You can fix either issue by quickly either applying fungal spray or giving the plant a steam bath by placing it in the bathroom and running the shower.

Q. Why Does My Calathea Rattlesnake Have Pale Leaves?

Since the beautiful leaves are such an important part of the calathea rattlesnake, any disruption in the vibrant colors can be upsetting. Pale leaves are typically symptoms of two particular problems: too much sunlight or too little sunlight.

This can seem confusing, but there are ways to determine what the issue is. If the colors and patterns of the leaves seem to be fading, too much direct sunlight is the problem since it damages the leaves. If the patterns are not faded but the entire leaf has gone pale, too little light is most likely the issue.

It is hard to repair a leaf damaged by direct sunlight, but move your pale leaves into the bright and indirect sunlight and they should perk up immediately!

Q. Why Is My Calathea Rattlesnake Drooping?

A drooping plant just looks sad, doesn’t it? Luckily, there is an easy solution to a drooping calathea rattlesnake! If you notice the leaves falling and losing their structure, it most likely means that the plant is thirsty and needs to be watered. Try feeling the soil by sticking your finger down through the first few inches. If it is completely dry, water is needed quickly.

Regain a routine watering schedule, always feeling the soil to make sure it does not dry out between waterings. Slowly but surely, the leaves will recover their normal shape. If you do this, your beautiful and unique calathea rattlesnake will flourish!

photo of Charlotte Bailey founder of Oh So Garden


Charlotte Bailey

Charlotte is a Qualified Royal Horticultural Society Horticulturist, plant conservationist, and founder of Oh So Garden. Armed with a background in Plant Science (BSc Hons, MSc) and 5 years of hands-on experience in the field, her in-depth guides are read by over 100,000 people every month.

For her work, she's been awarded the title of Yale Young Global Scholar, and been featured as a garden and houseplant expert across major networks and national publications such as Homes and Garden, Best Life, Gardeningetc,, BHG, Real Homes, and Country Living. You can find her on Linkedin.

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