Looking to up your plant parenting game? The Calathea Rufibarba, otherwise known as ‘the Furry Feather Calathea’, should be the next tropical purchase to add to your collection.
A super special plant with many rare yet endearing qualities, the Calathea Rufibarba can be quite picky, which is why this complete guide is on hand to help you maintain the health and happiness of this feather-feel plant.
An Introduction to Calathea Rufibarba Care
Identifiable by its vibrant green and purple coloring, the Velvet Calathea gets its name because of its soft to the touch leaves that display a purple underside.
As well as being attractive in appearance, Calathea Rufibarba is nontoxic to dogs and cats, making it the perfect plant for pet owners and a desirable choice to have in your home.
Originally found in tropical climates such as Brazil and Africa, the furry feather Calathea is a somewhat rare member of the Marantaceae family and can grow to around 3 feet high and wide.
While able to flower in the wild, the Velvet Calathea is unlikely to grow any blooms indoors. Although, under excellent care and well-kept conditions, it has been known to happen.
This unique plant has the ability to move its leaves according to the light and temperature of the environment it is placed in, making it adaptable but not invincible.
This extraordinary adaptation allows the Furry Feather Calathea to conserve water as well as reflect and conserve light.
How to Care for your Calathea Rufibarba?
Because of its need for a rainforest-like environment, Calathea Rufibarba loves to be in a humid and warm room just like other calatheas.
Here are some things to keep in mind when maintaining the health and happiness of your plant:
For your Calathea Rufibarba to thrive, well-draining and fertilized soil is a must. Choose a rich but well-draining soil to maintain the health of your plant’s roots, the best way to do this is to create your own
Use an aerated soil mix with 25% peat moss, charcoal, coco husk, and perlite. A standard potting soil will likely be too dense and heavy, leading to dreaded root rot.
Another great well-draining soil mix to use is cactus soil (though this will require more regular watering due to dryness!)
If your plant is having a little trouble expelling excess water, as well as having a pot with drainage holes, another great solution is to add a layer of gravel to the bottom of your plant pot. This will allow the water to flow out of the pot more easily.
- The best time to fertilise your Calathea Rufibarba is during spring through till summer.
- A wide range of fertilisers are on offer such as seaweed emulsion or liquid varieties. A gentle liquid fertiliser is popular and can be used each time you water your plant by diluting to half its strength.
- For a plant with pre-applied fertiliser within its soil (either added by yourself or the grower) avoid applying additional fertilisers for 4 to 6 months.
- Choose a fertiliser containing plenty of micronutrients (calcium & magensium in particular!)
- Do NOT fertilise your Calathea Rufibarba during winter months, growing conditions will not be ideal and therefore fertiliser is unnecessary.
For the best results choose a fertilizer that includes Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium. Many gardening experts recommend following a 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 on the NPK ratio. This will help maintain healthy leaf and plant growth.
Dry and crispy edges on the leaves could indicate not enough humidity for your Velvet Calathea. You can combat this by placing the plant in a room such as your bathroom.
There are a couple of other options to increase your plant’s humidity intake. If purchasing a humidifier isn’t a viable choice for you, try grouping your Calathea Rufibarba with other tropical plants in your home.
In doing this, they will act similarly to forest trees by trapping moisture and air between them to create a microclimate.
- Calathea plants are used to tropical climates and thrive in warm humid environments
- Ideal range of relative humidity is 60% and above
- If you do not have a humid space in your home, humidity trays are an affordable solution
- Another solution is to mist your plant 1 to 2 times a week to allow the leaves to absorb more moisture
- You should place your Calathea Rufibarba in a room with a temperature no lower than 7.2 °C (50 °F)
- This plant enjoys temperatures of around 15 – 26 °C (60° – 80°F) and will survive in a consistent temperature that is comfortable for you
As high maintenance as the Calathea Rufibarba can be, they don’t demand a lot of light, in fact ensuring that they receive minimal direct sunlight will allow this plant to flourish.
- High levels of bright, indirect light are preferred
- Place 3 to 4 meters away from a window or in a room with smaller windows
- 400FC of natural light, equating to roughly 3-4 hours of daily sunlight, is preferred for a good level of growth
- Scorching or discolouration on the leaves could indicate over exposure of light. You should move your Calathea Rufibarba to a shaded area of your room, or a space with less direct light.
Watering this plant is all about striking a balance. Calathea Rufibarba really isn’t fond of over saturating and will appreciate light-moderate doses of water, around 2 times a week, to keep it hydrated without being overwatered.
Some signs that your Calathea Rufibarba watering schedule needs some attention:
- Droopy leaves
- Yellowing or browning of the leaves (can also be a sign of under watering and irregular watering)
If you notice your Velvet Calathea’s leaves turning yellow or starting to droop, this is a classic sign that it is getting a little too much water. To fix this you can:
- Cut back on the water intake immediately
- Remove any excess water from the plant pot to allow soil and roots to dry out
- Create a watering routing where you are checking your plant regularly to see when it is in need of a drink
- Using a bottom watering method where you water the plant from the top ensuring you get its leaves wet, allow your plant to sit in a bath of water for 10 to 15 minutes, and then drain all excess water out of the pot
- Make sure you create a regular watering routine where you are checking the plants soil to see whether it is time to water. To do this, simply place a finger about an inch into the soil, if the top inch of soil is dry this means you’ll need to water.
- Calathea Rufibarba plants prefer distilled/ filtered, or rain water. They can be sensitive to tap water because of the chemicals and minerals it contains.
Growth and Propagation
You’ll find that your Furry Feather Calathea is a slow grower and will usually only need repotting every couple of years. The best steps to follow when repotting are:
- Ensure that you repot during the spring and summer months, and always choose a new pot which is a couple of inches bigger.
- Give your Calathea Rufibarba a good watering after placing in its new pot (make sure you use a plant pot with drainage holes) and do not allow it to sit in excess water.
- Pruning the leaves will help your plant to grow. Make sure to remove any yellowing leaves during the repotting process.
This plant can be propagated by division, this is made easier during the repotting process as it will be easier to find any seeds.
- Use a pair of sheers to cut to stem of your Calathea which can then be placed in a fresh pot of soil.
- Store in a shaded area that is humid while it roots
- It can then be places with your other plants once it begins to show growth.
Pests, Diseases & Issues
You might occasionally discover common problems with your Velvet Calathea which are predominantly caused by fixable issues such as lack of humidity, use of hard tap water, inconsistencies to your watering schedule, or drafts.
Another common problem is pests such as:
- Spider mites
These insects can be easily managed by wiping the leaves of your Calathea Rufibarba once a week, using a mild soapy water, or with diluted neem oil (a natural insecticide). This will deter any of these pests from upsetting your plant.
Additionally, make sure you give the leaves of your plant a regular check for any movements or spider webs, this will help to keep the risk of pests low.