How To Care For Rattlesnake Plants & Other Calathea Varieties

Calatheas (aka Prayer Plants)

Calatheas belong to the Marantaceae family and are native to the tropical Americas. Calatheas have some of the most striking leaves of the common houseplants which make them a super sought after plant for indoor plant enthusiasts. Besides their insane foliage markings, Calatheas get their “Prayer Plant” name because their leaves fold up or curl up at night as if they are praying. This is a really cool thing to watch and ponder when you have one in your space.

Follow the tips below and you should have no problems with keeping your Rattlesnake Plant or other Calathea varieties in tip top shape! I have several around my house and I have found that these beauties can be a low maintenance plant provided their basic needs are met. Another bonus of these radical plants is that they are NON-TOXIC to pets! Hooray!

Calathea lancifolia aka Rattlesnake Plant in the day time.

Calathea lancifolia aka Rattlesnake Plant in the day time.

Plant Care

LIGHT: Keep in low to medium INDIRECT light. Direct sun can cause the beautiful markings to fade and can cause leaf burn. Ouch.

WATER REQUIREMENTS: In Spring and Summer months keep the soil consistently moist. Not Soggy or watered logged. Extended periods of dryness during this time can result in leaves curling or turning brown along leaf tips or edges.

In Winter months allow top soil to dry slightly between waterings.

HUMIDITY: Given that these plants are native to tropical areas they like humidity. I have a couple of Calatheas in my bathroom and they do well in there from the moisture that the shower gives off. In other rooms of my house, I give them a good mist every other day or so. Especially during the warmer months.

If you notice browning edges on the leaves, it could be a sign that the air is too dry. Give ‘em a little mist and try to stay consistent in doing that for them. They will thank you kindly.

You can also place a tray of pebbles with a little bit of water underneath the pot. This will help give off humidity and might be a better option for you if you can’t be consistent with misting leaves.

TEMPERATURE: Keep plants in temps between 65-80 degrees. Again, these are tropical plants, so they like temps to stay in that sweet tropical range.

Keep away from drafts, and heater vents.

FERTILIZER: Fertilize with a general plant fertilizer once a month during growing season (Spring and Summer). It is not necessary to fertilize in Winter.

Rattlesnake plant at night.

Rattlesnake plant at night.


  • Calathea lancifolia (pronounced; lance-eh-folia) gets its name from it being in the genus Calathea and the word lancifolia refers to its lanceolate shaped leaves. Lanceolate means shaped like a lance head. A lance is a long weapon for thrusting, having a wooden shaft and pointed steel head (hey, I didn’t come up with this definition..) formerly used by a horseman in charging. (Those were the good ‘ol days, weren’t they?) Folia is the plural form of folium, a latin term that literally translates to leaf. There ya have it, Calathea lancifolia. Does your brain hurt yet? Well, I bet you won’t ever forget the Rattlesnake’s botanic name ever again! Now go impress all of your friends!

  • They get their common name “Rattlesnake Plant” because the markings on the leaves resemble, you guessed it.. a rattlesnake!

  • Calatheas close their leaves at night due to what is called nyctinasty (pronounced; nyc-ti-nas-ty). Nyctinasty is a nastic movement (as the opening and closing of some flowers) that is associated with diurnal changes of temperature or light intensity. A circadian rhythm if you will. Pretty interesting right? If you really want to have your mind blown, read this .

If you have any more questions regarding Calathea care, please leave it below and I’ll get back to you! Happy Planting!

Peace, hugs and plants,

The Potted Poppy