Calathea Ornata Care: The Complete Guide

A flamboyant houseplant that demands royal treatment, the Pinstripe Plant is worth every effort. It features glossy dark-green leaves with pink stripes that are visually striking, to say the least. Calathea ornata is a bit of a drama queen, so if you’re a newbie plant parent, you might want to hold off on this one for now.

Providing the proper elements for the Pinstripe Plant to thrive isn’t difficult, but it is specific. As long as you provide the right conditions, you’ll have a happy, healthy, and undramatic stunner of a houseplant.

Pinstripe Plant Origin and History

The Pinstripe Calathea is from the tropical forests of Columbia and Venezuela in South America. It is part of a houseplant family commonly called prayer plants. Calatheas earned this common name because their leaves rise and lower with the sun, like hands lifting for prayer. During the day, the foliage opens up and flattens, then at night, it closes.

Calatheas are fascinating plants to watch on a daily basis and as they mature. When the leaves fold up at night, they show off the deep magenta coloring underneath, which is just as attractive as the pinstriped tops. As the leaves open and close, they make a light, fluttering noise – no, it’s not a ghost!

Calathea ornata sometimes is sold under the name Prayer Plant, but that designation is usually reserved for another related houseplant, Maranta leuconeura. This Calathea is also known by the names Zebra Plant, Peacock Plant, Cathedral Plant, and Calathea Pinstripe. Many of these common names are also used with other houseplants, so we recommend searching by scientific name if you’re seeking this particular Calathea.

Calathea Ornata

Calathea Ornata Care Guide

As we mentioned above, Calathea Ornata isn’t always the easiest species to care for. In this section we will cover everything you need to know about keeping this plant alive and thriving!

Growth Habit

As an indoor houseplant, the Pinstripe Plant can grow up to 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide under proper conditions (it easily reaches 9 feet tall in the wild!). New leaves sprout from the center of the plant to form a dense, bushy growth. This houseplant grows upright and is actively growing from late spring through early fall.

New leaves start out curled up and then slowly unfurl as they grow. The new growth is usually lighter in color than the matured dark-green leaves. As your Calathea ages, the pink pinstriping may turn yellow and then white. This is entirely normal.


Calatheas appreciate regularly moist soil but not soggy, oversaturated roots. This means when you water, it is essential that the water drains out well, so there is no puddle for it to sit in. If you use saucers or drip trays underneath your Pinstripe Plant, empty it out 5-10 minutes after watering. Waiting the extra time ensures that the excess water has had time to drain.

Water when the soil starts to turn a little dry. Calatheas don’t like parched soil, so it needs to be watered before drying out too much. They are not drought-tolerant and will suffer greatly from a lack of water. The exact watering schedule will vary by season and indoor climate. Anticipate watering once every week or two, but always check the soil beforehand.

Watering Tip: Sometimes, Caltheas are very sensitive to water types. Use distilled or rainwater, or let your tap water sit out for 24 hours before using, so the chlorine dissipates.


In its native environment, Calathea ornata grows underneath the forest canopy and is accustomed to indirect or filtered light. Lots of bright, indirect light is best. With Calathea ornata, this can be a bit of a balancing act. It likes a perfect medium level.

A south-facing window provides the right amount of light as long as a thin curtain or shade blocks the direct rays. West-facing or east-facing windows also are good, again, as long as there is something to block the direct sun rays.

If it is getting too much direct sunlight, the leaves will brown and die. On the other hand, too little light causes stunted growth. Another sign that the plant may be receiving too much light is that the pinstripes fade. Excessive sunlight causes the leaf details to wash out.

Temperature & Humidity

The ideal temperature for Pinstripe Plants is between 65-85F. High humidity is essential, too. The location of your plant will play a massive role in how well it thrives. Avoid anywhere near cold drafts, heat registers, or where the plant may experience sudden changes in temperature.

Low humidity is the leading cause of problems for the tropical Calathea. This houseplant needs high humidity, and it will struggle without it. In addition to keeping the soil moderately moist at all times, you also need to provide a source of humidity. With some plants, you can get away with not doing this, but never with the Calathea.

A humidifier is ideal, as it will provide excellent long-term humidity for your Pinstripe Plant. If that option is out of your budget, you can set up a DIY humidity tray. It works well for most plants but might not provide quite enough humidity for the Calathea. You’ll need to monitor it regularly to see if the moisture is sufficient.

To make a DIY humidity tray, line a baking sheet with pebbles, then fill it with water. Place the plant on top of the stones. Set the tray and plant in its regular spot; as the water evaporates, humidity surrounds the plant.

In addition to a humidity tray, you’ll need to mist the plant every other day or so. Do this in the morning, so the water has time to evaporate and dry off the leaves. Water left on leaves for a long time can encourage fungal infections and diseases.

The humidity tray and mister methods require frequent attention for the Pinstripe Plant. The pebble tray needs to be checked often to see if it needs more water. And, you have to get into a schedule of misting regularly. This is one reason many people opt to buy a humidifier for their Calatheas; it’s less work overall and more consistent.

For this picky houseplant, you might want to invest in a humidity gauge just to be certain. Humidity levels are especially a concern during the winter when indoor spaces become extremely dry.


Because Calathea ornata requires moist soil, you need to choose a potting soil mix that will retain water. Use a high-quality houseplant potting soil mix and add in extra perlite and coco coir. These additions increase airflow around the roots while also improving the ability to hold moisture.

Pot Preference

Ceramic or plastic planters with drainage holes are the best option. Stay away from terracotta or clay pots with this houseplant. Clay pots absorb moisture, which is counterproductive since Calathea ornata likes moist soil.


Once a month, fertilize your Pinstripe Plant with an all-around houseplant fertilizer mixed at half strength. Add fertilizer in the spring and summer while the plant is actively growing. Hold off on fertilizer during the winter, when the plant is resting.

Don’t overdo it with the fertilizer. Too much will be just as detrimental as too little. An over-fertilized Pinstripe Plant turns tall and leggy instead of the desired lush, dense growth.


Repot every year in the spring to refresh the soil and give your Pinstripe Plant room to expand and grow. If the roots have outgrown the pot, repot it to a larger planter. Use a pot just one size larger; don’t move it to a much larger planter, or it will suffer from water issues. If you’d like your Calathea to remain a specific size, you can use the same pot, but don’t neglect to refresh the soil each year.


The Calathea ornata doesn’t need very much pruning. Leaves will naturally yellow and brown over time as they age, and these should be removed as they appear.


Good news! Calathea ornata is not toxic to people or pets.

Calathea Ornata Propagation

A healthy and mature Calathea ornata is easy to propagate. It’s best to do it in the spring, at the same time you are repotting it. Propagation through division is the best method.

  1. Remove the plant carefully from the pot and inspect the roots.
  2. If the plant is large enough and the roots look healthy and robust, you can separate them.
  3. Divide the plant into separated clumps, making sure each cluster has good roots attached. The roots may be quite entangled, so gather your patience and work slowly and carefully.
  4. Each clump should also have at least one leaf growing.
  5. Pot up each clump into its own container.
  6. Water thoroughly and place in a bright, warm location (the same location as the mother plant is ideal).
  7. The new transplants may go into shock for a couple of weeks and look rather sad, but they’ll recover.

Pests and Diseases

calathea ornata

Calathea ornata is a hardy houseplant when it comes to pests and diseases, but it might suffer from some of the common afflictions during its lifetime.

Spider Mites, Aphids, Mealy Bugs, and Scale

These teeny tiny bugs are often hard to see until they’ve made a serious negative impact on your plant. It’s important to check frequently to improve the chances of catching an infestation before it’s too late. Whenever you water, give the Calathea a thorough inspection. This includes carefully inspecting underneath the leaves, too, as that is often where bug infestations start.

The easiest and quickest treatment for insect pests is a neem oil spray treatment. Mix two teaspoons neem oil with one teaspoon dish soap in a quart spray bottle. Fill the rest of the bottle up with water. Spray your Pinstripe Plant foliage every 5-7 days until the pests are gone. Don’t forget to spray under the leaves, too.

Most pest infestations occur when the plant is stressed out and less able to fight off problems. As you’re dealing with the pest issue, also double-check your Calathea is receiving enough water (and not too much) and light (and not too much or too little).

Common Questions and FAQs

Here are a few common questions about Calathea Ornata care:

Why does my Calathea ornata have brown leaves?

Brown leaves are usually a sign of drought or lack of humidity. Your Calathea wants to be watered. And, it wants more humidity. Consider buying a humidifier or setting up a pebble tray to increase humidity.

Is it normal for my Calathea’s leaves to wilt?

Yes, and no. You don’t want them to wilt, as that’s a sign of overwatering. However, don’t confuse their natural up and down movements with wilting. The leaves naturally change positions throughout the day.

Why are the pinstripes on my Calathea ornata faded?

Faded pinstriping is a result of too much direct sun. All that light exposure washes out the pink stripping.

Why isn’t my Pinstripe Plant growing?

A Calathea that is not receiving enough light will have stunted growth. To improve growth, move your Pinstripe Plant to a location where it will receive more indirect light. But, use caution, as too much direct sunlight will burn the leaves.

Should I dust my Calthea’s leaves?

Yes! Dust collects on the top of leaves, reducing the plant’s ability to absorb moisture. This means, when you’re misting it to increase humidity, it may not be taking it all in. Every month or so, wipe down the Calathea foliage with a clean, damp cloth.

What does abnormal leaf curling look like?

Curling leaves are a bit tricky because the Calathea leaves naturally curl up at night and then reopen in the morning. Also, new leaves start out curled and then slowly unfurl, sometimes with a loud popping noise.

Leaf curling that obviously isn’t new growth and is outside the expected morning/evening fold-up routine results from insufficient water. Re-evaluate the watering schedule, and don’t forget Calatheas like evenly moist, but never soggy or dry, soil.

The Pinstripe Calathea is a majestic houseplant with sensational foliage and impressive character. It isn’t the easiest, but if you’ve got the patience and determination, it will thrive. Calatheas can be picky and not very forgiving, but if you follow the instructions and provide the proper care, your Pinstripe Plant will burst with life while treating your home to an epic and glorious display.

About The Author

Teri Tracy

Hi, I'm Teri! I am a plant collector and former botanist who's spent years learning about and caring for plants from all over the world. I'm passionate about biodiversity and rainforest preservation, and I love to study newly discovered plants in my free time. 

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