An unusual prayer plant that’s prized for its unique and dazzling blooms more so than it’s leaves, the Calathea Crocata ‘Tassmania’ makes a stunning addition to any collection.

Also known as the Eternal Flame Plant, it’s flowers bloom a gorgeous fire orange, each lasting up to 3 months at a time.

You’ll be glad to know that Calathea Crocata care isn’t too difficult, but it does require some specific tending and maintenance.

SHORT CARE SUMMARY

In short, to care for your stunning Calathea Crocata you’ll need to keep it in a rich, lightweight potting mix, a fairly high humidity level and a temperature that ranges between 65F to 82F (18C to 27C).

Water when the top 1-2 inches of soil is on the drier side and fertilize with a complete nutrient fertilizer once a month during Spring and Summer.

CALATHEA CROCATA’S BRIEF, BUT OLD BACKSTORY

The Calathea Crocata was originally discovered in Brazil way back in 1875 by Jorriss and Charles Jacque Eduoard Morren, both Belgian botanists and horticultural professors.

It was during this expedition that they took over 268 samples of this unknown plant to preserve for future study.

You can still see some of the original specimens they took – here’s a copy of sample number 72 and 91.

samples of the calathea crocata plant taken in Brazil

Now, these beauties can be found in the deep, tropical canopies of Colombia, Paraguay, Peru and Ecuador. Though some ‘escapees’ were found in Hawaii in the 1970’s! 

HOW TO CARE FOR CALATHEA CROCATA

Calathea Crocata is often deemed as a fussy, overly demanding plant that hates everything, including you, the owner, but with a little know-how, you’ll quickly see how easy caring for this plant really is.

SOIL

Instead of potting your Calathea Crocata in a normal potting soil, opt for a blend of coco coir, perlite, vermiculite, fine pumice, worm castings and activated charcoal!

My calatheas love this mix, and so far I’ve not had any issues with curling leaves, root rot or browning edges! 

If you want to create your own mix, try this formula;

  • 50% coco coir
  • 10% perlite
  • 10% vermiculite
  • 10% activated charcoal
  • 10% worm castings
  • 10% fine pumice

Vermiculite satisfies this plant’s thirsty nature and keeps the soil moist long after you’ve watered it.

Activated charcoal helps to absorb any impurities that could be added to the soil from things such as tap water, whilst pumice and perlite aids in creating a lightweight, airy and well-draining mix.

Alternatively, you could just buy a premade calathea or maranta soil mix. Just make sure it’s light, airy, well-draining but also holds some moisture.

LIGHT PREFERENCES

Any flowering plant usually needs lots of bright, indirect light. The Calathea Crocata is no different.

To keep those signature fire orange blooms shining bright you’ll want to keep it in 300-400FC (footcandles).

You can measure this using a light meter which can be picked up for around $25.

Anything below 200FC will result in a loss of color and stunted growth.

In terms of direct light, you *can* keep calatheas in cool direct light for 1-2 hours a day, but I don’t recommend any more than that otherwise you might spot browning or crispy edges.

WATERING

Calatheas are very thirsty, much thirstier than their philodendron companions. They enjoy regular waterings in the Spring and Summer months when temperatures soar and humidity levels are higher.

The key is to keep your Eternal Flame Plant’s soil evenly moist at all times. Not soggy, but damp. The addition of vermiculite helps with this.

Water when the top 1-2 inches of soil are on the drier side.

You can use a chopstick or other wooden stick to tell how dry or wet your plant’s soil really is.

Plunge it into the soil, leave it for 30-60 minutes, take it out and see what you observe.

  • Wet soil will cling to the stick and will turn it a darker shade.
  • Moist soil will turn the sticker a slightly darker shade but no soil will stick.
  • Dry soil will do neither – you’ll see no change at all.

Oh, and make sure you water with either rainwater or distilled water. Calatheas are a little picky when it comes to impurities in tap water.

If you have chlorinated or fluorinated water, let it sit for 24-48 hours before watering. This will help some of the impurities to evaporate.

This is best practice for all plants but especially with these beautiful gems. 

TEMPERATURE

Calathea Crocatas are true heat lovers. They do originate from the jungle floors in Brazil after all.

In its native habitat, it grows in a temperature of 65F to 85F year round. You’ll want to keep it in the same temperature range indoors.

Anything less than 60F is too cold for this tropical dweller. Avoid excessively hot or cold draughts too – this plant is not a fan.

HUMIDITY

A key part of Calathea Crocata care is keeping the humidity levels high.

This is one area you absolutely don’t want to skimp on, otherwise your plant might just suffer from jungle homesickness (I kid, but it can cause browning problems down the road).

Maintaining a humidity of 60-85% is ideal, but the higher the better.

To increase humidity levels try grouping your plants together and placing a small humidifier near your collection. Both methods are effective.

A word on misting – it’s got zero benefit to the plant, and can cause nasty bacterial and fungal infections to start if the air circulation in your home isn’t great.

FERTILIZER

Most Calatheas aren’t heavy feeders. Applying a diluted balanced liquid fertilizer once a month in the summer and spring months is enough.

I personally have loved and used dyna gro’s 7-9-5 NPK formula, as well as marine phytoplankton and fish emulsion. All are fantastic and provide a solid nutrition palette for your plant.

Just make sure not to feed in the winter months when your plant has entered its growth dormancy phase – it’s incredibly easy to upset your soil’s natural pH balance with fertilizer in these months.

As a general rule of thumb, dilute to 50% strength of whatever is mentioned on the bottle. This prevents any nasty chemical fertilizer burns, which houseplants are susceptible too.

PRUNING NEEDS

Calatheas don’t need much pruning, if at all.

Although, it’s best practice to trim and prune any dead, damaged or diseased foliage as soon as it appears – these won’t ‘fix’ themselves no matter how much TLC you give your plant. 

Once you notice the flower blooms starting to droop and wither, you can prune them at the base of the spike. This helps to encourage more growth next season.

REPOTTING

The only time you’ll want to repot these beauties is if you’ve got roots shooting out the drainage holes or you’ve had the plant in the same soil for more than a year.

Calathea Crocatas aren’t fast growers and rarely ever reach an unmanageable size, so rarely need repotting.

You can change the soil in the pot once a year to replenish the nutrients your plant has used.

To reduce transplant shock, it’s best to repot in the spring and summer months when the plant is actively growing. Try adding a couple of drops of superthrive to your soil too – it’s like a multi-vitamin for plants!

When repotting, try to opt for:

  • A pot that has at least 4-5 drainage holes
  • A pot that’s only 1-2 inches wider than the last
  • A well-draining, rich potting soil mix (see soil section above)

PROPAGATING THE CALATHEA CROCATA (A QUICK HOW-TO)

The best and easiest way to propagate a Calathea Crocata is by root division. This simply involves dividing the thick tuberous roots to create additional plants.

To do this you’ll want to:

  1. Unpot the plant and gently pull the roots apart. 
  2. Choose a section to cut apart – ideally, you’ll want a good section of healthy, white roots with at least 1-2 leaves and 3-4 stems.
  3. Make the cut, and pot the new plants in a well-draining, rich fertile soil mix (see soil section above).
  4. Keep soil evenly moist and care for as you would normally.

Propagating Calatheas is a fairly simple process.

FAQ – HELP! WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH MY CALATHEA CROCATA?

Having worked in a tropical botanical garden for some time, one thing that visitors always asked was ‘why on Earth do my calatheas never look like that?’.

By ‘that’ they were referring to lush green foliage, bright flowers and no browning or curling sections in sight.

The main problems I see with Calathea Crocatas are browning sections, root rot, necrotic tips and pale leaves. All fixable, you’ll be glad to know!

WHY DOES MY CALATHEA CROCATA HAVE CRISPY BROWNING MARGINS OR SECTIONS?

This question has two possible answers – low humidity and incorrect watering!

Calatheas are real tropical dwellers, and out of all the tropical plants in the world, these are some of the thirstiest and least tolerant plants of non-jungle like conditions.

They like their soil to be evenly moist and hate when their roots are dry. Take a look at your watering practices and regularly check the soil’s moisture level to assess whether this is the problem.

Similarly, if the humidity level is too low, this plant will protest and throw out a heap of brown sections and tips! A small humidifier should do the trick.

HOW TO SAVE AN OVERWATERED CALATHEA

If you’re noticing yellow leaves coupled with browning sections and tips, it’s likely you’ve been overestimating just how much water these beauties need.

If a plant isn’t getting enough light or is exposed to cooler temperatures, it won’t use as much water.

The best thing you can do to save an overwatered calathea is to change the potting mix. Some recommend just dabbing the soil with paper tissue, but you run the risk of damaging the already-damaged roots.

WHY ARE THE LEAVES ON MY CALATHEA CROCATA PALE?

Pale leaves or leaves losing their color indicate a lack of nutrients, especially nitrogen.

Try switching to a premium, complete fertilizer that has a good balance of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium as well as calcium, magnesium and iron. This should solve the issue.

WHY DOES MY CALATHEA CROCATA HAVE WET LOOKING PATCHES OR LESIONS?

If you’re seeing what look like water soaked spots or lesions on your calathea, you could be dealing with a bacterial infection known as Pseudomonas leaf spot.

These spots are caused by too much overhead watering and start off as a dark green before morphing into a black color.

Luckily, the Calathea Crocata isn’t overly susceptible to this infection, unlike the Calathea Roseo-Lineata.

It’s a hard bacterial infection to treat, but switch to base watering, increase the air circulation around your plant and change the potting soil if it’s too wet. If the infection gets worse, the plant will need to go (sorry!).

WHY DOES MY CALATHEA HAVE RED BROWN SPOTS ON ITS LEAVES?

If the spots are reddish-brown in color, are wet looking and are around 0.2-0.3cm in diameter, you could be faced with Alternaria leaf spot.

Alternaria leaf spot is a fungal infection, not bacterial. But, it can be completely treated by eliminating all overhead watering. A fungicide may also help speed up the recovery process. 

IS CALATHEA CROCATA TOXIC TO DOGS OR CATS?

Luckily, no. The Calathea Crocata plant is not toxic for dogs and cats. It’s a pet friendly plant to have in your home!

SUMMARY – A BEAUTIFUL AND COLOURFUL EASY CARE PLANT

Do you have any other questions, comments or issues with your Calathea Crocata? Let me know and I’ll update this guide with the answer.