Rattlesnake plant, scientific name Calathea lancifolia, is a popular variety of the Calathea plants. It is great for those who wish to have a tropical vibe in their home. This is a great plant to grow for its magnificent foliage.

Just like other varieties of Calathea plants, this one is a bit demanding. As such, it is not a perfect choice for beginner gardeners and those who want to spend less time caring for their plants. However, if you wish to invest some time and energy you will sure be rewarded. Rattlesnake plant is gorgeous and can truly improve the look of your home.

A good thing about the Rattlesnake plant is that, while it can be a bit demanding, it is actually less demanding than other common Calathea varieties. It means this plant is suitable for those who want to grow a Calathea in their home but do not want to have a plant that is too demanding or difficult to care for.

Basic Plant Facts

Rattlesnake plant (Calathea lancifolia) is often sold under the name Calthea insignis, which is the plant’s former scientific name. Keep this in mind when you go shopping for a Rattlesnake plant in a nursery or garden center.

This plant is native to Brazil. In nature, Rattlesnake plant lives in warm and moist areas of the rainforest. It needs plenty of warmth and moisture to thrive. At the same time, it doesn’t do well in strong, direct light so this is something to keep in mind.

In its natural habitat, Rattlesnake plant blooms in late spring and early summer. However, it is not likely to bloom indoors so these plants are mainly grown for their gorgeous foliage.

This is a relatively tall plant. The leaves can grow to be more than 30 inches tall. A good thing about the Rattlesnake plant is that it’s not toxic to pets (cats and dogs). It means you can grow it in your home alongside your pets without any fear that the plant might harm them.

Gorgeous Foliage

Just like most of the other varieties of Calathea plants, Rattlesnake plant has gorgeous foliage. This is the main reason people choose to grow it in their homes.

The leaves of the Rattlesnake plant are marked with various shades of green. The undersides of the leaves are reddish and purple, which also contributes to the plant’s beauty. The leaves have wavy edges that only emphasize the markings and the beauty of the leaves. Many Rattlesnake leaves have green spots that look like small leaves.

How to Care for a Rattlesnake Plant

Since this plant is native to tropical regions of Brazil, it requires plenty of warmth and moisture. It means it can’t do well in dry, cold areas. If you put your Rattlesnake plant in a room full of cold and dry air, below temperatures of 50 degrees F (10 degrees Celsius), it will get harmed. The most common problem you may encounter if it’s too cold and dry is the loss of leaves. You may notice your Rattlesnake dropping leaves or you may see brown spots on the leaves.

At the same time, keep in mind that the Rattlesnake plant is very resistant to the browning of the leaves. Unlike other Calathea plants, that easily develop brown spots, this doesn’t happen so often with a Rattlesnake plant. If it does happen it is a sign that something is seriously wrong and that you need to change the care regime. Most of the time, this problem develops due to coldness and low humidity.

The best way to make your Rattlesnake thrive is to plant it in a slightly sandy soil that allows for good water drainage. Make sure to keep your plant away from direct sunlight. Too much bright light is not good for your Rattlesnake plant. It will also make the leaves fade and lose those bright markings, which may affect the plant’s appearance. The best place for a Rattlesnake plant is an indoor patio or a room in your home near a window that doesn’t get much direct sunlight.

Keep in mind that Rattlesnake is a somewhat demanding plant, just like other Calathea varieties. However, among Calathea plant, this is probably the least demanding of them all. It means that it’s not so difficult to care for it, unlike other Calathea plants. Beginner gardeners interested in Calathea plants should probably go with a Rattlesnake plant because it’s much easier to care for than the other Calathea varieties.

However, keep in mind that you should never neglect or mistreat your Rattlesnake plant for too long. It may seriously harm your plant. Make sure to provide it with all the essential care conditions it needs to thrive:

  • Soil. Your Rattlesnake plant will thrive in potting soil that is 2 parts peat and 1 part perlite. It is important to choose a potting soil that can retain some moisture while also providing good drainage. However, make sure not to use too much drainage materials because it will make the soil lose moisture quickly. You should replenish the top part of the soil in the spring months. It will allow the plant to get fertilizer properly and to benefit from all the nutrients.
  • Light. This plant needs bright light but not direct light. As such, it’s best to keep it in a bright spot in a room that is away from direct sunlight.
  • Temperature. Rattlesnake plant thrives in temperatures between 65 degrees F and 75 degrees F (18 to 24 degrees Celsius). Make sure never to keep your Rattlesnake plant in a room that has a temperature lower than 60 degrees F (15 degrees Celsius). You should also make sure to avoid cold drafts and any sudden temperature changes.
  • Humidity. This is a plant that loves moisture, just like other varieties of Calathea. You can try misting the leaves to improve humidity but Rattlesnake plants actually prefer a tray with water. Simply place a tray with pebbles and water under the pot. It will help holding the moisture and increase the humidity levels. If this doesn’t work, consider investing in a humidifier.
  • Watering. You need to water your Rattlesnake plant frequently during the growing season, from May to August in particular. It is important to keep the soil moist, but never allow your plant to sit in water. Cut the watering down during the winter months. Only water when the top of the soil becomes dry to the touch.
  • Fertilizing. Make sure to fertilize your plant regularly with a balanced liquid fertilizer. Feed your plant once per month in the period from April to August. Fertilizer will improve the health of the foliage and make the leaves stronger and more impressive.

Repotting and Propagation

It is important to repot your Rattlesnake plant from time to time. As the plant grows, you will need to move it to a wider pot so the new stems and roots have enough room to grow. This is best done in spring. You will need to repot your Rattlesnake plant every year or every two years.

If the plant grows really big you may consider propagating it. Rattlesnake plants are best propagated by division. This should be done at the same time as repotting. Simply divide the plant by half or more segments and plant each segment into a separate pot. Make sure to carefully separate the stems of the each plant.

After repotting the segments, make sure to water properly but then give segments some time between watering to develop a new growth. Wait until there is new growth to start watering again.

Common Problems with Rattlesnake Plants

Here are some common problems with Rattlesnake plants you may encounter:

  • Leaves yellowing. This happens often with older leaves and is natural. However, if too many leaves become yellow it might be a sign of over-watering.
  • Brown spots on leaves. Sometimes, you may notice brown spots on the leaves, particularly on the tips of the leaves. This is commonly caused by air that is too dry and it’s a sign that your plant needs more humidity.
  • Curling of the leaves. This is a common sign that the plant is under-watered. Increase water and make sure to water properly. Another common cause of this problem may be air that is too dry. In this case, try increasing humidity levels around your plant.
  • Limp stems. Sometimes, your Rattlesnake may develop limp stems. This can be a serious issue that happens if the plant grows in a cold environment, especially if you over-water it. This can be very dangerous for the plant so you need to move it to a warmer spot immediately.

Photo credit: techieoldfox DSCN0782 via photopin (license)

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One Comment

  1. Janet

    Nowhere in info on the rattlesnake plant
    I purchased does it say what happens.
    In the daytime it spreads out its beautiful green with darker green spots but slowly in the nighttime the leaves go straight up and shows the wine colored back of the leaves. It’s like two different plants cause by the morning the leaves go back to laying out flat with no backs (wine) showing. Love it !!

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