Calathea Lancifolia

Rattlesnake Plant

Also known as Calathea lancifolia and by the more commonly known name, the Rattlesnake Plant. Popular for people wanting to achieve a tropical theme (with this species used as foliage).

If you are interested in buying these, watch for the name Calthea insignis because that is the Rattlesnake Plant’s former scientific name.

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A plant native to Brazil where it thrives in warm and moist areas of the Brazilian Rainforest and blooms in the late spring and early summer months.

What it Looks Like: A Rattlesnake plant is a fairly tall, with leaves that can grow 30 inches tall or more. The leaves don’t just make this plant tall though, it also contributes to its beauty....

They are beautifully marked with various shades of green, wavy edges that magnify those shades, and green spots that resemble small leaves. Even their undersides do not lack in magnificence, being a reddish-purple shade.

Displaying: Because this plant is native to Brazil’s tropical climate where it is moist and warm, that is what it prefers. If your plant is exposed to cold or dry air (50ºF or 10ºC), there is a possibility that its leaves could start to droop or turn brown even though this is one of the most restraint plants when it comes to browning leaves.

The Rattlesnake also prefers slight sandy soil that allows good water drainage. When you place this plant in your home, don’t put it in direct sunlight, because it will start to lose those beautiful green spots. The best place to put it would be in an indoor patio or in one of the rooms in your home near a window that doesn’t have the sun directly facing it.

Care Level: This species is not that difficult to care for. However, if you mistreat it for too long (stop watering, let it get cold), it will stop thriving and might even die. One thing you should not do is use leaf shine products on Rattlesnake plants; it does more harm than good.


Origin: Brazil.
Names: Rattlesnake Plant (common). Calathea Lancifolia and C. Insignis.
Max Growth (approx): 30" tall.
Poisonous for pets: Non-toxic to cats and dogs.
Picture of calathea lancifolia

Plant Care

Temperature: Room temperatures that average 65-75ºF (18-24ºC) and no lower than 60ºF (15ºC). Avoid drafts and sudden temperature changes.
Light: A good bright spot within a room or conservatory without direct sunlight is advised. Too much direct sun will cause issues.
Watering: During the growing season ( May - Aug) water frequently. Always keep the soil moist (not waterlogged). During the winter cut this down and only water when the top soil has become dry to the touch.
Soil: 2 parts peat/1 part perlite would be suitable. The soil needs to be able to retain some moisture while also being able to drain (too much drainage materials used is not advised). Replenish the top soil in the pot in the spring months so that the plant can get new fertilizer and nutrients.
Re-Potting: As the plant grows, you may have to get a wider pot so the roots and new stems have more room to grow. If you do not have a wider pot or just by choice, you can divide the plant in half or fourths and repot those divided.
Fertilizer: Use a balanced liquid feed to encourage the foliage to look healthy and more attractive. Feed once a month from April - August.
Humidity: Since the plant loves moist areas, you can leave a tray under your pot with pebbles to hold moisture from the water that escapes from the hole on the bottom of the pot so the plant remains moist. You can also use a humidifier for this task.
Propagation: Divide the parent plant at repotting time. This involves removing the plant from the pot and separating the stems for each new plant you wish to create. Water the plants after repotting, then give time between watering to prevent problems, now wait for new growth.

Potential Problems

  • Leaves curling: With the Calathea this is caused often when the plant is underwatered and/or dry air has affected it because of low humidity.

  • Yellowing leaves: Older lowers leaves can sometimes yellow, that is natural, but if many do then overwatering could be an issue.

  • Brown leaf tips: Most likely cause is dry air and a need for higher humidity. Increase levels as best as possible.

  • Limp stems: Limp stems can be a serious issue caused when the plant is overwatered in cold temperatures. This can eventually affect and kill the whole plant if not attended to quickly.

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