Velvet Calathea (Rufibarba)
Velvet Calathea (Rufibarba)
Velvet Calathea (Rufibarba)
Velvet Calathea (Rufibarba)
Velvet Calathea (Rufibarba)
Velvet Calathea (Rufibarba)
Velvet Calathea (Rufibarba)

Velvet Calathea (Rufibarba)

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Velvet Calathea (Rufibarba)

We’ve described many things as “velvety smooth” in our day: buttercream cake frosting, NBA star Steph Curry’s three-point shot, actual velvet … and now Calathea Rufibarba, the Velvet Calathea—which may deserve the description even more than the frosting. 

At first glance, Velvet Calathea looks quite a bit like most other calatheas—which is to say, gorgeous. It’s lance-shaped leaves are long, leathery, and luxurious, with ruffled edges and a color that ranges from deep emerald on young leaves to almost blackish-green on older leaves. Of course, the leaves also sport rich violet/burgundy undersides, a calathea trademark. However, that’s where things get interesting. Those purple undersides are covered with soft, hair-like fuzz, which does indeed make them look and feel quite a bit like real velvet. The end result? A showpiece tropical plant that’s as exquisite to the touch as it is easy on the eyes.

Although it’s native to Brazil, Velvet Calathea fits in most anywhere, bringing class and elegance right along with it. It’s best when given bright indirect to medium light, lots of humidity (great for bathrooms), and frequent-but-short waterings that ensure its soil is always moist, but never waterlogged. It is a bit health-conscious: Cold air makes it unhappy, and it prefers water that is room temperature and free from impurities. But it’s fine with basic fertilizer and quick-draining potting mix. So go ahead: Indulge in a little velvety goodness—and maybe in some buttercream frosting as well, just because. 


Characteristics and traits of a Velvet Calathea (Calathea Rufibarba)


Scientific Name: Calathea Rufibarba (alternates: Phyllodes Rufibarba, Goeppertia Rufibarba)

Genus: Calathea

Family: Marantaceae

Common Name: Velvet Calathea, Furry Feather, Furry Calathea, Feather Calathea

Indoor:   All year at temperatures above 65°F

Outdoor Zones: 10-12

Type: Perennial; Propagated via division

Mature Height:  2’ - 3’

Mature Width:  2’ - 3’

Plant Height when Shipped: XXXXXX

Growth Rate: Medium-slow

Flower: Very rare - pale yellow flowers tucked in amid the leaves

Foliage: Long, thin leaves of dark, glossy green with ruffled edges and fuzzy purple undersides


Plant Care and Advice for Velvet Calathea (Calathea Rufibarba)


Grown In:  Inside: all zones year round, Outside: zones 10-12

Light Requirements: Bright indirect (best) to partial shade/medium light

Water Requirements: Small-but-frequent drinks. March-August, keep soil moist, but never damp. October-February, allow the top of soil to dry out between waterings.

Drought Tolerance: Average

Temperature:  Prefers indoor room temp. 65°F-80°F. Bring inside when temps fall below 55°F.   

Air Purification: Good

Toxicity: Non-toxic

Fertilizer: Optional. If desired, give general liquid feed at half strength twice a month March-August. 

Container Friendly: Yes - Be sure it drains well


Planting:

Repotting is best done during the spring or early summer. Like most tropical plants, Velvet Calathea prefers a quick-draining soil mix. However, it’s not particular about the fine details. Any light, peat-based mix should be fine, such as African Violet mix or a 2:1 blend of peat moss and perlite. Once you’ve selected your soil, choose a pot 1”-2” wider than the plant’s existing pot, make sure the new pot has a hole for drainage, and you’re ready to transplant.

It’s worth remembering that the best way to propagate a Velvet Calathea is by division, and the best time to divide a plant is when you’re already repotting it. So you may choose to prepare two smaller pots instead of one larger one. 


Plant Care:

Velvet Calathea is known for its ability to handle partial shade, medium light, or even low light. That said, it grows best and shows its best color in bright indirect light. Direct sun is likely to scorch its leaves, though. 

When watering Velvet Calathea, it’s best to give small, but frequent drinks during the spring and summer months. You want to keep the soil moist at all times, adding water whenever the top soil dries out, but never let the soil become saturated or soggy. During fall and winter, cut back on water to avoid the chances of root rot. Also, “impurities” such as added fluoride or chlorine can harm Velvet Calathea, so use distilled water, rain water, or tap water that’s been left uncovered for 24 hours to let the additives dissipate out.  

If you use good soil and repot every couple years, you don’t necessarily need to fertilize Velvet Calathea at all. However, if you want to give the plant a little boost, a half-strength dose of regular houseplant fertilizer once or twice a month should be welcome. But don’t fertilize during fall and winter. It’ll do more harm than good.

Velvet Calathea is a bit sensitive to temperature and humidity. To avoid these concerns, place the plant away from cold drafts, A/C vents, heaters (which can wreck humidity), and other sources of cold and/or dry air. Also, increase its local humidity by giving it frequent light mistings, placing it on a tray filled with 1” of pebbles and ¾” of water, or keeping it in a naturally humid room such as a windowed bathroom or laundry room.


Expert Advice:

If your Calathea Rufibarba develops yellow leaves, the most likely cause is too much water. If the soil is just wet, the plant may recover if you simply hold off on watering for a while. However, if the soil is significantly soggy, you may need to repot the plant immediately into drier soil to save it.

If your leaves are yellowing and you’re sure you aren’t overwatering, check to be sure you aren’t underwatering instead. Especially if the leaves are also brownish, wilted, or “crispy”.

If you’re convinced your watering is on point, yellowing leaves may indicate your Calathea Rufibarba may be getting too much light (especially if the patterns on the leaves are fading or you notice dark spots) or not enough nutrients (particularly nitrogen and iron).

Brown leaf tips can make your Calathea Rufibarba feel decidedly less luxurious. There are two likely reasons for this affliction: low humidity or impurities/extra fluoride in its water (remedies for both of which are outlined in the Plant Care section of this very listing). Fluoride can also cause dead spots on the leaves themselves.

While it’s helpful to clean the leaves of your Calathea Rufibarba with a damp cloth from time to time, avoid using “leaf shine” products, which can actually damage its leaves.

Two pests that seem to enjoy making their home on Calathea Rufibarba are scales and spider mites. Fortunately, scales can be handled with neem oil and spider mites can be removed via neem oil, insecticidal soap, or even diligent wiping of the leaves (especially underneath).

Like most calatheas, Calathea Rufibarba cannot be propagated via cuttings. However, it’s quite simple to divide the plant into smaller plants when repotting (see Planting section).

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 when you buy any 3 or more plants!

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And if you only order one or two plants, shipping is just $7.50 per plant!

 

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If you need us to hold an order for you, we can for a short time. In the warm months we can only hold orders for a week or two. The plants grow so fast they can become too large to ship very quickly. In the Winter things grow a lot slower and we hold orders due to bad weather a lot better. So if you are not going to be home the week you order, just drop us an email and we will be glad to hold your order.

Winter Shipping

  1. Do you ship all year long? Yes! In the cold Winter and hot Summer months we check each order destination to be sure the temperature is safe to ship your live plant. When the temperature borders on the "too cold" to ship side, we may choose to ship your plants with a heat pack at no extra charge. If the temperature is still "too cold" to ship, we will hold your order in the warmth of our greenhouses until we can find a safe window of shipping weather and you will be notified via email.

  2. Do you ship with heat packs? No need to request one. We will check the weather in your area and add one if the temperature is below safe shipping levels.

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  4. What do I do if my plants are damaged by the cold? Please take good photos of the box, packing materials and the plants and send them to: Happiness@TropicalPlants.com.