Freddie Calathea (Calathea Concinna 'Freddie')
Not all zebras hail from the savannahs and grasslands of Africa. In fact, our favorite “zebra” comes from the Brazillian rainforest. It’s Freddie Calathea (Calathea Concinna 'Freddie'), and while you can’t ride it like a horse, it’ll live comfortably in your bathroom or laundry room. Pretty good trade, we’d say.
A groundcover in its native habitat, Freddie Calathea (Calathea Concinna 'Freddie') forms a round circle of cheerful greenery roughly 24” high and wide. Like most prayer plants, it has medium-sized, heart-shaped leaves (slightly ruffled around the edges in this case) marked with unique patterning. In this particular species, the leaves sport a silver-green base color with thick, dark green stripes that angle up from the midrib to the leaf’s edge (which also has a thin bright green outline). It’s a fantastic, vaguely zebra-striped look that makes us smile every time.
Freddie Calathea is every bit a prayer plant, too. Those big, splashy leaves move with the sun throughout the day, seeking out the best light-absorbing angles, and fold up at night to “pray”. It’s a fairly durable plant, too. While it’s a bit picky about water quality and temperature, it’s happy in a wide range of lighting conditions and can bounce back quickly if it gets a bit parched. It also adores humidity, which makes it ideal for bathrooms and laundry rooms, which can often benefit greatly from a plant-based pick-me-up. Whatever room you place it in, Freddie Calathea is sure to please. After all, who doesn’t love zebras?
Characteristics and traits of a Freddie Calathea (Calathea Concinna 'Freddie')
Scientific Name: Calathea Concinna 'Freddie', Calathea 'Freddie'
Common Name: Zebra Plant, Prayer Plant
Indoor: All year in temperatures above 65°F
Outdoor Zones: 10-11
Type: Perennial evergreen; propagated via division
Mature Height: 12”-24”
Mature Width: 12”-24”
Plant Height when Shipped: XXXXXX
Growth Rate: Slow to Medium
Foliage: elongated heart-shaped leaves with lightly ruffled edges and a silver-green base color marked by wide, dark green stripes along the leaf veins
Plant Care and Advice for Freddie Calathea (Calathea Concinna 'Freddie')
Grown In: Inside: all zones year round, Outside: zones 10-11
Light Requirements: Bright indirect indoors, filtered sun or partial shade outdoors
Water Requirements: Spring/summer, water when top 1-inch of soil becomes dry. Fall/winter, decrease amount and frequency to avoid root rot.
Drought Tolerance: Good
Temperature: Likes indoor room temp. 65°F-85°F. If outdoors, bring in when temps fall below 55°F.
Air Purification: Good
Fertilizer: Give balanced general plant food monthly during spring and summer, none in fall and winter.
Container Friendly: Yes - with proper drainage
Like most tropical plants, Freddie Calathea is best repotted in spring. Choose a pot 1-2 inches wider in diameter than your current pot—anything larger runs the risk of retaining too much water and inviting root rot—and make sure it has a drainage hole to get rid of excess water.
As far as soil is concerned, you have a few choices. Some plant parents prefer pre-mixed African violet soil, and that can work. Many others choose to mix their own soil. A 2:1 mix of peat and perlite works well. Even better, whip up a 2:2:1 blend of peat moss, perlite, and potting soil or compost.
Whatever soil you choose, resist the urge to top-dress it with a “mulch” of stone or pebbles. They prevent evaporation, which can lead to soggier soil, too little humidity, or both.
Repotting is also a great time to multiply your Freddie Calathea via division. Carefully separate your existing plant into two or more smaller plants and continue the repotting process as you normally would.
Indoors, Freddie Calathea does best when given bright indirect light, but it can handle medium light as well. In fact, it can often survive in low light as well, but its leaves will lose much of their silver coloration. Direct sun in the early morning is usually okay, but afternoon sun can scorch and/or fade or wilt the plant’s leaves. Outdoors, Freddie Calathea will need part shade or filtered light.
Water-wise, Freddie Calathea likes its soil moist, but not waterlogged. In the spring and summer months, when the plant is actively growing, give it a good drink when the soil is dry to a depth of 1 inch. In fall and winter, when the plant goes dormant, wait for the soil to dry to a depth of 2 inches and offer a bit less water to compensate for the fact that it will linger longer in the soil.
Freddie Calatheas are sensitive to water quality and temperature. Modern tap water often has additives such as fluoride and chlorine that are good for humans, but bad for plants. As such, it’s best to let tap water sit uncovered for 24 hours before using it, which will enable the water to reach room temperature and its additives to dissipate out. Barring that, you can also opt for distilled water or captured rainwater. Whatever water you choose, try to wet the soil rather than the leaves.
Freddie Calatheas love humidity. Given at least medium light, Freddie Calathea will do very well in rooms with above-average humidity, such as a bathroom or laundry room. No matter where you place it, increase the humidity around Freddie Calathea by giving it a light misting every day or two (emphasis on light watering—you don’t want water pooling up on the leaves). Another helpful humidity-boosting idea is to place the plant on a drip tray filled first with pebbles and then with water just a bit lower than the top of the pebbles (so the water doesn’t quite touch the pot’s underside).
As a rainforest native, Freddie Calathea is happiest in temperatures between 65°F-85°F and will begin to take damage at temperatures below 60°F. You’ll also want to keep them away from drafts (both warm and cold), air vents, or even radiators, all of which can cause sudden drastic shifts in the temperature and humidity around the plant.
Fertilize your Freddy Calathea with balanced general plant food once per month during the spring/summer growing season (April through August). No fertilizer is needed during fall and winter.
Calathea Concinna 'Freddie' will speak to you with its leaves, telling you what it needs. For instance, if the leaves start to fade or show white patches, they’re likely getting too much direct sunlight. However, pale leaves can also signal a need for more fertilizer—particularly one with nitrogen and possibly iron.
Brown leaf tips or edges are likely a sign that the plant needs more water. If the water amount seems fine, the plant could need more humidity or (especially if the burnt sections have a yellow edge) a sensitivity to something in the water. Check the Plant Care section for more on how to address these concerns.
Spotted leaves are another symptom of a parched plant. Curled or rolled leaves are another symptom of low humidity.
Drooping or wilted leaves can be tricky. It could indicate that Freddie Calathea needs more water, but it could also mean the plant is getting too much water. It could also be a sign of too much sunlight or fertilizer overdose. Examining the plant’s recent care history should help you determine which action to take.
Yellowing of a few older leaves is probably natural aging. Yellowing of lots of leaves or younger leaves could signal several different concerns: too much or (less likely) too little fertilizer, a temperature that’s too hot or cold, too many dissolved salts in the soil (likely from fertilizer), or even too much or too little light. Again, a close look at the plant’s environment and your care routines should help you narrow down the possibilities.
Rotten and/or limp stems are a symptom of overwatering or just plain too much cold air.
Calathea Concinna 'Freddie' is susceptible to a fair number of pests, including spider mites, aphids, scale, and mealybugs. Neem oil and Mite-X are both effective treatments in all cases, though you can often squelch infections with insecticidal soap or by dabbing pests with a swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. Good, old-fashioned mechanical removal can also work in many cases.
Diseases such as pseudomonas leaf spot and blight, alternaria leaf spot, and fusarium can occasionally afflict Calathea Concinna 'Freddie'—especially if the plant is stressed from overwatering.
If you see dark green or black, water-soaked spots on the plant’s leaves, treat with a copper-based fungicide/bactericide. However, if the spotted leaves begin to turn papery and brown, there’s a fair chance that the plant cannot be saved. Dispose of both the plant and even the soil to keep your other plants safe.
Fusarium can cause a plant’s leaves to become wilted and yellow with brownish veins. This is a soil-based disease, so there’s a chance the plant can be saved if the old soil is removed entirely, the pot sterilized with a 10% bleach solution, and the plant repotted in clean soil and treated with copper fungicide/bactericide every 7 days for a month.
Calathea Concinna 'Freddie' is easily propagated via division. When repotting, just prepare at least two new pots instead of just one. Pull the plant from its existing pot, brush away the soil until you can see the roots and stems, and gently divide the plant into at least two separate sections, each with a fair number of stems with both leaves and roots attached. Repot each section as its own plant and you’re all set.