Pinstripe Calathea (Calathea Ornata)
Most people dress up for special occasions and wear rugged safari clothes for a trip to the jungle. Calathea Ornata, on the other hand, flips the script and wears a pinstriped suit to the Amazon rainforest. Overdressed? When you look this good, there’s no such thing.
Native to Brazil, Peru, and southern Colombia, Calathea Ornata is relatively diminutive as far as rainforest plants go, reaching a mature size of only 2’ tall and 3’ wide. However, what it lacks in bulk it makes up for in absolute class, with designer-grade foliage that just screams refined sophistication. Its oversized, diamond-shaped leaves display a deep emerald hue complemented by thin, pink-to-white “fishbone” stripes that run along the leaf veins like the pinstripes on a fine suit. What’s more, every thick, glossy leaf shines like a freshly waxed marble floor on top, then finishes the ensemble with a solid, rich-yet-understated burgundy underside—classic cool. If there was ever a plant we could envision having a cocktail with James Bond on the French Riviera, it’s the Pinstripe Calathea.
Needless to say, Calathea Ornata looks fantastic anywhere in your home you can think to place it. Its care requirements are specific, but very similar to our own: It likes bright light but doesn’t want to stare directly into the sun, it likes to be warmer than 65F but cooler than 90F, it likes to stay hydrated but can get sick if it has soggy “feet” for too long or sits in a drafty spot … basically, if you’re comfortable, the Pinstripe Calathea will be, too. True, it does appreciate clean, room-temperature water and a little extra humidity, but those are easy requests to accommodate, and a small price to pay for a plant as uniquely beautiful and charming as the one-and-only Calathea Ornata.
Characteristics and traits of a Pinstripe Calathea (Calathea Ornata)
- Scientific Name: Calathea Ornata
- Genus: Calathea
- Family: Marantaceae
- Common Name: Pinstripe Calathea
- Indoor: All year round as long as temperatures are above 65F
- Outdoor Zones: 10-11, keep out of full sun
- Type: Perennial; propagated via division.
- Mature Height: 12-24”
- Mature Width: 24-36”
- Plant Height when Shipped: XXXXXX
- Growth Rate: Slow-medium
- Flower: Can produce clusters of small, orange flowers, but very rare with indoor specimens
- Foliage: Wide, bright green, spear-tip-shaped leaves with thin white-pink striping along the veins, not unlike the pinstripes on a suit.
Plant Care and Advice for Pinstripe Calathea (Calathea Ornata)
- Grown In: Inside: all zones year round, Outside: zones 10-11, but avoid full sun.
- Light Requirements: Bright indirect sun
- Water Requirements: Prefers moist, but not saturated soil
- Drought Tolerance: Average
- Temperature: Likes indoor room temp. 65-85F - 75-ish is ideal.
- Air Purification: Good
- Toxicity: Non-toxic
- Fertilizer: All-purpose or foliar fertilizer at half strength every 2-4 weeks (very diluted)
- Container Friendly: Yes - Be sure it drains well
- Planting: Like other Calatheas, the Pinstripe Calathea prefers peat-based soil that retains a bit of moisture but drains well. A 2:1 mix of peat moss and perlite works well, as does pre-mixed African violet soil. Repot as usual, taking care to work quickly so the plant does not dry out. Avoid adding mulch or pebbles as a finishing touch, as those can decrease the release of water vapor and decrease the humidity this plant loves.
- Plant Care: The vast majority of Pinstripe Calathea’s needs are common and easily met, such as “keep temperatures between 65-90F”, “place in bright but indirect light”, and “keep soil moist all the time, but soggy never of the time.” However, it does have a few more specific needs that beginners in particular should monitor closely. The first of these is water quality and temperature. It is recommended to let tap water sit for 24 hours (to reach room temperature and enable added chemicals such as chlorine and fluoride to dissipate) before using, or to simply switch to collected rain water, filtered or bottled water. Calatheas also dislike drafts and sudden changes in temperature, so keep them away from A/C vents, heaters, and the like. On the other hand, they adore high humidity (remember, they grew up in a rainforest), and will benefit greatly from light-but-frequent misting and/or the placement of an “evaporation tray” filled with pebbles and water under the plant’s pot. Finally, Calatheas are susceptible to fertilizer burn, but can be treated with a diluted (½ strength) liquid fertilizer every 2-4 weeks during the growing season.
- Expert Advice: As lovely as Calathea Ornata’s foliage is, it can also be used as a barometer to gauge the plant’s overall health. For example, too much direct sunlight can cause Calathea Ornata’s pinstripes to fade from pink to white (though so can simple age, so consider that as well). Yellow leaves can be a bit challenging to diagnose, as there are several possible causes ranging from too much or too little water, too little light, too much cold, or too many unwanted chemicals in the water (dissolved fluoride, mineral salts, etc). Or the leaves could just be old and self-pruning. You’ll need to be patient and meticulous to suss out the cause, but careful observation makes it easier. Calathea Ornata appeals to a number of plant pests (It’s the suit. Pests dig the suit). The most common is spider mites, which can be treated with neem or soapy water. But aphids, mealybugs, scale insects, fungus gnats, caterpillars, snails, and slugs have all been found on Calathea Ornata as well, as have various types of non-beneficial soil nematode and fungal infections, including pseudomonas leaf spot, alternaria leaf spot, helminthosporium leaf spot, fusarium, pseudomonas blight and cucumber mosaic virus. Calathea Ornata is quite challenging to propagate from shoots, and the extreme rarity of flowers makes seed a faint hope at best. However, simply dividing the plant into several smaller plants when repotting is an easy and effective way to turn one plant into several.