Rattlesnake Plant (Calathea Lancifolia)
As a rule, it’s a bad idea to have a rattlesnake running loose in your home. Sure, they cut down on the mice, but you’re always tripping over them or having to run to the store for more antivenom - It’s a hassle. But there are exceptions to every rule, and this rattlesnake is so unique, so eye-catching, and such a great addition to your home that it’ll have you checking out herpetology blogs.
Like its namesake, Rattlesnake Plant (scientific name: Calathea Lancifolia) stays close to the ground with a mounded, multi-stemmed habit. While it may reach 36” tall in its native habitat in the Amazon rainforests, in the home it tends to top out at 24” high and equally wide. That’s just fine with us, as it gives us a better look at this plant’s eye-poppingly exquisite foliage. The leaves, which are typically angled tips-skyward, are long, often 12” or more, with ruffled edges, a glossy (almost lacquered) surface texture, and unmistakable markings. While the undersides are a bold burgundy, the topsides are bright yellow-green with offset rows of dark green splotches. Taken all together, the leaf’s markings, ruffles, and upright position create an abstract resemblance to a snake’s rattle—and even if you don’t see the “rattle” (we did say abstract, right?) there’s simply no way to miss the sheer beauty of this plant.
Rattlesnake Plant enjoys bright indirect light but recoils from direct sun. It prefers moist (but not waterlogged) roots and well-drained, peat-y soil, and absolutely adores humidity. It’s a showpiece by any definition of the word, and looks fantastic in any setting in any home. Trust us: You’ll want to get bitten by this rattlesnake.
Characteristics and traits of a Rattlesnake Plant (Calathea Lancifolia)
- Scientific Name: Calathea Lancifolia
- Genus: Calathea
- Family: Marantaceae
- Common Name: Rattlesnake Plant
- Indoor: All year round as long as temperatures are above 65F
- Outdoor Zones: 11-12
- Type: Perennial; propagated via division
- Mature Height: 18”-24” indoors, 24”-36” outdoors
- Mature Width: 24”
- Plant Height when Shipped: XXXXXX
- Growth Rate: Slow-Medium
- Flower: Possible outdoors with 2”-4” conical spikes of small yellow flowers, but extremely rare indoors.
- Foliage: Thin, stiff, ruffle-edged, pointed leaves of bright green marked with offset rows of dark green splotches. Purple undersides.
Plant Care and Advice for Rattlesnake Plant (Calathea Lancifolia)
- Grown In: Inside: all zones year round, Outside: zones 11-12
- Light Requirements: Indirect, bright to medium-low light. Direct sunlight can scorch leaves.
- Water Requirements: Roots should be constantly moist, never saturated. Allow the top inch of soil to dry between waterings.
- Drought Tolerance: Good
- Temperature: Likes indoor room temp. 65-85F - 75-ish is ideal. If outdoors, bring inside when temp falls below 60F.
- Air Purification: Good
- Toxicity: Non-toxic
- Fertilizer: Feed general or foliar fertilizer at half strength 1-2 times per month during warm months.
- Container Friendly: Yes, with adequate drainage
- Planting: Repot every two years using airy, well-drained, peat-based soil such as African violet mix. Be careful to set the plant in soil at the same height it was before, as planting deeper can allow soil contact too high up the stem and lead to stem rot. Rattlesnake Plant can be divided during repotting to create more “snakes”.
- Plant Care: Rattlesnake Plant is accustomed to the bright-but-indirect dappled light of the Amazon rainforest floor. In the home, this means giving it as much light as you can, but that light must be indirect. Placed in direct sunlight, the plant’s leaves will scald and wither, which is a terrible look for both reptiles and plants. As one might expect from a plant native to a rainforest, Rattlesnake Plants absolutely love humidity. To make them feel more at home, mist them lightly often and/or place their pot on a slightly wider tray filled to the top with pebbles and ½ way with water (the water will increase humidity as it evaporates). Your snakes will love you for it. These plants prefer temperatures in the 65-90F range and react badly to sudden temperature changes (so keep them away from drafts, A/C or furnace vents, etc). Calatheas are sensitive to impurities in their soil and water. To address this concern, it’s wise to either use distilled, bottled or rain water or allow tap water to sit for 24 hours before giving it to the plant, which allows the water to reach room temperature and additive “contaminants” such as fluoride and chlorine to dissipate out. It also means care must be taken not to over fertilize, as salts can build up in the soil and damage the plant. Feed only half-strength balanced liquid fertilizer every 2-4 weeks during the spring and summer and flush the soil every month or two (or any time you see white crust atop the soil) to wash away any excess salts (being careful not to let the soil get waterlogged).
- Expert Advice: As with most plants, the greatest threat to Calathea Lancifolia is fungal root rot. Drainage is a must. Be sure to use peat-based soil, which helps retain moisture while still enabling drainage, and be careful to not overwater. While Calathea Lancifolia does not have any major pest weaknesses, the usual suspects of spider mites, aphids, mealybugs, and scale insects can appear. Treatment with neem oil or herbicidal soap is usually enough to set things right again. Calathea Lancifolia can also contract a number of fungal diseases, treatable with copper fungicide. If the plant’s leaves curl or turn brown at the tips, the plant likely needs more humidity. Yellowed leaves can mean many things in a Calathea, so some detective work may be required. Start by examining your watering routine and make sure the plant isn’t too wet or too dry. After that, check light levels (it may need more), water purity, water temperature,and air temperature. With patient observation and persistence, you’ll pinpoint the culprit and the plant will recover. Calathea Lancifolia is most easily propagated via division. When repotting, carefully split the root ball into smaller parts, each with some stems and some roots, and plant each piece in a separate container, making sure the new soil rises to the same spot on the stem as it did in the original pot (to avoid stem rot).