Calathea rufibarba care guide

In this guide you'll learn: How to care for your Calathea rufibarba plant and
answers to FAQs to keep your plant happy

In this guide you'll learn: How & where to buy the calathea rufibarba, how to care for your plant and answers to FAQs to keep your plant happy

About the Calathea rufibarba

The Calathea rufibarba is famous for its long, velvety soft, crinkle-like leaves, giving any indoor space a tropical feel and touch of style.

Also known as the velvet calathea, furry feather and prayer plant, this stunning tropical plant comes from Bahia state in northeastern Brazil, and grows to 3 feet in height and can make any home or office space that little bit more interesting.

The rufibarba needs higher than normal room humidity, bright indirect light and well-draining soil to help it thrive, which is more than achievable with a bit of care and dedication but may not be suitable if it’s your first houseplant.

Its leaves are a deep green and have soft hairs that give them a velvet-like feel. The leaves have a slight crinkle, are long and slender, and grow tall upon long stems, making it a very unique houseplant that will catch the attention of guests.

Relatively easy to care for with once-weekly watering, requiring no special equipment or growing mediums, if this is the tropical plant for you, see our buyers guide below, and our full care guide here.

Calathea rufibarba in the House & Office

The Calathea rufibarba should be placed in a bright spot a few feet from north, east or west-facing windows, and around 5 feet or more from a south-facing window, as it likes bright but indirect light.

You should make sure that it doesn’t see direct light, as the strong sun will scorch its leaves.

This houseplant is native to northeastern Brazil where it sits under tropical trees that dapple the hot sun, filtering the light so that these plants don’t burn. In these conditions, it gets a high humidity level of 60% and above, but in the home, it will do well with humidity above 50%.

To keep your velvet calathea happy, place it in a bright area of your home or office, at least 5-6 feet from a south-facing window, or less for others, and keep it together with other plants, mist it daily, or set it on top of a pebble tray of water to increase the local humidity. 

If it seems unhealthy, try adjusting its position, check the humidity level and change the watering habits. Watering with rainwater is best as tap water can contain too many minerals that Calatheas dislike.

To supplement with artificial lights, provide 10,000 to 20,000 lux when measured with a light meter.

This plant is an excellent option for homes and offices as the large leaves produce ample amounts of clean air, and trap dust which can be easily wiped away.

Calathea rufibarba Size

Height:  60-100cm / 24-39in / 2-3.3ft

Spread: 30-60cm / 12-24in / 1-2ft

Calathea rufibarba Care

Light: The furry feather calathea needs bright, indirect sunlight for at least 6 hours per day, and should not be placed in direct sunlight such as from a south-facing window. If the plant is in bright light and looks unhealthy, you should try moving it further from the light, especially if it loses colour. Conversely, moving it from low light in the plant gets leggy. 10,000 to 20,000 lux on a light meter should be your ideal, but it can survive (not thrive) in lower light.

Soil: Fertile potting soil mix that is well draining is ideal, as Calatheas can easily experience root rot if they do not drain well enough. The potting mix should be moist, but not wet, and you can add more material to the soil to help it drain.

Watering: Watering once per week or when the top one inch of soil is dry should be ideal, but make sure to use rainwater or distilled water, as tap water contains minerals that will accumulate in the soil and cause slowed growth.

Humidity: Ideal for a bright bathroom or kitchen, humidity is a concern for this indoor plant as it will need a level of at least 50% or more. Ideally, you should provide 60%+ if possible. You can group your plants together, as they raise the humidity by losing water through their leaves, or you can use a humidifier, mist the plant daily, or stand the pot in a tray of pebbles and water. 

Feeding: Fertiliser should be used sparingly at half-strength at most every two weeks during spring and summer, but should not be used outside of the growing season. Reduce feeding if the edges of leaves begin to brown. You should do a quick leaf check at least once per month.

Temperature: Room temperatures of 18-24°C / 64-75°F should keep your plant happy, so long at it doesn’t reach 15°C / 60°F during the winter.

Ailments: Reduce light if the leaves become bland and lose vibrance, but not if the leaves turn yellow or brown. Yellow leaves suggest a lack of water, so you should increase watering with distilled or rainwater. Browning leaves mean that your plant needs more humidity, as the leaves are drying faster than they can draw water through the roots. Spider mites are a common problem which can be resolved by regularly spraying with weak oil and water, soap and water, or insecticidal soap solution.

Further Care: To help your plant thrive, read our full guide detailing everything your plant needs to grow into an impressive part of your collection, see our full plant care guide to the Calathea rufibarba.

Where to Buy Calathea rufibarba Online

  • Ebay (UK) / (USA)
  • Etsy
  • Bloombox Club (UK) / (USA)
  • Local Facebook Groups

The Calathea rufibarba is not difficult to find and should be available at many online houseplant stores and online garden centres.

Wherever you buy from, look out for sites and sellers with positive reviews and a good return policy, and only purchase from reliable vendors that have plenty of good ratings, especially if you buy from Ebay or Etsy sellers.

Do not settle for an unhealthy or damaged plant, and be sure to get a refund and schedule a return if you are unhappy. If the plant arrives with pests such as spider mites, you should keep this away from your other plants and return it to the seller.

FAQs

Is the Calathea rufibarba toxic to animals or humans?

Like all calatheas this plant is not toxic to you or your pets. 

How much humidity does it need?

While this house plant will be happiest with a high humidity level of around 50-60%, it can still do well with less. The lower the humidity level, the more unhealthy the plant will generally be.

You can increase the humidity level by grouping it together with other plants (as they lose water through their leaves and raise the humidity of the immediate area), or you can use a humidifier, mister/spray bottle or sit the pot on a tray of pebbles and water.

Does it flower?

While it is a flowering plant, it will produce small, yellow flowers, but this is not often and Calathea rufibarba flowers are not known for being too notable.

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About the Author

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Plant-lover with a life-goal to buy land across the UK to plant his own forest, James specialises in horticulture and botanical research, and has been growing and rewilding forests with trees, including endangered species, for over 15 years. He is an avid gardener, allotment owner, and aids in the running of a carbon neutral initiative in companies across the UK.


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