ctenanthe burle marxii

Calathea Burle Marx Care: A Guide to this Unique Plant

Calathea Burle Marx is a unique plant that has garnered a lot of attention in recent years. Its colorful leaves and interesting growth pattern have made it a popular choice for gardeners and horticulturalists.

This guide will discuss the history, care, and propagation of Calathea Burle Marx plants. So if you are interested in learning more about this fascinating tropical specimen, keep reading!

Quick Summary Guide

  • Sunlight: bright, indirect sunlight.
  • Watering: Keep moist at all times, but avoid overwatering.
  • Fertilizing: fertilized monthly during the spring and summer months.
  • Humidity: high humidity levels, so misting or setting up a humidifier is recommended.
  • Temperature: warm temperatures between 65-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Propagation: can be propagated via division or stem cuttings.
  • Growth: approximately 24 inches (60 cm) in height.
  • Toxicity: non-toxic to humans and animals.

Introduction to the Burle Marx plant

Do you want an eco-friendly yet elegant plant to fill up that beautiful space in your room? Consider getting a stunning Calathea Burle Marx. It is an excellent choice for decorating indoor spaces while providing a fresh and serene aura.

Its awe-striking icy-blue leaves with an alternating dark and light green stripes pattern catch all the attention towards it. The oval-shaped leaves with tiger stripes band and seldom-purple undersides give it a unique fishbone look.

As a healthy growing plant, it reaches between 15-20 inches in height and about 12-15 inches in width. Calathea Burle Marx is highly valued for its foliage and unique nyctinasty movement.

It folds its leaves at night in response to the dark as if the plant is praying, which is why it is also commonly known as the fishbone prayer plant. This plant is easy to care for, requiring minimal effort.

Now we will move on to how to care for Calathea Burle Marx.

Origin and History

Calathea Burle Marx

Calathea Burle Marx shares its roots in southeastern Brazil rainforests, named after Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx. A famous research associate Dr. Helen Kennedy first scientifically explained it in 1982.

This astonishing plant belongs to the Ctenanthe genus, a native Brazilian species. The genus is further classified into 31 sub-genres. Calathea Burle Marx comes from a Marantaceae family; therefore, it has a distinctive propensity to fold its leaves at night. Its scientific name is Ctenanthe Burle-marxii.

You may look for it as a prayer plant, Calathea fishbone, Calathea Burle Armii ‘Burle Marx,’ Stromanthe Amabilis, and Calathea Amabilis. These plants are not too rare to find, considering their widespread popularity among plant lovers.


Calathea Burle Marx is highly adaptable and versatile regarding its light requirements. If you keep them in a closed space, ensure they get bright yet indirect sunlight from the source. They show their best growth under bright and indirect sunlight but do not mind partial shades.

Try to keep them near the east-facing window, or if you are placing them near a west-facing window, please be mindful of maintaining protection against the scorching direct sunlight with the help of blinds or curtains.

In addition, it responds well to fluorescent lights in offices or workspaces. In a natural environment, they love to grow under the shade of large trees, where they get indirect, filtered sunlight. The best time to keep it outdoors is during the morning or later afternoon hours when the sun is less intense.

You might need to avoid the two extremes, where it gets too much light or too less light. Direct sunlight might cause the leaves to turn pale and fade. In comparison, a dark environment will cause the stripes to dissolve as the leaves turn green to absorb as much light as possible.


Opting for fertile and healthy soil is essential for the plant to grow and bloom the best. The soil helps retain the water and drain the excess to keep the plant from over-drying or waterlogging. Therefore, a perfect blend of the orchid bark, peat, perlite, coco coir, coconut husks, and sand/charcoal is recommended.

Orchid bark will help the plant retain moisture and provide aeration to the roots. Peat will help with water retention, whereas perlite and sand/charcoal will help with drainage. Calathea Burle Marx loves slightly acidic soil but does not mind slight alkalinity in the environment.

Calathea Burle Marx needs aerated and healthy soil with a PH between 5.6 to 6.5. You can also choose from various available mixes from the market or create one with two-part peat and one part perlite combined with sand.

In addition, you may need to keep sufficient holes at the bottom of the pot for good aeration and drainage.


Calathea Burle Marx survives in a moist environment. Adequate watering is the key to avoiding overwatering or underwatering the plant.

Therefore, it needs more active watering in dry seasons such as summers or springs and less in winters. Always let the soil dry in between the watering. Check if the upper 1-2 inches of soil has dried up before adding the water.

Otherwise, waterlogging might cause root rot, where the roots do not absorb more water and nutrients, and the plant dies due to malnutrition.

You can tell if Calathea needs more water if its leaves start to wilt, bend, or curl. Lack of water will also cause the leaves to turn brown and crispy. If you see any of these signs, please water your Calathea immediately.


Calathea Burle Marx requires an enriched fertilizer mix of potassium, nitrogen, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Potassium is essential for the growth of Calathea, whereas nitrogen helps with the greening of leaves.

Calcium and magnesium are necessary for cell wall development in new leaves, and phosphorus is a crucial nutrient for blooming flowers.

Since it is a slow-growing plant, it does not require vigorous fertilizing. Feeding it every month during its active growth seasons is enough for the plants to shine.

Winters and falls are often the resting periods where there is no need for fertilization. A diluted houseplant fertilizer will suit it the best.

Otherwise, you may use commercial fertilizers, but since they have higher concentrations of salt, it is advisable to dilute them or water the plant before supplementing it.

Over fertilization may cause fertilizer burns and eventually plant death.

You can use compost as a natural fertilizer for Calathea Fishbone Prayer Plant. Mix one part of the compost with two parts of perlite or sand and add it to the potting mix. This will help improve drainage while providing essential nutrients to the plant.


Warm temperatures work the best for Calathea Burle Marx. The temperature needs to be homogeneous and cozy for optimal growth of this tropical plant. Ideally, the temperature should range between 65°F to 75°F or 18°C to 24°C.

Your prayer plant can also tolerate higher temperatures up to 85°F or 32°C. Temperature below 55°F stunts the plant’s growth, which is why you need to protect the plant from constant lower temperatures.

Also, keep the plants away from direct ventilation, such as coolers, air conditioners, or doors in winter.


Calathea Fishbone Prayer Plant thrives in a moist and humid environment. It can get tricky sometimes to maintain suitable humidity, especially indoors.

Ideal humidity should be between 55-60%, which is possible in tropical areas, whereas, if you live in dry areas, be prepared to mist your fishbone plants at least three times a week.

The leaves of Calathea Burle Marx are large, and their surface area is much more extensive than other houseplants. They absorb a lot of water from the air to prevent dehydration and support transpiration.

If the air around your plant is too dry, the leaves will curl inwards and turn brown. Also, the plant might stop growing and eventually die if the humidity is not taken care of. Misting Calathea with distilled water or rainwater using a spray bottle is an excellent way to raise the humidity around your plant.

You can also place the pot on a pebble-filled tray filled with water. The water will evaporate and raise the humidity around the Calathea plant.

Another way to increase humidity is to group Calathea plants together to create a microclimate for each other and reduce transpiration.


Calathea Burle Marx reaches up to 24 inches in height when matured, and since it grows slowly, it rarely needs pruning. The leaves fan out, which increases its width up to 16 inches.

If the leaves start to stray or get too heavy on one side, you can prune them to give them a more symmetrical shape.

In addition, wilted, damaged, brown or yellow leaves or dead stems are also the ones that need pruning. The best way is to use sharp and clean shears to avoid infections or damage to the stems.


Your fishbone prayer plant needs adequate space and aeration to grow properly, which is why you need to report it every year, preferably in summer or spring.

Despite its slow-growing process, the plant may get a little bigger than the old pot size, and the roots might start showing at the bottom.

All you need to do is to get a pot inches larger than the existing one. Fill the pot with the new soil mix. Loosen up the roots from the old pot carefully and place them in the new one.

Make sure to divide the rhizomes into two parts for better absorption. Water the pot and place it near some indirect sunlight.


Propagation of the plants allows you to create a clone of your beautiful exotic plant using simple techniques! The best time to do propagation is when you plan to repot the plant in spring since it is an active growing season.

One of our favorite Calathea Burle Marx propagation methods is sectioning a mature plant:

  1. Take a new pot and prepare it with a fresh potting mix.
  2. Now, take a section of roots from your old pot and make a clean cut from the roots using clean shears.
  3. Make sure to cut the stem and leaves along with the roots. Your baby plant is ready to be potted.
  4. Add adequate water and keep it beside your old plant. It is an easier and more effective way to regrow your beautiful Calathea Burle Marx.

Another method is to grow Calathea from stem cuttings:

  1. Take a few inches long stem cutting from a Calathea plant with new growth. The cutting should have at least two leaves.
  2. Remove the lower leaves and dip the end of the cutting in the rooting hormone powder.
  3. Pot the cutting in fresh potting mix and water it well.
  4. Keep the pot in a warm place with indirect sunlight and wait for the roots to develop.
  5. Once the roots are strong enough, you can transfer the plant to a new pot.

Pet Safety

The best feature of Calathea Burle Marx is that it is zero percent toxic to any living being! Which means it is absolutely safe for your little babies. This plant is an excellent choice for pet owners, whether cats or dogs.

It’d be a great choice, even if you have allergies. Plant toxicity will be the least of your worries if you own a Calathea Burle Marx. Even after that, keeping your pets away from the plant is advisable because they might accidentally ruin its leaves while playing.

If you use fertilizer, it’s essential to remember that some of them might be harmful if ingested, so make sure you research and use a pet-friendly fertilizer if possible!

Common Problems

Calathea Burle Marx isn’t much of a problematic plant, but you may need to look out for common pests and diseases that might hurt your plant.


Most commonly, spider mites and mealybugs damage the plant. While watering, watch out for these insects. The earlier, the better. You may find insects feeding on the leaves or holes in the ones eaten already.

These insects like to live in groups, so if you spot one, there are more. You might find little white bugs or webbing on the Calathea’s leaves. These are sure signs of a mealybug or spider mite infestation.

Isolate the plant immediately to prevent the spread. To prevent it, gently wash out the damaged leaves with warm water and use an insecticide to prevent the plant from future bugs.

You can use neem oil or any other insecticide for Calathea Burle Marx to get rid of these pests.


Calathea is a low-maintenance plant and doesn’t usually get sick, but sometimes you may find brown patches on the leaves, or the leaves might start curling inwards.

Calathea is susceptible to root and stem rot caused by too much water or soggy soil. The first step is to check the drainage of your pot. If it’s good, then you’re probably overwatering your Calathea.

Allow the topsoil to dry out completely before watering again. If the problem persists, it might be time to repot in fresh potting mix.

Another disease Calathea is susceptible to is bacterial leaf spot. It’s a fungal disease that appears as small, water-soaked spots on the leaves. These spots eventually turn brown and kill the leaves. To prevent it, ensure you’re not overwatering and providing good airflow around the plant.

Other than that, the most common disease that can stunt your plant’s growth is fungal rot. For fungal rot, you need to cut the infected area using a clean knife and discard it with the already used soil.

Wash the existing pot using a disinfectant and repot it with a fresh fertilized potting mix.
If you take good care of your prayer plant using all the tips and tricks, we assure you healthier and fuller plants.


Q: Why are my Calathea leaves curling inward?

A: Calathea leaves can curl inward due to a few reasons – overwatering, underwatering, or pests. If you think you’re watering your Calathea correctly and there are no signs of problems, then it might be time to repot in a fresh potting mix.

Q: How often should I water my Calathea?

A: Calathea should be watered when the topsoil is dry to the touch. Water until the potting mix is evenly moist but not soggy. Allow the excess moisture to drain before putting it back in its spot.

Q: What type of potting mix should I use for my Calathea?

A: A well-draining potting mix is best for Calathea. You can use a peat moss-based potting mix or make your own by mixing equal parts perlite, peat moss, and coarse sand. Add some organic matter to the mix for added nutrition.

Q: Is the Burle Marx plant the same as the Calathea Fishbone Prayer Plant?

A: Calathea Burle Marx and Calathea Fishbone Prayer Plant or the Ctenanthe Burle-marxii are the same plants. They have several different names, but they are all Calathea Burle Marx!

Q: What is the Best Fishbone Prayer Plant Propagation Method?

A: The best way to propagate Calathea is by division. You can divide the rootball and pot each section up individually.

Make sure each section has a few leaves and its own root system. Calathea can also be propagated by stem cuttings.

Take a few inches of stem, remove the lower leaves, and pot it in moistened potting mix. Keep the cutting in a warm, humid spot until roots develop.

Q: Is Burle Marxii a Prayer Plant?

A: Yes, Calathea Burle Marxii is a Prayer Plant. The leaves of the plant fold together at night, making praying hands appear.

Q: How do I get rid of mealybugs on my Calathea?

A: Mealybugs are tiny, white pests that feed on plant sap. They can cause Calathea leaves to be yellow and eventually drop off.

To get rid of mealybugs, gently wash the affected leaves with warm water and use an insecticide to prevent the plant from future bugs. You can also try using a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to kill mealybugs on contact.

Q: Help! My Calathea leaves are turning brown and dying. What’s wrong?

A: If Calathea leaves are turning brown and dying, it could be overwatering, underwatering, or pests. Ensure you’re not overwatering the plant and that the potting mix drains well.

If the problem persists, it might be time to repot in fresh potting mix. You can also try using an insecticide to prevent pests from causing further damage.

Q: Should I mist my Calathea every day?

A: Calathea enjoys high humidity, so misting the leaves daily or placing the plant on a pebble tray will help increase the humidity around the plant.

Be sure to not mist the leaves if they are already wet from watering, as this can cause fungal diseases.

Final Thoughts

We hope this Calathea Burle Marx care guide helped teach you how to take care of this unique plant! With the right amount of water, light, and fertilizer, your Calathea Burle Marx will thrive and bring you years of enjoyment.

Have any other questions about Calathea Burle Marx’s care? Leave a comment below!

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