Calathea Rufibarba: What Are the Perfect Conditions for The Velvet Calathea?

The Calathea Rufibarba plant is native to the rainforests of Brazil, and like most of its Calathea family members, has a tendency to be a little fussy about its care. While it may require some time to learn about and practice dealing with its quirky care requirements, it is definitely worth the effort.

How to Identify Velvet Calathea

The key identifiers of this plant are:

  • Leaves that are long, thin, and wavy when they are young
  • Leaves that are light green when they are young
  • Leaves that turn dark green on their top and purplish-maroon on their bottom when mature
  • Leaves that are velvety on their bottom
  • Stems that are long, thin, and purplish-maroon

How to Grow Velvet Calathea from Seed

velvet calathea

This plant can be propagated via seed, but this method is difficult to do, it is usually propagated via division.  The steps for growing a Velvet Calathea from seed are:

  1. Purchase seeds from a reputable seller (sellers who price their seeds between $1 and $2)
  2. Create a mixture of soil and peat mixed with coarse sand  (the ratio should 1:1 soil to peat/sand mixture)
  3. Fill a plant container with the soil and peat/sand mixture
  4. Place the seeds half an inch into the soil
  5. Lightly water the soil
  6. Cover the plant container with a plastic bag to retain moisture
  7. Set the plant container in a warm area that receives bright but indirect sunlight
  8. Remove the plastic bag for a few hours every other day to allow the seeds access to fresh air
  9. Once the seeds have germinated and sprouted to two inches tall, they can be transplanted to larger containers

How to Propagate Velvet Calathea

This plant is best propagated new in the spring or early summer to limit shock. The most common method used to propagate a Velvet Calathea is plant division. The steps for doing this are:

  1. Carefully remove the plant from its current container
  2. Gently pull apart the plant’s roots so that each root section has at least one leaf, or, use a sterile cutting utensil to divide the plant’s rhizome.
  3. Fill new plant containers with potting soil
  4. Place the plant sections into the new containers and spread the soil around their roots to secure them into the containers
  5. Water the new plants
  6. Place the plant in a warm area that receives plenty of bright, but indirect sunlight
  7. Cover the plants with a plastic bag
  8. Once the plants begin to grow in a few weeks, the plastic bag can be removed

Velvet Calathea Growing Conditions

Since this plant is native to tropical regions of South America it prefers an environment that resembles its native lands.  It should be set in an area that has temperatures that stay above 65 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity levels that are at least 50%.  It should be kept away from cold drafts and air conditioner and heater vents.

A plant humidifier or pebble tray and a heat mat can be utilized to provide the heat and humidity this plant needs without creating an indoor environment that is uncomfortable for humans and pets.

How to Plant Velvet Calathea

Calathea rufibarba

This plant should be repotted when it shows signs of slowed growth, it requires more than two watering sessions a week, its roots are growing out of its container’s drainage holes, or its foliage looks too heavy for its current container.

Repotting should only be done in the spring or summer to reduce stress and the chance of shock. This process will benefit the plant by providing it with fresh soil and more room for its root system to grow.  The steps for repotting a Velvet Calathea plant are:

  1. Choose a plant container that is 2 inches larger in diameter than its current container
  2. Fill the plant container potting soil
  3. Create a hole in the soil for the plant to set inside
  4. Carefully remove the plant from its current container
  5. Gently dust off any excess soil from its roots
  6. Using a sterile cutting utensil, cut off any rotten roots
  7. Set the plant into the hole in the new container
  8. Spread the soil around so that the plant is secure in its new container
  9. Water the plant
  10. Set it in a warm spot with plenty of sunlight

Velvet Calathea Potting & Soil

This plant requires soil that drains water well but can still retain some moisture. It doesn’t like to sit in dry or soggy soil so it needs soil that will remain moist. Use a packaged Calathea soil mix or create a homemade soil mix.

Velvet Calathea Water Requirements

This plant requires moist soil all the time; it should never be allowed to sit in dry soil. That being said, it does not like soggy soil either; so, it should not be allowed to sit in standing water.

The best way to confirm that a Velvet Calathea needs a drink is to test its soil moisture. If the top inch of its soil is dried out, it needs a drink; however, if the top inch of soil is soggy, it does not need a drink.

When watering this type of plant it is highly recommended that only filtered, distilled, or rainwater be used. If tap water is used, the water should be set out for at least 24 hours so that excess minerals have time to evaporate. This plant is very sensitive to salt and minerals.

A plant watering app is a useful tool that will help track when a plant has been watered, set reminders to water it, and get answers to common plant care questions.

Velvet Calathea Light Requirements

This plant should be set in an area that receives plenty of bright, but indirect sunlight. It cannot handle a lot of direct sunlight.

Best Calathea Velvet Fertilizer

Since this plant can suffer from over-fertilizing, it is best to give it diluted feedings with a household plant fertilizer only during its growing season.

Best Velvet Calathea Companion Plantings

Clustering plants is not only a skillful way to decorate spaces, but it is also good for the plant’s health. Setting plants together will provide them with extra humidity, which is especially necessary for tropical plants, such as Calathea.

The following three plants are just a sampling of the many amazing plants that can be clustered with a Velvet Calathea.

Calathea Freddie

Calathea Freddie

This is a fussy, but lovely-looking plant from Brazil.  It features leaves that are striped in dark and light shades of green, hence its nickname, Zebra Plant. Even though it is fussy about its care regimen, its care requirements are very similar to the care requirements of Velvet Calathea, which means they will make great companion plants.

Light Requirements

Calathea Freddie is sensitive to sunlight and should not be set in direct sunlight.  It will grow best when set in an area that receives plenty of bright, but indirect sunlight.

Soil Requirements

Calathea Freddie requires soil that is well-draining.

Water Requirements

Calathea Freddie requires precision watering.  It needs moist soil at all times, but it does not grow well in soggy soil.  This is why properly draining soil and plant containers with drainage holes are necessary.

Pros

  • It is a beautiful and unique-looking plant
  • It is not toxic
  • It produces flowers

Cons

  • It is finicky about its water regimen
  • It is susceptible to root rot
  • It is difficult to propagate
  • It requires a lot of humidity

Calathea Jungle Velvet

calathea jungle velvet

This is another fussy jungle plant that comes from the same family as Velvet Calathea. Its excellent looks and similar care requirements make it a great option as a companion plant.

Light Requirements

Calathea Jungle Velvet should be set in a place that receives medium to bright but indirect sunlight.

Soil Requirements

Calathea Jungle Velvet requires soil that drains well but also retains some moisture.  The soil should contain one part perlite and two parts peat or coco coir.

Water Requirements

Calathea Jungle Velvet should be watered when the top half-inch of its soil is dry.

Pros

  • It is a unique-looking plant
  • It is not toxic

Cons

  • It is finicky about its care requirements
  • It is susceptible to infestations of mealybugs, scale insects, and spider mites

Calathea Magic Star

Calathea Magic Star

This is another member of the prayer plant family and features leaves that open in the morning and close and night. This plant, however, is much less fussy than other members of its family and this alone makes it a wonderful choice to cluster with a fussier friend.

Light Requirements

Calathea Magic Star should be set in an area that receives plenty of bright but indirect sunlight.

Soil Requirements

Calathea Magic Star requires soil that drains well but holds some moisture.

Water Requirements

Calathea Magic Star should be watered so that their soil is kept moist, but not soggy. It also needs plenty of humidity in its environment.

Pros

  • It is an elegant-looking plant
  • Its care requirements are similar to those of Velvet Calathea
  • It is not toxic

Cons

  • It is susceptible to root rot
  • It is susceptible to infestations of spider mites and mealybugs

Velvet Calathea Diseases and Common Problems

When caring for a plant it is best to treat them quickly when they show signs of an infestation or a disease.  This will give them a chance to recover and it may prevent other, nearby plants from being infected as well.

The most common problems faced by this plant are:

  • Leaves that are yellowing
  • Leaves that droop
  • Leaves with spots
  • Mealybugs
  • Scale Insects
  • Spider Mites

Velvet Calathea Treatments and Maintenance

velvet calathea maintanance

The best way to deal with any plant pests or infestations is to prevent them.  Learn how to properly water, feed, and provide sunlight for each plant and they will grow strong and healthy.

Along with this, it is best to schedule a regular pest and disease inspections to catch any infestation quickly and prevent it from spreading throughout the plant or to other nearby plants. Many types of pest infestations can be prevented by regular cleanings with neem oil.

If, however, a Calathea Jungle Velvet does show signs of an infestation or a disease, follow these steps:

Leaves That are Yellowing

This is usually a sign that the plant has been overwatered.  Tweak its watering regimen and it should recover.

Leaves That Droop

This often happens when a plant is transplanted, under-watered, or moved to a new environment.  Give it the care it needs and it should recover.

Leaves With Spots

This is usually caused by exposure to direct sunlight after the plant has been misted. It is not possible to remove these spots, but they can be prevented by properly humidifying the plant.

Mealybugs

This type of infestation looks like cotton that has attached itself to a plant’s stems and leaves.  To deal with an infestation of mealybugs, follow these steps:

  1. Spray a solution of alcohol and water on the leaves
  2. Rub the leaves with a cotton ball
  3. Coat the leaves in neem oil or insecticidal soap every few days

Scale Insects

This type of infestation looks like tiny brown bumps on the backs of the plant’s leaves.  To deal with this type of infestation, follow these steps:

  1. Spray them off with a hose
  2. Wipe the remainder off with neem oil and a cloth
  3. Prevent them from returning by coating the leaves with neem oil regularly

Spider Mites

This type of infestation looks like webbing spread over the plant’s leaves and stems. To deal with this type of infestation, follow these steps:

  1. Spray the plant with a mixture of 1 quart of warm water, 1 tsp. of dish soap, and 2 tsps. Of neem oil
  2. Wipe off the leaves and stems
  3. Repeat as necessary

Where to Buy Velvet Calathea Seeds Online

As is the case with most Calathea varieties, the seeds of this plant can be difficult to locate, but these shops are great places to begin searching for them.

Where to Buy Mature Calathea Velvet Online

Calathea Velvet Online

These are popular plants to purchase online and the following stores offer a great selection.

FAQs

Question: Is Velvet Calathea Toxic?

Answer: No, this is not a toxic plant.

Question: Does Velvet Calathea Have Air Purifying Qualities?

Answer: Yes, this plant is known to remove common household toxins from the air.

Question: How Big Does Velvet Calathea Grow?

Answer: This plant can grow up to 3 feet tall.

Concluding Thoughts

Velvet Calathea may be a little fussy about its care, but who can blame it when it is positively adorable? This plant may take some time to learn how to properly water it, but it will take no time at all to love it.

Research Citations

Grow Plants

The City Wild

My Little Jungle

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