Plant Profile: Calathea lancifolia / C. Insignis

Calathea lancifolia or C. insignis, which usually goes by the name ‘Rattlesnake Plant’, is coveted for its beautiful foliage.
The leaves have a spotted topside and a lovely dark purple underside.
The perks of this plant is that its stunning and its relatively easy to care for.

How to Care for the Rattlesnake Plant


This plant is native to the Brazilian rainforest, so the amount of light it receives is on the lower side.
In your home, its always best to replicate the native conditions as closely as possible – of course minus all the insects and unbearable humidity – but do your best. In terms of light; the brighter the better, but avoid direct sunlight as this will burn the leaves.
A general rule for lower-light plants is that ‘if your plant can see the sky – its getting enough light’.


Keep the soil moist, but ensuring not to over-water your plant. Always go for a planter with drainage to avoid root rot.
In winter months, cut down on the watering and only water when the soil is dry to the touch.
If you see the need to increase humidity, place your pot on a pebble tray over water.


To ensure good drainage, use a loose potting mix. I recommend a mix of 2 parts peat and 1 part perlite.


Fertilise your plant monthly during the growing season, using a balanced water-soluble fertiliser. Ensure the soil is moist before fertilising.


Propagation can only be done via rhizome separation. If you find that your plant has outgrown its pot, or has stunted growth, consider propagating it. Remove the plant from the pot, and cleanly separate the rhizomes with a sharp knife or cutter. Always ensure to have at least one leaf per cutting and healthy roots.

Possible Problems

Spider mites – Keep your soil moist and your plant well fertilised to avoid an infestation of spider mites. Clean your plant every two weeks with a clean cloth, and mist regularly. If you need to treat the infestation – visit the post on pest control here.
Browning leaves – Keep you soil evenly watered and moist to avoid leaves crisping. Also avoid direct sunlight which can cause burning.
Limp stems – This is a serious problem and usually caused by overwatering. This will quickly kill the plant if the problem is not attended to immediately.
Curling leaves – This can be to low humidity, or the plant being under-watered.