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Marantas (Ma-RAN-tas), Calatheas (kal-uh-THEE-as),
Ctenanthes (tee-NAN-thees) and Stromanthes (stroh-MAN-thees)
are closely related, low-growing foliage plants that are among
the Maranta group. The plants’ leaves are notable for their
colored veins and blotched markings on backgrounds from white to
the darkest green. While some do flower, this is rare indoors.
With proper care, these plants can live indoors for years.
IN-STORE AND CONSUMER CARE
WATER In spring through
fall, water regularly with tepid water so the soil stays moist.
Don’t use hard water, and note that some plants are sensitive to
fluoride in tap water, which can cause brown leaf tips. Reduce
watering in winter.
LIGHT Keep the plants out of
direct sunlight; their colors can fade in light that is too
bright, or their leaves can be scorched. These plants do well
under fluorescent lights.
TEMPERATURE Average warm
indoor temperatures are appropriate; avoid temperatures below 55
HUMIDITY Mist the leaves
frequently, or use a pebble tray to keep the humidity level
FERTILIZER Feed regularly
with a half-diluted plant food; reduce feedings in winter.
PROPOGATION Plants can be
propagated through division.
PESTS AND PROBLEMS Watch for
spider mites, which are prevented through appropriate humidity
and can be treated with an insecticide. Too-dry conditions also
can cause leaf loss.
LEAF PROBLEMS Brown leaf
tips may be an indication of spider mites (see above) or may
mean the air is too dry. Remove the dead leaves, and mist the
plant regularly. Yellowing, curled or spotted leaves may
indicate underwatering. Limp stems indicate overwatering,
particularly in winter.
VARIETIES TO CHECK OUT
• Maranta tricolor, also M. leuconeura erythrophylla
(herringbone plant) - bold red veins distinguish this species,
which also sports yellow and green hues.
• M. leuconeura kerchoviana (rabbit’s tracks) - takes its common
name from the two rows of dark patches down its green leaves.
• Calathea crocata - unlike most Calatheas, this species has
plain leaves but is known for its orange-red flowers that arise
on thin stems.
• C. roseopicta - this showy species combines pale and dark
greens with a dramatic rose-colored underside to its leaves.
FAMILY Marantas, Calatheas,
Ctenanthes and Stromanthes are members of the Marantaceae
(arrowroot) family, which also includes Thalias.
WHAT'S IN A NAME Marantas
are named after Bartolommeo Maranta, a 16th-century Venetian
botanist. Calathea comes from the Greek “kalathos,” which means
“basket,” for the way the leaves cup the plants’ flowers.
Ctenanthe is from the Greek roots “kteis,” for “comb,” and “anthos,”
for “flower.” Stromanthes begins with the Greek root “stroma,”
HOME SWEET HOME The plants
are native to the tropical Americas, particularly Brazil.
IMPORTANT CROP Maranta
arundinacea, Bermuda arrowroot, is a species known to cooks
because its roots can be eaten fresh or made into flour, also
known as arrowroot. Some varieties of the Canna and Tacca
genuses also have edible roots and have arrowroot among their
common names, but they are not members of the Marantaceae
MEET THE FAMILY
MARANTA The common name
“prayer plant” describes the leaves’ habit of folding up at
night like praying hands. Most leaves are about 6 inches long.
CALATHEA The leaves of the
Calathea genus exhibit an array of beautiful patterns. Most have
a reddish underside, and they can grow up to 16 inches long.
CTENANTHE C. oppenheimiana
tricolor, commonly known as never-never plant, is the most
prevalent indoor variety and has thin leaves that grow up to 18
STROMANTHE Though less easy
to find, the most common species is S. amabilis. Its leaf
markings are similar to those of Calathea.
Some information provided by:
Botanica, by R.G. Turner Jr. and Ernie Wasson
The Chain of Life Network,
The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual, by Barbara Pleasant
The Houseplant Encyclopedia, by Ingrid Jantra and Ursula Kroger
The House Plant Expert, by Dr. D.G. Hessayon
University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural
Sciences (IFAS) publication HS542, April 1994, reviewed May
Stearn’s Dictionary of Plant Names, by William T. Stearn
Photos courtesy of The John Henry Company
You may reach Foliage Plant of the Month writer Amy Bauer by
firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (800)
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