For some people, owning house plants is all about the thrill of the hunt – they live to track down the rarest and most coveted plants. If you’ve been reading our articles about Calatheas, you might be wondering if these plants are rare, or if there are any varieties that are particularly hard to find. We’ll introduce you to a few of the most elusive Calathea cultivars.
Calatheas are a diverse bunch, covering hundreds of different varieties in a wide array of colors, patterns, and shapes. This article will concentrate on Calatheas that make good houseplants – many species that grow in the wild simply aren’t that interesting to look at, so they rarely find their way indoors. Luckily, even among the species prized by home gardeners, there are plenty of unusual and intriguing variants.
You may be aware that Calatheas have a reputation as finicky and delicate plants. Unsurprisingly, many of the rarest kinds are also the most fragile – which is part of the reason that they’re not found in greater numbers! If you’re planning to embark on a Calathea collection, be prepared for a serious test of your skills as an indoor gardener.
Are Calatheas Rare Plants?
Some Calathea varieties are actually quite common. You can probably head down to your local Home Depot Garden Center and take home one or two plants from this beloved genus today. If you expand your search to include online retailers, you’ll find plenty of additional options.
That doesn’t mean they’ll be easy to keep alive, of course. Lots of novice houseplant owners have purchased Calatheas only to watch them wither and die once they’re out of the climate-controlled environment and expert care of the nursery. So although Calatheas as a group aren’t all that rare, healthy ones are more uncommon outside of commercial greenhouses!
The Calatheas you can easily find in garden stores usually fall into one of the more common categories, including:
- Calathea makoyana, the Peacock Plant, which features a bold pattern of elliptical spots.
- Calathea lancifolia, the Rattlesnake Plant. This is possibly the easiest variety for beginners, and its blade-shaped, spotted leaves are quite cool to look at.
- Calathea crocata, the Eternal Flame. The only Calathea better known for its blooms than its leaves.
- Calathea ornata ‘Sanderiana’, the Pinstripe Plant, sports dark leaves overlaid with narrow stripes of pinkish-white so fine that they look like they were drawn by an artist’s pen.
Rare Calathea Varieties
You didn’t come here to learn about the common Calatheas, though. Let’s look at some that are a bit harder to find.
The Beauty Star
This is one of several beautiful variants of Calathea ornata. It looks quite a bit like its better-known cousin, the Pinstripe Plant, except that under their slender pink-and-white stripes, the Beauty Star’s leaves display broader stripes of lime green.
Calathea roseopicta is one of the most diverse Calathea species, with tons of interesting subtypes created by enterprising breeders. They all feature variations on the same basic theme: a bold feathery pattern with inner and outer segments picked out in contrasting colors. The Cynthia’s leaves have dark green faces, with a central vein and outer border of green so pale it’s nearly white.
This is another variant of C. roseopicta, and it’s essentially the inverse of the Cynthia: a pale inner face with an extremely dark border. Both of these rare Calatheas are studies in contrast.
A newer cultivar that could easily be mistaken for a type of C. roseopicta, with alternating dark green and pale layers. What sets the Margarita apart is the stippled appearance that makes it look as though the colors were splashed onto the leaf by an enthusiastic painter.
This species is sometimes called the Round-Leaf Calathea, but it’s better known by its Latin name. As you might have guessed, its foliage is more circular than usual for a Calathea. It also has a more subtle appearance than many of its relatives; the broad stripes alternate between forest green and a lighter, silvery shade. C. orbifolia is considered a fairly difficult Calathea to care for, quite sensitive to soluble minerals and transplant shock.
The White Fusion
Another notoriously tricky Calathea, the White Fusion, has grown a great deal in popularity due to its brilliant white variegation; it’s more widely available online than it once was. However, it remains quite challenging to keep alive, particularly since it’s extremely prone to spider mite infections. This frailty contributes to its continued rarity. The White Fusion also needs the right lighting balance to bring out its distinctive mottled pattern.
The Silver Plate
For such a rare plant, this one has a lot of nicknames; it’s also known as the White Jade and the Pink Aurora. Nearly the entire surface of each leaf is covered with a pale, minty green hue that can develop blushes of rosy pink in the right light. A whisker-thin border of darker green runs around the very outermost edge.
This cultivar resembles C. orbifolia in shape and coloration, but it’s much harder to find. The edges of its wide stripes blur and distort in a way that looks oddly digital.
Calatheas are known for their intricate patterns, but this one is among the most breathtaking. Bold stripes of bright and dark green fan out from the center, surrounded by several vivid squiggles that give an impression of overlapping layers of feathers. It’s pretty hard to track down, and even if you do find it, you may lose yourself inside its mesmerizing display.
Formerly Rare Calatheas
The availability of different houseplants can change quite rapidly according to the whims of the market. Sometimes plants that start out rare become coveted by collectors, leading to a surge in cultivation by professional and amateur growers, until suddenly they’re popping up everywhere.
This has happened with several Calathea varieties that only a few years ago were considered quite rare – nowadays, you can often find these once-elusive plants on the shelves at big box hardware stores. The list includes:
- The White Star, a C. ornata variant featuring a dense herringbone pattern with silver stripes and an occasional pink flush.
- The Dottie, a cultivar of C. roseopicta which starts out green and white before maturing to a nearly black backdrop with an inner ring of bright pink.
- Calathea musaica, also called the Network, which has a dense grid of tiny light and dark rectangles unique among Calatheas.
- Calathea warscewiczii, whose two-toned foliage has a fuzzy, velvety texture.
You could make a case that C. orbifolia and the White Fusion belong in this category as well; both of them have exploded in popularity and are much easier to locate than they once were. However, since they’re so challenging to care for, they remain somewhat rare among amateur growers. If you can keep one of these plants alive and happy, you deserve some kudos, even if you didn’t have to spend weeks hunting it down.
Where to Find Rare Calatheas
If you’re looking for a particularly slippery type of Calathea, it’s worth checking Etsy and eBay, both of which feature offerings from small-scale growers who sometimes have obscure varieties for sale. Just make sure you read the seller reviews because it’s not uncommon for plants to be improperly packaged or take so long in transit that they’re dead on arrival.
You can also check out the vast number of houseplant forums on the web. Reddit alone has a number of communities that revolve around plant care and plant swaps, not to mention an entire subreddit devoted to Calatheas. Sometimes members are willing to trade away clones of cool plants if you can offer them something interesting in return.
And don’t overlook your local plant stores. Large chains are likely to stick with the more common types of Calathea, but smaller independent nurseries occasionally have some rare gems.
There are already enough little-known Calathea offshoots to keep devoted collectors busy for years, and enterprising breeders are creating new ones all the time. But think carefully before you plunge into the search. Many houseplant owners find that once they begin hoarding Calatheas, it’s almost impossible to stop!