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There’s a little bit of confusion about Maranta vs Calathea, and for good reason.
Both are beautiful plants (and a great option for those of you that love colourful leaves, BUT Calathea are not for the fainthearted.
I don’t believe that there are many plants (at least that are easily available) that are truly hard to care for.
It’s just a case of understanding what your plant needs and providing it for them, and realising what’ll happen if you don’t provide the right conditions.
Maranta and Calathea are definitely related, but Maranta are much chiller than Calathea. If you’re a newbie looking to care for a prayer plant, a Maranta is much for forgiving of suboptimal conditions.
Are Calathea and Maranta the same?
No, but they do belong to the same family, Marantaceae. They’re separate genuses (genii) though.
Differences between Calathea and maranta
- Ease of care
Both Calathea and Maranta come from the rainforests of South America, where they grow on the rainforest floor.
Neither particularly climb, though maranta have a more viney growth pattern.
Despite this similarity, Maranta are much easier to care for in our homes. Whilst they would love dappled light, consistently moist soil, rainwater, and high humidity that they have in the wild, they won’t throw a massive hissy fit and crisp up if they don’t get it.
Calatheas do vary in their tolerance of tap water, low humidity, and drying out, but in general, if you’re doing something wrong, they’ll let you know with a crispy leaf or, if you’re unlucky, just…dying.
- Number of varieties
There are a few different types of Maranta that grow in the wild, as well as the usual variegated/rare colourways that have been cultivated (think variegated Maranta leuconeura and Maranta lemon lime).
- Maranta leuconeura Erythroneura (the one with the red leaves and herringbone pattern)
- Maranta leuconeura Kerchoviana (green with brown spots)
- Maranta leuconeura Kerchoviana Minima
- Silver feather (or Black) Maranta
Calathea though? A new one seems to pop up every day. As well as dozens of different types, there are also variations within the different species.
There are many different varieties of Calathea Ornata, for example, and even more of Calathea Medallion.
- Leaf shape
Calathea come with a variety of leaf shapes – some are completely round, like Calathea medallion, and others are more lance-shaped, like Calathea rufibara.
Maranta, on the other hand, just tend to come with the one leaf shape, which is a rounded rectangle. It’s quite unique, and I’m a big fan. You know me, I love foliage.
- Growth pattern
Calathea don’t vine, and maranta do. They’re a great option for a hanging plant, since they don’t seem to be intent on growing towards the light as other more usual hanging plants (like Monstera adansonii or pothos).
They do like bright, indirect light though. If you give them less light they’ll be ok, but you might notice slower growth, if you give them a tonne of light you can end up with either burnt or bleached leaves.
Both Calathea and Maranta bloom, but Maranta bloom more easily (in my experience) and the blooms are prettier (in my opinion).
Calathea blooms are cute, don’t get me wrong, but Maranta blooms are tiny and cute and delicate and come out on little stalks way above the plant.
Calathea blooms skulk around the bottom or close to the leaves and sometimes you have to do a bit of googling to work out if what you’re looking at is, in fact, a bloom (Calathea leopardina, I’m looking at you).
As far as I’m aware, you can only propagate Calathea by division, whereas maranta have nodes on the stems, so you can take stem cuttings and propagate them in water.
Do Calathea and Maranta both pray?
When I was researching this article, I came across some information that stated that whilst Calathea and Maranta are both called prayer plants, only maranta are ‘true’ prayer plants, and Calathea don’t actually practice nyctinasty.
Now, this may be true. I’m no botanist. Perhaps Calathea aren’t doing nyctinasty.
But they do open up their leaves during the day and close them at night – at least mine do.
Well, some of them. My Calathea white star does, and the Calathea Rufibara at work DEFINITELY does, because I showed my work colleagues. She was very obvious about it.
So are Calathea prayer plants? I don’t know. I’ll have to find a few botanists and ask their opinion. But do Calathea pray? Yes, definitely.
A lot of plants move according to the light. We’ve all seen those time lapses on social media where it looks like all the plants are frantically flapping.
Maranta vs. Calathea care?
In my experience, Maranta are easier to care for and easier to keep looking healthy BUT they’re also easier to kill.
Calathea are quite hard to kill, unless you repeatedly let them dry out to a crisp. If they get infested with bugs, or they get a tonne of crispy edge and look like crap,you can cut all their leaves back and they’ll regrow from the roots.
In general, they require the same care, since they grow in similar conditions. But, as I’ve mentioned before, Maranta will deal with more abuse and neglect than Calathea.
Just a little side note – my maranta is thriving in leca. I bought it when it was suffering from a severe thrips infestation, so I moved it to leca to make it easier to hose off. I ended up having to cut off all the leaves but it’s bounced back magnificently. I’m very proud of it!
Is a Stromanthe a Calathea?
Stromanthe are also part of the Marantaceae family, and they also have the purple leaf undersides that’s characteristic of a lot of Calathea.
So they’re not the same, but they’re closely related, like Maranta and Calathea.
In terms of care, I think Stromanthe are more like Calathea than Maranta, but as they mature, they get a little less picky. That’s my experience anyway – let me know if you disagree!
Is a Ctenanthe a Calathea?
Again, same thing. Not a Calathea but a close relative.
Ctenanthe are more like a maranta, not just in care, but in leave shape too. You can also propagate them from nodes.
My only issue with Ctenanthe is SPIDER MITES. I have two, and both are perfectly healthy, but have a healthy population of spider mites, despite many, many treatments for them. In the end I gave up, and just keep them separate from the other plants (except my Croton, which has the same issue).
In short, Maranta and Calathea aren’t the same, but they’re part of the same family and live in very similar conditions.
Maranta are less likely to drive you crazy though.