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I love a Stromanthe – they’re beautiful, unique and usually pretty well priced.
They’re also a great gateway plant for those of us that are considering getting into Calathea but aren’t too sure if our house is suitable and we can be bothered.
Stromanthe are a genus within the Marantaceae family (to which Calathea and Maranta also belong), which is commonly referred to as the prayer plant family.
There are around 21 distinct Stromanthe family, but the one we’re talking about here is Stromanthe Sanguinea. There are a couple of different colour forms, but both are similar to care for. The trio star has more sectoral variegation, the magic star is more speckly (similar to the differences between Monsteras Albo and Thai Constellation).
They are prayer plants, so they to move their leaves to a vertical position at night BUT at one point I had two, and one was very into praying (leaves were horizontal during the day and vertical and night, and the othe barely moved. Both seemed perfectly healthy, so I assume one was more religious than the other (jokes, but also…who knows??).
Are Stromanthe easy to care for?
Technically yes, but also no. It depends.
The day to day care of Stromanthe is pretty easy. They grow quickly and aren’t as fussy about drying out, humidity, and water quality as other Marantaceae.
They have a biiit of a tendency to attract spider mites.
A lot of people will try to placate you by telling you that spider mites can only thrive in hot, dry conditions, and Stromanthe hate those conditions so the two aren’t compatible.
This is a lie, I assumed perpetrated by the spider mites themselves to lull us into a false sense of security.
Spider mites PREFER to live in hot, dry conditions. But so do I, yet here I am thriving in cloudy England.
Stromanthe and spider mites are best mates. The Stromanthe don’t even sustain much damage, they act as a home base for the spider mites, which get work eating sucking the essence out of any surrounding plants.
If you have a good spider mite eliminator (predatory mites are great if you’re persistently plagued by them), then Stromanthe are super easy to care for. If you don’t, they are not.
Can Stromanthe take full sun?
In the wild, Stromanthe are found in the dense undergrowth of the Brazilian rainforest. It would naturally receive dappled light – anywhere from medium to bright, but rarely full sun.
Still I always like to try plants in bright light…just in case.
I wouldn’t recommend keeping Stromanthe in full sun for a few reasons.
- Bright light can cause the colours of the leaves the fade. The purple undersides of the leaves may disappear entirely, which is a shame.
- The leaves are quite thick in comparison to other Marantaceae, but they can still burn. They become more brittle and prone to tearing in full sun.
- You’re just making an already preferred plant even more irresistible to spider mites, not only by keeping the plant hotter and dryer, but also by slightly weakening the plant
I’ve found that bright, indirect light is best to keep Stromanthe healthy and the variegation in better condition. Six feet away from a west/south window, and a bit closer to an east-facing window is perfect.
Do Stromanthe need to be misted?
I don’t typically recommend misting Stromanthe for a couple of reasons.
The first reason is that misting is not the same as providing humidity. Humidity is the volume of moisture particles suspended in the air. Misting is more like being rained on (unless you have a very fine mister).
Plants don’t like being rained on, because it forces them to close their stomata and stop photosynthesising. Prayer plants in particular don’t like to get wet – the reason they pray is to allow rain to drain off their leave at night.
There is one reason that it might be beneficial to mist Stromathe and it’s to do with, you guessed it, spider mites. Spider mites don’t like to get wet because it prevents them from building their webs.
Therefore, misting Stromanthe, say, weekly can keep spider mites from building up significant numbers.
To counteract any negative effects from misting, you can use a foliar spray that has some beneficial properties like nutrients or pest deterrents.
How to water Stromanthe
Stromanthe aren’t as fussed about drying out as their Calathea cousins BUT you will get better growth if you keep them consistently moist.
About a three on the moisture meter, if they’re your thing (love mine, which is quite controversial in house plant circles)
One of the easiest ways to stop them from drying out is to make sure they’re in a soil mix that retains moisture whilst also not staying too wet. I like to mix coir, perlite, worm castings, orchid bark, and charcoal (usually in a 2:2:1:1:1 ratio).
I would also stay away from terracotta pots, because they suck moisture out of the soil. If you’re a massive overwaterer they could be a lifesaver though.
When it comes to water quality, I find that Stromanthe are more like peace lilies than Calathea, in that some do not care AT ALL whether you use tap water or filtered water, and some will grow leaves with crispy edges unless you water with filtered water.
In general, smaller plants are pickier about water quality, and larger ones are more chill. Stromanthe tend to be pretty cheap, so if you like to water with tap water, pick a bigger plant.
Water quality can turn variegated sections brown, so watch out for that. Magic stars have smaller patches of variegation so might be a better option if you plan on using tap water.
If you still have issues, you could try dechlorinating the water.
How often do you fertilise Stromanthe?
I’ve not found Stromanthe to be particularly heavy feeders, so I fertilise them every six weeks-ish with the General Hydroponics Flora Series.
You can fertilise them monthly if you’d prefer, and I’ve accidentally left them for a good, er, year, without feeding them at all with no ill effects, so…do what you want.
Stromanthe propagate by division, so are super easy to propagate.
As far as I’m aware, you can’t propagate them from stem cuttings like you can Ctenanthe and Maranta.
To divide the plant, just look and see if you can see multiple plants. If you can, remove the plant from the pot and gently pull the plants apart.
You can’t stop the roots from ripping to some degree, so what I try to do is just make sure that each plant has some roots. If you end up with a plantlet with very few roots, pop it in some water or leca and grow them on a bit before potting fresh soil.
Here are a few of the common problems (and solutions) that can happen with Stromanthe. If you have a Stromanthe with an issue that’s not covered here, feel free to leave me a comment and I’ll try to help.
Stromanthe aren’t too prone to root rot, probably because they’re evolved to live in consistently moist conditions, but if the soil becomes muddy and oxygen-less, you’re going to end up with root rot.
The symptoms are usually drooping, yellow leaves and a general malaise (love that word). People are often unsure whether they’re underwatering or overwatering but just step back and think. Is the soil wet? Probs overwatered. Is the soil dry? Probs underwatered.
Check the roots. Remove anything mushy and brown. If the soil is wet and muddy, replace it. Keep the plant warm and in good humidity (use a cloche if you don’t have a humidifier – a clear plastic bag will work fine). Don’t overwater again.
We’ve already covered spider mites, but thrips can be an issue too. Keep the leaves well dusted and check the undersides for thrips poop (it looks like shiny black splotches).
I’e already mentioned predatory mites, but you can also try neem oil and/or castile soap. Washing the leaves regularly in just water can also work.
Yellow leaves occur when the plant decides that the leaf is no longer useful and begins to pull as many nutrients out of it as it can before the leaf dies.
There are a few reasons this can happen, but the two most likely are that the leaf is simply old (this is usually the case if the leaf is low down on the plant) or the roots are rotting and the plant no longer has the root system to support this many leaves.
Root rot rarely goes away on its own, so make sure you treat it properly.
Crispy tips are usually a sign that there’s an issue with the quality of the water. Switch from tap water to filtered if you can (or use rainwater).
A lot of people like to use distilled water to water Marantaceae because they do have a tendency to develop crispy tips BUT you need to be careful. Tap, rain, and filtered water all have varying amounts of essential minerals dissolved in the water. Distilled water doesn’t.
If you regularly use distilled water and a normal plant fertiliser, you can find that over time plants can become deficient in minerals like copper and iron. To combat this, people that use distilled water should really use a hydroponic fertiliser that contains the full spectrum of micro and macro nutrients.
Are Stromanthe toxic?
No, but as always, don’t let your pets/kids get into the habit of eating plants. Rabbit owners: your rabbit can EASILY make their way through a whole Stromanthe in an evening. Anything in the Marantaceae family is apparently delicious.
Do Stromanthe bloom?
Yes, all Marantaceae are flowering plants. Stromanthe produce little clusters of pinky red flowers that are very pretty BUT, like a lot of house plants, they’re unlikely to produce blooms in, er, captivity. Never mind, they have beautiful foliage anyway.
Stromanthe are a great plant for people looking to get into house plants (though not great for people that want decor but minimal care needs). They’re beautiful, and somewhat unique, but also readily available in garden centres. Also pretty cheap!