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10 Reasons Why Your Calathea Isn’t Growing New Leaves

10 Reasons Why Your Calathea Isn’t Growing New Leaves

There can be a lot of different reasons why your calathea isn’t growing new leaves

I’ve owned a calathea now for around 3 years, and I’ve found that the most common reason for it not growing new leaves was due to a lack of indirect sunlight. Other factors that can play a big impact include the size of the pot, fertilizing schedule (and type!) as well as several other things.

Let’s take a look at the 10 most important factors that can affect the way your calathea grows new leaves.

10 Reasons Why Your Calathea isn’t Growing New Leaves

Calatheas grow at a moderate pace, so you shouldn’t expect a bunch of new leaves every week.

If there are no signs of new leaf growth, however, it’s time to identify the problem.

1. Sunlight

Sunlight is essential for plants to synthesise and produce energy for growth, and this is no different for calatheas. When I first brought my calathea home I’ll never forget how mesmerized I was by the movement of the leaves throughout the day as they try to point towards the sun.

It’s one of the reasons why I love calathea so much, and a great reminder that getting sunlight conditions is essential to keeping this plant happy.

Calatheas prefer lots of bright, indirect sunlight for optimal growth. Provide too much shade and your calathea will be unable to produce enough energy for leaf growth. Placing a calathea in direct sunlight can scorch the leaves, turning them yellow or brown in patchy spots.

These leaves will need to be removed, and new leaves will struggle to grow if they are getting scorched by the sun as well. It’s all about balance.

2. Pot Size

If you place a calathea in a pot that is too large it will use most of its energy in growing new roots to fill the space rather than for stem and leaf growth.

A good rule of thumb is to use a pot that is one to two inches larger than the root ball. This will promote root growth, but not at the expense of the rest of the plant.

3. Fertilizer

New leaf growth on calatheas is driven by nutrients, particularly nitrogen, which fertilizers can provide. Most potting mixes contain a lot of nutrients, but it doesn’t hurt to supplement with a complete fertilizer (containing the key nutrients NPK) to ensure the plant can grow new leaves readily.

I personally opt to fertilize my calathea once per month in the summer and leave it during the colder months. This depends on where you live, however, so experiment to see what kind of schedule suits you the best.

4. Overwatered

Overwatering can be very detrimental for calatheas, as it will make it more difficult for the roots to absorb moisture and nutrients from the soil and can lead to more severe issues further down the line such as root rot.

This impacts new leaf growth, as both water and nutrients are required to grow new foliage.

If the top two inches of soil are dry it’s time to water. It’s better to underwater a calathea than to add too much water.

5. Underwatered

An underwatered calathea will look completely lifeless, and the leaves will wilt as they won’t have access to the water and nutrients that they need to grow and thrive.

Under these conditions, no new leaves will grow as the plant will struggle to support the existing leaves before providing energy for new growth.

6. Low Humidity

Calatheas originate in the jungles of South America, where humidities are quite high.

Due to environmental adaptions, calatheas will experience more growth (including leaf growth) if the conditions replicate those where they grow naturally. Aim for a humidity of around 65-75% for best results.

This can be achieved with pebble trays or by using a humidifier. I would avoid misting, as it has a very small impact on humidity. You can also place your calathea next to another humidity-loving plant, such as a pothos.

A calathea in a gray pot on a wooden surface

7. Root Bound

Root bound is a term used for when a plant’s root system grows too big for the container that it is in.

The symptoms of a calathea becoming root bound are similar to underwatering, and include yellow leaves, wilting leaves and overall reduced growth. New leaf growth will also slow down significantly under this condition.

If your calathea is root-bound it will need to be repotted into a larger container to allow more space for the roots to grow. You may also need to prune some of the roots as well.

8. Transplant Shock

If you’ve recently repotted your calathea it will need some time to adapt to its new surroundings.

This is known as transplant shock and lasts anywhere from a couple of days to a few weeks typically. During this time, don’t expect any new leaf growth and keep the growing conditions optimal to reduce the amount of time it takes for your calathea to adjust to its new environment.

9. Wrong Soil

Calatheas prefer moist, well-draining soil packed full of nutrients.

If you choose the wrong type of soil it can be detrimental to new leaf growth in a couple of ways:

  • Water saturation – If the mix does not drain quickly enough the soil may become saturated. This will ultimately lead to root rot, but in the meantime can slow down growth as the roots will struggle to process nutrients from the soil.
  • Too dry – Soil mixes that drain too quickly will not provide enough moisture for the roots. If the roots are unable to absorb enough moisture, the calathea will be unable to photosynthesise properly, reducing new leaf growth.
  • Low nutrient profile – Organic matter such as bark and coconut coir that is found in most calathea soil mixes are packed full of nutrients. If your soil mix doesn’t contain the essential nutrients, particularly nitrogen, leaf growth will slow down.

Some good options include soils marketed for African Violets, or a DIY recipe with 1 part peat moss, 1 part potting soil and 1 part perlite.

10. Pests Or Diseases

Calatheas, like other houseplants, are vulnerable to certain pests and diseases that can cause a lot of damage to the entire structure of the plant.

Spider mites, for example, will feed on the sap of calathea leaves which causes them to discolor and eventually die. Diseases such as root rot (caused by overwatering) or leaf spot also greatly affect the ability of calathea plants to produce new leaves.

On one hand, you have pests and diseases that directly attack the leaves. On the other, there are pests and diseases that affect other structures within the plant such as the stem or roots which ultimately leads to overall reduced growth rates and less new leaf growth.