Rattlesnake Plant Guide: How to Grow & Care for “Calathea Lancifolia”

Read our guide to the Rattlesnake Plant for everything you will ever need to know! Tips for growing & caring for the “Calathea Lancifolia”

Lance-shaped leaves with a deep green ovals sitting on a background of bright green, calathea lancifolia is a plant that can’t help but be noticed. To further add to the visual appeal, the undersides of the leaves are royal purple in color. With such a stunning appearance, it’s easy to see why calathea lancifolia is such a popular houseplant.

Colloquially, calathea lancifolia is known as the “rattlesnake plant”. A native to the rainforests of Brazil, this lush tropical plant is showy, to say the least, and will certainly enhance the beauty of any indoor garden. It’s so stunning, in fact, that it would even make a statement on its own.

Just like any other plant, if you’re interested in adding a calathea lancifolia to your indoor garden, knowing how to properly grow and care for it is essential. From light and watering requirements, to fertilization and soil, below, you’ll find all of the tips that are needed to successfully grow and maintain a rattlesnake plant.

An Overview of Calathea Lancifolia

One of the countless plants that are native to the rainforests of Brazil, calathea lancifolia is affectionately referred to as the “rattlesnake plant”, and once you catch a glimpse of its leaves, it’s easy to see why.

The light green, lance-like leaves which feature dark green ovals of varying sizes could certainly be misconstrued as a rattlesnake in nature, as it mimics the intricate patterns and shape of the infamous reptile.

Despite the scary creature that it’s coined for, the calathea lanficolia is anything but dangerous. In fact, it’s completely non-toxic, so you can safely display it around children and pets without having to worry.

Given the fact that this plant is safe to be near and the unique beauty it possess, it’s easy to see why it’s such a beloved houseplant.

Calathea Lancifolia
Calathea Lancifolia

Growth and Size

  • When grown indoors, the rattlesnake plant can reach heights of 30 inches or more. The interesting design of the leaves, coupled with the varying shades of green, which are further magnified by the leaves wavy edges, make this plant a real show-stopper.
  • The underside of the leaves further adds to the beauty of this plant, as they are painted a purplish-magenta color.  Because the leaves stand upright as they follow the sun, the rattlesnake plant offers quite a colorful display.
  • Outside of its natural habitat, the calathea lanficolia can be safely grown outdoors US hardiness zones 11 through 12, so it can only be grown outdoors in the most southern portions of the United States, including Florida and California, as these regions offer climates that are similar to the plant’s native environment.
  • In other regions, it can be safely grown indoors; hence why it is such a popular houseplant.
  • If you live in a location where the risk of frost subsides during the warmer months, it is possible to display the rattlesnake plant outdoors; however, it’s best to leave it in a pot, container, or planter so that it can easily be transported from outdoors to in, as needed.
  • When it’s grown as a houseplant, the rattlesnake calathea usually won’t reach the same height that it would outdoors, in its natural setting. On average, indoor caltheas reach about a one and a half feet tall; outdoors, it can grow to double that height.
Stunning leaves of Calathea Lancifolia
Stunning leaves of Calathea Lancifolia

Flowers and Fragrance

When grown outdoors, the calathea lancifolia can display delicate yellow blooms; however, indoors, the plant rarely ever blooms. The fact that it lakes flowers indoors does not detract from its beauty, though, as interesting shape, pattern, colors, and texture of the leaves are certainly enough to make an attention-grabbing display.

As the rattlesnake plant rarely produces flowers when it’s grown inside, it doesn’t generate much of a fragrance. If any scent is produced, it’s extremely mild and hardly noticeable.

Calathea Lancifolia Growth and Care Tips

If you’re interests are piqued and you’d like to consider adding a rattlesnake plant to your indoor garden, you’re in the right place. Knowing how to properly care for this sometimes picky plant is crucial, otherwise there’s a good chance that its life could being cut short.

So, how do you properly grow and tend to a rattlesnake plant? Read on to find some valuable information that you can use to ensure your indoor garden is an impressively showy display.

Where to Plant

The calathea lancifoia does best in brightly light areas, but away from direct sunlight. If it is exposed to direct sunlight, the color of the leaves will start to fade and eventually, they will burn.

Ultimately, the plant will wither and die. Make sure to place the plant in a location that receives adequate amounts of indirect sunlight throughout the day. If you do not have such a location available, you can add growing lights to provide the plant with the supplemental lighting it needs to thrive.

This plant grows best in temperatures that range from 65 degrees to 75 degrees F. Avoid placing it in an area where it will be exposed to cold drafts, as exposure to cold air can damage the plant.

Rattlesnake Plants make great house plants
Rattlesnake Plants make great house plants

During warm-weather months, you can move the plant outdoors when the risk of frost is gone; however, when the temperatures start to dip, you do need to bring it back inside. If you decide to move it outside for part of the year, make sure that you place it in an area that does not receive direct sunlight, but rather a shaded area, such as a porch, a stoop, or a deck with an overhead.

For the container, this plant can be grown in any type of plant; however, terracotta planters tend to remove moisture from the soil, something that this plant needs a lot of, so you may be better off avoiding a planter that’s made of this type of material. Whatever type of container you decide to house it in, make sure that there are drainage holes.

Soil Requirements

Like all other tropical plants, the calathea lanficolia requires moist, nutrient-rich, well-drained soil, as that’s the type of soil they grow in in their natural environment.

A peat-rich potting mixture, combined with vermiculite and perlite is ideal for this plant. If the soil is too dry , the plant won’t get the moisture that it needs; however, if the soil retains too much moisture, you could possibly drown the plant; not to mention the fact that you’re inviting all types of pests.

Rattlesnake Plant, From Amazon

Fertilizer Needs

The calathea lanficolia does require some feeding. Use an appropriately balanced water-soluble fertilizer to feed the plant during active growth seasons, which run from the spring through the fall. Avoid feeding the rattlesnake plant in the winter, when it becomes dormant.

Humidity Levels

As a native to the South American rainforest, the rattlesnake plant requires a good bit of humidity. To ensure that your plant receives adequate amounts of moisture, you can place it in a bathroom, kitchen, or any other place where humidity levels tend to be high.

Alternatively, you can place it in drier rooms, but spritz it down with water to ensure it receives adequate humidity. The early morning hours are the best time to mist the plant, as the water will be absorbed throughout the day. When spraying, make sure to apply the water to the top and underside of the leaves.

Watering Requirements

The Calathea Lancifolia is a tropical plant, and as such, it requires ample amounts of water. As mentioned, the soil requires adequate amount of moisture.

If it becomes dry, the health of the plant will suffer. In order to determine when your rattlesnake plant needs to be watered, feel the soil.

If it feels dry about 1 inch down, then it’s time to water. Make sure that you don’t apply too much water, as you don’t want to flood the plant. If the soil is too damp, the roots can rot, the leaves can wilt and become discolored, and moisture-loving pests may be attracted to the plant, such as spider mites.


If it seems like the growth of your rattlesnake plant has slowed, it may be time to transplant it, as the roots may not have enough space to spread out.

When repotting, make sure to pick planter that will accommodate the plant and allow for additional space. Also, you’ll want to be sure that the new container features drainage holes.

When repotting, make sure to use the same type of soil that the plant was previously housed in. It should be nutrient-rich, well-draining, and offer an appropriate pH level.


The rattlesnake plant doesn’t require a lot of maintenance, which is another reason why it’s such a popular house plant. In order to maintain this charming plant, make sure to remove any spent leaves as soon as possible. The longer spent leaves remain on the plant, the more the overall health of your calathea lancifolia will start to decline. Other than removing dead leaves and watering, there really aren’t any other maintenance requirements.

Summing It Up

With the tips mentioned above, you can successfully grow and maintain a rattlesnake plant that will be sure to provide beauty for years to come.

Hollie is a life-long gardener, having started helping her Dad work on their yard when she was just 5. Since then she has gone on to develop a passion for growing vegetables & fruit in her garden. She has an affinity with nature and loves to share her knowledge gained over a lifetime with readers online. Hollie has written for a number of publications and is now the resident garden blogger here at GardenBeast. Contact her at or follow on twitter

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