Plants

Eternal flame (Calathea crocata)

The Calathea crocata is a perennial plant of the genus Calathea, Marantaceae belonging to the family. It is native to the Brazilian Amazon and is cultivated because of the beautiful flowers and beautiful foliage. The name of the plant is of Greek origin, «Kalathea» which derives from the word «kalathos», which means «basket».

Initially, its leaves were used by Brazilians to make baskets, which explains its curious name. Their appearance fascinates not only admirers of beauty, but also those who cultivate them. The showiness of the orange color of its flower has made it also known as the “eternal flame”.

Habitat

Because it is a species native to the most extensive and dense parts of the Amazon, it is why it is used in climatic conditions with a high degree of humidity and little light.

The tropics have a particular characteristic, the temperature is constant, therefore, areas where Calathea crocata grows, rarely exceeding 22º -30º C. Its flower has a strong link with the groves under which it lives, to the point that in its natural habitat it receives useful substances from neighboring trees, which at home must be supplied through specific fertilizers.

Characteristics of the Calathea crocata

The Calathea crocata differs from others of its kind, thanks to its unique flowers, whose tone ranges from yellow to orange. Its particular flowering rises about ten centimeters above the foliage of the plant, has a long lifespan of approximately 4 or 5 weeks and its dark, glossy and lanceolate leaves, are observed gently wavy and in some areas show purple reflections.

The beauty of its leaves and flowers makes it especially appropriate to decorate the environments of the house. It is born in the extensive forests of the South American Amazon, where it grows in the shade of dense vegetation. As a curious fact, this plant has the peculiarity that at dusk it closes its leaves, as if to indicate that it is time to go to bed.

Planting and propagation

If you want to get a better result, you should cultivate it in a fertile composition that contains peat for germination. Do not use soil in straight pots because it can be somewhat heavy, which can cause the water to not drain well, rotting the roots of the plant. In its wild habitat it grows among the litter and rubble typical of the Amazon.

You can also choose to prepare your own soil by combining one part peat moss with three parts compost or a nutrient-rich potting mix. You want to make sure the mixture is light enough and drains well. Always avoid heavy mixes. Taking into consideration the conditions of its natural habitat and if you want to achieve a better development of the plant, which includes growth, color and flower production, you should place the plant indoors where it receives bright light indirectly.

Remember that if you place the plant in a place where it receives direct light, it runs the risk of burning its foliage and flowering. However, it is logical that in winter it can tolerate light better than in summer, when the intensity of the sun is stronger. It requires a warm environment when planted indoors.  Hence you should try temperatures between 18º C and 27º C. Due to its natural characteristics, it does not tolerate sudden changes in temperatures or air currents, these circumstances, not typical of the Amazon.

Regardless of whether the plant is indoors, cold conditions that may be considered excessive can damage it. Likewise, high temperature conditions can damage its foliage, which you may notice when its leaves become wavy. If at any time you wish to place your Calathea crocata outdoors, you can do so by placing it in a shady spot, as long as the weather is warm. In this case, assume the required care just like you do when you are indoors.

Regarding irrigation, it should be watered regularly once a week, mainly in spring and summer. When you go to water your plant, make sure the soil is dry and apply enough water until it comes out through the holes in the pot. In winter, you can apply watering every two weeks.

Related article:What is the importance of irrigation in plants?

If you decide to plant outdoors, it is recommended that you recreate a humid environment where possible where the plant can grow in humid conditions. E sta species does not require much pruning, but you can proceed to cut the foliage to the base when you think necessary. Likewise, remove the damaged or diseased leaves, you can also cut the damaged parts. Now if you want to propagate new plants, you just have to divide their roots to produce additional plants. The best time for propagation is during replanting in spring or summer, as it grows.

Carefully separate the roots, making sure to get at least one leaf and a healthy section of root system with each section. Plant individually in pots with fertile, well-drained combinations, planting as deep as the original was and keeping the potting mix appropriately moist, returning the newly planted sections to the conditions in which they initially grew.

Applications

The Calathea crocata has a fascinating decorative properties. It is a very elegant plant, with intense orange flowers that make it lively in contrast to the very dark leaves. It is definitely a houseplant highly prized for the decorative design of its foliage and vivid flowers.

The secret to better flowering is to maintain proper care and timely fertilization. For which it is required to replant the eternal flame in a new pot at least once a year, which should be 1 to 2 cm in diameter larger than the previous one, depending on the age of the plant.

Diseases and pests

This plant is attacked by bedbugs. These insects feed on the sap of the plant, completely damaging them. If you are not careful with these bugs, the problem can worsen to death, in addition, these insects can move to other plants which would worsen the situation of your crops. These pests are easy to identify, due to the symptoms present on stems and leaves.

In the case of mites, they live in groups that usually infest the underside of leaves. However, and if the disease worsens, these small insects will also affect the upper part of the leaves. These spiders cover the leaves with a fine white cobweb.

Another problem that the plant can attack are mealy insects that adhere to leaves and stems, which you can identify by a cottony mass that you will observe along the stems.

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