by Ian Edwards

The Genus Calathea is in the Marantaceae family but differs from other genera such as Maranta and Ctenanthe in having unbrached inflorescences in compact clusters like cones.  From tropical South America, Calathea has about 300 species (and many cultivars) of shade and humidity loving plants, grown in much of the world indoors.  In Sydney however many of them can be grown in the garden.  They need shade from full sun, but can stand a little morning sun, and moist but well drained soil with a fertiliser as for palms.  Grown outside they have proved to be free from pests and diseases.  Some of them will die down in midwinter, only to reappear in midsummer.  It seems that these ones come from the monsoonal tropics; they die down in the dry season so will still die down in a hothouse.  They rarely set seed, but cn be grown by tissue culture, as well as by plant division.
Calathea zebrinac.zebrina
There are two forms, both with a velvet textured dark grwwn leaf with a yellowish midrib and lateral veins making for zebra stripes.  One form is tallish in clumps to almost 2m and the leaves are purple underneath.  It has sometimes been called C. zebrina 'Excelsior' and also C. tigrina (not a valid name).

Calathc. louisaeea louisae
This is my best guess at the name of one that does well in our climate and does not die down.
The inflorescenses are compact, on short stems at the base of the, are pretty little light green cones with white flowers.

Calathea makoyana
Well known as the Peacock Plant because os a feathery design on the leaves, which is repeated on the purple underside.  It can grow in the gardcalatheaen in our climate.  It also makes a good house plant.  

Calathea ornata 'Roseo-lineata'
One that only just survives outside, but does well indoors.  Juvenile plants have leaves whose lateral veins appear as closely set rosey red stripes.  Unfortunately as theplant matures these turn white, then as the long leaves grow to a mere or more totally lose all their markings and are finally just a dull green.

Calatha bella
A bush clumping plant to 50cm, with leaves about half of that, which are quite broad and somewhat sickle shaped.  They are a silvery green with midvein and lateral veins a darker greenl  It does very well in the garden in Sydney.

Calathea varians
A clump of long narrow leaves standing upright to about 50cm.  Above they are a deep glossy green without markings, the undersides purple but are unusual in retaining some green toward the edge.  Grows happily in a Sydney garden without dying down,

Calathea leopardina
Also called c. leopoldina.  Grows to about 40cm,  Another one with leaves that are unequal sided.  They are pale green with dark green marking along the side veins, but not the mid veins, the underside is purplish.

Calathea rufibarba
Grows to about 40cm.  Many long narrow arching crinkles leaves, olive green with lighter green markings on the mid vein and side veins.  The underside and stem are purple and covered in tiny hairs.  It does well in a Sydney garden without dying down.

Calathea wiotiana
Synonym C. wiotii.  A dwarf plant with short ovate leaves to 10cm, tha are glossy light green with elevated blotches of dark green on eithr side of the midrib.  The underside is gray green, tinted purple.

calatheaCalathea lancifolia - Rattlesnake Plant
Synonym C. insignis (or else the other way around).
Some of the older stems can get quite long, say about 40-50cm, then branch into two or three and sometimes branc again, reaching nearly a metre altogether.  But if they get too floppy the longer stems can be trimmed.  This is a vigorous grower once it gets  goind, so can be used as a ground cover.  The inflorescences are compact, appearing just below the branch of the stem, with insignificant little white flowers.

Calathea veitchiana
A beauty.  The leaf pattern appears agin on the purple underside.  It dies down in winter.
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