How To Grow & Care For the Rattlesnake Plant

The Rattlesnake Plant, scientifically named Calathea lancifolia, is a popular houseplant known for its unique, beautifully patterned foliage. The leaves are rich green with dark green spots and a purple underside, resembling the markings of a rattlesnake. Native to the Brazilian rainforests, this tropical plant belongs to the Marantaceae family and is often prized for its decorative appearance.

Growing a Rattlesnake Plant isn’t overly complex but does require specific care to flourish. Its attractive appearance has made it a favorite among houseplant enthusiasts, and it is often used to brighten up indoor spaces. As an added bonus, the Rattlesnake Plant is considered non-toxic to pets, making it a friendly addition to households with furry friends.

Aside from its aesthetic appeal, the Rattlesnake Plant is also known for its movement. The leaves respond to light, opening during the day and closing at night, an intriguing phenomenon called nyctinasty. Let’s delve into the specific details and care instructions for this eye-catching plant.

Common NamesRattlesnake Plant
Botanical NameCalathea lancifolia
Plant TypePerennial
Mature Size12-30 inches tall
Sun ExposureIndirect, medium light
Soil TypeWell-draining, peat-based soil
Hardiness Zones11-12
Native AreaBrazil

Rattlesnake Plant Care

Rattlesnake Plant care involves creating a tropical environment that mirrors its native habitat. It needs a specific balance of light, moisture, and warmth. While not extremely demanding, it does not tolerate neglect and needs consistent care.

Watering, humidity, and proper light exposure are crucial to keep the Rattlesnake Plant healthy. Regular misting and providing the right soil type will ensure that the plant thrives. Care must be taken to avoid common problems such as leaf yellowing or drooping, usually indicative of improper care.

Light Requirement for Rattlesnake Plant

Rattlesnake Plant prefers indirect, medium light. Direct sunlight can scorch the leaves, so it’s advisable to place it near a north or east-facing window, where it will receive filtered sunlight. Artificial light with the right spectrum can also be beneficial.

Soil Requirements for Rattlesnake Plant

A well-draining, peat-based soil mixture with added perlite is ideal for the Rattlesnake Plant. The soil should retain some moisture but not become waterlogged, as this can lead to root rot.

Water Requirements for Rattlesnake Plant

Watering the Rattlesnake Plant requires balance. Keep the soil consistently moist, but not soggy. Water thoroughly when the top inch of soil is dry to the touch. Using filtered or distilled water helps avoid mineral buildup.

Temperature and Humidity

Rattlesnake Plants thrive in temperatures between 65-80°F (18-27°C). They also require high humidity levels, around 50-60%. Daily misting or a humidifier can help maintain optimal humidity.


A balanced, liquid houseplant fertilizer, diluted to half strength, can be applied every month during the growing season. Over-fertilization should be avoided as it can cause leaf burn.

Pruning Rattlesnake Plant

Pruning is mainly required to remove dead or yellowing leaves. Regularly inspect and trim any unhealthy foliage to keep the plant looking its best.

Propagating Rattlesnake Plant

Propagation is commonly done by division. Separate the plant into smaller sections, each with a healthy root system, and replant them into fresh soil.

How To Grow Rattlesnake Plant From Seed

Growing Rattlesnake Plant from seed is rare and often challenging. If attempted, the seeds should be sown in a well-draining soil mix and kept consistently warm and moist.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Spider Mites

Regular misting helps deter these pests.

Root Rot

Avoid overwatering to prevent this fungal disease.

Common Problems With Rattlesnake Plant

Leaf Yellowing

May indicate overwatering or insufficient humidity.

Leaf Curling

Usually a sign of low humidity or underwatering.

Brown Leaf Tips

Often caused by dry air or excessive fertilizer.

Pro Tips

  1. Maintain high humidity levels for vibrant foliage.
  2. Water with filtered or distilled water to prevent mineral buildup.
  3. Provide indirect, medium light to avoid leaf scorching.
  4. Regularly inspect for pests and remove unhealthy leaves.
  5. Be patient and consistent with care; avoid frequent changes in the environment.