These very ornamental-leaved hothouse plants are now known botanically as calathea, but it is not likely that we shall ever know them commercially as anything but marantas. There are many species, all from tropical America, entirely grown for their handsome leaves. They have creeping rhizomes and when shaken out the roots can be readily divided. June and July is a good time for this operation. Some of the smaller growing species make beautiful plants for table decoration or for the larger ferneries, but they do not thrive long in the dry air of a living-room. It is as fine plants for the hothouse that they are chiefly cultivated.
The essential to grow a fine plant is a good coarse loam, to which can be added a fifth of well decayed manure, and some sand to keep the soil open. As when growing they want abundance of water and syringing there should be ample drainage to let water pass freely through. In a shaded, sheltered place they will do out of doors, but are far better suited in a shaded house where there is abundance of moisture. In winter they will do in a temperature of 60 degrees, but as they are evergreen they must not get dry, only a less quantity of water. For a full development of their velvety leaves they should every two or three years be shaken out and divided or their roots and crowns get very crowded.
There are so many species that it is unnecessary to single out any of them. All are handsome and there is a range in size from the diminutive M. micans, with glittering leaves two to three inches long to M. zebrina, with leaves three feet long and eight inches broad. Every gardener will remember this old species, probably one of the first introduced. Here is a description of M. Veitchii, from Nicholson's "Dictionary of Gardening. "
"Leaves large, ovate elliptic, over one foot long, very rich, glossy green, marked along each side the mid-rib with crescent-shaped blotches of yellow, softened by shades of green and white; under surface light purple. Height of plant three feet. Introduced in 1866 from west tropical America. Probably the handsomest of the genus."
But there are any number of other species with various beautiful markings, and none difficult to grow where heat, moisture, a porous soil and shade in summer can be given.