This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
(Greek For Basket, The Application Not Apparent)
Marantaceae. Perennial foliage plants of warmhouses, with maranta-like leaves arising in a tuft from the crown.
Sepals 3, free and equal; corolla tubular, with 3 spreading lobes; stamens 3, petal-like, 2 sterile, and 1 bearing an anther on its side (compare Carina). From Maranta the genus differs chiefly in technical characters. In Maranta the fruit is 1-seeded, in Calathea usually 3-seeded; in the former the flower-clusters are branched and few-flowered, in Calathea usually capitate or cone-like. - Of calatheas there are more than 100 species, mostly of tropical Amer., but a few of tropical Africa The leaves, for which the plant is grown, are variously marked with shades of green, red, brown, yellow, and white. They spring from the very base of the short stem, just above the rhizome, the rhizomes themselves more or less tuberiferous (Fig. 736). Monogr. by Schumann in Engler's Pflanzenreich, hft. 11 (1902).
Fig. 736. Tuber of calathea. (x 1/2)
All the calatheas thrive in a moist tropical house in a temperature that does not go below 65° F., with a rise during the day to 90° or 95° F. For general purposes, the best compost in which to grow them is made of equal parts of good turfy loam, leaf-mold and sand. Some of the more delicate species are best grown in leaf-mold and sand only. Stagnation of the soil must be particularly avoided by abundance of drainage, as they require to be kept rather moister at the roots than most stove plants. The close moist atmospherical conditions that these plants require can be secured only by constant syringing and damping down amongst the plants; therefore the need for abundance of drainage is apparent, whether they are grown in pots or planted out in a border. It is only by planting them out with a free root-run that calatheas may be had in their full beauty; and when so grown a collection of these plants forms one of the most beautiful examples of tropical foliage. Particular attention should be given to protecting them from all strong sunshine, the thin texture of their leaves rendering them specially liable to damage from this cause. Most of the species are of easy culture providing the above conditions are followed.
Many of them spread rapidly and make quick growth; therefore they require to be potted or overhauled every spring, but when once well established, they may be fed with liquid manure once a week. - Propagation is by dividing the crowns, or by cuttings in those kinds that make secondary growths, these cuttings being taken just below the nodes. In spring, just before growth begins, is a good time for this work. Tubers may be used, if produced.
In Florida, calatheas grow exceedingly well in shady lath plant-houses. The soil should be leaf-mold and very old cow-manure added to the original natural soil. Commercial fertilizer should never be used. In very cold weather they should be covered with pine branches and leaves or pine-needles. All the kinds soon form very beautiful clumps. All of them need much water while they are growing, but not in the winter if they are planted out in beds. Each spring they must be replanted in fresh soil. Then the clumps may be divided, or if large specimen plants are desired, they may be left intact. (Nehrling.)
The calatheas are a confusing group to the horticulturist, because the differences that he knows lie mostly in characters of leaf and habit and these are variable. The size of leaf and plant depends much on the treatment, and in some species the juvenile leaves are different from the mature ones. The coloration of the foliage depends much on the age, and the way in which the plants are grown. However, we may roughly throw the species into two groups,-the smallleaved and the large-leaved, although it is a question where to place such intermediate kinds as C.Veitchiana, C. insignis, C. leopardina, C. Sanderiana, C. nigricans, and some others; or we may arrange them in two groups by the red-marked kinds (of foliage), and by the green-, gray- and white-marked kinds, but this would not account for the juvenile and adult stages of C. leopardina, C. imperialis, C. Chantrieri, C. ornata, and others. The botanical classification by floral characters would be of little use to the general horticulturist. Some plants known in collections as calatheas are likely to be marantas, phryniums, monotagmas, ctenanthe, or others.
The radical tufted leaves and capitate inflorescence of Calathea, and the zigzag stems and branched inflorescence and small flowers of Maranta are general characters of separation between these two genera. In the present account, the attempt has been made to draw the characters as much as possible from cultivated specimens apparently authentically named.
a. Markings of If. (upper surface) in red or brown, at least in part.
Dwarf: leaves nearly orbicular, purple beneath, the upper side dark green, the midrib red, and an irregular red zone (sometimes two zones) two-thirds of the distance from the midrib toward the margin. Amazon. F.S. 16:1675-6. Gn. 2, p. 3.
Two feet or less high: leaves obovate-elliptic, short-acuminate or cuspidate, thin, greenish beneath, lively green above, and marked midway between the rib and the margin with lighter green and squarish patches of brown. Peru. B.M. 5542.