10 Most Rare Calathea | Prayer Plant Varieties

Calatheas are sculptural plants widely known for their displays of green, magenta, chartreuse and white variegation. Each cultivar and hybrid presents this visual spectacle in unique ways.

Recently, 200 species previously categorized as Calatheas have been genetically discovered to be of an entirely different genus and re-categorized as Goeppertia.

Of the remaining 60 species, there are a few cultivars that are highly prized for their exceptional variegation. However, they are remarkably sensitive to environmental conditions and require very specific care.

Here, we’ll discuss 11 of the rare Calatheas and what they require to thrive in your home.

Rare Prayer Plant Varieties

This particular plant genus is renowned for being fussy, so caring for them can be tricky. Especially for people with limited time to spend on their houseplants.

The Prayer Plant’s growth potential ranges from 12” to 4 ft tall and wide and often takes as little as one year to reach full maturity.

Calathea Veitchiana

1. Calathea Veitchiana ‘Flamestar’

Recently labelled a Goeppertia, the ‘Flamestar’ displays a rainbow of jewel tones throughout its upright form.

Each large, ovate leaf can span 6” by 4”, with outstanding dark and light green variegation that changes from mid-leaf to margin. Leaves gently unfurl from the tips of thick, deep magenta stems that can rise 24” from the soil at a moderately fast pace.

To flourish, the ‘Flamestar’ seeks an environment similar to its original, tropical habitat, with bright, indirect light (to maintain colour and variegation), 60%+ humidity and relatively moist soil to keep leaves and roots from drying out.

Calathea Fucata

2. Calathea Fucata

This Goeppertia Calathea might be the most particular about its growing environment. Even the slightest variance in temperature, humidity, light and soil moisture will cause the ‘Fucata’ to respond with browning, drooping leaves and stems. Which is what makes this cultivar very hard to find.

But when that magic combination is landed on, this will produce large, papery, leaves with strokes of dark green on a sage green background.

Leaf undersides and stems take on a dark lilac hue, adding to a dynamic colour palette, as this plant reaches 2-3 ft tall and wide, at maturity.

Calathea Pavonii

3. Calathea Pavonii

To a trained eye, the ‘Pavonii’ may look similar to more widely available cultivars, but what makes this rare is its unique variegation.

Vibrant green leaves are lined with lighter veins that give them texture. In between each vein are two (sometimes three) broad wisps of dark green, where chlorophyll cells have more densely collected.

This plant’s lack of rosy colouring (typical of a Calathea) is one reason for it being reclassified as a Goeppertia.

Regardless of the genus, the ‘Pavonii’ still insists on a warm, humid environment with relatively moist soil to reach its compact, mature size of 12” tall and wide.

Calathea Cynthia

4. Calathea Cynthia

This rare Calathea may only reach 20” tall and wide. But, its leaves can extend out 5” by 3.5”. Vivid green foliage is accentuated by pale yellow midribs and feathery, silver borders.

You may also have seen the ‘Pink Jesse’ which is a roseopicta version of the ‘Cynthia’ with a pink overlay on each leaf.

Both versions have rich purple undersides and stem, with new leaves unfurling in pastel colours, giving this plant energizing appeal, even on cloudy days.

As with most Calathea varieties, these beautiful leaves turn upward and fold together as the light dims.

Calathea Corona

5. Calathea Corona

The ‘Corona’ is aptly named for its moonlit leaves with halos of deep green, each of which can grow to 5” long by 4” wide. 

Similar to the ‘Cynthia’, this cultivar produces new leaves with a faint, pink blush that fades to light green as they mature. A hallmark of rare Calatheas stems and leaf undersides reflect a dark lilac tone.

This cultivar is a bit easier to find and not as picky about its care as others are. It also grows to a slightly smaller, compact size of 20-30” tall and wide, when grown in pots.

Calathea Ornata

6. Calathea Ornata

Commonly known as the Pinstripe Calathea, the ‘Ornata’ is more particular about its growing conditions, compared to the ‘Corona’. Light, temperature, nutrients, moisture and humidity levels need to be just right.

If not, this plant will definitely let you know with browning, drooping stems and leaves with dull variegation. When happy, though, soft pink, double pinstripes will shine from bright green, 4” long leaves atop deep purple stems.

It may take 3-5 years for the ‘Ornata’ to reach 3ft tall and wide. But, you’ll know it’s maturing by watching those pink pinstripes fade to a crisp white.

Calathea Margarita

7. Calathea Margarita

The ‘Margarita’ is the newest cultivar to hit the market. While still considered a rare Calathea, this is showing promise, in terms of its care. Given how green its leaves are, it has even been known to thrive in the lower light of a north-facing window.

Even rare is the seemingly airbrushed, seafoam green variegation framing each leaf. These are quite sizable considering that the ‘Margarita’ only grows to 12” tall by 15” wide.

While not as temperamental about light requirements, it still insists on somewhat moist, nutrient-rich soil and higher-than-average humidity.

Calathea Lietzei ‘White Fusion’

8. Calathea Lietzei ‘White Fusion’

The ‘White Fusion’ is another cultivar that has become a Goeppertia. The difference between this and a typical Calathea lies in leaf shape and variegation patterns.

Chlorophyll cell production is limited to certain areas, giving us this beautiful contrast of green (in varying shades) and pure white on long, lanceolate leaves.

What originally put the ‘White Fusion’ in the category of rare Calathea was a flush of pink on stems and leaf undersides, along with its mature size of 2 ft tall and wide.

In ideal conditions, this may even produce yellow flowers that resemble tiny bromeliads.

white star

9. Calathea Majestica’s ‘White Star’

Notice the leaf shape? Yes, the ‘White Star’ is now a Goeppertia Majestica. Yet, just like a proper Calathea, it’s a bit picky about its growing environment.

In order to meet the demands of this picky cultivar maintain average temperatures of 65F or above and avoid placing near air vents, open windows and air-con. Any sudden climate change can quickly lead to temperature shock.

Around 5-7 hours of bright, diffused light, will help to maintain variegation and sufficient photosynthesis for the ‘White Star’ to produce white, lanceolate leaves with dark green veining and a hint of scarlet when grown in nutrient-rich soil. Excessive or direct sunlight will result in faded leaves, however.  

Another aspect that defines this as a Goeppertia is its mature size of 4-5 ft tall by 2.5 ft wide. Only Calatheas grew outdoors, in tropical climates, ever get that big.

Calathea Warscewiczii

10. Calathea Warscewiczii

Second only to the ‘White Star’ is our final example of a rare Calathea (now, a Goeppertia), with a mature size of 3.5 ft tall with a 2.5 ft spread.

These robust, tropical evergreen present leaves are uncommonly thicker than others on this list, with a soft, ribbed texture. Gradient shades of green, with a touch of purple, create mysterious, swirling patterns outward from stem to leaf tip.

As such, this can tolerate slightly lower light conditions than others with more variegation. But, higher humidity is a must to keep these gorgeous leaves from browning.

Caring for Rare Calathea Plants

Given that indoor environments and climates vary from one household to another, the effort to create “optimal conditions” may also vary. The ultimate goal is to maintain the following guidelines throughout the year.

  • Watering: Water when the top 1-2” of soil is dry, depending on pot size, to avoid root rot and leaf damage. 
  • Light: Highly variegated Calatheas do best in moderately bright, filtered sunlight.
  • Best temperature: Tropical prayer plants require ambient temperatures between 70°-85°F with 50% humidity or more.
  • Soil: Not drought-tolerant, a soil structure that retains sufficient moisture is necessary, while simultaneously being well-draining and airy.
  • Toxicity: Calatheas ( and some Goeppertia) are considered non-toxic to people and pets.
  • Common problems and pests: If the above care requirements falter, a plethora of houseplant pests could take up residence. As could root rot, sensitivity to unfiltered water, and various fungal and bacterial infections.
  • Propagation: Calathea can be propagated by division

Rare Types of Calatheas Final Thoughts

The sheer beauty of these Calatheas makes them hard to resist. Just keep in mind that their rare status makes them high-maintenance investments.

When you’re ready to add these to your collection, ensure that they receive as close to the care recommendations that I have suggested as possible.

In colder climates, it’s important to keep these tropicals away from winter drafts and mist them daily, when the heater is running more often, to maintain humidity requirements. 

Exceptional care will promote a gorgeous, long-lived plant and your long-term enjoyment of them.

You might also like to read 11 Different Types Of Rubber Plants | Ficus Elastic

FAQ Rare Calatheas

What is the Rarest Calathea Plant?

The ‘White Fusion’ Calathea is considered the rarest, due to its extreme intolerance to insufficient care. The Goeppertia ‘Fucata’ runs a close second. In homes, these require a greenhouse environment with moderate, indirect light to maintain variegation and close observation.

Why are some Calatheas hard to find?

Plants that are known for being difficult to grow are typically not the first to fly off the nursery shelves. Rare Calathea collectors make up a smaller percentage of the consumer population, making the demand for them lower. Lower demand equals lower availability.

References

National Library of Medicine – Biochemical and Physiological Characteristics of Photosynthesis in Plants of Two Calathea Species

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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.