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Plant Know-How: Ctenanthe

Ctenanthe leaves close-up

Ctenanthe burle marxii

If you've been keeping plants for a while you may recognize these boldly patterned leaves as part of the Marantaceae family. They belong to a Ctenanthe (C. burle-marxii in the case of the first photo), another member of the 'Prayer Plant' group of plants- earning their names from the way the leaves fold up in darkness, then relax in the light. Ctenanthe aren't quite as common as Maranta or Calathea, but with their similar care and variety of striking leaves they make for a great addition to any home. Ctenanthe, like other members of Marantaceae, are native to warm and humid forests where they live almost completely shaded. Because they're adapted to such wet and humid conditions it is important to provide a similar level of moisture in the air around these plants to ensure your Ctenanthe thrive. If you can replicate the conditions you'd find Ctenanthe growing in in the wild, you'll have stunning plants for years to come! Keep reading for our guide to help you achieve the happy and thriving Ctenanthe of your dreams!
Ctenanthe lubbersiana leaves up close
Ctenanthe lubbersiana


Light requirements for Ctenanthe: Ctenanthe do best in bright filtered light, but they can adapt to medium light as well- they just won't be as full (expect leaf drop while the plant adjusts to lower light levels) and new leaves will be smaller. Like all other members of the Marantaceae family Ctenanthe leaves will burn if kept in direct sun.

Watering tips for Ctenanthe: Ensure the soil never completely dries out. Water when the top 1/8 to 1/4 of soil has gone dry. Ctenanthe need added humidity to truly thrive and avoid brown and crispy leaf edges. Place them near a humidifier or in a bright, humid room like a bathroom to maintain high humidity. If you need some help knowing how wet or dry your soil is, a moisture meter is a helpful tool that can take out some of the guesswork!

The Best Soil for Ctenanthe: Because Ctenanthe shouldn't dry out too much, or too quickly, a potting mix that retains some moisture, while still allowing oxygen to reach the roots is best. Our Thirsty Tropicals Potting Mix is a perfect choice for any Caladium. 

Is Ctenanthe pet-safe? Like other plants in the Marantaceae family, Ctenanthe are non-toxic to cats & dogs! If you're looking for other pet-safe plants, be sure to check out the Pet Safe category of the Plant Care Compendium

How to style Ctenanthe: Because of their striking leaves, we think Ctenanthe look best in simple pots that allow the plant to be the 'star'. The growth habit of many varieties of Ctenanthe lends itself well to pots with a pedestal shape- giving space for the leaves to cascade down.   

Did you know? Certain members of the Marantaceae family are cultivated for use as a food source!

Ctenanthe setosa leaves up closeCtenanthe setosa

If you're looking to add a Ctenanthe to your plant collection, we have them in-store from time-to-time. Text the shop to see what we have available!