Calathea propagation: how to get more of your favorite houseplants

Follow this easy method for calathea propagation to multiply your plant collection for free

Calathea Peacock plant leaves
(Image credit: Pawat Sankhavadhana / Alamy Stock Photo)

Calathea propagation is easy to do and is a great way to expand your indoor plant collections for free. 

Calathea comprise of a diverse group of striking foliage plants and include the aptly named peacock plant (Goeppertia makoyana), with its intricately patterned dark and pale green upper leaves with purple coloring below; the rattlesnake plant (Goeppertia lancifolia), which sports snakeskin patterns on its tall sword-shaped  leaves; and the eye-catching eternal flame (Goeppertia crocata), grown for its fiery orange torch-like blooms, as well as the dark green, wavy-edged leaves. 

While these beauties may be quite expensive to buy, they are all very easy to propagate, providing you with a collection of new plants for free. 

Part of your calathea care routine is to spot when it has outgrown its container, and this is the ideal point to divide it up into newer, smaller plants. You can check if your calathea is at this stage by looking underneath the pot to see if roots are growing through the drainage holes. 

Alternatively, slip it out of the container and if the roots are encircling the root ball in a tight mass, you’re ready to go. 

Removing surplus compost away from Calathea Zebrina using fingers

Have your new pots ready before you start

(Image credit: Dorling Kindersley ltd / Alamy Stock Photo)

Make calathea propagation easy with these 4 simple steps:

Perfecting calathea propagation is easy and it's done using division. Other methods which may work for other indoor plants, like using cuttings for rubber plant propagation, or collecting seeds from your plants, are either very slow or ineffectual. So we recommend this method for the very best results.

  1. Water your plant well and leave to drain for an hour or so. Also make sure you have some pots with drainage holes in the base that will accommodate the newly divided calatheas. Then remove the plant from its pot and shake off any compost from around the rootball; don’t worry if no compost comes away at this stage.
  2. If the roots are not packed too tightly, you can gently pull apart the leafy stems with your hands, so that you have two or three clumps, each with some healthy roots attached.
  3. A common indoor plant mistake is allowing your plant to become pot bound. This is when the roots are forming a tight mass that can’t be pulled apart. Use a sharp, clean kitchen knife to cut the rootball into a couple of sections. After dividing it, carefully remove any dark, black or unhealthy looking roots.
  4. Lay your divided clumps on a table, and check that the pots you have ready are just a little bigger than each of the plant’s rootballs. Place a layer of houseplant compost, or a 2:1 mix of soil-based compost mixed with perlite, in the base of the pots, and then add the plants. Fill in around the rootballs with more compost, making sure that once planted, your calatheas are at the same level in their new pots as they were in their original container. Water well, and leave your plants to grow on in the bright, humid conditions they enjoy – they work well as a plant for bathrooms or a kitchen plant because of this. 

Calathea lancifolia green pattern leaf close-up on the windowsill in bright sunlight with shadows

Humid conditions are best for your propagated calatheas

(Image credit: Ольга Симонова / Getty)

Caring for your propagated calathea

Keep the compost moist as you would with a maidenhair fern, but guard against waterlogging by watering plants over a sink with rainwater or distilled water – or tap water that has been put aside for a day to allow the chlorine to dissipate – and leaving them to drain. 

Keep the plants in their new pots for about two or three years, after which time they will probably need repotting and may also be large enough to divide again.

When is the best time to propagate calathea?

The best way to propagate a calathea is to divide it in spring, at the beginning of their growing season. All you need for this quick and effective technique is a mature calathea with plenty of healthy stems to divide up. 

The perfect time to propagate is when a plant has outgrown its original container, which will also help to give it a new lease of life, since the congested roots will be struggling to take up sufficient water and nutrients. Though calathea are good low light indoor plants, grow your new plants on in bright conditions in the beginning to allow them to establish properly.

Close-up view of a potted Rattlesnake Calathea, a plant native to the Brazilian rainforest.

Lots of healthy stems means your plant is ready for dividing

(Image credit: Jenny Dettrick / Getty)

Can you propagate calathea from cuttings?

The simple answer is no. With spider plant propagation you can place your cuttings in water to start them off. However the stems from the calathea plant don't contain the necessary rooting tissue

However, the good news is that learning how to propagate calathea using the division method is simple and effective! And with the right aftercare you're guaranteed great results.

Zia Allaway
Freelance writer

Zia Allaway is a garden book author, editor, and journalist, and writes for a range of gardening and women’s magazines, including Easy Gardens, Homes & Gardens and Livingetc, as well as The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph newspapers. She has also written books for the Royal Horticultural Society and Dorling Kindersley publishers, including Eco-Gardening, Compost, Low Maintenance, Practical House Plant Book, Practical Cactus & Succulent Book, Indoor Edible Garden, What Plant Where, and the Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers.