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rattlesnake plant

Rattlesnake Plant: How to Grow and Care

Are you also amazed by the deep green ovals on the lance-shaped green leaves? Well, who isn’t? 

The rattlesnake plant has a charismatic presence and captures attention. The undersides of the leaves are royal purple, adding an appealing aura. It is no surprise that the rattlesnake plant quickly becomes the talk of the room.

These plants are excellent if you want to add tropical jungle vibes to your home. Although the Calathea rattlesnake plant, like others, is a little challenging to grow. But if you have enough time on your hands, you can enjoy the magnificent foliage of the plant.

In this blog, I will walk you through how to grow and care for your beautiful rattlesnake plant, how to propagate this plant at your home easily, how you can identify this plant, and what common issues happen to this plant. 
But before that, do you know what this plant looks like and what makes it special? Let’s get into it.

About the Rattlesnake plant

Rattlesnake plants (Calathea iancifolia) are popularly known as zebra plants. These attractive plants are native to Brazil and thrive in the rainforests mostly. 

They have long, variegated leaves and can grow to be 30 inches tall, if not more. The rattlesnake plant is primarily known for its magnificent leaves. The long shape of the leaves, as well as their pattern, lend this calathea a reptilian allure. 

The light green leaves with dark green splotches alternate from large to small between the midrib and the leaf margin. The pattern of dark splotches creates an appealing appearance of small leaflets.

These give an aesthetic look without disturbing the decor. The leaves are slightly wavy, especially at the margins. They have purple to burgundy undersides, which become more visible after night when the plant raises its leaves.

The Calathea rattlesnake plant is completely non-toxic. You can safely place it around children and pets. They rarely bloom indoors but may produce small yellow flowers if you plant them outdoors.

So, how about growing this beauty in your home? The process is pretty simple and won’t burden you. Let me walk you through the growing steps of the rattlesnake plant.

How to grow the Rattlesnake plant?

You can grow Rattle snake plants indoors and outdoors, depending upon your preference. They will serve you with their beautiful leaves, making a statement.

Steps to grow:

  1. You should pick a pot or container with a drainage hole. I recommend you choose terra cotta pots as they allow the soil to dry out more easily than plastic pots.
  2. Fill the pot with well-draining soil and place the rattlesnake plant in the growing medium. 
  3. Avoid burying the plant too deeply. Now water them evenly.
  4. Place your plant in the bright indirect sunlight so that it can adjust to its new home.

Now comes the challenging part: Rattlesnake plant care! As I told you earlier, it may be challenging but not impossible. Just give them a little care and attention, and they will serve you with beautiful foliage.

Let’s hop on the caring instructions of the rattlesnake plant.

How to care for a Rattlesnake plant?

Just like any other plant, the Calathea rattlesnake plant also needs care and maintenance to thrive. You need to take care of a few measures while growing them so that they can produce healthy leaves.

1. The rattlesnake plants prefer a moderate temperature

These plants adore temperature with no extremes. They can grow well at 18 to 23 degrees Celsius. 

You should avoid any extreme temperature fluctuations to get better results. Place your rattlesnake plant in a spot away from any cold or hot drafts found near windows and exterior doors.

Strictly avoid placing them in direct sunlight in summer or near AC vents. In summer, you can relocate it to the coolest part of your home.

2. The rattlesnake plant prefers bright indirect light

One of the important things to consider in rattlesnake plant care is its lighting needs. Sunlight can make or break any plant. You should create similar light conditions found on the rainforest floor, depicting filtered or bright, indirect sunlight.

Sunlight is required to keep the rattlesnake plant’s vibrant colors. If you provide your rattlesnake plant with too much light, the dark-green spots fade, and the leaves scorch. On the other hand, insufficient light can cause the leaves color to appear dull. It may even restrict its growth and cause more diseases.

Although rattlesnake plants can tolerate lower light levels than many other tropical plants, you should provide them with sufficient bright indirect light.

3. Where should you place your rattlesnake plant?

You should place your rattlesnake near a bright window where it can get some morning sun. Make sure not to expose it to the afternoon sun directly. 

You can use sheer curtains to filter the light to avoid this situation. You can move the plant a few feet back to avoid direct sunlight.

4. Which windows are ideal for the calathea rattlesnake plant?

Here are the detailed description of all the windows:

  • An east-facing window: It provides excellent exposure. It offers gentle, direct light in the morning and indirect illumination throughout the day, keeping the plant happy.
  • A west-facing window: It can be suitable, but you should move them a foot or two away from the window to avoid the hot late afternoon sunlight.
  • North-facing windows: These windows provide the least light. In such conditions, you need to add extra lights to grow the rattlesnake plant.
  • South-facing windows: These are a challenging pick. They will provide direct sunlight and will harm the plant. To avoid direct sunlight, you should cover the plant with sheer curtains or move it five or so feet away from the windows.

If you don’t have any source of sunlight in your home, you can use artificial grow lights to reimburse the light.

5. The rattlesnake plant prefers regular watering

The rattlesnake plant prefers moist, not soggy. If you have a good habit of watering your green plants regularly, it’s a win-win deal for you. Do not leave your plant dry for too long.

Ideally, you should water your rattlesnake plant when the top inch of soil is dry. If you are an experienced gardener like me, you can also judge the weight of the pot to determine if it requires water. 

If the soil becomes too dry, thoroughly soak your plant in the water. If the soil drains quickly, soak it for longer, but don’t let it stand in water.

In the winter season, you should water your rattlesnake plant less, but you should not completely neglect it. Your plant may die due to a lack of water. On the other hand, avoid overwatering as it can cause root decay and several other diseases.

How to know whether your rattlesnake plant has root decay? Well, the primary symptom is the yellowing of the leaves. You can also inspect the roots to find any signs of trouble.

6. Rattlesnake plant prefers well-draining soil

You should select well-draining soil for your rattlesnake plant. They cannot tolerate standing water, yet they prefer to be moist.

For the calathea rattlesnake plant, you should use light sandy soil or a potting mix.

7. Rattlesnake plants adore high humidity

The rattlesnake plant requires a high humidity level to produce healthy foliage. You can place your plant in a bathroom, kitchen, or any other place where humidity levels are relatively high.

Ways to increase humidity around rattlesnake plant:

1) You can also put it in drier rooms, but spritz it with water to ensure it gets enough humidity. Ideally, you can mist your rattlesnake plant in the early morning as it will absorb moisture throughout the day. When spraying, make sure to wet both the top and bottom of the leaves.

2) Simply place a tray containing pebbles and water beneath the pot. It will increase moisture retention and humidity levels. 

3) You can buy a humidifier.

4) The simplest method is to surround the rattlesnake plant with other plants to mimic its natural setting. However, this process may require little maintenance. Just water the plants and let them enjoy the company.

8. The rattlesnake plant needs fertilization

You should feed the rattlesnake plant with an appropriately balanced water-soluble fertilizer during active growing seasons. The growing months are from spring to fall. Strictly avoid feeding in the winter season as the plant goes dormant.

9. The rattlesnake plant needs repotting

If your rattlesnake plant has outgrown its existing container or pot, it’s time to repot it. You can also evaluate its growth. If it has slowed down compared to regular months, it may be because the roots may not have enough space to spread out.

Things to consider while repotting the calathea rattlesnake plant:

  • You should choose a growing medium that will accommodate the plant and provide extra space. 
  • You should also ensure that the new container has drainage holes.
  • Use the same type of soil that the plant was previously housed in when repotting. It should be nutrient-dense, well-draining, and have a suitable pH level.

10. The flowering of the Rattlesnake plant

If you are growing your rattlesnake plant indoors, it may not bloom. It is very rare for the plant to flower indoors and not grow as tall. 

But if you give them a suitable growing environment outdoors, it may bloom in late spring or early summer. You can see tiny yellow flowers with conical spikes ranging in size from 2 to 4 inches.
Now that you know everything about rattlesnake plant care, let’s move forward to the propagation. Yes, you heard that right! You can easily propagate new plants from the parent plant, absolutely free! Isn’t that amazing?

How to propagate a Rattlesnake plant at home easily?

You can easily propagate new rattlesnake plants from the cuttings of the existing plants or by dividing mature plants. Both of the methods work extremely well and have a great success rate.

How to select a cutting?

The first step in rattlesnake plant propagation is to select a healthy cutting. You should choose healthy green cutting.
Avoid the cuttings that are wilting or have yellowing or brown leaves. You should also keep an eye on signs of disease and pest infestation. If you witness any such issues, drop that cutting immediately.

Here I will discuss two ways of rattlesnake plant propagation:

1. By Division

If you already have many plants, go for a healthy one. If your plant is sitting in dry soil, avoid that. It stresses the plant and may even cause it to die. Water thoroughly the day before you divide to keep the soil moist.


1) Select a growing medium (pot) larger than your divided plant’s root ball. Make sure the bottom has drainage holes.

2) Now, you should fill the growing medium with well-draining soil. 

3) Take out the existing plant from the existing container. Brush away some potting mix or soil and look for areas where the root ball naturally wants to separate. 

4) It’s time for the heavy work. Gently pull the sections apart. Do not apply force. It may harm the rattlesnake plant. 

5) Once the plant is separated, evaluate it. Check for damaged or diseased roots and if you find any, cut them off. 

6) Now plant them in the new pot. 

2. By Cuttings

You should clean your gardening scissors before making any cuttings from the mother plant. 


1) Select a leaf that is neither too old nor too young. If the leaves are too mature, avoid them. They may not be able to survive the shock.

2) Make a clean cut at the bottom.

3) Put the leaf in a container with just enough water to cover the bottom.

4) You should change the water every day. It will help to develop a healthy plant.

5) Now place the container in a bright, warm location away from direct sunlight. Harsh sunlight can damage the plant.

6) Cover the container with a plastic bag if you haven’t seen roots forming in a week and a half.

7) After the roots have emerged and are strong enough, plant them in a small pot. Keep a look out for any plant problems or pests as the plants are difficult to grow.

When I say the calathea rattlesnake plant is a bit challenging to care for, it means a few problems. Yes, your rattlesnake plant can face a few problems, and all your hard work may go in vain. 

But what are the problems your rattlesnake plant can face? How can you overcome it? I will walk you through some of the most common problems your plant can face.

How can you identify the rattlesnake plant?

This tropical plant has long, slender lance-shaped green leaves with prominent markings and a spiky, slender appearance. The undersides of this Calathea are a beautiful burgundy color. You can easily identify them with a single glimpse.

Common Issues with Rattle Snake Plant

Due to natural circumstances or unintentional mistakes, your calathea rattlesnake plant can suffer from pest infections or diseases. Here are some of the most common issues which may harm your plant:

1. Color Fading or change in Leaf Pattern

The pattern on the leaves of the rattlesnake plant is one of its most appealing features, so you don’t want it to fade. Harsh sun rays can damage the delicate leaves of the plant. It may fade the texture, and your plant will appear to fade. In such a case, switch the location to indirect light.

2. The edges of the leaves turn brown

The leaves of the plant may curl up and even turn brown due to a lack of humidity. As I already told you, these rattlesnake plants adore high humidity. You can increase the moisture in the ways I told you earlier. (Refer to Humidity section)

3. Root decay

Root decay can be an alarming issue. Usually, overwatering or a colder climate can cause root decay. In this case, you should repot your rattlesnake plant. Place them in indirect light and avoid overwatering.

4. Leaves falling to the ground

If your plant’s leaves are falling more than usual, it is an alarming thing. You should adequately water your calathea rattlesnake plant. It may be suffering from dehydration. 

If the topmost layer of the soil is crisp, remove it and water your plant deeply. Make the soil moist, and you will notice new growth in a few weeks.

5. Light Green Leaves

When compared to older leaves, new leaves are faded light green. But if all your leaves are in light green color, it is most likely due to a nitrogen deficiency. 

You should feed your rattlesnake plant thoroughly. Use a balanced fertilizer to boost growth.

6. Aphids

These are usually found in indoor plants. You can use insecticidal soap or neem oil to remove aphids.

7. Spider Mites

If you find these creepy little creatures on your plants, remove them. These are attracted to the fleshy green leaves. You should take a wet cloth to remove them.


The rattlesnake plant can be challenging to care for, but you will be rewarded with attractive leaves if you do. They have a wavy pattern along the edges and are variegated with shades of green. You can grow these eye-catching plants at home, but you need to care for them.

If you struggle to maintain beautiful indoor plants, you can always prefer our website for more articles like this. If you have any queries related to the calathea rattlesnake plant, please feel free to comment down below. I know it’s too much to ask but still, if you could share this article on social media, with your friends and family, which will help to reach this article to the masses and help plant lovers like you and me!

Happy Gardening to you!

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