Rattle, rattle, rattlesnake plant

Fancy leaves that fold upwards at night and expand outwards in daytime make this plant always fun to look at.

Ripply, rattlesnakey leaves

Let’s rattle off them facts…

  • Binomial name: Calathea lancifolia
  • Given name: Jessica
  • Native to: Brazilian rainforests
  • Bought: June 16, 2021 at Plant & Curio
  • Original pot: 4 inch; repotted to modified bubble tea cup (drilled with drainage holes)

Field notes–June 18, 2021

  • Repotting: moved plant and original potting mix (heavy coco fibre?) into custom-cut liner planter from Coco bubble tea to fit into a ceramic wall pocket

Field notes–July 19, 2021

  • Soil: dry; watered
  • Tallest petiole: 7 cm
  • Largest leaf: 9.5 cm long, 3.5 cm wide
  • New growth: none 😦
  • Signs of pests: none 🙂
  • Signs of care issues: not much growth in the last month. Some small leaves at the base of the plant became crispy within the first couple weeks of moving in. Have since increased humidity.

Research notes


  • Light: low, medium, or indirect sunlight, or direct morning sun only
  • Humidity: high
  • Temperature: 18 to 24 degrees Celsius; avoid drafts


  • Preference: distilled or rainwater, keep moist but not soggy
  • Frequency:
    • In growing season: frequent small watering rather than deep watering
    • In winter: allow top layer to dry out

Soil, fertilization, and pots

  • Soil type: good quality potting mix with sand; well-draining but holds moisture; could do one part perlite to two parts peat
  • Soil pH: acidic to neutral
  • Fertilization:
    • Every four weeks during growing season with diluted, balanced fertilizer on moist soil
    • Foliar spray with lots of nitrogen
  • Repotting:
    • Replenish top part of soil in spring if not repotting
    • In spring, every two to three years


  • Grow style: moderately fast
  • Mature size: 75 cm or more
  • Common problems:
    • Spider mites
    • Browning along leaf edges (due to: uneven watering, intense sunlight, excessive fertilizer)
    • Overwatering (signs: yellowing leaves)
    • Underwatering (signs: curling leaves)
    • Low humidity (signs: curling leaves, brown spots)
    • Cold temperatures and overwatering (signs: limp stems)
  • Pruning: remove old, damaged leaves
  • Other care: wipe leaves with a damp cloth
  • Propagation: by division

Research sources: Gardening Know How, the spruce, bloomscape, Sunday Gardener, Our House Plants

Leaf collection

Plants often show distress via their leaves in a cryptic code of browning here, crispiness there, and the tactical expansion of yellowing across the surface.

What does it all mean!?

The answer to “why is this leaf yellow?” could be many things from over- to underwatering or too much or too little light. It could depend on how the leaf is yellowing, where the leaf is located on the plant, what kind of plant it belongs to, and just understanding how your plant experiences your environment.

Result: honestly, I generally just don’t know, and not knowing is frustrating, so I will treat the leaves I am given as a collection of specimens and find out what I can each time.

Leaves of distress: the pictures

Leaves of distress: the breakdown

Sign of distressNotesInexpert diagnosis and treatment
Yellowing from the base up on a bottom leaf– On a Dracaena surculosa (Päivi)
– On the lowest leaf
– The previous lowest leaf also yellowed and fell off
– The same stem has pushed out three new leaves
– Plant is not in the best area to receive light.
Plant took energy from old leaves to support new leaves.

Add more light to give it enough energy to support new and old growth.
Crispy edges– On a Calathea lancifolia (Jessica)
– New leaf
– Other new leaves have shown similar signs
– All new leaves are hidden under larger leaves
– Plant is recently acquired
– Moisture meter was not functioning and improperly indicated “moist” when soil was dry, so I left it too long
Distress from moving to my house.

Improve watering and humidity consistency.
Brown spots along the edge– On a Virginia rabbit’s foot fern (Fern)
– Appears on two leaves
– Appeared one day after spraying with insecticidal soap
Insecticidal soap applied in the daylight may have burned the leaves or have been applied too heavily.
Apply pest treatments more carefully or switch treatments.
Completely yellow or pale– On a Pothos plant (Esmerelda)
– Two yellowed leaves out of many on an otherwise healthy vine
– Yellowing leaves are further from the window than the healthiest ones
Too little light on that side of the plant; aging out those leaves.

Not a cause for concern.
Yellowing from the inside out– On a Virginia rabbit’s foot fern (Fern)
– On a newish, lower leaf
– Petiole is crispy and brown
– Moisture meter was not functioning and improperly indicated “moist” when soil was dry, so I left it too long
– All other leaves are OK
Too little water when this leaf was growing.

Monitor soil moisture more carefully.

PUA: how to take home a Calathea ornata

I saw her from across the room and locked eyes with those dazzling leaves. No way I wasn’t going to try my luck! I sauntered over and caressed her pot. Soon she was in my hands and I banged her (gently) on the counter. It was that easy.

Calathea ornata. Note: brown dusting is cinnamon powder. I should have taken a glamour shot before!

Hey baby

  • Binomial name: Calathea ornata
  • Given name: Laura Jenna Ellinoora Alexandra Camilla
  • Native to: South America
  • Bought: June 15, 2021 at Plant & Curio
  • Original pot (current): 4 inch, plastic

Field notes — June 19, 2021

  • Soil: Seemed dry. Watered bottom-up, but even after a while, did not seem as though top was getting moist.
  • New growth: 2 new leaves at base. Root has extended out of the nursery pot.
  • Signs of care issues:
    Some wounds on leaves, I think these were there when I bought them.
    Bottom two new leaves aren’t well. One has shriveled, the other is yellowing. Removed shriveled leaf.

Field notes-June 20, 2021

  • Signs of care issues: Wounds on leaves dusted with cinnamon to promote healing and act as a fungicide.

Field notes — June 21, 2021

  • Soil moisture: average 2 [scale: dry to wet : 1 to 10]. Too dry!
    From bottom of pot: barely moist.
  • Water: bottom-up with filtered water; moisture meter registers as “moist”. After 50 minutes, still not “wet” and top is dry. Used rest of water to water top-down; allowed to drain. When watering directly onto meter, it registers only as 7, the boundary between “moist” and “wet” and then flips immediately to 5 as soon as I stop pouring, so perhaps this soil is particularly efficient at draining.
  • Soil pH: 7–8
  • Light: 9 am, just above 0 [scale: dark to light : 0 to 2000]. Dark. Surprising, but it is a west-facing window and today is dim and overcast, so I will check again in the afternoon.
  • Largest leaf: 9.7 cm from base to apex
  • Longest petiole: 6.7 cm
  • Signs of pests: none, but what I assume is soil fertilizer on the surface, light yellowy balls, but looking unlike others I’ve seen before as they seem to have a partial shell. Reminds me of coriander.
  • Signs of care issues:
    Little leaf on the bottom is shriveling; plucked it out. Seems these two lower leaves yellowing and shriveling are signs of underwatering.
    Largest wound (with cinnamon on it): 2 cm long along edge of largest leaf; added picture for tracking.
    Spotted wounds on third-largest leaf: added picture for tracking.
Wound on largest leaf
Spotted wounds on third-largest leaf. Note: dark black spots below wounds are shadows of cinnamon powder on top of leaf, not spider mites or other pests.

Research notes


  • Light: bright, indirect. Direct light will cause fading.
  • Humidity: high
  • Temperature: 18 to 29 degrees Celsius


  • Preference: keep lightly moist, use distilled water
  • Frequency: water when soil starts to dry out (every 1 to 2 weeks in summer; less in winter)

Soil, fertilization, and pots

  • Soil type: retains moisture (coco coir or peat), but is loose enough to let the plant breathe (+perlite; soil with moss or bigger chunks). African violet soil will work.
  • Fertilization: balanced fertilizer, diluted to half strength, once a month during growing season. Overfertilization can burn or cause lankiness.
  • Repotting: in spring, when roots and leaves are quite large; often a year after purchase. Soak after repotting.


  • Grow style: moderate to fairly fast
  • Mature size: 2 feet high; 2 feet wide
  • Neat stuff: air purification; leaves open and close at morning and night.
  • Common problems:
    Spider mites (spray them off with shower head; coat leaves with [dish soap + water in a spray bottle | neem oil], which suffocates the mites, then wipe off; repeat (bi)weekly as needed)
    Too dry (signs: brown, crispy, or yellow leaves; give more humidity and mist)
    Yellowing leaves: normal for the odd leaf, but if widespread could be due to various causes
    Too much direct light (signs: pink stripes turning white)
  • Other care: use fingers or shears to remove brown leaves (this is normal); dust sometimes
  • Propagation: division, when large enough

Research sources: Plant care for BeginnersSmart Garden GuideHouseplant Central

Plants. Plants. Plants. Oh my god, plants.

In the modified words of Liam Kyla Sullivan:

Let’s get some plants.
Let’s get some plants.
Let’s get some plants.
Let’s get some plants.

Maybe I got too many? I mean, this whole weekend was all about

Oh, my God, plants.

Like, I:

  • brought my humidifier to the dining room and set it up for the plants. And then my essential oil diffuser (sans oils).
  • checked root systems, removed crunchy leaves/rotting roots, and repotted soleirolia soleirolii, aloe vera, divided oxalis, pothos props, spider plant props, kalanchoe props, and string of dolphin props into terra cotta pots to improve evaporation rate of water
  • repotted calathea lancifolia and philodendron brasil into custom planter pots to fit inside wall-mounted cachepots
  • moved plants around to desired light/humidity areas
  • started eleven other plant-bio stories (since I was already researching ideal light, humidity, and soil conditions, I noted them down and filled out some other bio areas, including capturing photos for most plants)
  • went out to by glass covers for soleirolia soleirolii, salaginella, and calathea ornata (but calaethea ornata didn’t quite fit the container I bought it and might not really need it, so OK for now)
  • searched amazon to order: humidifier, humidistat, activated charcoal for eventual terrarium for salaginella, yellow sticky paper to trap infesting insects, 3-in-1 moisture/light/pH soil meter (surprise! Husband already had just the one I wanted! And he gave it to me.)
  • determined there are spider mites on my jade; treated it and the nearby-sitting string of turtles with a pray bottle of rosemary essential oil + water; moved them to isolation (they should have started in isolation; will know that for future purchases)
  • added cinnamon to wounds on leaves to promote healing (will it work? Recommended by a friend. Excited to see.)

These plants rule.
These plants suck.
These plants rule.
These plants suck.

I love them. They are amazing. I hate them. My obsession is killing me. I have no thoughts, no life, except:

Oh, my God, plants.
These plants rule.
Having few plants sucks.
Having not enough plants sucks.
Not buying even one plant that I want sucks!

I also researched more plants to buy. I didn’t… I only added to my online shopping cart in three local stores…

I think you have too many plants.
Shut up!
I think you have too many plants.
Shut up!
I think you have too many plants.
Shut up!
I think you have too many plants.
Shut up!

But… I might have too many plants. They’re all I could think about this weekend. But I’m also happy. So shut up!

Stupid boy.
Stupid boy.
Let’s get some plants.
Let’s party.

Husband is indulging me after years of denying me plants.
I am buying so many.

These plants are three hundred dollars.
These plants are three hundred dollars.
These plants are three hundred fucking dollars.
Let’s get ‘em!

I mean, aren’t they beautiful? I also watched several hours worth of YouTube videos about plants. And rare plants. And plant care. And plant trends.

Um…your room runs small. I don’t think your plants are gonna fit.
I mean, these plants are kinda big.

So I’ll just stick them on more walls! I can put them on the floor — just walk around them! More shelves! More hanging pots! More! More Moooaaaar!

Oh, by the way betch,
those plants are mine betch
gimme those fuckin’ plants betch