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How To Care For A Rattlesnake Plant?

The rattlesnake plant, or Goeppertia lancifolia, is a tropical plant in the Marantaceae family known for its stunning leaf patterns. With long leaves that boast two shades of green on top and a deep reddish-purple on the underside, this beauty is a must-have for any plant lover. I will discuss the conditions needed for your rattlesnake plant to thrive, and how to fix one that is struggling. Learn more on how to care for a rattlesnake plant.

Rattlesnake Plant Care

Rattlesnake Plant Care

Three factors matter most with nearly any houseplant: water, light, and soil. If you can find the sweet spot, your rattlesnake plant will be a happy camper. 

Here’s what it requires, along with a few other conditions that help:

Water

Rattlesnake plants are native to Brazilian tropical rainforests, so they appreciate plenty of moisture. Too much water, however, could lead to root rot and cause your plant to struggle. 

Rather than watering on a schedule, only water your plant when it needs it. Poke the soil with your finger every couple of days, and water when the first inch of soil feels dry. 

You can also use a bamboo skewer to check the moisture in the soil. Just stick the skewer into the pot (carefully avoiding roots). The stick will be darker in color and have soil sticking to it where it’s wet. 

Rattlesnake plants can be sensitive to chlorine and other minerals commonly found in tap water, so distilled or rainwater might be necessary. Ensure the water is room temperature (not cold), and water until you see it flowing out of the drainage hole. 

Pot Size

As with most houseplants, rattlesnake plants prefer to be in pots that are slightly bigger than the root ball. Pots with too much extra soil may cause the roots to sit in more moisture than they can absorb, leading to root rot.

Light

Along with many other plants in the Marantaceae family, rattlesnake plants prefer indirect light. Indirect light means your plant should sit where the sun’s rays won’t touch it. 

Depending on where you live, any window could potentially offer indirect light. If you only have an unobstructed south-facing window available – generally the most intense light in a home – you can make some adjustments to subdue the light. 

A sheer curtain in front of a very sunny window emulates the filtered light that a rattlesnake plant might receive in its native environment. Placing your plant a few feet back from the window so that the sun’s rays aren’t directly on it is also a valid option. 

If you’re placing it in an east or west-facing window that receives morning light, you may want to move it a few feet back from the window when the sun shines through in the morning or afternoon, respectively. Your rattlesnake plant should be able to sit directly in or in front of a north-facing window. 

Soil

Most plants in the Marantaceae family prefer to live in well-draining soil that retains some moisture, and rattlesnake plants are no exception. Any all-purpose potting mix is suitable for these plants, providing that it contains components that help to aerate the soil. 

Perlite, charcoal, vermiculite, and bark are examples of materials to look for in a potting mix that can help with drainage. Many plant owners like to add a combination of these materials to their preferred brand of soil mix.

Humidity

Rattlesnake plants are partially known for their love of humidity. Many owners often report seeing brown, crispy leaf edges or curling leaves due to insufficient humidity. 

In general, most tropical plants are happiest when they are in at least 50% humidity, but many can be acclimated to your normal household humidity. Rattlesnake plants, however, can be fussier about this, and might not tolerate lower humidity levels. 

If you notice that your plant’s leaves are crispy, browning, or curling, or the soil is drying out quickly, try increasing the humidity. Adding a humidifier, grouping tropical plants together, or using a humidity dome are good ways to raise the moisture levels. 

Temperature

Along with most other houseplants, rattlesnake plants do best in a temperature range of 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Your plant may struggle if its exposed to temperatures outside of that range for a sustained period of time. 

Fertilizer

When your rattlesnake is actively growing, you can feed it an all-purpose fertilizer for houseplants about every two weeks. 

For a detailed visual care guide on rattlesnake plants, check out this video:

Note: Rattlesnake plants were recently reclassified from Calethea lancifolia to Goeppertia insignis. This video reflects their former name, but the care tips remain unchanged. 

How To Revive a Rattlesnake Plant?

How To Revive a Rattlesnake Plant 

Getting to know a new houseplant involves some trial and error. Fortunately, rattlesnake plants are fairly forgiving if you miss the mark on some of its ideal conditions. 

Here are some of the most common issues this plant faces, and how to resolve them: 

Curled Leaves 

When your plant’s leaves curl in at the edges, it may be attempting to conserve moisture. When this happens, feel the soil with your finger. If the top inch is dry, give it a thorough watering. 

If your plant isn’t thirsty, the curled leaves might be a signal that it needs more humidity. If it was in fact water or humidity that your plant was missing, you should notice it start to perk up within the next 24 hours or so. 

Wilting/Droopy Leaves

It’s normal for the leaves of your rattlesnake to lower themselves during the day, and raise themselves up at night. When your plant is healthy, the stems should still feel firm even when they are lowered. 

If the leaves are wilted and the stems are limp and/or mushy, your plant may have been overwatered. If the soil feels soggy, the roots may be waterlogged and struggling to receive oxygen. 

To help your plant dry out more quickly and hopefully keep it from dying, you can try poking holes in the soil with a bamboo skewer or chopstick to aerate the medium. You can also put a fan nearby, and the air will help it dry out. 

If your plant is in a flexible plastic pot, such as its original nursery pot, you can also gently squeeze the sides of the pot with your hands to loosen the soil. 

Little Or No Growth

If growth has slowed down or stopped, or you haven’t seen any growth since you brought it home, your rattlesnake plant is missing something. Your first step should be to look at the bottom of the pot. 

If roots are pushing out of the drainage holes, it might be time for a repot. Your plant is likely rootbound or has outgrown its pot, or both. Select a pot with drainage that is 1-2 inches bigger than the root ball. 

If you don’t see signs of your plant running out of room, try giving it a little more light, or watering more frequently. Based on its current condition and environment, try one fix at a time. Give your plant about a month after changing its care to see how it responds.

Although sometimes known for being finicky, rattlesnake plants are relatively low maintenance once you figure out its preferred care in your home. And remember, what works for one person’s plant may not work for yours, so try not to rush the learning process. 

Rattlesnake Plant Key Facts

Botanical NameGoeppertia insignis (formerly known as Calathea lancifolia)
Common NamesRattlesnake plant 
Type of PlantHerbaceous perennial evergreen
OriginBrazilian rainforests
Sun RequirementsIndirect or filtered light, such as a north-facing window or several feet back from a south-facing window
Water RequirementsPrefers to be kept evenly moist but not soaked. Water when the soil is dry at least one inch below the surface. 
SoilWell-draining soil mix, ideally with amendments such as perlite mixed in.
Bloom TimeLate May, but rarely flowers indoors. 
Common PestsPests are not common, but look out for mealybugs, spider mites, aphids, and scale. 

Here are some additional guides about rattlesnake plants:

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