Calathea Leaves Not Opening: 5 Reasons With Effective Solution

When it comes to indoor plants Calatheas are one of the top choices because they have the ability to thrive in low light conditions. And they have a special feature that is the leaves open during the morning and closes at night.  This is why they are even called “the living plant”. 

But what if your Calathea plant leaves are not opening at all?

Well, this phenomenon can be affected by many reasons. And in order to help your calathea leaves to open you have to find which situation matches with your condition the most. Only then you will be able to take the right action and solve the problem efficiently.

The wrong type of watering, lack of enough humidity, too much exposure to sunlight, over-fertilization, and spider mite infestation are the 5 most common reasons that cause curling of the calathea plant that keeps the leaves closed.

In this article, I will discuss all these reasons with their proper signs and symptoms so that you can start with the right treatment.

So, let’s get things started–

To help you take a quick assessment of your Calathea plant we have put these problems and solutions in a quick review list below–

Reasons  How To Solve It
Over WateringWater only when the top surface is dry
Under Watering Water them once a week
Lack of HumidityMaintain the humidity level around 70-80%
Over FertilizationFeed your plant once a month in half-strength 
Hard water Issues Water them with filtered water or rainwater
Too Much SunlightKeep them away from direct sunlight
Spider Mite Infestation Spray a good insecticide and keep an eye on their presence

Why are Calathea Leaves Not Opening-Control Measure

Calathea Leaves Curl Up

1. Wrong Watering

This is the most common yet tricky thing to solve. Now, you have to remember when was the last time you watered it.  Because the opening of the leaves will depend on your answer.

If the calatheas are under-watered they get dehydrated. In order to reduce their water loss, they don’t open the leaves as a defense mechanism. If they aren’t watered for a long time the leaves turn yellow and brown and this is followed by curling their leaves inwards.

But here’s the problem, if you water it almost every day then the water will not dry up and cause root rot in your plant.

As a result, the roots will become damaged and the calathea plant will suffer from dehydration. Anyways the overwatering symptoms will show browning of the leaf tips and the leaves will not open at all. Moreover, the soil will spread an unpleasant odor.

Before watering you can check the water content of the soil by placing a moisture meter into the soil and if you find the reading is lower than normal that means your calatheas need watering (Our pick: SONKIR Soil pH Meter, MS02 3-in-1 Soil Moisture/Light/pH Tester)

Control Measure

Normally the Calatheas need water once every week. But before watering it’s better to check out the moisture level of the soil.

Sometimes when the weather is moist they might need water once every ten days. Always make sure that the top 2-3 inches of soil in your calathea pot is dry.

If you have overwatered them already and the water is not drying anytime soon then it’s time to repot your calatheas into a new pot with freshly prepared soil. Use a good quality potting mixture that would allow the plant a better drainage condition. (Our Pick: Miracle-Gro Houseplant Potting Mix)

Don’t forget to ensure that the pot has enough drainage holes to drain the extra water. And while watering make sure you keep pouring water into the pot until you see excess water coming out from the drainage holes.

Another important thing, don’t water them with hard water because hard water contains some salts like calcium carbonate and fluoride which is not good for the calatheas. You can use distilled water or rainwater and even filtered water. 

2. Lack of Humidity

We all know that when the humidity drops below a certain level, the plants start to transpire at a much higher rate. This thing can happen with your calatheas too. The excess transpiration will result in loss of water. 

As a result, the leaves will not open and look droopy and crispy brown.

Control Measure

Calatheas need at least 70% of relative humidity to maintain their normal growth cycle. This problem occurs very frequently for indoor plants because the AC and heaters lower the humidity.

You can get a plant humidifier to say bye to this problem for once and for all. (our pick: AquaOasis™ Cool Mist Humidifier)

Aside from that, a pebble tray under the calathea pot will also do the trick. Since the extra water will be collected in the tray and later this excess water will turn into vapor and increase the humidity. 

3. Too Intense Sunlight

One important thing about the calathea plants is they cannot take too much exposure to sunlight. So if your plant is receiving direct sunlight then this is the reason why they are not opening the leaves.  

They usually can tolerate temperatures between 18°C to 27°C (65°F-80°F). If the temperature goes higher than that, they get sunburnt. 

Control Measure

The best way to avoid this issue is by keeping the plant away from the window. However, they will still need some certain period of sunlight to continue their photosynthesis. For this, you can relocate the plant in a corner of your room where it can get indirect and filtered sunlight.

4. Over Fertilization

If you have fertilized your calathea plants recently but after that, they have stopped from opening their leaves then this is the issue. You see potted plants have limited soil so if you accidentally over-fertilize the pot the extra nutrients cannot leach anywhere else.

Rather the access salts accumulate around the root and cause root damage. As a result, the roots become unable to supply the plant with enough moisture.

Besides, an over-fertilized plant will turn the leaves yellow and brown along with wilting of the whole plant.

Overfertilizing can be particularly dangerous among all these issues because if the root is severely damaged then your calathea plant can suddenly die.

Control Measure

To save an over-fertilized plant carefully remove the plant from the pot and cut off the rotten portion of the roots. Then plant them in a pot with fresh soil.

And use a good indoor plant fertilizer in half strength of the recommended dose only once a month. (our pick: Espoma Concentrated Organic Indoor Plant Food)

5. Pest Infestation

Spider mites Attack on Calathea

Spider mites are the number one enemy of your calathea plants. These are very minute insects that are microscopic. So you will never know about their presence until they have infested your plant greatly.

Spider mites suck the sap from the calathea leaves and prevent the leaves from opening. Also, you will find some small spots on the leaves. Moreover, the leaves get wrinkled and small webbing on the underside of the leaves.

Control Measure

To get rid of these insects you have to use an effective insecticide. Otherwise, you will not be able to control them. And their infestation will only increase and make your calathea plant very weak.

So, you have to apply a houseplant insecticide that is safe enough to spray inside your home (our pick: Natria 706250A Neem Oil Spray)

You can clean both sides of the leaves with a soft cotton pad soaked in mild dishwashing soap to get the dead insects removed from the plant.

And in case you are interested in using homemade insecticides for killing the spider mites then you can check out the following recipes: 

#Recipe-1:Rosemary Oil Miticide Spray Recipe


  • 3 teaspoons of rosemary leaf extract
  • Half a liter of water 


  • Mix the ingredient to make a solution
  • Pour it into a sprayer bottle and apply on both sides of the calathea leaves

#Recipe-2:Lemon Oil Spider Mite Killer Recipe


  • 500 ml of warm water 
  • 4-5 drops of lemon oil
  • 2 teaspoons of mild dish soap


  • Mix and shake all the ingredients  very well
  • Pour the solution in a spray bottle and spray all over the plant twice a week until you completely get rid of the spider mites.

Note: All homemade fertilizers can sometimes have a negative effect on the plants. So, to be safe you have to try a small portion of the homemade insecticide in a small area. If the leaves stay normal then you can apply it to your whole calathea plant. Otherwise, you have to dilute the homemade solution with some water and try again on a small area. 

Optimum Conditions Required For Calathea Plant

Water Once a week
Temperature 18°C to 27°C  (65°F-80°F).
Humidity At Least 60%
Fertilizer Once a month
Sunlight Indirect, filtered sunlight for 8-10 hours every day
Soil TypeAcidic, moist but well drained peat soil

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Why won’t my Calathea plant’s leaves uncurl?

This can happen when the surrounding air is very dry. Because calathea leaves need high humidity to grow and thrive otherwise the leaves will not open. Moreover, the edges of the leaves turn brown. So, increasing the humidity will help to uncurl the leaves gradually.

2. How many hours of light do Calatheas need?

They need around 10 hours of filtered and indirect sunlight every day. But during winter if they are not getting this much light then the leaves will droop down and turn yellow. You can use artificial grow lights to meet their requirements. But be sure to not exceed 16 hours of artificial light otherwise the leaves will close up. 

3. Should I cut dead leaves off Calathea?

Dead leaves don’t look good on the plant so you can use a sharp gardening shear or long-tipped scissors and cut off the dead leaves from the plant. Be sure to clean the cutting tools first otherwise it might infect them with other plant diseases. 

4. Do calatheas go dormant?

Yes, they do. Calatheas go dormant during the winter season and their growth starts to become slow. Even it can look like the plant is dying.  But this is nothing to worry about. Just regulate the humidity and keep waiting. During the spring the Calatheas will start growing and will be back to normal.


Now you know why your calathea leaves are not opening. And you have all the necessary information to get them to open. Inspect what part of this article is representing the situation of your calatheas.

Because different kinds of problems need their own different solutions and this article includes every one of them. So, I hope this piece of writing helped you to take the right action and successfully opened the calathea leaves. 

James Rivenburg
James Rivenburg
James Rivenburg

James Rivenburg is the founder of, a passionate gardener with valuable experience and knowledge gained through trial and error. The website has a large community of followers who trust his tips and techniques and have succeeded with his advice. He is always Committed to helping others create a beautiful and healthy garden.

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