How to Care for Calathea Dottie – 9 Essential Tips

A noteworthy contender for anyone looking to add a plant to their collection that references a prominent 90s teen subculture. The Calathea Dottie and it’s dark green, almost black leaves, are in stark contrast to the pink variegation seen on top of the leaves and has earnt it the appellation of Calathea’s gothic cousin.

As is often the case with Calatheas, Calathea Dottie care can be daunting at first. In large part due to the various conditions and factors you need to bear in mind to keep it thriving. But I want to stress from the get-go: Calathea Dottie plant care isn’t as finicky as it might initially seem.

I’ve always enjoyed striking a balance in my home that falls somewhere between house and verdant tropical paradise. To achieve this, I’ve made use of various Calatheas over the years. A few months ago, intrigued by its distinctive coloration, I picked up a Calathea Dottie. It’s added a striking splash of darkness that breaks up the otherwise occasionally overwhelming tide of differing shades of green in my home. 

Since purchasing my Calathea Dottie I’ve picked up a reasonable amount of know-how on its care, read on to find out more!

calathea dottie

Table of Contents:

Will It Suffer With Too Little Light?

You’re right to think it will suffer with too little light. Light is an important factor in Calathea Dottie care. Sunlight is vital. But keep in mind the type of sunlight needed. 

With Calathea Dottie, it’s essential it receives indirect rather than direct sunlight.  However, don’t be afraid to keep your Calathea Dottie in a bright sunny room. If the room is too dark it will likely affect both growth and the vibrancy of the variegation. 

plant next to wooden blinds

In a bright room, place the Dottie several feet away from the window. Or find a way to filter the incoming sunlight. Thin blinds are a superb method for filtering incoming light, guaranteeing your Calathea’s continued health.

Calathea Dottie can handle direct sunlight earlier and later in the day when the sun is weaker. But, I’d suggest keeping it in a more shaded spot for the majority of the day. Particularly so as to avoid when the sun is at its strongest in the middle of the day. Too much direct sun can result in faded coloration or even burnt leaves. So keep a close eye on your Calathea, it’ll let you know if it’s getting too much sun.

Do I Need to Water Frequently?

Yes, you will need to water your Calathea regularly. This isn’t the kind of plant that can fend for itself while you strike out on vacation for weeks at a time. 

In fact, the water requirements, whilst not complex, will require some attentivity. 

First and foremost, aim to keep the soil of your purple Calathea evenly moist at all times. Note here, I say “moist” not “wet”. Wet soil will open the door to all manner of problems – root rot being a particular issue you want to avoid at all costs. 

watering can spraying plants with water

To achieve this balance of moist yet not wet, water whenever the top inch or so of water feels dry.

The quality of the water can also have an impact on your Dottie (they’re sensitive souls). Hard water can prove detrimental to your Calathea and result in leaf burn. Now this won’t apply to everyone, it depends on the tap water in your area. So don’t worry about the water unless you know your tap water is hard or you’re noticing issues with leaf burn. 

If you think the water is causing issues, switch to filtered or rainwater. 

What Kind of Soil Should I Use?

To ensure your Calathea’s soil is more moist than wet choose a light and loamy soil that is well-aerated. These types of soil are ideal as they’re well-draining while also superb at holding moisture.

To further enhance your soil’s Calathea credentials, add peat moss or coco coir, alongside perlite. All of which will help contribute to your soil’s efficiency at drainage and moisture retention.

When it comes to pH levels, aim for somewhere in the slightly acidic region of 6.5-6. Be careful here, while Calatheas can’t abide alkaline soils, heavily acidic soils are problematic too – you’ll need to walk a tightrope of minor acidity.

hand holding high quality soil

As for repotting, a gentle touch is best, as the root systems are delicate. It’s also imperative to pick pots with ample drainage holes. Finally, use a pot approximately 2 inches wider than your Calathea Dottie’s previous pot.

You’ll usually only find yourself repotting once every 2-3 years. Although, depending on growth this can be as much as once a year. 

Are There Specific Temperature Requirements?

While your Dottie does have specific temperature requirements, these requirements are easy to meet. 

The ideal temperature for Calathea Dottie is between 65°F and 85°F (18-29°C). These temperatures are similar to what you find in most homes. So you should have little trouble keeping your Calathea happy temperature-wise. 

Of course, if you live in a colder climate, you may have some issues maintaining these kinds of temperatures. However, try your utmost to avoid temperatures below 60°F. 

dottie in pink basket white background

On a final note regarding temperature, don’t put your Calathea near any vents that expel hot or cold air. Airflows like this can cause your Calathea Dottie to dry out. For the same reason, don’t keep them anywhere with a strong draught. 

Is Humidity Important?

From my experience, I would say humidity is crucial in Dottie care. This is one of those factors I mentioned earlier which can take a little figuring out at the start. Especially if you’re not used to tropical houseplant care. 

Aim for a humidity level between 50%-60%. However, you can let this drop to 40% in a pinch. Humidity any lower than 40% can cause issues such as brown spots or burnt tips. 

Achieving this degree of humidity might seem tough to those of you living in a drier climate. Particularly if you’re worried about the various problems, such as mold, that often accompany high humidity levels. But, there are things you can do to help give your Calathea the humidity it needs without turning your home into a mold factory.

One option to boost humidity is to mist the leaves – although you’ll probably need to do this daily. Hands-off alternatives to increase humidity can include installing an air humidifier. Or keep a pebble tray filled with water underneath your plant.

many different types of pebbles

It wouldn’t be a Calathea without one final caveat regarding humidity. Too much humidity will open up your exotic friend to bacteria and viruses. So avoid excessive humidity!

Don’t let the humidity requirements put you off picking up the endlessly charismatic pink Calathea though! Once you’ve figured out a good setup that keeps your Dottie Calathea nicely humid it’s no real hassle to maintain.

How Often Should I Fertilize It?

You may notice early on that your Dottie plant isn’t exactly the fastest grower. Whether that’s down to the existential angst your gothic vegetation is feeling, or just an adaptation evolved over millions of years, frequent fertilization can help boost growth. 

There are two key points to keep in mind when fertilizing Calathea Dottie.

First, it is at risk of fertilizer burn if you over-fertilize it. If you notice any symptoms (leaf burn being a primary one), flush the soil with water and stop fertilizing until the leaves have visibly recovered.

close up of dottie leaves

Second, you’ll need to remember to fertilize it about once a month in the spring and summer months. In the fall and winter don’t worry about fertilizing. This is your plant’s dormant period.

With these factors in mind let’s move on to specifics. Pick a well-balanced liquid fertilizer and dilute it to half-strength. Look for a ratio of either 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 when choosing a fertilizer. Always follow the instructions on the packaging.

What Propagation Techniques Are Recommended?

Propagation through division is the best propagation method for your Calathea Dottie plant.

The best time to propagate is during the spring and summer when new shoots begin to appear. To make life easier, you may as well wait until you come to actually repot your Calathea during this period.

To propagate your Dottie successfully through division: start by carefully removing it from its pot – emphasis on the carefully here since the roots are fragile. 

two plant shoots emerging

Once out of its pot, then carefully examine your Calathea’s root system. Hopefully, you should be able to make out various natural divisions within the roots.

Begin to pull these natural divisions apart until you have two separate plants. Provided you’re careful and have correctly figured out where the natural separations are, the root systems should come apart easily. If there are any individual roots that don’t want to separate, feel free to cut them apart with scissors.

Make sure both plants have a significant root system, so they can survive by themselves. Then pot both plants in individual pots, and resume standard Calathea Dottie care.

Are There Any Common Pests or Problems?

Here are some common pests and problems to look out for in Dottie Calathea care.

Spider Mites

Calathea Dottie is particularly liable to spider mites. Webs are a telltale symptom of spider mites, so check for these on the undersides of the leaves when tending to your Dottie. Spray your plant with insecticidal soap and neem oil to handle this frustrating pest.

Other Pests 

Other common pests include aphids, scale, fungus gnats, and mealy bugs. All these fiendish interlopers create honeydew – a clear sticky substance. If you notice this coating your plant investigate closer and begin treatment.

Normal-sized infestations of all these can be dealt with using insecticidal soaps, neem oil, and soapy water. 

Root Rot

As with any plant that requires frequent watering, root rot is a perpetual risk. Root rot usually occurs when a plant is sitting in water for too long – this is why well-draining soil is vital.

Root rot symptoms include soft mushy stems, wilting, and yellow leaves.

To deal with root rot remove your Calathea from its pot and cut away the affected roots. Following this, leave your plant out of its pot for 24 hours. After 24 hours have passed, repot in fresh soil.

With root rot, prevention is easier than the cure, so you’re better off being extra attentive to how much water your Calathea needs while making sure it never sits in water for too long.

Brown Leaf Tips

Brown leaf tips could be one of two issues. Either it’s not getting enough humidity, in which case refer back to the humidity section of this article for humidity-boosting suggestions.

Otherwise, it could be the type of water is not right for Calathea Dottie – try switching to filtered water or rainwater.

Is Calathea Dottie Toxic?

Dottie is non-toxic to both humans and animals alike, making it a superb choice for any of you with pets or inquisitive young children. 

In fact, rather than putting your health at risk, Calathea Dottie is more likely to prove beneficial to it. This is thanks to the amount of CO2 it absorbs and subsequently converts to oxygen – which in turn, purifies the air in your home. 

About Calathea Dottie

close up of calathea dottie leaf

Calathea Dottie was originally selectively bred from the rose painted Calathea to create the dramatic plant we know and love today. As a commercially cultivated houseplant, Calathea Dottie is easier to tend to than many Calatheas, which originally hail from South America’s steamy rainforests.

This beauty is a prayer plant, so it will also raise its leaves in prayer at night. 

Don’t worry about your Calathea growing too big. On average they grow to be around 24 inches tall. Although, they have been recorded to grow up to 3 feet.

The pink shade found on the leaves is similar to what you might see on a Calathea purple rose. Personally, I’d say the dainty patterns carved out by the pink lines on the leaves of Calathea Dottie are more pleasing to the eye for 


How do you care for a Calathea Dottie?

Here are several elements to keep in mind when caring for a Calathea Dottie:

  • Water whenever the top inch or so of soil is dry – keep the soil moist but not wet.
  • Put your Calathea Dottie somewhere it can get plenty of filtered sunlight.
  • Pot it in well-draining, moisture-retaining soil.
  • Keep your Calathea Dottie in humid conditions – somewhere around 50%-60% humidity is ideal.
  • Maintain a temperature between 65°F and 85°F (18-29°C). 

Is Calathea Dottie hard to care for?

Calathea Dottie does have specific needs, which can give the impression to first-time owners that it’s hard to care for. 

However, once you’ve got your Calathea Dottie set up in the right conditions. And, as long as you’re ready to be an attentive carer – who doesn’t forget about your Calathea for weeks on end, you should get the hang of Calathea Dottie care in no time at all.

Does Calathea Dottie need sunlight?

Calathea Dottie needs lots of sunlight, just make sure that sunlight is indirect/diffused. Too much direct sunlight can result in the leaves and their elegant markings fading.

Is Calathea Dottie an indoor plant?

Calathea Dottie usually does best as an indoor plant. Although, it can also flourish outside if you live in a tropical climate.

How do I keep Calathea happy?

You can do a few things to guarantee the happiness of most Calatheas: keep them humid, keep them warm, keep them moist, and ensure they’re getting plenty of indirect sunlight.

Do Calatheas like to be wet or dry?

As a general rule, Calatheas prefer to be more wet than dry. However, this said, it’s essential to make sure your Calatheas aren’t too wet – this can lead to all manner of problems. Instead, aim for your Calatheas’ soil to be moist evenly throughout.

Embrace Your Dark Side With A Calathea Dottie

While it’s understandable that you may feel reticent at the prospect of Dottie plant care, I can confidently say after owning one for several months now, there’s no need to worry. You’ll be shocked at how quickly all those tricky aspects fall into place once you know what you’re doing – and with a bit of trial and error.

Outside the satisfaction you’ll undoubtedly feel once you’ve gotten to grips with the Dottie Calathea, you’ll also get that basic joy that I’m sure got us all into houseplants originally. That is the joy of having a beautiful, vibrant, splash of color in your home. It not only brightens up your home but brightens up your day too.

If you’re looking for a houseplant with a color scheme a little out of the ordinary that livens up a room, look no further. If you’re seeking a plant that adds to a burgeoning Wednesday Adams aesthetic you’ve got going on, got you covered. If you want to expand beyond your repertoire of beginner plants and feel you’re ready for something trickier, Calathea Dottie is the plant for you.

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Alex Tinsman

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