How to Care For Goeppertia Insignis – 9 Points to Address

More commonly known as a rattlesnake plant, Goeppertia insignis, formerly known as Calathea insignis, is a plant of some complexity. This complexity starts with its names, why does it have three names? But, this complexity continues deeper into the appropriate care for what can, at times, be a difficult plant.

Buy it for the distinctively patterned leaves, and to enjoy the prayer-like position its foliage shifts to when night falls (it’s one of the many species of prayer plant). Keep it because you love the challenge of making a tropical plant thrive in your not-so-tropical home.

I’ve been tending to my own rattlesnake plant for a few years now. While both the plant and myself have had our disagreements over what it likes and how best to care for it, I can with confidence say it is now flourishing. I’m looking forward to sharing some tips with you, so hopefully your Calathea insignis can thrive just like mine.

As a quick note throughout this guide, I’ll be referring to Goeppertia insignis by all three of its names. Partially to hammer home the fact that any time this plant comes up in discussion it could be under any of these three names. Mainly though, because I constantly flip between the names myself. Apologies in advance for any confusion!

goeppertia insignis

Table of Contents

What Are the Light Requirements?

When figuring out rattlesnake plant sunlight requirements it is best to keep in mind their original homeland.

Having evolved under the thick canopies of Brazil’s jungles, it’s no surprise that the rattlesnake plant won’t tolerate much direct sunlight. Although, it can handle some direct sun in the early morning. 

rattlesnake plant in front of fire in living room

With regard to how much light you actually want to provide your Calathea. Think plenty of light. But filtered light. I keep my rattlesnake plant on a windowsill where the sun is filtered by a set of blinds. This ensures my plant gets a healthy dose of sun daily, without becoming over-sunned.

You’ll know your plant is getting too much sunlight as it will result in scorched leaves. On the other hand, if your plant is getting too little sun, you could notice a slowdown in growth.

How Much Water Is Needed?

Calathea rattlesnake water requirements can be complex to manage. This is because you have to toe the line between keeping the soil evenly moist throughout the pot, whilst simultaneously ensuring your pot doesn’t become waterlogged. 

To best achieve these conditions, water your Goeppertia insignis whenever the top inch or so of soil feels dry. In practice, this means watering every week or so. You may notice your Goeppertia insignis takes longer to dry out during winter months. In this case, it’s okay to reduce watering to less than once a week – waiting until the top layer of soil is dry to the touch.

When watering, make sure to water until you see water draining out the bottom of the pot. Then dispose of the excess water, failure to do so could result in root rot.

panelled background with rattlesnake plant in pot

Another point to consider is that Calathea can be sensitive to the type of water you use. It won’t like water with a high mineral content (so hard water), nor does it like heavily chlorinated water. 

If you have the time and energy, feed your Calathea either filtered water or rainwater. I feed mine rainwater (which there’s plenty of in the UK). Although, yes I do sometimes feel ridiculous going out of my way to get “special water” for my houseplant.

We’ll go into more detail below. But the plant’s need for consistently moist, yet not soggy soil means well-draining soil is crucial in rattlesnake plant care.

What Soil Is Best?

As mentioned above, if you want a thriving rattlesnake plant, make sure whatever potting mix you use is well-draining. This will guarantee your soil remains moist without becoming waterlogged.

With regard to specifics, you can’t go wrong with a peat-based potting mix. Two parts peat moss and one part perlite is best here. The peat moss will help retain moisture, and keep the soil loose. The perlite will further aid with drainage. 

You also have the option of substituting peat moss for coco coir – an environmentally friendly alternative to peat moss.

rattlesnake plant in garden with other plants

Whatever you do, don’t use an alkaline soil. Goeppertia insignis need soils that are either pH neutral or slightly acidic.

As for repotting, only do this when your Calathea becomes noticeably rootbound. Make sure you repot into a pot with drainage holes to avoid issues related to waterlogging. In general, you shouldn’t have to repot your plant more than once every year or two.

What Temperature Is It Suited to?

Temperature is a key factor when considering how to care for rattlesnake plants. Luckily this element of rattlesnake plant care is easier than others. 

Temperatures that fall within the range of 65°F (18°C) to 75°F (24°C) will allow your Goeppertia insignis to live its best life. So, no need to make any temperature adjustments at home.

In terms of the lower bounds of temperature, don’t keep your rattlesnake plant in temperatures that consistently fall below 60°F (15.5°C). Keep this in mind if you live in a colder part of the world.

On the flip side, your rattlesnake plant won’t enjoy extreme heat either. Despite being a tropical plant, it’s not as hardy as other plants from the same family.

In general, don’t worry too much about temperature. It’s better to pay closer attention to the tougher task of maintaining adequate humidity levels.

rattlesnake plant close up leaves on neutral background

In summary, it shouldn’t be too difficult to manage your Calathea temperature-wise. Try to keep your Calathea consistently within the above-mentioned range and stop it from sitting in extremes of temperature at either end of the spectrum. In this vein, don’t put it near any devices or appliances that emit heat or cold air. Think things like radiators or air conditioners.

How Much Humidity Should I Aim for?

It would be fair to say that maintaining an appropriate humidity level is one of the trickier aspects when caring for a Goeppertia insignis. This is due to it hailing from tropical Brazil – specifically the oh-so-humid Amazon basin.

First and foremost, your rattlesnake plant will require above-average humidity. So bear this in mind when picking one up. You may have to make accommodations if you want your plant to flourish. Anything over 50% is good. Although, it prefers levels more in the region of 60%-70%.

Of course, this can be tough. Particularly when you consider that the average humidity of a typical home is between 30%-50%. However, there are things you can do to help your rattlesnake Calathea get the humidity it needs.

Options to boost the humidity include – installing an air humidifier nearby, keeping it in the bathroom, regularly misting the leaves, or adding a humidity tray.

If you choose to add a humidity tray, make sure the roots aren’t touching the water! This can lead to root rot.

As well as things to do with regard to humidity, there are also a couple of things you don’t want to do. Don’t keep it in a room with aircon or heating – this will result in too much hot, dry air hitting the plant. Additionally, don’t keep it in a room that is especially drafty. Doing either of these things can result in the leaves browning and curling.

I’m aware that it can be tough to maintain a high humidity constantly for your Goeppertia insignis. But personally, I’ve found it to be well worth the effort. Despite some initial teething troubles. My calathea’s thick, blotchy foliage now looks more sumptuous than ever!

Do I Need to Fertilize It?

goeppertia insignis in decorative pot on office

Fertilizing is usually a surefire way to give your plants a bit of zip. This is no less true with rattlesnake Calathea care. 

However this said, be careful not to over-fertilize your rattlesnake plant. Rattlesnake plants, and prayer plants as a whole, are sensitive to over-fertilization due to their delicate root systems.

As a result, when fertilizing I would recommend using a balanced liquid fertilizer. Try to fertilize your Goeppertia insignis no more than once a month. Reduce this frequency in the winter when the plant’s growth slows.

Best practice is to dilute the fertilizer to half the recommended strength on the packaging so as to avoid over-fertilizing your rattlesnake plant. 

If you’re worried you might be over-fertilizing, pay heed to telltale warning signs. These include leaf burn, wilting, leaf discoloration, stunted growth, and salt build-up around the soil. Upon noticing any of these symptoms flush the soil with water. After that, scale back your fertilization frequency.

Which Propagation Method Is Most Effective?

Goeppertia insignis propagation is most effective when done through division. The best time to propagate by division is when you’re in the midst of repotting – since your rattlesnake plant will already be out of its pot.

When removing the plant from the pot, be gentle – try not to damage the root ball. Once removed, carefully divide your Calathea rattlesnake plant into separate clumps, containing both plant and root. Make as many separate clumps as you want new plants. Either separate by painstakingly untangling the roots or use a set of pruning shears, scissors, knife, etc.

grey background with goeppertia insignis

Once separated into as many smaller plants as you’d like, pot the plants into separate pots. Make sure these pots are well-draining. The pots you use should only be slightly larger than the plants themselves. 

Use a potting mix similar to that you would use with a normal rattlesnake plant. Water thoroughly, and care for your smaller plants as you would with a full-grown one. The conditions required are the same, so keep in mind, humidity, moisture, and the need for plenty of filtered sunlight.

I would highly recommend propagating through division. Propagating with seeds is considerably more difficult. Additionally, propagating through division is a superb way to stop your Calathea from growing to monstrous proportions and taking over your house!

Should I Worry About Any Pests or Problems?

No plant guide would be complete without a few tips on how to handle common pests or problems. Luckily, there aren’t any common Goeppertia insignis specific diseases to fend off.

However, that doesn’t mean there are no issues you need to look out for when starting to care for rattlesnake plants. 

goeppertia insignis in amongst other plants

Pests: the main ones you’ll want to watch out for are mealybugs, spider mites, aphids, and scale. All four of these guys create honeydew, so keep an eye out for a sticky substance coating your rattlesnake plant. 

Another way to figure out whether you’ve got any insects is to check the undersides of the leaves. If you see bugs there, you’ve probably got one of the above-mentioned pests.

Eradicate these pests using neem oil, insecticidal soap, or soapy water. Rubbing alcohol can also be effective when dealing with mealybugs.

Yellowing leaves: there are two possibilities here. A) not enough sunlight, or B) overwatering. Give it a little more filtered sunlight, and ease back on the watering. When watering, it’s also worth checking to see how well the water drains.

Limp stems: this could be a symptom of overwatering in temperatures that are too low. Try moving your plant to a warmer area of the house.

Fading leaves: there’s a good chance your Calathea is now getting too much light. Filter its light source more.

Curling leaves: you are potentially underwatering your Goeppertia insignis, water it more often.

Browning leaf tips: this could mean one of two things. First, there’s a chance that your rattlesnake plant is wanting more humidity. In which case try moving it to a more humid part of the house or take some of the steps described in this guide’s humidity section.

It’s also possible your plant is unhappy with the chemicals in its soil. This could either be because you’re using tap water, or maybe the fertilizer you’re using. Flush your plant’s soil with a thorough watering of either rainwater or filtered tap water.

Is Toxicity an Issue?

close up of rattlesnake plant leaves

Fear not, despite its venomous-sounding nickname, Goeppertia insignis is safe for pets and humans alike. 

With this said, as with any plant, there is always the possibility of allergies. So keep this in mind if you notice any classic allergy symptoms upon first picking up your rattlesnake plant.

About Goeppertia Insignis

Goeppertia insignis is a distinctive addition to your houseplant collection for a couple reasons. First, the dark green blotches over the almost olive-green leaves make for a striking impression. Second, it’s a prayer plant – its leaves move depending on the time of day, this movement has been said to resemble the movements of people in prayer.

As a member of the Marantaceae family, Goeppertia insignis’ native habitat is usually lowland tropical rainforest, in particular the tropical rainforests of Brazil.

In terms of appearance, you can expect Goeppertia insignis to grow anywhere between 2 to 3 feet in height, with the leaves reaching up to 18 inches in length. If you grow your plant outside you may see yellow flowers bloom seasonally. However, don’t expect to see these flowers when growing indoors. 

cartoon depiction of goeppertia insignis

As mentioned at the start of this guide, one of Goeppertia insignis’ quirks is the number of names it has under its belt. Of course, it’s most commonly known as a rattlesnake plant. But it’s also referred to by two separate Latin names – Goeppertia insignis and Calathea insignis. This is because in 2012 the plant was reclassified from Calathea to Goeppertia – hence the confusion. 

Aside from making for a vibrant addition to your home, Calathea insignis also has air-purifying properties. It’ll reduce the levels of harmful chemicals in the air that are often produced by a variety of household products. So, pick up a rattlesnake plant if you’re looking for a plant to reduce the level of indoor pollutants. 


Is Goeppertia insignis a prayer plant?

Yes! As a member of the Marantacea family Goeppertia insignis exhibits textbook prayer plant behavior. Keep an eye on it at night and you’ll see it fold its foliage fold upwards in prayer!

How do you take care of Goeppertia insignis?

Key points to keep in mind when caring for a Goeppertia insignis are: 

  • Keep your Goeppertia insignis in a hot humid part of the house. Try to ensure that the part of the house you keep it in also receives plenty of indirect sunlight. 
  • Water it around once a week – keeping its soils consistently moist all the way through. Temperature-wise, strive for something between 65°F (18°C) to 75°F (24°C).
  • Finally, only fertilize around once a month or so. Only do this during its active growing months. 

Follow these general outlines, and your Goeppertia insignis should be a stunning specimen in no time!

How often do you water Calathea insignis?

Aim to water your Calathea insignis about once a week. 

Is Goeppertia insignis toxic?

Goeppertia insignis is non-toxic to both humans and animals.

Can I water Calathea every day?

Do not water your Calathea every day. Watering your Calathea every day will likely lead to issues. 

Goeppertia Insignis, A Taste of The Tropics At Home

I do understand that you could walk away from this guide believing Goeppertia insignis is too temperamental and not worth the amount of time required to take care of them. Some will balk at the idea of replicating rainforest conditions in a part of their home. But I wholeheartedly believe that to write off this intensely charismatic prayer plant would be not just a disservice to the plant, but also to yourself. 

Caring for any plant takes a little while to get the hang of. Goeppertia insignis is no different, and honestly, it’s really not difficult to look after at all! If you do take the time to familiarise yourself with the care of this plant, you will find yourself rewarded on a daily basis. 

Whether that’s through of joy of the lively, almost Dalmatian-like leaves, the charming way it reaches its leaves up in prayer every night, or just that vibrant dash of lush tropical foliage it adds to your house. You’ll be glad you decided to give this interloper from deep within the Amazonian rainforest a chance.

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Alex Tinsman
An avid plant and flower lover! Ever since he was little, plants, flowers, and shrubbery of all kinds filled his life. Alex credits this fascination with nature's beauty to his mother and grandmother who were - and still are - dedicated gardeners. It's now Alex's mission to pass that same love for plants onto others and show them it's as easy as pie to bring nature inside.

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