The Ultimate Guide To Rattlesnake Plant Care

Last Updated January 23, 2024 By Bella Zinti

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In the world of houseplants, there exists a unique gem that captures hearts with its striking appearance and undeniable charm – the rattlesnake plant (Calathea lancifolia). This captivating species is not your typical green companion; it boasts intricately patterned leaves that resemble the mesmerizing skin of a rattlesnake with deep purple undersides.

As indoor gardening gains popularity, the rattlesnake plant has become a favored choice among plant enthusiasts. Its distinctive foliage and relatively manageable care requirements make it a delightful addition to any home or office space.

In this comprehensive guide, we will navigate the ins and outs of rattlesnake plant care. From understanding its origins and distinctive appearance to delving into the nuances of its light, water, and humidity requirements, we aim to provide you with the knowledge and insights needed to nurture this botanical gem to its full potential.

Botanical Name

Common Name

Plant Type

Mature Size

Sun Requirement

Soil Type

Hardiness Zone

Pet Friendly

Calathea lancifolia


9–20 in. tall, 9–18 in. wide


Moist but well-drained

11b-12b (USDA)


What Are Rattlesnake Plants

Rattlesnake plants are a striking species of tropical houseplant known for their distinctive appearance and origins rooted in the rainforests of South America. These botanical beauties feature long, lance-shaped leaves with eye-catching patterns resembling the skin of a rattlesnake, hence their common name.

The deep green leaves are adorned with wavy lines of various shades of green, creating a mesmerizing display of natural artistry. Rattlesnake plants are appreciated for their aesthetic charm and air-purifying qualities, making them a popular choice for indoor plant enthusiasts looking to bring a touch of the jungle into their homes.

Like most Calathea plants, rattlesnake plants do require some attention and are not recommended for beginners.

Common Varieties

Calathea lancifolia (Standard Rattlesnake Plant): This is the classic Rattlesnake Plant variety, featuring elongated, lance-shaped leaves with dark green backgrounds and a pattern of wavy, light-green lines resembling snakeskin.

Calathea lancifolia 'Bambino' (Dwarf Rattlesnake Plant): As the name suggests, this variety is more compact and petite compared to the standard Rattlesnake Plant. It maintains the same striking foliage pattern but in a smaller package, making it suitable for smaller spaces.

Calathea lancifolia 'Rufibarba' (Velvet Calathea): This variety is known for its unique, velvety texture on the underside of the leaves. The upper side of the leaves retains the characteristic snakeskin pattern, while the lower side feels soft and velvety to the touch.

Calathea lancifolia 'White Star': White Star is recognized by its intriguing variegation. It features dark green leaves with light green spots and streaks, creating a captivating contrast resembling night sky stars.

Calathea lancifolia 'Hattie': This variety boasts slightly wider and more elongated leaves than the standard Rattlesnake Plant. Its distinct foliage pattern and vibrant green color make it popular among plant enthusiasts.

Calathea lancifolia 'Freddie': Freddie is a compact variety with shorter, lance-shaped leaves. Its foliage showcases the classic Rattlesnake Plant pattern, but its smaller size makes it ideal for tabletop or desk display.

Calathea lancifolia 'Sanderiana' (Network Rattlesnake Plant): This unique variety is known for its intricate network-like pattern on the leaves, resembling a spider's web or network of veins. The pattern adds a mesmerizing touch to this Rattlesnake Plant.

Calathea Rattlesnake

Rattlesnake Plants Care Requirements


The rattlesnake plant is particular about its light requirements when grown indoors. It flourishes in bright, indirect light to preserve its striking foliage and vibrant patterns. While it doesn't tolerate direct sunlight well, it also doesn't favor low-light conditions. Finding the right balance is essential. Placing it near a north or east-facing window can provide the ideal conditions. In spaces with limited natural light, artificial grow lights can also suffice. Adequate lighting ensures that the Rattlesnake Plant's intricate leaf patterns remain a captivating centerpiece in your indoor green oasis.


Rattlesnake plants are tropical beauties that thrive in consistently moist but not waterlogged soil. The key is to strike a balance: allow the top inch of the soil to dry out between waterings, but never let it become bone dry. Maintain a regular watering schedule, adjusting it based on environmental factors like humidity and season. Avoid the extremes of overwatering, which can lead to soggy soil and root rot, and underwatering, which causes the leaves to droop. Providing this consistent moisture level ensures your rattlesnake plant remains healthy and vibrant.


When cultivating rattlesnake plants indoors, maintaining an appropriate temperature range is essential for their well-being. These tropical plants prefer a warm and consistent environment. Ideally, keep the indoor temperature between 65-80°F (18-27°C).

Avoid exposing them to sudden temperature fluctuations or drafts, which can stress the plant. Maintaining a stable temperature ensures that your rattlesnake plant continues to thrive and displays its captivating foliage, resembling rattlesnake skin patterns, in all its glory.


Indoor rattlesnake plants are natives of South America's lush, humid rainforests. Therefore, mimicking their natural habitat's humidity levels is vital for their well-being when grown indoors. These plants thrive in a moderately humid environment, typically requiring humidity levels around 50% or higher.

Insufficient humidity can lead to several issues, including the browning or crisping of leaf edges, a common problem in drier indoor settings. To maintain the ideal humidity and mimic native habitat, there are several strategies you can employ. Placing a humidity tray filled with water near the plant, regular misting with a spray bottle, or using a humidifier in the room can all help create the necessary moisture levels.

By ensuring the right humidity conditions, you're promoting the health of your rattlesnake plant and preserving its distinctive rattlesnake-like leaf patterns, making it an eye-catching addition to your indoor greenery.


Selecting the right soil mix for indoor rattlesnake plants is crucial to their care. These tropical beauties thrive in well-draining, slightly acidic soil. A mix formulated for tropical plants or a blend of peat moss-based potting soil with perlite or light sandy soil sand is ideal. This combination ensures that the soil retains enough moisture for the plant's requirements while preventing waterlogged conditions that can lead to root rot. The pH level should be in the mildly acidic to neutral range. Choosing the correct soil provides the foundation for a healthy and vibrant Rattlesnake Plant with its distinctive rattlesnake skin-like leaf patterns.


Properly fertilizing indoor rattlesnake plants is a key factor in their care. These tropical plants benefit from regular but moderate feeding during their growing season in spring and summer. A balanced, water-soluble fertilizer with an equal N-P-K ratio (such as 10-10-10) is suitable. Applying fertilizer every 4-6 weeks at half the recommended strength prevents over-fertilization, which can harm the plant.

During the dormant season in fall and winter, reduce or eliminate fertilizer to allow the plant to rest. Careful fertilization ensures your rattlesnake plant maintains its distinctive rattlesnake skin-like leaf patterns and overall health.


Indoor gardeners often find themselves captivated by the stunning foliage of Rattlesnake Plants (Calathea lancifolia) and may wish to propagate them to expand their collection or share their beauty with fellow plant enthusiasts. The primary propagation method for Rattlesnake Plants is through division, a relatively straightforward process.

To begin, select a mature rattlesnake plant that has been thriving in its current pot. Carefully remove the entire plant from its container, not damaging the roots or foliage. Once the plant is out, assess its root system and identify natural divisions, which are essentially separate stems or clusters of leaves with their own roots.

With a gentle touch, separate these sections, ensuring that each division has both roots and foliage. This step is crucial for the newly divided sections to establish themselves as independent plants. Use well-draining potting soil in individual containers for each division, and ensure they are planted at the same depth as before.

Maintaining consistent humidity levels is crucial during the early stages of division propagation. You can cover the newly potted divisions with a plastic bag or place them in a greenhouse-like environment to create a humid atmosphere. This encourages root development and minimizes transplant shock.

In terms of lighting, provide bright, indirect light to the newly divided plants. Avoid exposing them to harsh, direct sunlight during this delicate phase.

With patience and proper care, the divided sections of the rattlesnake plant will establish themselves as individual plants, each showcasing the captivating rattlesnake skin-like leaf patterns that make this species so unique. Propagation through division is a reliable way to multiply your Rattlesnake Plants, allowing you to enjoy their beauty throughout your home or share their elegance with others.


Pruning rattlesnake plants when cultivated indoors is generally minimal but can be essential for maintaining their health and appearance. These plants primarily require the removal of damaged or yellowing leaves. Regularly inspect your plant for any signs of decline in individual leaves, and carefully trim them back to the base to encourage new growth.

Additionally, you can trim back any leggy or excessively long stems to encourage a more compact and bushy appearance. Be sure to utilize clean, sharp pruning shears or scissors to prevent any damage to the plant.

Pot And Repot

When cultivated indoors, potting and repotting rattlesnake plants play a significant role in their well-being. These tropical beauties appreciate a slightly snug fit in their pots. When potting initially, choose a container that accommodates the plant's root system with a little room to spare but is not excessively large. Well-draining potting soil is essential to prevent waterlogged roots.

Repotting is typically necessary when the plant outgrows its current container, usually every 2-3 years. Signs include roots emerging from drainage holes or soil that dries out too quickly. During repotting, gently remove the plant, trim any damaged roots, and place it in a slightly larger pot with fresh soil. Adequate potting and repotting ensure the health and vitality of your rattlesnake plant.

Close-up of a Rattlesnake plant

Common Problems And Troubleshoots

Leaf Browning or Curling

Rattlesnake Plants are native to tropical regions and thrive in high humidity. Their leaves can start browning or curling when grown in low-humidity environments or exposed to direct sunlight. This is because the dry air causes moisture loss through the leaves, leading to these undesirable symptoms. To combat this issue, elevate the humidity around the plant. You can achieve this by misting the leaves regularly, placing a tray filled with water and pebbles nearby, or using a humidifier. Additionally, relocate the plant to a spot with bright, indirect light that won't receive harsh, direct sunlight.

Yellowing Leaves

Yellowing leaves are often a sign of overwatering, which can suffocate the plant's roots and hinder their ability to absorb nutrients. Using tap water with a high mineral content can also contribute to this problem. To address yellowing leaves, allow the top inch of the soil to dry out between waterings. Ensure that the plant's pot has proper drainage to prevent waterlogging. When watering, use distilled or filtered water to avoid mineral buildup in the soil.

Leaf Spots or Browning Edges

Fungal or bacterial diseases can lead to the development of unsightly leaf spots or browning edges on Rattlesnake Plant leaves. If your plant shows signs of leaf spots or browning edges, it's crucial to isolate it from other plants to prevent the spread of disease. Improve air circulation around the plant by placing it in a well-ventilated area. Avoid overhead watering, as moisture on the leaves can foster fungal growth. Trim away affected leaves with clean, sharp scissors, and consider applying a fungicide if the problem persists.

Avoid using commercial leaf shine for an extra boost to remove any dust or debris, as it can also cause brown leaf tips. Instead, use a damp cloth to remove dust or debris.

Leggy Growth

Leggy growth occurs when Rattlesnake Plants don't receive sufficient light. The stems elongate in their quest for light, resulting in sparse, stretched-out foliage. Provide the plant with brighter, indirect light to encourage more compact and bushy growth. Placing it near a window with filtered sunlight or using artificial grow lights can help it thrive and maintain its vibrant foliage.


Rattlesnake Plants can fall victim to common indoor plant pests like spider mites or mealybugs, which feed on their foliage. Regularly inspect your plant for signs of pests, such as webbing or tiny insects. Treat the plant with insecticidal soap or neem oil if you notice any pests. Isolate the affected plant to prevent the infestation from spreading to others in your collection.

Root Rot

Root rot is a concern that arises from overwatering and poor drainage. The plant's roots decay in waterlogged conditions, leading to poor nutrient absorption. Ensure the potted plant is housed in a pot that has drainage holes to allow excess water to escape. Choose a well-draining potting mix to prevent water from pooling around the roots. Adjust your watering schedule to allow the soil to dry slightly between waterings, helping to prevent root rot.

Drooping Leaves

Drooping leaves can respond to underwatering or environmental stress, indicating that the plant needs more moisture or a more stable environment. Maintain a consistent watering routine, ensuring that the plant receives a thorough soak when the top inch of soil becomes dry. Create stable environmental conditions by avoiding sudden temperature changes, drafts, or heating or cooling vents exposure.

Is Rattlesnake Plant Pet Friendly

Rattlesnake plants are generally considered pet-friendly. While they are non-toxic to cats and dogs, being cautious and mindful of your pets' behavior around the plant is essential. The foliage of Rattlesnake Plants can entice pets, and some animals may nibble on the leaves out of curiosity. While ingesting small amounts typically doesn't lead to severe toxicity, it's best to discourage pets from chewing on the plant. To ensure a harmonious coexistence between your pets and the Rattlesnake Plant, provide alternative sources of entertainment for your furry friends and monitor their interactions with the plant.

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About the author

Bella has a Bachelors degree in interior design, is a master gardener. She designs nourishing outdoor & indoor spaces guided by the practice of Feng Shui.