Early February, I was walking around Brooklyn with my sister and decided to take advantage of having extra hands to help me carry things home.
We ducked into my favorite plant store and I was lucky enough to scoop a spotted Calathea houseplant. It has a deep eggplant purple color on the outside and a quirky spotted green inside.
Fun fact: Calathea is a “living plant” because it closes up at night and opens in the morning.
It brightened up my night stand and observing the plant’s behavior became a comforting ritual. When I debated if I should go to bed, I saw the purple and took it as a sign and reminder (because my exhausted body wasn’t enough of a message) that it was time for my own wind down.
When the sky darkens, the Calathea goes inward. Its leaves stiffen and slowly curl at the edges, eventually pulling close enough to the center until they are in a huddle and all you can see is its purple “shell”.
In the morning, I’d wake up to unfurled green leaves waving hello.
I find it magical.
Another fun fact: There’s a ‘joint’ between the stem and leaf that’s activated by light.
It’s the light that allows it to open.
I never felt more connected to a plant, really.
The past week or two, I’ve noticed the leaves have curled in and mostly stayed that way. They crave humidity and more water and I don’t think I cared for it properly or had the right environment.
That hurts to admit as a plant parent… but I have little control over the raging heat or draft that blasts from the radiator. So, I just mainly ignored it, preoccupied by my own worries.
Today I decided to take some control by repotting the plant and doing more research. I took a break from work, plucked off the dead branches, and dug into the soil (which was so satisfying). It now sits in its old new home.
I learned more about what makes it thrive and why it loves the humidity (in nature it grows in tropical forrest in South America), and that it purifies the air around it.
I learned that I experienced a kinship with how the Calathea was responding and was almost too defeated to try and repair it.
I learned that it would love a gentle mist every day.
And I hope that it will start responding to the light again, when its ready.