How to Grow Pinstripe Plants (Care Guide)

Pinstripe plants offer a unique look to them as they have striking “stripes” that run along the edges of the leaves.

Commonly grown in shady parts of the house, pinstripes offer a way to spruce up rooms that get little to no light.

When given proper care, calanthea plants will rise and fall with the time of day.

So that’s pretty cool. This houseplant may be finicky, but it offers rewarding foliage that strike the eyes.

Let’s learn about how to grow and care for pinstripe (AKA C. ornata).

Quick care guide: Pinstripe

Plant typeHerbaceous perennial
OriginSouth America
Scientific nameCalathea ornata or Goeppertia ornata

Other namesPin-stripe, pin-stripe calathea, variously striped
Soil typeFertile, loamy, well-draining, potting mix
Soil pH5.5-6.5 (acidic)
Sunlight requirementPartial, indirect sunlight
Bloom seasonSummer
ColorsGreen, yellow, lime, pink, purple, burgundy, white
Max height10 feet in the wild, 3 feet in household
Max width2 feet
Low temperature tolerance55F
High temperature tolerance85F
Ideal temperature range70-80F
HumidityHigh (60% or higher)
Watering requirements1" per week, but adjust as necessary for weather
Fertilizer requirementsMinimal, liquid fertilizer during spring and summer as needed
Plant food NPK10-10-10
Days until germination2-3 weeks from seed
Days until harvestNone fruiting plant
Bloom timeSpring to summer
Speed of growthModerate
Hardiness zones11, 12
Plant depth1 inch deep from seed, same depth/width as root ball as original pot if rhizome propagation
Plant spacing2 feet
Plant withSnake plants, pilea, philodendron, begonia, monstera, orchids.
Don't plant withOther calathea plants in the same genus
Propagation methodRhizome division, from seed, pre-grown
Common pestsSpider mites, mealybugs, aphids, scale.
Common diseasesCucumber mosaic virus, leaf spot, blight, root rot, bacterial infections
Indoor plantYes
Outdoor plantYes
Grown in containerYes
Flowering plantYes
Beginner friendlyYes
Care levelModerate (requires specific care, but not hard)
Best usesHouseplant for dark rooms, centerpiece, office plant, indoor landscaping, outdoor scaping

What’s pinstripe?

Pinstripe houseplants, also known as Calanthea ornata (C. ornata), are known for their striking pattering on the leaves.

There are multiple, branching “stripes” down the foliage to the leaf edges just as the name implies.

The veined leaves often have complementary colors to the leaf, so it can be pretty eye-catching.

Part of the Goeppertia genus, it’s in the same group as other Calantheas (synonymous). The majority of Calantheas are now in Goeppertia.

Some people will call it Goeppertia ornata, which is the newer scientific name.

It’s a herbaceous perennial plant with asymmetrical, striped leaves. They’re smooth, oblong, and dark green with stripes that run down the sides.

They can be pink, white, yellow, orange, or anything in between.

Each stem has just a single leaf from this rhizome-based plant. The stripes down each leaf edge look like sketches from a pencil.

Each leaf will droop in the day and rise after in the night. The stems are large and obvious with the leaves weighing down heavily on each one.

It may grow flowers when kept in the garden but is rare with houseplants.

Pink or white flowers are possible if properly kept outdoors.

Similar to triostar, pinstripe is a prayer plant because of the slight raising and dropping of its leaves based on the time of day.

This plant tells you the time without an internal clock. How cool is that?

Is it easy to care for?

Pinstripe is of moderate difficulty.

It’s not exactly easy to care for because it does have some extra specific requirements for optimal plant growth, especially when grown indoors.

But with some patience, you can do it! Like any other houseplant, it’ll need some TLC.

Thankfully, C. ornata isn’t TOO picky. It just has some kinks you need to know to care for it correctly. Plus, it shows you when it’s unhappy.

How to propagate pinstripe

Pinstripe plant in the wild.
See the stripes going down each leaf?

Here are some basic guidelines to propagate pinstripe.

You can either start from seed or buy it at a nursery if you don’t have the patience to wait for the seeds to grow.

Either way, pinstripe plants do need some special care. Here’s what you need to know.

Note that you shouldn’t expect your seeds to germinate on the first go.

Calathea seeds are known to be hard to germinate, so it’s much easier to start from plant division if you have one available.

If you’re not experienced with gardening in general, it may save your time to just buy one from a nursery then propagate by dividing it rather than starting from seed.

You can even borrow one from a neighbor or friend to start it off.

Starting from seed

Pinstripe plants are known to be hard to germinate from seed, but if you’re up for the challenge, here’s how.

Sow seeds into compost or a seed starter tray. Use a potting mix that drains well. Sow each seed 1” deep. Space each seed 3” apart.

Cover with a light layer of compost. Water gently. Keep temperatures between 70-80F. Cover with a humidity dome to encourage germination.

With proper care, your pinstripe seeds germinate within 2-3 weeks.

Rhizome division

This is the easy way to do it. If your pinstripe seeds just aren’t germinating, try propagation by rhizome!

The best time to grow pinstripe is in the spring before it puts on new leaves for the season. Don’t do this in the summer during peak growth or in the winter where it goes into dormancy.

Before you begin, check the following to see if your plant is ready for rhizome propagation.

Check for stem clumping- this is key.

  • If you see only a single stem, then it’s no good.
  • But if you see multiple stems coming out of the soil line, then it’s a good sign that it’s ready to be divided.

Each clump should have a minimum of 3 leaves. The more leaves, the more established it is. The higher chance of successful rhizome propagation.

Check for signs of pests. Are there holes in the leaves? Are the edges jagged and torn? Don’t propagate a plant that has damaged foliage.

Check for burning tips or browning leaves. These are signs of plants that have been poorly raised and will need to be “repaired” before you can take rhizome cuttings.

If you’re all good on these, then you’re ready to take cuttings. Gently remove the plant from its pot then dig it out.

Wet the soil if it’s stuck to the pot. Pry the clumps from one another using your fingers.

Here’s a video that shows you the steps in detail:

Types of pinstripe plants

Here are some pinstripe cultivars that are popular in the hobby. Do your own research and see what plant suits your hardiness zone.

  • Beauty Star (green leaves and cream pink stripes, 1-2 feet tall, pink flowers)
  • Sanderiana (pink, white leaves)
  • Roseo lineata (elegant, dark green)
  • Elliptica (white stripes, pale green, 12 inches tall)
  • Ornata (yellow or green leaves, creamy white stripes)
  • White Star (pink to white stripes on leaves)
  • Calanthea peacock (compact, yellow-green)
  • Calanthea ornata (dark green, popular)

There are over 300 different types of plants in the group, so you’re sure to find something that suits your hardiness zone.

How to care for pinstripe plants

Here are some general guidelines for pinstripe care.

Note that your cultivar will influence the type of care you need to provide for your plant.

Your hardiness zone, temperature, humidity, and watering habits will also be unique to your situation.

Regardless, you can use these tips to see the care needs for pinstripe in general.

Hardiness zone

Pinstripe grows in USDA hardiness zones 12-13.

Note that you can still grow pinstripe even if you’re not in the right zone. Since you’re growing it as a houseplant, zones are unimportant.

If you can provide the proper temperatures and humidity indoors, then you should be OK. But for outdoor pinstripes, it matters.

Soil

Use a peat-based potting mix or make your own. One part potting soil with two parts peat moss will do.

Use a high-quality, well-draining potting mix. Do not use garden soil in place of the potting mix because they’re not the same.

You’ll do more damage to your plant this way. Potting mix is slightly more expensive, but it’s composed with different materials so that explains why.

If you’re not good at mixing ratios, then just buy a pack of African violet potting mix (check on Amazon) and you’re set. It has just the right proportions of peat and soil for pinstripe plants so you don’t need to do it on your own.

Note that soil moisture is critical for proper pinstripe growth. If you have soil that fails to retain its moisture efficiently, it’ll dry up quickly which means more watering, which means increased possibility of root rot.

Use soil that has moisture-retaining properties.

Or mix in some mulch to help reduce evaporation. High humidity is necessary for pinstripe plants to look good. If not you may see the leaves wilt or turn brown/yellow.

If your soil is of poor quality, consider repotting it. If local ambient conditions don’t allow you to keep the humidity up, put a humidifier next to it.

Or make a humidity dish for your pinstripe plant.

Fill a bowl with water then put it next to your plant.

Soil pH

Soil pH should be between 5.5-6.5.

Calanthea prefers acidic soil environments for optimal growth.

Use natural remedies like limestone to help bring down the pH of your soil if it’s too high. There are lots of soil amendments you can buy from nurseries.

Plant spacing

Space each plant at least 3 feet from each other. These plants are hungry and will compete for resources if planted too closely together, so give them ample space and they should be OK.

If growing in pots, only plant one calathea per container.

Plant depth

If starting from seed, plant each seed 0.5″ to 1″ deep. Space each seed 3 inches apart until they germinate. Then thin to the strongest plant. Move to their own containers after they grow their first pair of true leaves.

If transplanting calathea, plant each rhizome the same depth and width as the pot you got it from.

Do not cover the crown or leaves with substrate.

That’s where you stop filling the pot. Covered crowns can lead to issues such as rot or fungal problems.

Plant food

Use a general all-purpose fertilizer during the spring and summertime for enhanced growth.

No need to get anything fancy. Look for 10-10-10 NPK plant food (check on Amazon). Use as directed. Try using only a half dose of it at first to see how your pinstripe reacts to it. If it’s all good, then proceed.

If not, then reduce it even more or try a different fertilizer. Don’t fertilize during the wintertime when it goes dormant.

Temperature

Keep temperatures between 60-80F throughout the growing season.

Temperatures below 60F are too cold for pinstripe to tolerate for extended periods.

Warmer temperatures are preferred over colder temps. Keep the plant out of cold drafts near windows, doors, or vents.

Humidity

Humidity levels should be high. The ambient moisture in the air should be wet as calanthea plants look colorful when the ambient humidity is high. Aim for at least 60% humidity or higher.

Use a hygrometer to measure local humidity.

If your home is dry, you can increase humidity by putting a humidity dish next to it, or using a humidifier.

Putting the plant on top of moist pebbles also increases the local humidity. Where you put the plant will also make a difference.

Bathrooms, sinks, showers, etc. will increase the humidity it needs. If you’re in a climate with humid air, then you should be OK.

During the winter, the humidity will dry up. Adding in some additional help won’t be a bad idea.

Watering

The quality of your water is important for pinstripe plants.

They can’t tolerate hard water, fluoride, or chlorine, which are commonly found in pipelines.

Use distilled or RO water only. Poor water quality will make the leaves turn brown or burn.

Do NOT use water that has been softened from a water softener, as this can be extremely toxic to houseplants. Water at the base of the plant stem, not the leaves.

Hard water that has lots of compounds added to it from your local water processing plant can severely harm your plant. To save money:

If you’re in a rainy zone, use rain barrels to collect it. The water is pure enough for proper calanthea growth.

Otherwise, you can use a water purifier (commonly sold in the fish trade) to remove compounds.

Water can get pricey, so it’s nice to have some alternatives to keep your costs down.

The soil should be watered evenly and deeply. Don’t water the plant leaves- only water at the base of it.

How you water is important for proper calanthea care. They’re especially not fond of drought, so keep it moist 24/7, but NOT wet.

If the water pools because of overwatering or poor drainage, it’ll likely suffer and get root rot.

Let the surface dry out, but not any more than that. The surface can get slightly dry, but never completely dry.

If you see the leaves getting dry, burnt looking, or even crispy, you need to water more. If the plant droops or wilts, it needs more water.

Use a moisture meter for accuracy if scared of watering too much or too little. They’re just a few bucks and it pays off by removing the worry and ensuring peace of mind.

Water once a week. Less during the winter. More during the summer.

Adjust your watering schedule as necessary depending on the temperature/humidity in your space.

If your pot doesn’t self-drain or is clogged, you need to fix that ASAP. Use a houseplant watering can to water evenly.

Sunlight

Pinstripe plants like bright light, but not direct.

This means filtered sunlight through dappled shades or natural lighting. Too much sunlight will burn it easily.

The leaves may fade as well.

C. ornata has evolved to grow in dimmer lighting environments, so it really doesn’t need a blast of light every day. Give it ambient light and it’ll do fine. It makes it a good houseplant if your home is dark or dimly lit.

Or you can shove it in the corner that gets minimal light and call it a day. Just don’t put it in the sunny areas of your home so no scorching takes place.

It does like places that are moist and humid, though. Bathrooms are a good choice if you have a window with filtered light.

Pinstripe does adapt to various light conditions but does best in indirect light that’s low or moderate in brightness.

Morning sun is good, but don’t let the afternoon sun burn it up. Direct sunlight will bleach the color.

Never put your pinstripe in direct sunlight.

Pruning

Maintenance

Pinstripe plants don’t need much pruning or maintenance to thrive.

You’ll come across yellow, brown, or burnt tips which should be removed so it doesn’t make it ugly.

But other than that, it should be extremely low maintenance just like most houseplants.

Pinstripe is only troublesome when it comes to getting the watering, temperature, and humidity right.

But otherwise, it’s a pretty easy houseplant to care for.

When the temperature changes, the color changes even on the expert’s pinstripe.

Prune off those ugly tips with a sterilized pair of pruners. Use rubbing alcohol to sterilize them to prevent pathogens.

Other than that, pinstripe has no other specific pruning needs.

As for maintenance, pinstripe will require leaf cleaning when they get visibly dirty. The leaves will collect dust over time, so you need to clean them.

Use a wet brush or paper towel. Wipe the leaf from the stem outwards gently. Get both sides of the foliage.

Overwintering

Pinstripe will enter a dormancy period when the temperature dips in the winter.

There’s nothing required of you other than making sure it doesn’t get too cold for your pinstripe. Monitor temperatures and keep them above 60F.

If it dips, it can stunt it.

Put a thin 1″ layer of mulch to help insulate it, protect it from weeds, and help keep moisture in the soil from evaporating too quickly.

When grown indoors, running the heater will help maintain temperatures.

When it gets warm again in the springtime, pinstripe will exit winter dormancy.

Pests

Pinstripe has very few bugs you need to worry about.

But if you do spot an infection, it’s important to recognize which bug is eating your plant:

Mealybugs will deposit their webby white fluff all over your leaves.

They also leave behind a sticky residue called honeydew, which brings mold and turns your leaves black. These bugs will need to be removed by using insecticidal soap.

Spider mites pierce the leaves to suck out precious nutrients within. They can severely slow the growth of your calanthea. Remove them using neem oil, horticultural oil, or insecticidal soap.

Other bugs include aphids, scale, and ants. These can often be removed with manual removal or spraying down your plant with a hose like you’re giving it a shower. The water blasts them off.

Diseases

Pinstripe is vulnerable to plant viruses such as cucumber mosaic virus, leaf spot, blight, root rot, bacterial infections, etc. It’s usually due to dampness in the substrate from water pooling.

These generally stem from using contaminated soils, equipment, or just overwatering.

When you overwater and the water pools at the base, the wet environment is perfect for fungal infections to take place.

Reduce watering and increase pruning to clear it out. Prune leaves that are infected.

Companion plants

 

Pinstripe shouldn’t be planted with other plants in the same pot. A single calanthea plant should occupy a single planter or else there may not be enough nutrients to go around.

Otherwise if planting outdoors, pinstripe can be planted with complementary plants such as the following:

  • Polly
  • Spider plants
  • Orchids
  • Monstera
  • Jade plants
  • Pilea
  • Snake plants

You can often pair it with anything that has dark green or yellow leaves. The colors go well together. But it’s really limited to just imagination.

Don’t plant with

Avoid planting with other calanthea plants outdoors. Never plant multiple pinstripes in the same container.

Repotting

Pinstripe will need to be repotted to a larger container when it outgrows its current one.

Since it’s a slow-growing plant, you only need to do this once every few years.

When the roots start to come out of the drainage holes or touch the edges of the container, it’s time to repot.

Some plants will start to stick their roots out of the soil surface to tell you it needs a bigger pot!

Repot in the spring during the growing period. Don’t report during the winter when the plant is sleeping.

Choose a pot that’s larger than the current one. It should be made of the same material with a similar color.

Check for drainage holes on the bottom because some pots will make you poke them yourself.

Fill it with some fresh growing medium plus a layer of pebbles at the base to help improve drainage. Don’t re-use the same soil- it likely has depleted its nutrient supply.

Take the calanthea and gently uproot it by digging outwards in. The roots can be loosened by wetting the soil.

Place the root ball into the new container. It should be the same depth as the previous pot. Fill it up to the crown, but don’t cover it. It should be partly exposed. NO leaves should be covered.

Water deeply for the first time to build water pathways. Congrats. You’ve successfully transplanted your pinstripe!

Usage scenarios

Pinstripe can be an amazing complimentary house plant to other brightly colored plants.

Whether you’re doing some indoor landscaping or sprung up in the office, pinstripe offers an eye catching experience to help add some wonder to any space.

It’s also nontoxic, so it’s safe for pets, kids, or yourself.

Unlike other house plants such as horehound, there’s no need to excessively worry about your dog eating it and then getting sick from the toxins.

Pinstripe has no known adverse effects from contact.

If you’re planting pinstripe outdoors, you can use it in a tropical setup. The colors go well with a lot of other humidity-loving plants as a foreground piece.

Choose companions that are in the same zone (12) or higher for optimal growing conditions.

Some excellent choices include snake plants, pilea, philodendron, begonia, monstera, or orchids.

Commonly asked questions about pinstripe plant care

Calathea ornata leaf curling.
Some slight burning/curling around the leaf edges due to overwatering. (By Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Here are some questions readers often ask about pinstripes. You may find something useful here to get the most color, size, and leaves out of your plant.

Can you grow pinstripe outside?

It can be grown outside in warmer climates (zones 11 or higher). They’re usually planted as part of a landscape.

These plans natively grow in shady environments such as rainforest canopies.

But for most people, they’ve grown as houseplants because they don’t have the necessary environment to raise them.

What is the easiest calanthea to care for?

Calanthea Freddie is the easiest to care for. It has large leaves with oval-shaped ends.

It’s more tolerant of mistakes compared to other plants in the same genius.

How often do you water pinstripe plants?

Water when the soil starts to dry out, but not completely dried.

This is typically once per week depending on how dry the soil is.

You can mist your plant to help increase the humidity if it’s too low.

Where should I put my calanthea?

Place your plant somewhere away from windows and direct sunlight. The room should have ample humidity with indirect lighting. Shady rooms or dim rooms are ideal.

Why are pinstripes so difficult to care for?

These are plants that need specific environmental conditions. Common reasons why calanthea suffers are the following:

  • Poor water quality that’s contaminated with chemicals
  • Excessively hard or soft water
  • Too much plant food
  • Excessive watering
  • Too hot or too cold
  • Too much light
  • Lack of humidity

As you can see, it’s quite specific in what it needs. This is why some people have trouble keeping it thriving.

How do I keep it happy?

Regular watering, proper temperature, proper humidity, and proper dosage of fertilizer is all it needs.

Your pinstripe will show its happiness through its leaves. They should be solid in color with no burning.

Further reading/references

You may find these references handy:

Enjoy your pinstripe plant!

Calathea ornata plant grown indoors big leaves.
This C. ornata sports huge green leaves. Notice the “glow” on the foliage.

Now that you know all the basics of pinstripe care, you can dive in and grow your own. Remember that this plant is picky and does have some specific needs.

But once you get it going, pinstripe is an extremely rewarding plant that offers striking colors and distinct patterning that’s sure to “wow” any guest.

Do you have any questions regarding caring for your pinstripe? Post your comment and let me know.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.