Calathea lutea: Cigar plant

Family: Marantaceae
Common name: Cigar plant, Havana cigar, Pampano, Cigar calathea, Maranta lutea

If you want to give your garden a tropical look, rows of Cigar plants along the borders is the best idea. These plants can grow to a height of 3-4 meters in the wild, but most house plants only grow 1-2 meters.

The leaves are large and paddle-like, arranged very close to each other. The upper surface is green and the lower surface is silver-white in color, and slightly waxy. The leaves open up and slant outwards during the day, but they become almost vertical and roll up the leaves at night, giving it the name Cigar plant.

They are very versatile from a landscaping point of view because of their thick foliage of large leaves. Cigar plants can be grown as border plants, hedge plants, separators, screen plants, or large centerpieces. They look good on the ground and also in pots.

They are shade lovers and don’t need too much sunlight. Too much sun can lead to browning and bleaching of leaves. Too little sun can lead to yellowing and drooping of leaves.

It’s difficult to grow Cigar plants indoors, but it can be done with some care and attention, keeping them near sunny windows and rotating them regularly to help even growth.

Cigar plants produce long inflorescences which are about 30 cms long and made up of red cup-shaped bracts, which hold small tubular yellow flowers. The flower bracts are quite pretty and unique in shape, though they are inconspicuous compared to the beautiful leaves.

There are over 100 species of Calathea plants, all of them distinguished by their colorful foliage. Some of the popular species are Calathea makoyana, Calathea lancifolia, Calathea crocata, Calathea zebrina, Calathea ornata, Calathea insignis and Calathea roseopicta, all of them garden favorites all over the world.

These plants are mostly grown as ornamental plants in tropical countries. They love warm, humid weather, and well-drained soil. Cigar plants need regular watering, but too much water can lead to the rotting of roots and rhizomes.

The leaves are used to wrap food items like fish and rice in many countries. They are also used for thatching and making woven baskets.

Propagation is through root division and through suckers that grow from the parent plant.