How to Care for Calathea Makoyana (Peacock Plant)

The Calathea makoyana is more popularly known as the peacock plant. It is a popular houseplant thanks to its very attractive dark and light green with purple patterned foliage.

This is despite the fact that they’re not always the most cooperative plants because of their love of moisture, both in the soil and the surrounding air. But, more about that below when I explain the plant’s different needs.

The peacock plant will grow up to about 2 feet tall. Its most striking feature are its relative large colorful leaves that make up about half of the plant (10 to 12 inches long).

It is likewise a member of the Marantaceae family. As such, you’ll see it open and fold up its leaves following its circadian rhythm. This allows it to absorb more light during daytime as it opens it leaves. Then fold up and turn in the for the night and rest after the sun goes down.

Calathea Makoyana Plant Care

Calathea Makoyana Light

The peacock plant thrives in bright, indirect light. But, it cannot tolerate direct light, which will scorch is leaves or cause them to bleach with enough exposure. That’s because in its native habitat, it lives in the understory of tropical forests. As such, the sun’s rays don’t directly reach the plant as it is covered by the larger trees and their branches.

On the other too little light will prevent the plant from growing as it normally would. So, in dim locations, it will be shorter, have fewer and smaller leaves. Its foliage will likewise have faded colors.

This means that you want to give the plant enough brightness without being in the direct path of the sun.

The best spot for this indoors is in a north facing window. Here, you can place the plant near the window to soak up as much sun as it can.

You can likewise give it an eastern exposure. But here, you want to distance it a little bit away from the direct sun in the morning. It will be able to take a little bit of this direct sunlight here because the morning sun is gentle.

In the western and southern sides of your home, you need to either distance it a few feet away or provide some kind of filter to the light via curtains or shade cloth. The afternoon sun from these directions is harsh. And, the plant wont’ be able to take much of this.

 

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Calathea Makoyana Temperature

Peacock plants do best when in temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes it well-suited for growing indoors and in homes. Because it likes consistently warm conditions all year round, you don’t have really have to do any thing extra with temperature since this is the same level humans are comfortable with.

This also means that it can be grown outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 10a to 11. But, to mimic is natural living conditions, you want to keep it somewhere it can have the benefit of some kind of overhead shade (which the larger trees give it in the forest).

As such, it does well in shade gardens or places where you have a canopy covering it, provided that there’s still enough bright light to keep it growing.

In cooler areas of the country, you can likewise bring it outside during the warm months. But, once the weather drops to below 55 degrees, it needs to come indoors or somewhere warmer. It cannot stand freezing temperatures And, is not frost hardy.

This is one reason many growers keep is a houseplant or inside greenhouses. They are fairly happy with regular indoor climate, which means you don’t need to do anything extra with regards toe temperatures.

 

Calathea Makoyana Humidity

That said, humidity is another story. The peacock plant enjoys high humidity. Ideally, you want to keep this over 60%. This is essential if you want it to keep its beautiful leaf colors.

While it can tolerate slightly lower humidity, you want to watch out for browning tips and leaf edges. If you see either occur, it means the air is not moist enough for its liking.

As such, you have a few choices. But, before do anything I highly suggest you pick up a digital hygrometer. This is a lifesaver for any houseplant grower as it lets you instantly know what the humidity is in any area of your home.

Knowing this will let you match the plant with the humidity level. And, it will also let you know if you have to do something to increase humidity.

If your home’s humidity is not high enough, you can do any of the following to make your Calathea makoyana happy.

  • Keep it in the bathroom, provided that there’s enough bright, indirect light there.
  • Group it with other plants. Together, their transpiration will increase air moisture.
  • Place it on a pebble tray, provided that the pot and plant stay above the water.
  • Mist the plant regularly as long as you don’t over spray the leaves.
  • Use a humidifier.

 

Watering Calathea Makoyana

When caring for your peacock plant, humidity and watering are at the top of the list. That’s because they need more attention since mistakes here can get the plant into trouble.

While lighting and feeding are likewise important, they are more straightforward. And, there’s more leeway to make mistakes.

The same isn’t always true with moisture as letting the plant sit in water for too long or allowing too little moisture in the air will affect is health directly.

One key to keeping your peacock plant happy is to keep soil moist. Only water when the topsoil is about to dry. And, make sure that there’s good drainage. You don’t want the plant to sit in a puddle of water after you water it.

When to Water Peacock Plant?

The best way to know when to water Calathea makoyana is to check the soil. You can use a moisture meter if you’re just starting out or are still learning how to feel for soil dryness.

Once you get the hang of it, you can just use your finger to gauge how moist or dry the topsoil is.

When the top 1 to 2 inches starts to dry, it is time to water the plant. But, never before that.

In the winter, you want to the plant to dry a little bit more before watering. That’s because it takes longer for soil to dry due to the cold weather. The plant is also inactive at this point. So, it doesn’t need as much water.

How to Water Peacock Plant?

I like to put a hose on the soil and allow the water to keep running until the liquid starts dripping form the holes in the bottom of the plant. I usually take it to the side of the house where I have a large sink outside.

You can likewise do this in your sink with the faucet. In the summer, the plant will appreciate the shower, provided that you allow enough air circulation for its leaves to dry.

Don’t do this late in the day when there’s little sun left or when the weather is cool. This will let moisture stay longer or overnight which will increase the risk of fungal problems.

Once the pot starts dripping, I just leave the plant in the sink to allow the excess moisture to drain. Only when it completely drains out do I place the plant back in its spot.

The last part takes time. But, it is necessary to keep the plant from sitting in water, which can lead to root rot.

Water Sensitivity

Finally, your peacock plant is sensitive to fluoride and some chemicals found in tap water. Thus, you want to only use tap water after letting it sit between overnight to 24 hours at room temperature.

This will give it enough time for the chemicals to evaporate.

Alternatively, you can use rainwater (which is best). Distilled, bottled or filtered water work as well. but, they can get costly as time passes.

 

Soil

From above, you probably already know that your peacock plant enjoys soil that holds moisture and drains well.

As such, you have a few options you can go with here.

If you already have regular potting soil at home, you can use that. It is likewise the case if you have other plants at home. You want to use general purpose mixes and not those designed for specific plants like succulents. While those are well-draining, they also are not designed for calatheas.

If you find that your regular potting mix isn’t draining enough moisture, add perlite or sand to improve drainage.

Similarly, you can create your own DIY mix at home. This will come out to be the same as the commercial mixes except for the formulation. That’s because most of the commercial potting soils in the store are actually “soil-less”.

That is, they don’t contain actual soil like you use in your garden. Instead, they’re made of other materials to mimic the properties of soil. The use of different ingredients allow these commercial mixes to hold more water (which certain plants like) or drain faster (which other plants like calatheas prefer).

So, you can create this on your own by either:

  • Combining peat with perlite.
  • Using regular potting mix and adding perlite or sand to improve drainage if it isn’t removing excess moisture well enough.

 

Fertilizing Calathea Makoyana

Your peacock plant doesn’t need heavy feeding to grow properly and produce its beautiful foliage. But, it does need some help.

Because the Calathea makoyana is a foliage plant, you want to use plant food that is high in nitrogen. This will encourage healthy leaf growth. It will also prevent pale leaves. Similarly, reducing the amount of phosphorus, which is the P in N-P-K, will help it grow best.

As such, an ideal formulation will have an N-P-K ratio of 3-1-2. For example, a 15-5-10 product will work well. Similarly, you can use a balanced fertilizer like 10-10-10 and have good results.

Apply the liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength every 2 to 4 weeks during the plant growing season (spring to early fall).

 

Calathea Makoyana Pruning

Your peacock plant doesn’t need a lot of pruning, This makes it low maintenance in this aspect.

However, you still want to remove dead, discolored or damaged leaves to help the plant grow at its best. These don’t look pretty. More importantly, the cause the plant to use up valuable resources in trying to keep them around or revive them.

As such, trimming them off will keep it growing better.

Similarly, some pruning will help the plant become bushier.

 

Calathea Makoyana Propagation

Peacock are best propagated via division. The best time to do this is when you repot your plant since you’ll need to take it out of its container. Each time you do so, it causes shock to the plant, which the plant has to recover from. So you want to minimize this process.

So, propagating when you repot lets you do 2 tasks at once.

With division, you’ll want to wait until the plant is bigger before doing so. Because you’ll be separating part of the root ball, you need a bigger plant to do this.

Division is also a good way to limit the size of your mother plant. As such, after dividing it, you won’t need to move it to a larger container. At least not for another few years.

To divide your peacock plant:

  • Carefully take the plant out of its container.
  • Inspect the root ball. Then brush off excess soil and dirt. Separate the roots if they’re tangled together.
  • Now look for a section of the plant that looks healthy. You want to take a strong and healthy part to regrow.
  • Trace the stems downwards to the root ball and find the roots the are attached to it. This is what you’ll be separating.
  • Gently take the section apart from the rest of the root ball. You can use your hands or a sterile knife. You can separate one or more sections, depending on how big the mother plant is and how many new plants you want.
  • Once you have the sections apart, pot each one separately.
  • Then, repot the mother plant with fresh potting soil.
  • Water all the containers and place them in suitable conditions.

 

Transplanting & Repotting Calathea Makoyana

As your peacock plant grows, it will one day outgrow its current container. On average, it takes about 1 to 2 years for this to happen.

But, the best way is to observe the plant. Since the same plant will grow differently in different households, you should never generalize. Growth is dependent on the amount if light it receives, how much you feed it, watering, the kind of soil, size of pot, temperature, humidity and a few other factors.

So, each plant will always be different from the same plant grown in another home.

Thus, the best way to is look out for roots that are trying to sneak out of the pot. Since the holes at the bottom are the point of least resistance, that’s where they’ll come out first.

Once you see roots trying to find soil beyond the pot, it is time to repot.

When moving to a larger pot, don’t just sizes. Instead, go up 1 to 2 inches, At most 3 inches bigger. This will reduce the risk of overwatering and eventually root rot.

It is also a good idea to change the potting soil and use fresh one in its place.

The best time to repot is in the spring or early summer when the plant is actively growing. This will allow it quickly recover from the shock of being moved.

 

Toxicity

Peacock plants are not toxic to dogs, cats or humans. So, you can keep them anywhere in the home.

However, like other plants, they can still be a choking hazard.

 

Pests and Diseases

Calathea makoyana is generally pest resistant. So, if healthy, it won’t experience much pest problems. However, it is not immune. So, you may still find some pests.

Keeping the plant healthy will reduce the chance of this though. On the other hand, placing the plant under stress, with improper living conditions will make it more susceptible

The most common pests include aphids, spider mites and scale.

When it comes to diseases, root rot and bacterial leaf spot are things to watch out. Both are caused by overwatering.

Root rot can happen if you let the plant sit in water. This is often caused by too much water, too often. Or, soil that doesn’t drain well.

On the other hand, bacterial leaf spot is caused by wet leaves that don’t dry quickly. So when you mist or give the plant a shower, make sure to allow the leaves to dry.

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