From the moment I saw a photo of a calathea makoyana or peacock plant while browsing around online, I was captivated by its movement and beautiful leaves. I’ve since grown a few of my own and documented what works and what doesn’t work. If you’re looking to grow your own peacock plant, this plant care guide will show you exactly how it’s done.
How to grow and care for calathea makoyana:
- Water frequently to keep soil moist
- Provide indirect, bright light
- Use well-draining, moisture-retaining soil
- Grow in nonporous plastic or glazed ceramic pot
- Set the temps between 60 and 75 degrees and humidity at 60 percent
- Fertilize once per month
Ahead, I’ll go through the calathea makoyana’s care in full, providing more details on the above facets of its routine. You’ll also learn some fascinating facts about the peacock plant that you can share with your fellow indoor gardeners!
Calathea Makoyana Overview
The calathea makoyana or Goeppertia makoyana is a Brazilian houseplant species. It’s called the peacock plant because each of its wide, round leaves resembles the plumage of a peacock.
Although this plant is mostly green, portions of maroon or purple have been known to appear on the calathea makoyana’s leaves. You’ll see this more on its thin leaf shafts and the lower parts of this plant.
When new leaves have yet to unfurl, they’ll often look pinkish-red as well.
The calathea makoyana is the recipient of the Award of Garden Merit through the Royal Horticultural Society, which means it’s considered a great plant to grow.
The average size of a calathea makoyana is 18 inches, making this a wonderful plant for growing in your bathroom or your office space.
The leaves of the peacock plant have a glossy texture, which only augments their beauty. Even better is this calathea isn’t toxic, so you can grow it around pets like cats or dogs.
If you’re hoping for flowers from the calathea makoyana, you might be a little disappointed. Calatheas are known to bloom more often outdoors than indoors.
The flowers that sprout are small and white with green bracts. They can grow throughout the year, so if your calathea makoyana is happy, keep an eye out! You might see flowers.
Attesting to its nature as a prayer plant, the peacock plant will lift its leaves and close them during the night. By morning, the leaves open back up again.
The reason this happens is the plant is trying to absorb light.
Caring for the Calathea Makoyana
You feel like you know your calathea makoyana a lot better after reading that last section. Next, let’s take a deep dive into the many parts of the peacock plant’s care routine so you can master them all.
Watering a Calathea Makoyana
Let’s start with what is arguably the most difficult part of caring for a peacock plant: watering it. That’s because you need to maintain soil moisture around the clock, but you can’t soak your calathea makoyana’s soil either.
Watering a calathea makoyana properly is all about learning the difference between moist and soggy soil.
If you think you’ve overwatered a little, just let the soil dry out a little longer before the next watering and do your best to not water with such a heavy hand the next time you water it.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how forgiving the peacock plant has been the few times I thought I overwatered it.
I can’t stress enough that this is a difficult balancing act, especially for newbie houseplant lovers. If you water your peacock plant too infrequently, it will become dehydrated.
Signs Your Peacock Plant Needs More Water
You’ll notice yellow and brown–coloring on the leaves. The glossy texture will fade, replaced by one that’s dry and crisp. The affected leaves will feel brittle and look like burnt paper around the edges.
Once you realize to your horror that you’ve been underwatering your plant, you can then go too far in the other direction. An overwatered calathea makoyana is susceptible to root rot.
Calatheas are known to have rather sensitive roots, which means root rot can be all the deadlier for your makoyana.
The fingertip test will tell you how often to water this plant. When the first inch of soil dries out, fill your watering can with filtered water. Tap water is full of minerals and chemicals that the calathea cannot handle.
Use lukewarm water instead of cold water too. As I’ll talk about a little later, the calathea makoyana is not cold-tolerant in the least.
Even a splash of cold water could upset this plant, hindering its growth.
Calathea Makoyana Light Requirements
Keep the calathea makoyana out of direct sun, especially if you adore its vibrant and distinct foliage. As you’ll read, the peacock plant is as picky about its light requirements as it is about its water requirements.
What happens if the peacock plant gets too much sunlight?
The leaves can burn with brown margins and tips. Growth will stop and the beautiful colors of the peacock plant’s leaves will quickly turn from vibrant to washed out and faded.
Although it’s from the bright, hot regions of Brazil, the peacock plant grows natively in rainforests. Considering the average height of this plant is 18 inches, the makoyana is eclipsed by many other larger plants in its rainforest home.
This means the makoyana receives only some sunlight from the canopy of trees overhead. By providing bright, indirect light at home or the office, you can recreate the conditions this plant natively grows up in.
Easterly-facing windows get a lot of morning sun and less in the afternoon, which is good for the calathea makoyana, as the afternoon sun tends to be harsher. Put a curtain on the window so the sunlight passes through it before reaching your plant.
Northerly-facing windows will also never get direct sun, so they’re also a safe bet for your calathea. Regardless of the window you choose, always take into account the distance from the window to your plant.
We’re often stuck with having to use a window that gets too much sun because the other windows in our homes don’t provide enough light for our plants. It’s then that we have to pay close attention to the distance from the window to our plants.
Consider placing any sun loving plants you own in between your calathea makoyana and the window to help break up the sunlight when you only have access to windows with too much sun.
Best Soil for a Calathea Makoyana
Recalling the calathea makoyana’s sensitivity to water, this plant must have well-draining soil that still maintains moisture.
I know that sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, but it isn’t. African violet soil mix will create the right kinds of soil conditions for the peacock plant, as will sandy soil with peat moss.
The inclusion of soil amendments will help your plant’s soil stay wet but not too wet.
Amendment Recommendations for Your Calathea Makoyana’s Soil
Here are my amendment recommendations to help ensure your calathea makoyana will thrive:
For drainage, I’d recommend amendments like vermiculite, a type of laminar mineral that comes in granular form. Since its base is magnesium and aluminum iron, vermiculite can introduce nutrients into a plant’s soil while keeping that soil aerated for good drainage.
Perlite is a type of glass that undergoes extreme heat to produce popcorn-like kernels. By adding this amendment to your calathea makoyana’s soil, you can ensure the soil remains airy, loose, and well-draining.
To make the calathea makoyana’s soil retain more water, peat moss is one such amendment to add, as mentioned. Sphagnum will also benefit the texture of the soil, but there are a few things you must keep in mind while using it.
For one, peat moss expires in a year or more, so you’d have to replace it at that point. Second, its pH is lower, so it can create acidic conditions. Calatheas don’t mind a bit of acidic soil, so you’re in the clear here.
Coconut coir is another great soil amendment to help the peacock plant’s soil stay moist. This coconut byproduct can absorb water at 10 times its own weight!
Best Type of Pot to Grow a Calathea Makoyana
Since the soil you’re using for the calathea makoyana is well-draining, the last thing you need is a porous pot. Instead, choose nonporous materials such as plastic or glazed ceramic.
Plastic pots are readily available at any gardening supply store. The pot your calathea makoyana was in when you brought it home from the store might have been plastic. That’s because this material is also inexpensive.
You can buy plastic pots in just about any color and they’re practically non-breakable. Although they’re not the prettiest things ever, they’re quite advantageous for the above reasons.
Ceramic is mostly nonporous, and by purchasing a glazed ceramic pot, you can ensure its non-porosity is on par with plastic. Unlike a plastic pot though, ceramic is fragile and easily broken. Tread carefully!
Porous materials like terracotta or clay will sap the peacock plant of the moisture its soil needs, leaving your plant parched. You might be okay if your pot has a layer (or several) of glaze and a plastic liner, but I’d only buy a clay pot if no other materials are available.
Check that your pot has large drainage holes so water can easily exit.
Calathea Makoyana’s Ideal Temperature and Humidity
The perfect temperature for the calathea makoyana is between 60- and 75-degrees Fahrenheit. This is room temperature, so there should be no need to adjust your thermostat.
If you feel like leaving your window open on a hot spring or summer day, the calathea makoyana can withstand temperatures well past 75 degrees up to 85 degrees. When the temps continue climbing from there, the peacock plant might get heat stressed.
Move your calathea away from its hot environment into a slightly cooler one. Just don’t make it too cold. Much more so than its heat tolerance, the calathea makoyana is known for its heat intolerance.
In that regard, it’s a lot like other calatheas!
I always say that what’s cold to a houseplant might not be cold to you. For example, when the temperatures are around 60 degrees, you’re plenty comfortable, but that’s too cold for the peacock plant.
Although your calathea makoyana shouldn’t be at risk of freezing or suffering severe cold damage at 60 degrees, the plant will likely stop growing until its temperatures are warmer.
Don’t only check your thermostat, but watch out for drafts as well, such as from an air conditioner or even an old door. Move your peacock plant away from any drafty areas.
Let’s talk about the peacock plant’s humidity. This calathea requires slightly higher than normal humidity at a rate of 60 percent. You can crank up the humidity even higher if you wanted to, just not too much more.
Buy a humidifier if you don’t already own one and use it on your calathea makoyana for several hours each day. I’d also suggest picking up a hygrometer so you can determine if you’re getting this plant’s humidity levels right.
The Best Fertilizer for the Calathea Makoyana
Fertilizing your calathea makoyana will give it the nutrients to grow, so begin your fertilization schedule in the spring through the fall. This is the peacock plant’s active growing season.
The best type of fertilizer for this plant is water-soluble, as it will dissolve when you water your calathea makoyana.
Some indoor gardeners do use a 5-5-5 fertilizer mix and haven’t had complaints.
Dilute the fertilizer to half-strength and then apply it about monthly. If you feel like your calathea makoyana needs an extra boost of nutrients, you can fertilize it every two weeks.
However, be aware that the calathea is sensitive to too much fertilizer, so overdoing it could be disastrous.
If you over-fertilize your calathea makoyana, it will begin wilting, so you won’t see those leaves raise up in prayer position anymore. The leaf margins will look dried and burnt, and sometimes there’s fertilizer residue on the surface of the soil. Growth often stops as well.
While your peacock plant is being overfertilized, it’s now more susceptible to diseases and pest infestations since it’s in a weakened state. You’d have to remove all its soil and repot the plant, which can be stressful on it.
I’d suggest starting with monthly fertilizer and increasing the amount applied only if you think your plant really needs it.