How to Grow Peacock Plants

Close up of the foliage of a Peacock Plants (Calathea Makoyana)

David J. Stang / Wikimedia Commons / Creative CommonsAttribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license

There are many species within the Calathea genus. They're all known for their striking foliage and are sometimes referred to as 'prayer plants' as their leaves often raise up and curl shut overnight. Calathea Makoyana is one that is commonly sold as a tropical houseplant.

The overarching Calathea genus is sometimes referred to as peacock plants, but it's the Makoyana that is officially known by this common name (and sometimes also as cathedrals windows). This is down to the fact that the eye-catching patterns on the broad leaves resemble the famous birds tail feathers.

The foliage patterns come in a variety of hues including green, cream, pink, white and gray. The stems are always a reddish-maroon shade, and the underside of the leaves are dark purple.

It really is all about the patterns on the lush leaves with this species. If you're a lover of pretty blooms, the peacock plant won't be for you. They do produce flowers, but they are very small and not ornamentally significant.

With a clump-forming habit, the lush and dense foliage will look great in any household position that is warm, humid, and out of intense sunlight.

If the temperatures are warm enough, peacock plants can also be grown outdoors. They work well for mass planting ground cover, in shrubby borders, and in containers on shady patios.

Peacock plants aren't always the best choice for novice houseplant collectors. If you can get the conditions right, however, you'll be rewarded with a beautiful plant that's sure to impress any visitors.

Botanical Name Calathea Makoyana
Common Name Peacock Plant, Cathedral Windows
Plant Type Evergreen, Herbaceous, Perennial
Mature Size Up to 4 ft. tall
Sun Exposure Partial Sun, Full Shade
Soil Type Moist but well-drained
Soil pH Acid, Neutral, Slightly Alkaline
Bloom Time Anytime, but flowers are small
Flower Color White
Hardiness Zones 10 - 11, USA
Native Area Brazil
Toxicity Non-toxic

Peacock Plant Care

Peacock plants have some rather particular care requirements. This makes them a little more challenging to nurture if you are new to houseplant collecting. Filtered light, high humidity, and adequate moisture are all essential. Don't let this put you off, though. If you take the time to ensure they have what they need, they will turn in a stunning display of lush foliage.

Light

Despite being a tropical species, peacock plants are not fans of intense, direct sunlight. This can cause the patterns and colors on the foliage to fade. Filtered light conditions are recommended, but these plants can also grow in full shade, although this can slow down growth significantly.

Soil

For your peacock plant, you want to select a potting medium that retains moisture but is still well-drained. A mixture of peat, sand and perlite is often recommended.

To guarantee lush and vibrant leaf production and color, it should also be one that is humusy and high in organic matter.

Water

Getting the balance right when it comes to irrigation is key for peacock plants. If the leaves are starting to curl up this can be a sign of underwatering. Too much water can cause root rot. These plants like consistent and even levels of moisture and many enthusiasts use a moisture meter to help them gauge when the plant needs watering.

Although these plants still need watering during the winter, they do like to have a rest period, and the frequency should be reduced considerably.

Distilled water or some captured from rainfall is generally considered a better option compared to getting it from the tap. Peacock plants are sensitive to fluoride, and it can result in the leaf tips turning brown. The water should be lukewarm or room temperature too. It can shock the plant if it is overly cold.

Temperature and Humidity

To allow your peacock plant to thrive, ideal temperatures are between 60ºF – 75ºF. It's also important to ensure the plant is not exposed to any sudden and extreme changes in their environment. Cold drafts and quick shifts in temperature can be problematic.

High levels of humidity are also key to your peacock plant thriving. Low humidity levels can lead to browning or curling leaves. Misting is beneficial and, if you are concerned your home environment may be too dry, it could be worth investing in a humidifier. You can also add a tray filled with pebbles under the well-draining plant pot. That way, any excess water will drain through and sit directly under the pot, adding humidity without leaving the plant in standing water.

Fertilizer

Feeding your peacock plant from spring to fall, during its growth period, is another important consideration given its profuse foliage production. Fortnightly feeding with a diluted liquid fertilizer is recommended. Foliar sprays that contain nitrogen and iron can help if fresh leaves don't have the depth of color of the mature leaves on the plant. In the winter months, feeding can stop completely.

Propagating Peacock Plants

Peacock plants are usually propagated through division. It can be rather tricky, however, so it is best that you wait until the plant has formed into a well-established and large clump. The repotted divisions must be kept moist, warm, and humid while they establish. You can cover them with polythene sheeting if you are concerned that the environment could be too dry.

Potting and Repotting Peacock Plants

Healthy, thriving peacock plants, with their clump-forming habit, can grow rapidly, and this means they tend to need repotting every couple of years. Division can take place at the same time if you want to reuse the same pot; otherwise, you will need to opt for a larger container that also has decent drainage holes.

Common Pests/Disease

Peacock plants are not known for having any major disease problems. If the environment is too dry, however, red spider mites can be an issue. Ensuring the plants are kept in humid conditions out of the direct sun can help.