Calathea makoyana plant surely decorate any dull room with its peacock like pattern. Their colorful leaves and bold marking have attracted many plant collectors around the world.
Despite its medium size, many have said that their strict care requirement make them deserve a “diva” title. So, how exactly the way to grow and care this sought-after greenery?
Marantaceae family where Calathea makoyana belongs, is neotropical plant. In the vast area of South America, this plant naturally grows in Brazil, Espírito Santo in particular. The actual number of this plant in Brazil is higher compare to other South America countries.
From this area, we could imagine a tropical rainforest where Calathea lives under shades of tree. The sun, soil, and other plants create a warm and humid environment. For this reason, many suggest trying to mimic this “exact” habitat when growing them at home.
This plant has oval leaves with pale green base on the surface. Dark green blotches spread on the leaf forming a feather-like pattern resembling the tail of male peacock.
Flip the leaf and you will see a purple and pink lines covering the underside parts. They grow on a long, upright, thin stalk. When the light shines on them, they even look more beautiful.
It is basically harder for Calathea varieties to produce flowers indoor. Even the perfect condition is not enough to force the bloom. You will need at least a bit of luck here.
For your information, small white flowers might grow hidden among the leaves. They could appear suddenly once the plants have reached maturity. As expected, people say there is nothing to brag about their flowers at all.
USDA hardiness zones 10a to 11 is the best for growing this plant. These areas provide higher humidity, warm and stable climate, as well as shaded light.
Through the growing season from March to October, this plant pushes the growth energetically. In winter, a slow growth continues due to low temperature.
Their size could stretch around 60 cm in height and width. The leaves usually are 25 cm long when matured. New leaves are rolled up and showing the pinkish-red on the leaf bottom.
Thankfully, this Calathea makoyana is not a poisonous plant. Still, you must keep it away from little kids and active pets for their safety.
They might eat the leaves, but we think they will ruin the plant first. If you, your child or pet showing health problem, the initial immune is probably weak in the first place.
No suggestion to use it as daily consumption.
Variety of Names
First, let us inform you that the current botanical name of this plant is Goeppertia makoyana. However, using Calathea makoyana term is more common and familiar, even among advanced gardeners.
Due to the unique leaf patterns and various colors, Calathea makoyana earns Peacock Plant and Cathedral Window Plant nickname.
This plant might not be the “original” owner of Prayer Plant name, but people still use is sometimes. It comes from the leaf photophilic character. Their leaves are close at night and open in the day. In short, it changes based on the lighting.
On the following discussion, we are going to use Calathea makoyana and Peacock Plant as they are more suitable.
How to Start
The popularity of Peacock Plant makes it more difficult to find along with high demand. To begin with, only buy a healthy plant. Smaller or younger plants are mostly weaker. You might find brown leaves even before pay for it.
Besides brown leaves, you should avoid those with unattractive leaf color. Small nursery plants tend to be harder to care, especially to recover them completely.
Prepare a good spot in your house before the plants arrives like a moderate light room. They are sensitive when it comes to new environment. You don’t want to shock them immediately.
Canopy of trees naturally filter the direct sunlight above in the jungle. They are basically protect Calathea makoyana from an intense light all day. Thus, they key for lighting here is bright indirect light.
- Direct sunlight burns the leaves, erases the leaf color, and gradually fades the pattern.
- Too low light condition prohibits the plant growth. The leaves would be smaller and grow apart from each other.
Best indoor spot
East or north-facing window is ideal for Calathea makoyana. If the sunlight is too intense, consider the follow ups below.
- Shield them with sheer/light curtain or partial blinds.
- Move the plant a bit far from the window.
- Place Calathea behind other houseplant. The plant in question should be able to tolerate more light. NEVER have other Calatheas to protect each other from direct light.
Note. Young plants are still struggle with acclimation. Provide them with low-medium light for a while.
If your home temperature changes often, you might not be able to satisfy Calathea makoyana.
A safe temperature range for Peacock Plants is 18°C-30°C. This plant cannot stand frost, so a temperature below 16°C is very dangerous for them.
To keep a constant temperature, the plant must avoid any heating and cooling sources nearby. These include:
- air conditioner
- fireplace or wood burner, and
- open window, door, or balcony.
Note. Room temperature in many households is actually enough for most Calatheas. A warmer temperature is okay BUT not too high.
Read also : Calathea Ornata: Tips You Should Know
Now, we have come to a tricky part of caring Calathea plants, which is watering. Beginners will be confused with how and when to water the plant. Although these plants like a warm and humid condition, they hate drought and standing water.
- Soil moisture testing. Touch the soil will your finger. Only water the plant if the top inches of soil dry. You might have to do this on daily basis to make sure the soil is not completely dry. When you’re not sure, utilize moisture meter.
- Water a little but constant. Never throw a gallon of water suddenly from the top. You should water the plant slowly and thoroughly. Watering too much (overwatering) eventually leads to root rot problem. Do more often in warm season and reduce the frequency in cold months.
- Quality water. Water the plant using distilled water, filtered water, or rainwater. They also must be in a room temperature. Most tap water usually contains chemical and other minerals like fluoride. Therefore, you must de-chlorine it first for 24 hours in open container. This process won’t be necessary if you use free-chemical water.
- Throwing excess water. Make sure you see the excess water comes out through drainage holes after every watering. Also throw out the water left in saucer.
- It takes time to create a proper watering habit.
- Don’t solely rely on watering schedule since light, season, and soil affecting the amount and frequency.
- Correct watering will keep the soil moist, but not make it soggy or too damp.
Set the humidity level for Calathea makoyana at least 60% or above. Frequently check the humidity using digital hygrometer.
Low humidity means the plant is in dry condition. This condition may attract spider mites for example. The leaf tips turn brown if the plant lacks of humidity.
How to increase humidity
- Gathering tropical houseplants. This is the most affordable way we can recommend here. These plant naturally create a micro-climate environment through transpiration process. All plants are happy, you save the money.
Tips. Each plant must have enough space, so DON’T gather them too close to another.
- Having pebble tray under the pot. When filling the tray with water, stop before reaching the pebble line. The water will evaporate and create more moisture around the plant. Don’t let the plant touches the water below.
Tips. Replace the water as soon as the tray is empty.
- Misting gently. Mist the plant using room temperature water once every few days, but NOT too often.
Note. It won’t be efficient if the room is dry and heated. In other words, misting is even unable to keep the minimum 60% level. Consequently, bacteria develop and cause reddish-brown spot on the leaves.
- Installing humidifier. This would work really well if you have a lot of plants in a big area. This is a good investment only for those who have money and serious about being a keen gardener.
Tips. You can use one big humidifier or some small humidifiers to cover the plant needs.
Soil and Potting
Getting a balanced potting mix could be challenging. The soil must be able to hold enough moisture and drain the excess water well. Organic matter is important too, especially for young plant and after repotting and propagation process.
Potting mixture recipe
- Peat moss + perlite/coarse sand (2:1)
- Houseplant potting soil (regular) + sphagnum moss/coco coir+ perlite (2:1:1)
Peat moss and coco coir are able to hold moisture. Perlite ensures a smooth air and water circulation in the soil.
Compost can replace 10% of peat moss. It is rich with nutrients for the plant. You can add pine bark and sand to improve the soil quality.
Note. Don’t overdo the composition. Drought and overwatering may occur due to wrong soil.
You don’t have any idea? Cannot get the right balance? No worry. Ask the expert!
You can visit a local garden center nearby to find more about Calathea makoyana soil. It also would be great if you can buy the potting mix they make.
In addition, many recommend using African violets or peaty mix as alternative. The suggestion is to add 1/3 of coarse material e.g., sand, coconut coir, pine bark, etc. to these ready potting soil products.
After getting the ideal soil, all the effort will be useless without a correct pot. Clogged pot of course will make the roots sink in water for long time. Then, how to solve it?
- Drainage holes 3x! That’s what the plant needs. Please buy pot/container with drainage holes. However, depend on the soil and watering considering pot material is essential.
- If you tend to overwatering, unglazed terracotta pot is porous enough to let the excess water out. Still, don’t use this as a chance to keep your bad watering habit.
- When you often forget to water the plant, try using plastic and glazed clay pots. They are able to hold more moisture so that soil won’t be too dry.
- Last, if you highlight the aesthetic value more than anything, double potting is the way. Use a smaller nursery pot with drainage holes. And then put it inside a slightly bigger decorative pot you want. Decorative pots usually don’t have drainage holes and they works as cachepot here.
It is troublesome, but you MUST take out the nursery pot before watering. Put it back after the water drains well.
Note. Some gardeners use saucer under the pot as an additional item to avoid stain on the windowsills.
Balanced liquid houseplant is suitable for tropical houseplant like Calathea makoyana. Apply once a month or once every three weeks in the growing months. Stop feeding the plant in winter when it has a slower pace of growth.
Peacock Plants are not a heavy feeder. Therefore, you don’t have to feed them too much. Watering the plant before feeding may prevent root burn.
This type of fertilizer contains high nitrogen, which is beneficial for the leaf health and looks. The ideal chemical fertilizer has NPK 3-1-2. Dilute the fertilizer first at 1/2- or 1/3 strength.
Cons. There is a high a possibility that salts will accumulate in the soil. Additionally, high phosphorus content and salt in this fertilizer may cause brown spots and fading leaf pattern. The solution is to flush the soil with water every few months.
Organic and homemade fertilizer
It is quicker to just buy organic liquid fertilizers through offline and online shops. Then, follow the instruction on the package carefully. If you fancy to make a homemade fertilizer, you may add compost in the potting mix. Compost works as a natural slow-release fertilizer.
Making compost tea
- Prepare an empty bucket and fill half of it with compost.
- Add water in a same amount.
- Leave the bucket alone to develop the compost tea.
- After several days, it will be ready for use.
- As usual, dilute it by half before feeding it to your plant.
Pruning & Cleaning
- Trimming the damaged and dying leaves encourages new growth. Use sterile shears to make a clean cut. Peacock Plants have compact size and each leaf stands on single stem. This make pruning job easier.
- Removing dust and debris improves the plant looks in general. Moreover, it promotes better photosynthesis. Wet a cloth or soft towel with room temperature water. Wipe the plant gently.
Calathea makoyana roots could expand into the pot bottom and soil surface. The pot become too small for them. Once you see this sign, repot the plant.
Besides giving more space, repotting is the right time to refresh the soil and supply the nutrients. Normally, repotting is necessary every one or two years.
Reason for repotting
- Root bound
Before you see the outgrown roots, the plant might have sent you some signals. The common signs are wilting leaves and stunted growth.
- Lack of nutrient
You must feed the plant regularly if using liquid fertilizer. If not, the plant will quickly use anything left in the soil. Although it is a personal choice, keep feeding the plant may lead to over fertilization. Hence, replacing the soil while repotting will lower that risk.
- Built-up mineral
Over feeding and the use of water containing chemical increase the plant stress. Periodical leach indeed helps eliminating these substances from the soil, but repotting is more efficient solution.
- Root rot
Both nutrient deficiencies and accumulated mineral can further process to root rot. Delaying this matter means less chance to save the last bit of your Calathea makoyana.
Why repotting period matter
Repotting in spring is more common especially after new growths appear. However, in a serious condition like severe root bound and root rot, repotting immediately regardless of the time is permissible.
More importantly, focus on things you must do after repotting. After getting the shock, Calathea makoyana requires indirect lighting as it is still vulnerable.
- The new post must be 20% larger than the old pot or around 1-2 inches wider.
- Lift the plant from the current pot.
- Remove the soil and cut the damaged root.
- Repot the plant in fresh and organic rich soil.
- Water the plant moderately.
- Provide less light and extra humidity for faster recovery before new growth emerges.
Do you want to keep a smaller Calathea makoyana instead of growing it at maximum height? If yes is your answer, propagation is the option. There are more things to do here rather than simply relocating the plant to a new container.
Propagation through water, stem, and leaf cuttings won’t work well for this plant. Therefore, root division is the only way to achieve a successful propagation. The advice is to do it in spring or early summer to provide more times for new growth development.
- New pots with drainage holes
- Disinfected gardening tools
- Excellent potting mix
- A clean space without interruption to do propagation steps
- Water the plant one day before propagation
- Tip the pot on one side to take the mother plant easier.
- Remove the excess soil from the plant.
- For a loose root, divide them by hand along with the leaf and stem attached.
- If you find tangled roots, use sterile knife/blade to make vertical cut.
- Meanwhile, trim the dying or infected root if any.
- Fill 1/3 of the new pots with fresh soil.
- After putting each tuber inside, add more soil. Preferably use some soil from the mother plant pot to reduce the stress of the new plant.
- The final soil level must be the same as the old pot.
- Properly water the plants.
- Try to maintain a high humidity level as the plants need it for healing. Many cover them with plastic bag until they spot new growth.
Pest & Disease Problems
As long as you care and maintain the plant properly, Calathea makoyana is gonna be okay.
Insect, fungi, and bacteria would easily attack a weak plant in unfortunate situation. Overwatering, under watering, bad soil, improper lighting, are only a few triggers of the plant illness. First of all, a complete isolation is necessary to avoid the spread of pest and diseases to other plants.
Even though spider mites are not exactly a spider, they indeed makes white web on the undersides.
Troubleshooting: Let the water from hose or bathroom shower running through the infected plant. Next, rub the leaves with cotton balls that have been soaked in alcohol. Or, you can mix water with dishwashing liquid solution or neem oil, and then spray. The last attempt is introducing natural bug enemy to eliminate the evil pests.
Note. Patient is the key because you need to repeat this action until the pests are gone.
The culprit of this disease is a bacteria named pseudomonas. The symptom is reddish or brown spots on the leaves. Pseudomonas might attack if the leaves are wet. It might also travel from other plant to your current Calathea.
Troubleshooting: Cut the affected leaves. Then, use anti-bacterial product with copper base.
Overwatering block the oxygen distribution. Furthermore, soil fungi may develop and worsen the root condition. When you notice yellow leaves or drooping leaves, check the root to be safe. Brown and mushy root means sick, white and firm roots means healthy.
Troubleshooting: Remove all the sick roots and replant the health ones (hopefully they are still there). After replanting, make sure you control the light, humidity, and watering since the plant is still shock. DON’T feed the plant for several weeks before the roots heal completely.
If you’re looking for Peacock Plants, always go with Calathea makoyana instead of Prayer Plant or others names. In case you want other tropical plants with similar features, see other Calathea varieties such as Calathea roseopicta and Calathea Freddie.