The peacock plant is an absolutely gorgeous addition to any houseplant collection. It is native to Eastern Brazil and is a relatively rare find, so make sure to treat yours with care! These plants are known for their pale green leaves paved with darker lines and ovals that create a uniquely layered, feathery appearance.
The unique beauty of this plant is part of the reason it was given the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit in 2017.
The peacock plant goes by many other names: goeppertia makoyana, cathedral windows, and calathea makoyana (or just calathea) to name a few! It is certainly a special plant that will dazzle in your collection if cared for properly; keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the peacock plant.
Caring For Your Peacock Plant
Before we get into the specifics, it is important to note that the peacock plant is not a great plant for beginners. It requires a bit more love and care, with special needs like high humidity, frequent fertilization, and a random watering schedule. However, if you can commit to putting in the work you will soon have a gorgeous plant!
As a tropical plant, your peacock plant will require a high humidity level to truly flourish. Consistent humidity and temperature are the keys to unlocking the true potential beauty of the plant. The ideal range for the peacock plant will be a humidity of 60% or higher.
You can manage humidity by placing a humidifier in the same room as your peacock plant. If one is not available, you can also try grouping by placing this plant with others to naturally increase the humidity level. Placing the pot on a tray filled with pebbles and water is also a relatively inexpensive way to monitor humidity.
The best way to tell if your plant needs a more humid environment is if the leaf tips begin to brown. Otherwise, it is doing just fine!
This plant grows along the rainforest floor, so it is naturally used to bright but indirect, filtered sunlight. Direct sunlight can burn the leaves and even erase the iconic pattern that makes the peacock plant stand out. Bright indirect sunlight is the best way to help the plant grow.
You can naturally access this type of light by placing the plant in a northern or eastern facing window. As the sun rises, a few hours of weak direct sunlight will be tolerable for your plants.
The rest of the day as the sun heads further into the sky, they will be basking in bright and indirect sunlight. If there aren’t any windows like this in your home, try placing the plant away from the window or in the shade of larger plants that tolerate more direct light.
If you are unsure about how to personally measure sunlight, buy a light meter! They measure the amount of sunlight in footcandles, or FCs. The minimum FCs for a growing peacock plant will be 200, with the ideal range being closer to 400 FCs.
Best Soil and Mixture Type
The best soil for this plant will be one that drains freely but still holds moisture well. This means you will want a mixture of moisture retaining elements and coarse matter. Here are some good elements to watch out for:
- Peat moss for moisture retention (about two thirds of the total mixture)
- Coarse sand for drainage
- Perlite for drainage
- Compost for moisture and fertilization
When using compost, be careful not to replace more than 10% of the peat moss base. Otherwise, the mixture will be too soggy. Commercial potting mixes for African Violets or other peaty soils will be an ideal find, provided you mix in about one-third of coarse matter.
Keep in mind that these plants prefer a soil pH that is slightly acidic, with a 6.5 being the ideal on the scale.
The part of peacock plant care that most owners find difficult is the watering. This plant does not necessarily need a set routine of watering each week or every other day. Rather, the first inch of the soil needs to be kept moist at all times.
Try touching the first inch or so of soil every other day and watering it if you sense dryness. Watering while the soil is still moist will harm the plant, but so will waiting too long between waterings.
It can take some practice, but wetting the soil once the first inch has gone dry is a good way to tell when it is time.
These plants are thirstier than your average houseplant, so make sure to water if you see browning leaves. In addition, using distilled water may be best since they have a fluoride sensitivity. Just remember to feel the soil as often as possible and you’ll be good to go!
Constant and consistent temperature is needed to properly care for your calathea peacock. This plant does not do well in the cold, and should be grown inside so that you can maintain a consistent temperature. A sudden cold snap or heat wave outdoors would certainly harm the plant.
The ideal temperature range for the peacock plant is between 65°F (18°C) to 85°F (30°C). Keep in mind that this plant will not tolerate anything below about 60°F, or 16°C. You should also avoid putting it in a drafty area or in front of an air conditioner.
Much like how the peacock plant requires more water than the average, it also needs to be fertilized more frequently. During the active growth period (late spring and summer) you should be fertilizing every two to three weeks to ensure good growth. In the dormant period, you can scale back to fertilizing about once a month.
The best elements to look for in your chemical or organic fertilizers are:
Nitrogen will be the element you want most, in order to avoid browning of the leaves. Try to find a fertilizer with a balance of more nitrogen and potassium over phosphorus, since it can cause spotting in large quantities.
While the peacock plant is more compact than other houseplants, it can reach a very respectable size with proper care. A mature peacock plant can reach a maximum height of about two feet inside the home.
It is common for the leaves of this plant to rise up in the morning and lower at night, which may impact how big the plant looks. If you’re wanting to achieve the maximum growth, maintain constant high temperature and humidity and you will be amazed.
When it comes to propagating, the peacock plant is not like most others. Stem-cutting, the most dependable method, will not function well with this plant. Your best bet is to propagate through root division. Here are the steps below:
- Note your plant’s active growth and when it is time to repot the plant. Make preparations for repotting.
- As you move the plant to a new pot, hold it up and examine the natural root separation. Identify a small, separated portion of the roots.
- Separate the identified section, beginning from the roots and ending with the leaves and stems. Use a small, clean knife to cut away when necessary.
- Plant the separated section into a new container of soil, ensuring high humidity and temperature as it grows. Maintain the same routine of care that you have for your mature peacock plant.
Even when you are not looking to propagate, repotting is a necessary procedure for any peacock plant owner. Luckily, it is not a process that needs to be done frequently. You’ll probably be repotting this plant once every two years. A clear sign that the plant needs to be moved is the creeping of roots through the drainage holes of the pot.
The best time to move to a new pot is after the active growing season, sometime in the late fall or early spring. This is because the plant enters a dormant state for winter and will not grow for several weeks after being repotted.
Calatheas generally do not like to be root bound, which is when the roots tangle and form a ball with little room for growth. When you find a new pot, make sure it is one size larger than the previous pot.
While this plant may be picky when it comes to care, it does not need to be pruned at all! The peacock plant maintains a relatively compact growth, so you can sit back and relax. The only time pruning is required is if you notice any damaged or diseased leaves that need to be clipped away.
This plant is beautiful, but is it toxic? You’ll be happy to hear that the answer is no! The peacock plant is not toxic to pets or humans, so there is no cause for concern if it is accidentally ingested. Just be careful to keep it out of reach of pets or children in order to maintain those beautiful leaves!
The peacock plant is relatively resistant to pests, with one exception: spider mites. These pests are drawn to an overly dry environment and can eat holes through the leaves of the plant. They are tiny and hard to spot, but holes or sticky residue over the leaves are signs they may be creeping around.
If you suspect you have spider mites, wash the leaves of your peacock plant gently with soapy water to dislodge the mites. You can also use a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol to remove the mites from the leaves, provided that you wash them with water afterwards. Consider spraying the leaves afterwards with neem oil, a natural insecticide.
Diseases and Issues
Aside from pests, there are other plant issues and diseases it is important to be aware of. The most important one is root rot, which happens when a plant is overwatered or placed in soil that does not drain. If it looks like your plant is not gathering nutrients but there are no obvious signs of infection, root rot may be the cause.
Remove your plant from the soil and cut away all of the rotting roots. Place it in a new container of well-draining soil, and hopefully it will recover. Another issue is known as pseudomonas leaf spots, which are reddish brown spots caused by bacteria. Use a copper or bacterial spray as a topical treatment for a few days and see if the spots recede!
Now that we’ve covered all the aspects of peacock plant care that you should know about, let’s finish up with some frequently asked questions that you may be asking yourself.
Should I Mist a Calathea Peacock?
No, you should not mist this plant! While it can help increase humidity, misting often leaves plants more vulnerable to bacterial infections. This is due to the poor air circulation inside most homes.
Can Calathea Peacock Tolerate Low Light Conditions?
This plant can grow even with a little bit of shade, but overall will not tolerate low light conditions very well. This is because it is a tropical plant that is used to the sun! Bright and indirect sunlight is really the best way to ensure it grows.
Can I Grow a Peacock Calathea Outdoors? If so, Where Can I Plant It?
A peacock calathea plant can grow outdoors as long as you live in a humid or tropical climate with few temperature fluctuations. If not, it probably will not fare well! However, if you have the climate or area to ensure solid temperatures, these plants are excellent additions to any tropical garden. It is also dazzling when used for landscaping purposes around the area.
Do Peacock Plants Have Flowers?
The short answer: yes, the peacock plant can technically grow flowers. However, they are not consistent and rarely big enough to be noticed. Small, white flowers may bloom between the bracks of pale green anytime throughout the year on a mature peacock plant.
This plant may take a bit of work, but it is truly gorgeous and worth the effort!