Introduction to the Peacock Plant: Origin and Characteristics
Native to the tropical forests of Brazil, the Peacock Plant, also known by its scientific name Calathea Makoyana, is loved for its beautiful and colorful foliage.
The Peacock Plant has large, rounded leaves that display a fascinating color palette, a main characteristic of the Marantaceae family. The tops of the leaves feature a vibrant green with darker green, feather-like markings, akin to a peacock’s tail feathers, hence the name. The undersides are a contrasting deep purple, which can add an unexpected pop of color.
Key Characteristics of the Peacock Plant
- Size: The Calathea makoyana typically grows to a height of 2 feet, with a similar spread. Its relatively compact size makes it perfect for indoor cultivation.
- Foliage: Large, rounded leaves with striking green and purple colorations, boasting a feather-like pattern.
- Flowers: Though not often, this plant can produce small, insignificant white flowers which are typically hidden beneath the leaves.
- Growth Rate: The Peacock Plant is a relatively slow grower, often taking several years to reach its mature size.
Watering Needs of Peacock Plants
Calathea Makoyana have specific watering needs to thrive. As tropical plants, they require a delicate balance of being neither too dry nor too soggy. Finding this balance can be a bit tricky for new plant parents but once you have the hang of it, it can become quite easy to manage.
First things first, you need to understand that Peacock Plants favor moist soil. They don’t like their soil to completely dry out for expended periods of time, nor do they like it being waterlogged. So, the key is consistency in maintaining a moist soil environment without drowning the roots.
How to Water Your Peacock Plant
- Check the soil: Before you water the plant, make sure the top inch of the soil is slightly dry to the touch. This ensures that the plant isn’t overwatered and is ready to be watered again.
- Water evenly: When you water your plant, do so evenly around the base. This ensures that the water isn’t concentrated in one spot. You also want to avoid splashing the leaves as this can cause them to rot.
- Drainage is key: Always use a pot with a drainage hole and empty the saucer right after watering. This prevents water from sitting at the bottom and causing root rot.
- Use lukewarm water: Peacock plants prefer lukewarm water. Cold or hot water can shock the plant and cause leaf damage.
Remember, every plant is unique, and your Peacock Plant may need more or less water depending on its maturity, size, light level and many other environmental factors. Pay attention to its appearance and adjust your watering as needed. If the leaves are yellowing, it can be a sign of overwatering, while brown, crispy edges may indicate underwatering.
Peacock Plant Light Requirements
These plants thrive best in medium to low indirect light. This is because they are native to the forest floors of Brazil, where they receive dappled light filtering through the tree canopy.
Direct sunlight must be avoided! It can scorch and damage the beautiful leaves of your Calathea makoyana. However, if your space doesn’t get much natural light, they can also do well under fluorescent lights, making them perfect for office or basement settings.
Light conditions can directly impact the vibrancy of your Peacock Plant’s foliage. Less light leads to less vibrant foliage, while too much light can cause leaf burn.
Temperature and Humidity Requirements
Peacock Plants prefer temperatures that range from 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit and are sensitive to sudden temperature fluctuations. So it’s essential to maintain a stable environment for them.
It’s worth noting that these plants can suffer if the temperature drops below 60 degrees, or rises above 80 degrees. This is something you need to consider if you’re planning to grow these plants in a region with extreme weather conditions and make sure to monitor changes with a digital thermometer.
When it comes to humidity, Peacock Plants can be quite demanding. Ideally, the humidity level should be above 60% which is quite a high humidity level.
If your living space doesn’t naturally offer such humidity, you might need to use a humidifier, or place the plant on a tray filled with water and pebbles. Regular misting can also be an excellent way to maintain the necessary humidity levels.
Fertilizing Your Peacock Plant for Healthy Growth
The Ideal Fertilizer
When it comes to feeding your Peacock Plant, choose a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer. It should ideally be high in nitrogen content, as this will promote lush foliage growth. A 20-20-20 mix works well, meaning it has equal parts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. This is often displayed as the NPK score.
Once you’ve chosen the appropriate fertilizer, it’s time to establish a feeding schedule. Apply the fertilizer every 3-4 weeks during the growing season. However, avoid fertilizing in the winter months, as this is typically a rest period for the plant.
Apply the fertilizer to the base of the plant, making sure to avoid the leaves. Remember, always water the plant thoroughly after each application to help distribute the nutrients evenly throughout the soil.
While you might be tempted to over-fertilize your plant for quicker results, it’s essential to avoid this easy mistake. Over-fertilization may lead to salt build-up in the soil, which can harm the plant’s roots and ultimately its overall health. Signs of overfertilization are yellow leaves and ironically smaller and slower growth.
Pruning a Peacock Plant: Why, When and How
A key aspect of maintaining the lushness and vibrancy of your plant involves regular pruning. Pruning is not just a cosmetic task; it also helps to promote the health and growth of your plant.
Why Prune a Peacock Plant?
Pruning serves three primary purposes:
- Health: Removing damaged or diseased leaves helps to prevent further infection and decay.
- Growth: Pruning encourages denser growth and can help maintain the plant’s bushy shape.
- Aesthetics: Regularly trimming your Peacock plant keeps it looking its best.
When is the Best Time to Prune?
Peacock plants are usually pruned during the spring or summer, which are its active growing seasons. However, if you see a damaged leaf or stem at any time of the year, don’t hesitate to prune it.
How to Prune a Peacock Plant
Here’s a simple guide to help you prune your Peacock plant:
- Ensure your pruning shears are clean and sharp to avoid causing damage or spreading disease and bacteria.
- Gently remove the damaged or yellowed leaf by cutting it off at the base of the stem. Be careful not to cut into the main stem of the plant.
- If a leaf is partially damaged, you can also cut off the damaged part of the leaf, leaving the healthy part intact.
- After pruning, clean your shears with soapy water or rubbing alcohol to prevent the spread of disease.
When to Repot
Peacock Plants generally don’t require frequent repotting as they are quite slow growing and prefer to be slightly root-bound. This means that you should only consider repotting when the roots start to outgrow the pot. Typically, this will be every 2-3 years.
Choosing the Right Pot
Selecting the right pot for your Peacock Plant is crucial. A pot that’s too large can lead to issues such as waterlogged soil and instability, while a pot that’s too small can restrict growth. The ideal pot should be 1-2 inches larger in diameter than the current one and have drainage holes to prevent water accumulation at the bottom.
Steps to Repot your Peacock Plant
- Prepare the New Pot: Ensure your new pot is clean and has ample drainage. Fill it around one-third full with fresh, high-quality potting soil.
- Remove the Plant: Carefully remove your mother plant from its current pot. Be gentle to avoid damaging the root system too much. Don’t worry though if you break the odd root here and there as your plant will be able to recover just fine.
- Inspect the Roots: Before placing your plant in its new home, inspect the roots. If you notice any rotten or dead roots, remove them with a clean, sharp tool.
- Place the Plant: Place your plant in the new pot. The top of the roots should be just below the pot rim.
- Add Soil: Fill in the space around the plant with more potting soil, pressing down gently to eliminate air pockets.
- Water Thoroughly: After repotting, water your Peacock Plant thoroughly to help it settle into its new home.
Repotting can be stressful for plants. Give your Calathea makoyana a bit of extra care and attention after the repotting process to help it adjust to its new environment and don’t be too alarmed if you notice it being a little sad for a day or two.
Choosing the Right Soil and Pot for a Peacock Plant
When it comes to choosing the right soil and pot for your Peacock Plant, there are a few key factors you’ll want to consider. Achieving the right balance will ensure your plant thrives!
The Calathea makoyana is a tropical species that prefers well-draining, fertile soil. A high-quality, peat-based potting mix is often the best choice. This type of soil retains moisture without becoming waterlogged, an important feature since these plants love humidity but are susceptible to root rot.
- Peat-based potting mix: Retains sufficient moisture whilst allowing excellent drainage. Coco coir is another alternative if you’re looking for something a little more sustainable.
- Slightly acidic to neutral pH: Aim for a soil pH between 6.0 and 7.0, as the Peacock Plant prefers these conditions.
Just as important as the soil, choosing the right pot for your Peacock Plant can greatly influence its health and growth. The pot needs to provide ample room for the roots, as well as sufficient drainage to prevent waterlogging.
- Drainage: Choose a pot with multiple drainage holes at the bottom. This will help prevent water from sitting in the bottom of the pot, which could lead to root rot.
- Material: Ceramic or clay pots are often ideal as they allow for good air circulation and excess water can evaporate out of the sides as well as the drainage holes. However, plastic pots can also be used if they have proper drainage.
Peacock Plant Toxicity
Peacock Plants, also known as Calathea makoyana, are safe for both cats and dogs. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) lists this species as non-toxic. However, this doesn’t mean that your furry friends should feast on your plants as ingesting any part of the plant could still lead to mild digestive upset.
For humans, the Peacock Plant is also considered non-toxic. Individuals with sensitive skin may want to wear gloves when handling the plant, as sap from the stems and leaves could potentially cause skin irritation.
Here are some precautions to consider:
- Keep the plant out of reach: Even non-toxic plants can cause discomfort if ingested. It’s best to keep your Peacock Plant in a location where pets and children can’t easily access it.
- Wear gloves: If you have sensitive skin, wearing gloves while handling the plant can help prevent potential skin irritation.
- Avoid consumption: Despite being non-toxic, the Calathea makoyana is not meant for consumption. Eating the leaves or stems is not recommended for humans or pets.
Common Pests and Diseases to Watch Out For
As a Peacock Plant owner, it’s essential for you to be aware of the common pests and diseases that can threaten the health of your plant. These can range from small insects to various types of fungi. Understanding these threats and early warning signs will allow you to take preventative measures and quickly address any issues that arise.
Peacock Plants can be susceptible to a variety of pests. Here are a few you should keep an eye out for:
- Spider Mites: These tiny pests can cause significant damage to your Peacock Plant. Their telltale sign is the faint webbing they leave on the undersides of leaves.
- Scale: Scale insects appear as small, bumpy brown spots on the plant’s leaves. They can cause wilting, yellowing, and stunted growth.
- Aphids: These small, soft-bodied insects can cause distorted and yellowed leaves. They are usually found on the undersides of leaves and can be green, yellow, brown, red, or black in color.
Peacock Plants can also be affected by various diseases, including:
- Root Rot: This disease is usually caused by consistent overwatering. The main symptom is the blackening and softening of the plant’s roots which can very quickly cause visible and irreversible issues across the leaves as your plant can no longer get moisture and nutrients from the roots.
- Powdery Mildew: This fungus appears as a white, powdery coating on the leaves of the plant. It can cause the leaves to become discolored and fall off.
- Leaf Spot: Caused by a variety of fungi and bacteria, leaf spot diseases cause dark spots or patches on the leaves of the plant.
Remember, early detection is the key to saving your plant from any of these ailments. So, always keep a close eye on your Peacock Plant and other houseplants.
Cleaning your Peacock Plant
Keeping your Peacock Plant clean is not just a matter of keeping it looking fresh. It’s important for the overall health of your plant as dust and grime can clog the stomata (pores) of the plant leaves and hinder its photosynthesis process. Here are some best practices to keep your plant clean:
Use a soft, damp cloth to gently clean the leaves of your plant. You should do this on a regular basis, ideally once a week. Be gentle and careful not to damage the leaves while dusting – we always use the other hand to place behind the leaf to give it support when wiping down. This can help to avoid any breakages.
Every once in a while, your Peacock Plant may need a more thorough cleaning. You can achieve this by giving it a gentle shower with lukewarm water. Be sure to let the plant drain completely before returning it to its usual spot. This should be done once or twice a year but more if your plant is in a particularly dusty spot.
Inspect for Pests
While cleaning, it’s a good opportunity to inspect your plant for pests. Look out for tiny black or brown spots, web-like substances, or unusual leaf discoloration. If you spot any of these signs, it may indicate a pest infestation.
Peacock Plant FAQs
Quick and simple answers to the most common questions we get about caring for a Peacock Plant.
How much sunlight does a Peacock Plant need?
Peacock Plants thrive in areas with bright but indirect light. You want to keep them away from any direct sunlight during spring and summer as this can burn their delicate leaves. Whilst they can adapt to medium light levels, growth will be slower and smaller.
Is the Peacock Plant toxic to pets and humans?
Calathea makoyana are completely safe and non-toxic to pets and humans, making them a great plant for every home.
Is the Peacock Plant a good beginner houseplant?
Because they have such delicate leaves, Calathea makoyana can be a little temperamental so we don’t recommend these to beginner plant parents, unfortunately.
How much water does my Peacock Plant need?
Peacock Plants don’t like their soil to be dry for extended periods of time as this can cause the root system to crisp up. However, the other extreme can also quickly cause root rot so it’s all about finding the right balance. A little but often watering routine can really work for these plants but it does require a little more attention.
Common Problems with your Peacock Plant
Here are some common issues that you might run into. It’s important to diagnose any issues early to give your plant the best chance of bouncing back.
Why isn't my Peacock Plant producing flowers?
Although the Peacock Plant does produce flowers, these are quite rare and unpredictable. Just because your Calathea makoyana isn’t flowering doesn’t mean you aren’t looking after it properly. If the rest of your plant is healthy and happy then just be patient and maybe you’ll be surprised by flowers soon.
Why are my Peacock Plant's leaves losing colour/ fading?
Direct light can cause Peacock Plant leaves to fade and lose their pattern. Move your plant to a slightly shadier spot in your home and trim away the worst affected leaves if they look quite dead.
Why does my Peacock Plant have brown leaf tips?
Brown leaf tips or brown leaf edges on a Peacock Plant is often due to a lack of humidity. We recommend misting the plant several times a week as well as buying a humidifier. You’ll plants will love you for it.
Why does my Peacock Plant have yellow leaves?
Yellow leaves on a Peacock Plant are often caused by overwatering. Check the moisture levels in the soil to see if it is waterlogged and replace if necessary. Going forward, cut back on how often you are watering your Calathea makoyana, making sure the soil has time to dry out between waterings.
Why does my Peacock Plant have brown leaves?
Dry crispy light brown leaves on a Peacock Plant are caused by underwatering. Inspect the soil to confirm (you don’t want to water more if this isn’t the issue) and slowly reintroduce more regular waterings.