Calathea makoyana: how to care for the peacock plant


As a horticulture student I mainly studied crops and cultivation techniques. It fascinates me how many diverse plants can grow from small, nearly identical seeds.

Favourite fruit: blueberries, grapes, raspberries, pears
Favourite vegetables: mushrooms, peppers, kohlrabi, onions, garlic

Calathea makoyana is quite a small species of prayer plant with beautiful, colourful leaves. While it may not be the easiest plant to care for, it is definitely worth the effort.

Peacock plant in white pot
Calathea makoyana has truly unique, striking leaves [Photo: Phubes Juwattana/]

With its strikingly patterned leaves, Calathea makoyana is a stunning addition to any indoor jungle. In the right conditions, it usually develops into a magnificent plant and boasts its beautiful foliage for a long time, before the pattern and colour eventually fade with age.

Calathea makoyana: origin, flowers and characteristics

The peacock plant (Calathea makoyana), also sometimes known as cathedral windows, is a species of prayer plant originating from Brazil. This plant naturally occurs in the shady undergrowth of damp rainforests and, due to its decorative leaves, is very popular as a houseplant. However, Calathea makoyana is a little demanding, so is perhaps better suited for more experienced houseplant owners. This bushy-growing plant reaches heights of 30 to 50 cm. Its leaves sit on the end of thin stems that grow from the bulbous rhizome and can reach up to 15 cm in size. In terms of colour, the leaves have a peacock-like pattern in different shades of green and are red-purple underneath. As with most prayer plants (Calathea), the leaves fold up at night, allowing you to enjoy the colourful leaf undersides. In its natural habitat, the peacock plant produces yellow flowers in January and February, but it rarely blooms as a houseplant.

Close-up of peacock plant leaves
Like many other types of calathea, Calathea makoyana closes its leaves at night and new leaves start out curled [Photo: mokjc/]

Keeping Calathea makoyana as a houseplant

As with most houseplants, peacock calatheas do best in conditions which imitate those of its natural, tropical habitat. They like partial shade without direct sun. At most, they will tolerate a little direct light during the evening or morning hours. Peacock plants also require sufficient warmth all year round and temperatures of 23 to 25 °C during the growing season. Conditions should be somewhat cooler in winter but no colder than 18 °C. High humidity is an absolute must for this plant. To increase the humidity, you can fill a saucer with expanded clay and a little water and place it underneath the plant pot. This avoids giving the plant wet feet but allows the water to evaporate around the plant. Alternatively, you can mist your peacock plant daily. However, this could lead to lime stains on the leaves.

Small peacock plant in terracotta pot
Peacock plants do well in a warm spot without direct sunlight [Photo: Jani Tisler/]

After buying a peacock plant, we recommend replanting it into a more suitable soil. Calathea makoyana prefers nutrient-rich, humus-rich, rather coarse soil with a slightly acidic pH-level. Our Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost, for instance, is a great choice for peacock plants and is peat-free with a loose, permeable structure. As Calathea makoyana do not tolerate waterlogging, add one part expanded clay into two parts soil. You can also use expanded clay to create a drainage layer at the bottom of the pot to allow for excess water to drain off.

Organic All Purpose Compost, 40L
Organic All Purpose Compost, 40L
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  • Perfect for all your house, garden & balcony plants
  • For strong & healthy plants as well as an active soil life
  • Peat-free & organic soil: CO2-saving composition

Tip: To lower the pH of the soil, add some needle litter, acidic primary rock flour or pine bark to the soil.

Peacock plant care

Basic peacock plant care includes regular watering and fertilising. Calathea makoyana require evenly moist soil, especially during the growing season. Check to make sure the soil always feels slightly moist, but not waterlogged. To prevent waterlogging, you can create a drainage layer as mentioned above. Water less in winter, but never let the root ball dry out. Ideally, use soft rainwater for watering. Tap water is usually too hard and contains a lot of lime, which hinders the nutrient uptake of the roots in the long term.

Tip: Peacock plants are susceptible to spider mite infestations if the air is too dry. This makes increasing the humidity an important precautionary care measure, for instance by regularly misting the plant.

Fertilise your peacock calathea once a fortnight from spring to autumn, preferably with a liquid fertiliser which is easy to apply. Our Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food, for instance, is ideal. In addition to providing all the important nutrients, our fertiliser contains microorganisms that promote root growth. It is not necessary to fertilise in winter.

Many Calathea makoyana plants
High humidity is essential for a healthy peacock plant [Photo: IZZ HAZEL/]

It is not necessary to prune peacock calatheas. However, if you see any yellow or dried leaves on the plant, simply cut these off at the base.

Repot your peacock plant each year in spring into a new pot that is one size up from the old one. To do this, simply lift the plant out of the old pot and carefully remove the soil from the roots. If you spot any rotten or withered roots, cut them off with a sharp knife. Before planting Calathea makoyana, create a drainage layer in the new pot and follow with fresh soil. For larger, more mature plants, repotting is also an opportune time for propagation.

Young peacock plants in nursery pots
After purchasing a peacock plant, it is best to promptly repot it using suitable substrate [Photo: Amelia Martin/]

Peacock plant propagation

The best way to propagate Calathea makoyana is by division. A good time to do this is in late spring, once the growing period has begun, or when you plan on repotting the plant anyway. To propagate your peacock plant, lift the plant out of the pot and gently remove all soil from the roots. Then, using a clean knife if necessary, carefully divide the root ball into two, making sure both parts have some leaves. Next, plant the two plants into separate pots. To make sure each plant grows well after being divided, place them somewhere warm and humid.

Is Calathea makoyana poisonous?

The peacock plant is not poisonous, neither to humans nor to pets. Nevertheless, it is not suitable for consumption.

Underside of peacock plant leaves
The underside of the leaves of Calathea makoyana is also beautifully coloured [Photo: LILLIAN_GZ/]

Nerve plants (Fittonia albivenis) have equally as beautiful, albeit much smaller, foliage. They are also ideal for beginners and much easier to care for than prayer plants. Learn more about how to plant and care for nerve plants in our in-depth article.