Calathea makoyana – How to Grow the Stunning Peacock Plant

Looking for a tropical plant modeled after possibly the most beautiful creature on Earth? 

You’ve found it.

With contrasting green foliage pulled straight from peacock plumage, the Peacock Plant is a truly majestic species that’s sure to add a touch of class to any space.

No surprise then, that Calathea makoyana is one of the most sought-after prayer plants. It makes an excellent houseplant showpiece or focal center in a terrarium.

Though – as with many of its Calathea brethren – it’s definitely got a personality and some particular care requirements that you’ll need to know.

Find out how to keep your Peacock Plant foliage looking full and fabulous!

Calathea makoyana (Peacock Plant)

What is the Peacock Plant? (Besides Irresistible)

Native to Brazil, Calathea makoyana is a prayer plant with a penchant for the dramatic (both in visual style and behavior).

So, of course, it has that characteristic prayer plant leaf movement. You’ll see the striking foliage change shape throughout the day as it opens and closes its leaves to the Sun.

The ornate green leaves are contrasted beautifully by dark purple undersides – both contributing to the other quite fitting common name, “Cathedral Windows”. 

As per its tropical origins, the Peacock Plant insists on having home conditions as close to its native rainforest floor as possible.

calathea makoyana on forest floor
I saw this lovely Calathea makoyana in all its forest floor glory by a sidewalk in Thailand.

And, this diva will quickly let you know you if its not good enough…

It can absolutely be grown as a houseplant (mine is doing wonderfully in a pot), but a terrarium can really help to guarantee you’re consistently giving it world-beating humidity levels.

Where to Buy Calathea makoyana

See the links below to purchase from reputable terrarium plant shops and marketplaces (may include affiliate links). 

Shop on Etsy

Calathea makoyana Care & Growth

At a Glance

Plant TypeFoliage
LightingBright, indirect light
Temperature65-80°F (18-26°C)
WateringRegular, even moisture
Humidity6-24 inches (15-60cm)
GrowthModerate to high humidity (50-80%)

Lighting

Do you remember the children’s story about Goldilocks and the Three Bears?

Well, think of the Peacock Plant as Goldilocks – it needs just enough but not too much light, or it will do the plant equivalent of spitting out and whining about its porridge.

As a tropical understory plant, it’s used to receiving mostly dappled light through the rainforest canopy.

In the home, the best equivalent is bright indirect sunlight

Direct sunlight will quickly scorch the delicate leaves, so you’ll want to avoid this at all costs. Dry, curling leaves are usually the first indicator.

I’d recommend a North-facing window (if you’re in the Northern hemisphere like myself here in the UK) as that’s going to provide consistent indirect light throughout the day.

calathea makoyana on shelf in gentle light
My Calathea makoyana enjoying some gentle evening light.

Though mine is situated on a bookshelf in a room with a large South-facing bay window, which gets a lot of Sun. To balance this, my Calathea is placed at the farthest point from the window (about 3-4m away), so they never get any direct light.

On the flip side, whilst harsh sun is certainly the worst offender, full shade is not going to make for a happy plant or particularly attractive foliage – so make sure it’s getting enough light to keep its foliage vibrant. 

dark green calathea makoyana
If Calathea makoyana doesn’t receive enough light, the new growth won’t display much variegation.

A grow light can be super helpful here to maximize light energy without the risk of scorching.

How to Water

Peacock Plants can be thirsty plants.

They’re really going to value having consistent access to moisture, but just like on the rainforest floor it’s going to need to balance that with lots of drainage.

Both moisture retention and drainage are best provided through the use of the right kind of substrate mix – plus, a drainage hole (or layer in a terrarium) can be helpful too as a fail-safe for excess water.

In the pot, I like to soak mine through an even spray until I see water spill out of the bottom. 

watering calathea makoyana
If you have a pot with a drainage hole, you don’t have to hold back on the watering.

Then, I’ll simply wait until the top couple of inches are dry to the touch before watering again.

In a terrarium, you’ll want to achieve a water balance that maintains a damp substrate at all times but never allows it to become saturated. I do this by misting infrequently until I can see light condensation on the glass at the level of the substrate layer.

Calathea are reported to be sensitive to fluoride in water, but I’ve never had any problems with tap water. In terrariums, I recommend using purified water (for different reasons), so this is somewhat negated, or you can always use rainwater.

In my experience, the quickest way to upset your Peacock Plant is to forget to water it altogether…

calathea makoyana with yellow leaf
I forgot to water my plant once, and this leaf is a gonner!

Substrate

Finding the right substrate – and combination of various additives – is another area where this plant can be tricky to care for.

As mentioned, the Calathea makoyana needs its soil to retain moisture well while still providing good drainage. It’s prone to root rot in overly soggy conditions, so it’s worth making the effort to get this right.

Both in a terrarium and in the pot, I like to use a coco coir base as it’s light and fluffy (so it doesn’t compact and drains well) plus it holds lots of moisture for those roots to access easily.

Adding supplements like orchid bark, perlite/vermiculite, or pumice can also help to aerate the mix, and they retain water themselves (especially vermiculite).

If you do use coco coir, just remember that it doesn’t contain any nutrients of its own. I prefer to add earthworm castings as a natural solution, but you can use liquid fertilizer top-ups if you prefer.

Best Temperature & Humidity

The Peacock Plant likes a warm, humid environment free of unpredictable changes in temperature or drafts (in the Winter months, you’ll want to take extra care).

The humidity part is a bit of a deal-breaker too.

Calathea are notorious for liking lots of humidity, and though they’ll fare okay in anything above 50%, you’ll really want to push it up towards 80% to have yourself some healthy plants.

calathea makoyana in terrarium
My Peacock Plant has thrived in high humidity in my closed terrarium.

If your plant is showing crispy tips on the outer edges of the leaves (and it’s not been in direct light) then its probably a sign of your humidity levels being too low.

As an indoor plant, you may find a humidifier useful.

Personally, I don’t use one, but the room I grow my plant in is usually around 80% humidity anyway. Just the natural British weather conditions boosted by having a lot of other plants in the room.

So – as with many other Calathea species – it can be finicky as an average tropical houseplant but adjusts easily to closed terrarium conditions.

In fact, a terrarium kind of solves all of these problems at once.

Growth

Peacock Plants aren’t particularly rapid growers, and they tend to stay relatively compact until they’ve reached full maturity.

Mature plants can grow upwards to become much taller, slender plants – creating various levels of foliage – but it can take a long time to reach that level.

calathea makoyana close up
My young Peacock Plant in its most compact form.

Not to mention, the common trait amongst Calathea to sacrifice their older leaves in order to push out new ones.

I guess it makes sense from an evolutionary point of view, but sometimes it ends up being a 1 for 1 trade, and the plant never really progresses…

Otherwise, these plants are incredibly easy to trim back. So if it does ever get to the point where it’s outgrowing its container, a few snips and you’re back in business.

Peacock Plant Propagation

It is very common for members of the Prayer Plant family to be best propagated using the root division method, which involves uprooting the plant entirely and gently dividing its root system into smaller portions.

small rooted calathea makoyana in hand
Separating this offshoot from the mother plant was a lot easier than I had anticipated.

Each “new” plant can then be repotted right away and will begin to fill out its terrarium or container over time.

Who could possibly complain about having more plants?

Varieties & Similar Plants

As we mentioned before, the Calathea makoyana comes from the Marantaceae family and shares many similarities with other Calathea or Maranta species.

Other popular Prayer Plants can share the same deep purple undersides and dark to light green patterns on their leaves (e.g. Calathea ornata), or they can even come in varieties with long skinny leaves like the Calathea lancifolia, also known as the Rattlesnake Plant.

Not to forget the stunning emerald mozaic foliage of the Calathea musaica.

calathea roseopicta up close
The plant most similar to the Peacock Plant would be Calathea roseopicta – a firm favorite of mine.

Frequently Asked Questions

How big does a Peacock Plant get?

Peacock Plants can grow up to a maximum size of around 2 ft in height. However, even a mature plant can take a long time to reach that height.

Should I mist my Peacock Plant?

Misting a Peacock Plant is only a temporary way of increasing humidity, and though helpful to a small extent, there are better ways to do so (e.g., humidifiers and terrariums).

Do Peacock Plants close at night?

As prayer plants, Peacock Plants fold their leaves at night into the closed hand position. However, it’s still not clear why they do this.

Why is my Peacock Plant drooping?

Drooping leaves are a common sign of underwatering, so if you find the substrate is drying out too fast – try adjusting your watering schedule or swapping to a more moisture-retentive substrate.

How do you prune a Peacock Plant?

Peacock Plants grow in overarching stems, so you’re best off cutting a leaf directly from the base if you need to prune it back.

Does the Peacock Plant flower?

While it isn’t often that you will see the tiny white flowers that bloom from the Peacock Plant, it’s certainly not impossible from more mature plants. 

Why are my Peacock Plant leaves curling?

Curling leaves on a Peacock Plant can either be a sign of low humidity or direct sunlight damage. So, depending on where your plant is located, try adjusting accordingly.

Is Peacock Plant toxic?

Thankfully, the Peacock Plant – like other Calathea – is not a poisonous plant.

Is the Calathea makoyana prone to pests?

Calathea makoyana isn’t particularly susceptible to diseases or pests, however they are known to occasionally attract spider mites.

⚡️Get 10% off our store! Click here
This is default text for notification bar