Peacock plants (Calathea makoyana) are desirable for their large, showy, variegated leaves. This tropical beauty is native to parts of South America and is most often grown as a houseplant in the United States. Outdoors, they can grow as large as 4 feet tall and wide. Although no diseases are of major concern with this plant, according to the University of Florida, there are some special care needs above basic culture that this plant must have in order to thrive.
Calathea makoyana can be planted outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11, according to information published by the University of Florida. In other, cooler locations, this plant should be grown as a houseplant, or grown in a container and brought inside when the weather cools.
The peacock plant thrives in shady locations. Calatheas cannot tolerate direct sunlight for very long, as it will not only fade the variegation in its leaves, but also scorch them. Still, it does need some light in order to grow. Place your peacock plant in a location that receives a bit of morning sun and afternoon shade, or by a window that receives indirect light.
Although these are tropical plants, they do not do well in continually moist soil, according to Donna Moramarco, a horticulturist formerly with Cornell University. Allow the soil to dry out down to the first 2 to 3 inches before watering again. Never let the plant sit in standing water, as it has delicate roots that will quickly rot. Empty the water tray immediately after watering potted peacock plants.
Peacock plants tolerate a wide range of soil types, from clay to sandy, but they do best in loose, well-draining soil. Plant indoor plants in a porous potting medium that is rich in organic matter for best results. Potting mixtures that contain peat moss and sand are a good fit for this plant.
Problems and Maintenance
The biggest problem with this plant is spider mites, especially if it is placed in a sunny location, according to the University of Florida. Watch for signs of mite activity and blast them off the plant with a spray of water from a hose. Use an insecticidal soap if the infestation is severe. Occasionally wipe the leaves of the plant with a damp rag to keep them dust free. Apply a slow-release, water-soluble fertilizer formulated for evergreen houseplants at the start of the growing season (spring).