Calathea makoyana: Peacock Plant

We have already said that calatheas do best in a glasshouse or plant-case. The growing medium should be a mixture of peat, coarse beech leaf mould that is not fully decomposed, sand, and coarsely crushed charcoal; an addition of rotted wood dust will further improve the compost. Alternatively, one of the peat-based composts would be ideal. The plants do not require a dormant period in winter so that the compost must be kept permanently moist throughout the year. The result of this somewhat laborious care, however, is truly splendid for these plants are living symbols of the lush tropical wilder-ness. Though not large, reaching a height of only about 50 cm (20 in), the beauty of their coloured markings is truly exceptional.

Your assortment of calatheas may naturally also include species that, for lack of space, are not here. Very hardy is Calathea picturata ‘Argen-tea’ with leaves roughly the same shape but coloured silvery-grey in the centre and edged with green, which will last a long time even if placed freely in the room and not in a plant-case. More tender C. bachemiana is about 40 cm (16 in) high, with ovate-lanceolate leaves coloured silvery-grey above with dark green bands running forward at an angle from the midrib; also C. leopardina with ovate, pointed leaves marked with blackish-green triangular patches placed at right angles to the midrib, and with an attractively sinuate margin. Suitable for large rooms is C. zebrina, up to 1 m (3 ft) high, with leaf blades the same length as the leaf stalks, that is about 50 cm (20 in). The leaves are velvety, striped in two shades of green with a deep purple under-side.

Calatheas are generally propagated by division, but only after several years so that the roots have plenty of time to fill the pot. If you wish to transplant them, this should also be done only after several years. The plants produce flowers fairly readily and can also be pollinated without difficulty, even at home. Plants grown from seed are generally better adapted to fluctuations in temperature as well as atmospheric moisture.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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