Calathea makoyana

The Peacock Plant occurs naturally in the undergrowth of the tropical forests of Brazil. It grows from a thick rhizome and reaches a height of 30-50 cm (12-20 in). The pale green or grey-green leaves are long-stalked and the leaf blades may be up to 20 cm (8 in) long. The most striking features are the olive-green blotches on either side of the midrib and the way the veins curve from the midrib towards the margins. The underside of the leaves is purplish-red, blotched like the upper surface.

This very decorative plant is well suited to modern houses which are generally warm. It must be misted frequently or grown in a glassed enclosure to ensure adequate humidity. Otherwise, the leaf margins begin to turn brown.

Calathea ornata

This species , like most of the genus Calathea, which ineludes some 100 species, has very decorative foliage. Thriving specimens may reach a height of 80- 90 cm (31-35 in). The long-stalked leaves are 30-60 cm (12-24 in) long, bright green above and red beneath. Young leaves have narrow, pinkish-red stripes between the veins. These fade to a silvery white colour in older plants. If grown in a suitable environment, this Calathea will provide further delight by bearing spikes of white flowers about 8 cm (3 in) long.

The rules for cultivation are virtually the same for all Cala-theas. The plant requires a fairly high temperature, a sufficiently humid atmosphere, and an acid compost rich in humus, such as a mixture of peat and beech leaves. Do not allow the compost to dry out. Ventilation is beneficial. You must be patient to begin with, for it takes quite a long time for the plants to become established. However, once they are established, growth is very rapid. Propagate by dividing the clumps.

Calathea stromata

This species is native to the virgin forests of Brazil where it occurs in the undergrowth. The taller plants of its natural habitat provide shade and shelter from drying winds. The frequent rains and mists at high elevations provide it with a very humid atmosphere. It forms thick clumps of stiff, long-stalked, broadly elongate leaves 10-12 cm (4-5 in) long.

It does best in a coarse, free-draining and nourishing compost. Experienced growers use a mixture of leaf mould, heath mould, peat and charcoal. A loam and peat soil is also suitable. It requires a temperature of 18°-20°C (64-68°F) in the daytime and about 16°C (61°F) at night during the growth period. The minimum temperature is 16°C (61°F). It may be grown in shallow containers.

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