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How to Grow and Care for Prayer Plant (Maranta Leuconeura)

Close-up of Prayer Plant in white pot

The Prayer Plant, known scientifically as Maranta leuconeura, is a great addition to any indoor garden – enchanting beginners and experts alike with its radiant leaf hues and noteworthy night movements where it raises its leaves, resembling hands in prayer. This movement is also how this plant gets its unique name.

This houseplant is one of the most easily recognized tropical plants because of its exquisitely ornamental leaves. The widely grown tricolor variety has deep green, velvety leaves with yellow splotches running down the midrib and arcing red veins extending to the leaf margins.

The prayer plant is a slow-grower that can eventually reach a height of one foot indoors. They are popular as houseplants because they can be planted and cared for indoors at any time of year, but they are not always easy to keep growing over time.

Prayer plant is a low, spreading plant that grows horizontally along a tabletop or other surface and is commonly grown in a hanging basket.

As a master gardener, I’ve had the opportunity to grow this stunning houseplant over the years and also help other plant lovers do so successfully too. So, in this article, I’ll go over everything there is to growing and caring for prayer plants along with expert tips and tricks to make it super easy for even beginners.

Tricolor prayer plant in white pot held by a hand

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Botanical Name: Maranta leuconeura

Common Name: Prayer Plant

Family: Marantaceae

Plant Type: Perennial, Houseplant

Hardiness Zones: 11-12 (USDA)

Sun Exposure: Bright, indirect sunlight to partial shade

Soil Type: Well-draining, fertile soil

Soil pH: Slightly acidic to slightly alkaline

Maturity: 1-2 years

Height: 6-12 inches (15-30 cm)

Bloom Time: Spring and summer (produces small, white flowers)

Flower Color: White

Native Area: South America (Brazil, Colombia)

Prayer Plant Care

Your Prayer Plant will surely delight your senses, provide enjoyment, and flourish admirably if you understand and cater to its native habitat conditions.

Green leaves of Maranta prayer plant with yellow midrib and veins

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Prayer plants are low-growing, spreading plants that thrive in greenhouse-like conditions, such as warm, moist airflow and plenty of fertilizer. Poorly drained soil can cause the plant to die from root rot or collapse. Similarly, plants that are overly exposed to sunlight can become washed out and develop brown blotches on their leaves.

It’s also worth noting that prayer plants are not toxic to animals. But they’re also not meant for consumption either by humans or animals. So in case you have a curious kid or pet around, it’s best to keep them out of reach by placing them in hanging baskets or other higher places.

Light

Prayer Plants bright sunlight inside home

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Indigenous to the dense forests of Brazil, the prayer plant has adapted to flourish under the dappled light of the forest canopy. In your home, this translates to medium to bright indirect light. Exposure to direct sun can cause the vibrant leaf colors to fade and may scorch the leaves. But it’s worth noting that this plant is still somewhat tolerant of low light conditions.

However, if you notice slow growth or leaves turning yellow, the plant might not be getting enough light. On the other hand, if the leaves appear washed out or have brown spots, the plant might be receiving too much sun. Make the necessary adjustments for a happy, healthy plant.

Did you know that the prayer plant gets its name from the unique way its leaves fold up at night, resembling hands folded in prayer? This fascinating behavior is called nyctinasty, and it is a natural response to changes in light levels. During the day, the leaves open up to maximize light absorption, and at night, they fold up to conserve moisture and protect themselves from potential predators.

 

Soil

Sphagnum peat moss for soil of Prayer plant

Photo Credit: Dreamstime.

The soil for a prayer plant should be well-draining and rich in organic matter. A mixture of two parts sphagnum peat moss, with one part loamy soil and one part perlite or coarse sand works well for this stunning houseplant.

This combination ensures good water retention yet allows excess water to drain away, preventing the root systems from becoming waterlogged and susceptible to rot.

To improve drainage further, you can also add rocks or gravel to the bottom of your pot and make sure it has ample drainage holes.

One way to maintain the organic material richness of your chosen soil mix is by amending it with compost or well-rotted manure once a season. Improving the soil quality can significantly boost the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients, assuring your prayer plant’s long-lasting vibrancy and health.

Fun fact: The prayer plant belongs to the Marantaceae family, which is known for its unique leaf patterns and movements. The intricate patterns on the leaves of prayer plants are not only visually appealing but also serve a purpose. These patterns help to camouflage the plant in its natural habitat, making it harder for herbivores to spot and eat them.

Water

A hand watering a Maranta leuconeura prayer plant using a spray bottle

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Prayer plants love high humidity and consistent soil moisture, but not waterlogging. When watering, wait until the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch and then drench thoroughly until water emerges through drainage holes; this simulates a tropical rain shower.

Use tepid or room temperature water rather than cold, water to avoid shocking the plant. Additionally, avoid using hard tap water, especially if it is highly chlorinated or has high salt content, as prayer plants are sensitive to these elements. Instead, use filtered water or distilled water to keep your plant happy.

Did you know that the leaves of prayer plants are not only beautiful but also functional? The unique shape and texture of the leaves allow them to collect and channel water towards the roots, ensuring the plant gets enough hydration even in the dense forest floor where water may be scarce. This adaptation helps the Prayer Plant thrive in its natural habitat.

 

Temperature and Humidity

Maranta leuconeura var. kerchoveana with water droplets in leaves - high humidity

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Prayer plants prefer warm conditions and thrive in temperatures from 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 27 degrees Celsius). A reactive plant, it communicates distress by curling up its leaves when it is feeling too cold. Be sure to keep it away from drafty windows and doors.

The plant prefers high humidity reminiscent of their native jungle environment. Therefore, a regular humidity schedule such as daily misting, a pebble tray, or a room humidifier could prove beneficial.

Fun fact: The prayer plant’s scientific name is Maranta leuconeura, and it is named after Bartolomeo Maranta, an Italian physician and botanist of the 16th century. Maranta was known for his contributions to plant taxonomy and his study of plant movements, making it a fitting tribute to name this unique plant after him.

Fertilizer

Fertilized Prayer plant with orange background

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Proper feeding of your prayer plant will support its growth and vibrancy. Use a balanced houseplant fertilizer and apply according to packaging instructions in the growing season: typically early spring through late summer. Remember that over-fertilizing can cause more harm than good, leaving your plant with scorched leaves.

Did you know that the prayer plant is not only a beautiful addition to your indoor space but also a natural air purifier? Like many other houseplants, the prayer plant helps to filter and purify the air by removing harmful toxins and releasing oxygen. So not only does it bring beauty to your home, but it also contributes to a healthier living environment.

Types of Prayer Plants

The Maranta leuconeura family has several exciting variants, each with unique and vibrant leaf patterns. It’s worth noting though that prayer plants and calathea plants are so closely associated with one another that they’re often mislabeled.

All varieties of prayer plants share the common characteristics of the Prayer Plant, and they all provide a distinctive appeal to your indoor garden. Choosing among the different types of Prayer Plants involves personal preference and compatibility with your home’s decor and conditions.

Maranta leuconeura var. erythroneura’: The red prayer plant, also known as herringbone plant, is a stunning variety that features deep green leaves with prominent bright red veins.

Maranta leuconeura var. erythroneura or the red prayer plant placed on a shelf

Maranta leuconeura var. erythroneura’ – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

  1. leuconeura ‘Kerchoveana’: If you prefer a more subtle yet elegant option, the Green Prayer Plant, or Rabbit’s Tracks, is an excellent choice. This variety showcases beautiful green leaves with delicate patterns of lighter green veins.
Maranta Leuconeura Kerchoveana or Green Prayer plant in a basket pot with gray background

M. leuconeura ‘Kerchoveana’ – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

  1. leuconeura ‘Leuconeura’: For those seeking a unique and dramatic touch, the Black Prayer Plant, or Maranta leuconeura ‘Leuconeura,’ is a captivating choice. Its dark green leaves feature striking patterns of deep purple or black veins, creating a mesmerizing effect.
M. leuconeura ‘Leuconeura’ or Black Prayer Plant on top of a white table

M. leuconeura ‘Leuconeura’ – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

  1. leuconeura ‘Kim’: This variety features varying shades of green have the leaves of this particular variety of prayer plants have purple spots and a cream-white streak as well.

Regardless of the type of Prayer Plant you choose, these plants are known for their ability to purify the air and create a calming atmosphere.

How to Propagate Prayer Plant

Propagation of Prayer Plants can be successfully achieved through root division during repotting or by taking stem cuttings. For stem cuttings, make sure to cut just below a node, as this is where new roots will sprout. Once cut, place the stem in a jar of water and wait for new roots to grow, then transfer it to a pot filled with well-draining soil.

When it comes to propagating Prayer Plants, there are a few methods that can be employed. One of the most common methods is through root division during repotting. This method involves carefully separating the plant into smaller sections, each with its own set of roots and leaves. The key to successful root division is to ensure that each new section has enough roots to sustain itself once separated.

Another popular method of propagating Prayer Plants is by taking stem cuttings. To do this, start by selecting a healthy stem with several leaves. Using a clean and sharp pair of scissors or pruning shears, make a clean cut just below a node. Nodes are the points on the stem where leaves emerge. These nodes contain cells that have the potential to develop into roots when placed in a suitable environment.

Once you have taken the stem cutting, it’s time to prepare it for rooting. Fill a glass jar or a small container with water and place the stem cutting inside, making sure that the cut end is submerged in water. The jar should be placed in a location with bright, indirect light to encourage root growth. Remember to change the water regularly to prevent the growth of bacteria or fungi.

Over time, you will start to see tiny roots emerging from the cut end of the stem. This is a sign that the cutting has successfully developed its own root system. Once the roots are at least an inch long, you can transfer the cutting to a pot filled with well-draining soil. Choose a pot that is slightly larger than the root ball to allow room for growth.

When planting the rooted cutting, make a small hole in the soil using your finger or a pencil. Gently place the cutting into the hole and cover it with soil, ensuring that the roots are completely covered. Press the soil lightly to secure the cutting in place. Water the newly potted cutting thoroughly, allowing the excess water to drain out from the bottom of the pot.

After potting the cutting, it’s important to provide the right conditions for its growth. Prayer Plants prefer bright, indirect light, so place the pot in a location where it can receive filtered sunlight or artificial light. Avoid exposing the plant to direct sunlight, as it can scorch the leaves. Additionally, maintain a consistent level of humidity by misting the leaves regularly or placing a tray filled with water near the plant.

With proper care and attention, your propagated Prayer Plant will gradually develop into a mature and beautiful specimen. Keep an eye on its growth and adjust the watering and lighting as needed. Soon enough, you’ll have a thriving Prayer Plant that can be enjoyed for years to come.

Potting and Repotting Prayer Plant

Typically, prayer plants need to be repotted every one to two years. There are several signs that indicate when repotting is necessary.

A girl repotting a prayer plant into new soil

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One such sign is a crowded root system, where the roots have filled up the current pot and are starting to grow in circles. This can restrict the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients and water, leading to stunted growth.

Another sign is when the plant starts growing lopsidedly out of its pot, indicating that it has outgrown its current container.

When it comes to repotting, you have the opportunity to not only provide your prayer plant with a larger home but also propagate new plants through root division. Root division involves carefully separating a section of the plant, ensuring that it has roots attached, and then planting it in its own small pot. This method allows you to expand your collection of prayer plants or share them with friends and family.

When choosing a pot for your prayer plant, it is crucial to select one with ample drainage holes. Prayer plants prefer a well-draining potting mix that allows excess water to escape, preventing waterlogged roots, which can lead to root rot.

Additionally, it is recommended to choose a potting mix that is rich in organic matter, such as peat moss or compost, as it provides essential nutrients and helps retain moisture.

While repotting, it is advisable to opt for a pot that is slightly larger than the current one. A larger pot can accommodate the plant’s growth and development, reducing the frequency of repotting.

However, it is important not to choose a pot that is too large, as an excessively large pot can retain too much moisture and cause the roots to become waterlogged.

Make sure each new plant has a healthy root system and several stems. These new smaller plants should be planted in shallow pots separately. During the first few weeks, keep new divisions warm and moist until new growth appears.

Proper potting and repotting techniques play a significant role in the overall health and well-being of your prayer plant. By providing adequate space for root growth, ensuring proper drainage, and using a nutrient-rich potting mix, you are creating an optimal environment for your prayer plant to thrive.

Remember to monitor your plant’s growth and consider repotting when necessary, allowing your prayer plant to continue its journey of beauty and grace in your home.

Common Pests, Plant Diseases, and Plant Problems for Prayer Plant

Prayer Plants, scientifically known as Maranta leuconeura, are beautiful and popular houseplants that are known for their striking foliage and unique leaf movements. However, like any other plant, they are susceptible to various pests, diseases, and other problems that can affect their overall health and appearance.

A caterpillar eating the leaf of a prayer plant

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One of the most common pests that can infest Prayer Plants are spider mites. These tiny arachnids feed on the plant’s sap, causing yellowing leaves, stippling, and webbing. To control spider mites, it is recommended to regularly inspect your plant and use insecticidal soap or neem oil to eliminate them.

Additionally, aphids and mealybugs can also be problematic for Prayer Plants. These sap-sucking insects can weaken the plant and cause deformed growth. Similar to spider mites, they can be controlled using insecticidal soap or neem oil. In severe infestations, it may be necessary to prune affected leaves and isolate the plant to prevent the spread of pests to other plants.

Aside from pests, Prayer Plants can also suffer from various diseases. One common issue is root rot, which is often caused by over-watering or poorly draining soil. Root rot can lead to wilting, yellowing leaves, and a foul odor.

To prevent root rot, it is crucial to ensure that the plant is not sitting in water and that the soil is well-draining. If you suspect root rot, it is recommended to carefully remove the plant from its pot, inspect the roots for any signs of rot, and repot it in fresh, well-draining soil.

Leaf blight in prayer plant

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In addition to root rot, prayer plants can also experience leaf spot and fungal infections. Leaf spot is characterized by the appearance of brown or black spots on the leaves, while fungal infections can cause wilting, yellowing, and a fuzzy or powdery growth on the plant’s surface.

To prevent these diseases, it is important to provide adequate air circulation, avoid over-watering, and maintain proper hygiene by removing any infected leaves or plant debris.

While dealing with pests and diseases can be challenging, the efforts put into caring for Prayer Plants are truly rewarding. These plants are not only visually appealing but also have the ability to purify the air and create a calming atmosphere in any indoor space.

To ensure the optimal growth and well-being of your Prayer Plant, it is essential to provide it with the right care and conditions. This includes placing it in bright, indirect light, maintaining a consistent watering schedule, and providing high humidity by misting the leaves or using a humidifier. With the right care, your Prayer Plant will thrive and become a cherished member of your indoor garden, bringing beauty and tranquility to your home.

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