The prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura) is a stunning houseplant, but this native of tropical rainforests does require some nurturing from its owner.
Fortunately, learning the essentials of prayer plant care is quite straightforward and we will be tackling this subject below.
They will not thrive if they are placed in direct sunlight, and they need filtered water or rainwater if they are to survive. They will manage in low light levels, but they do need humidity and warmth to grow strong.
The reason they are called prayer plants is that they have a peculiar habit – at night their leaves close similar to hands in prayer. At dawn they unfold again.
Let’s jump into prayer plant care in more detail:
If you can provide your prayer plant with bright but indirect light, it will be happy. These plants like quite a bit of light, but they cannot cope with direct sunlight. This is because they evolved on the floors of rainforests, where most of the light would be filtering through a canopy of leaves above them.
They don’t have the resilience to withstand strong sun. Your prayer plant will cope with a bit of shade if you don’t have a suitable spot for it, but it will grow more slowly, and it may not be as happy. It is best, if possible, to put it a few feet from a bright windowsill and avid direct sun hitting the leaves.
You can also hang a sheer curtain over the window if the rays are too strong for the plant.
Prayer plants like to be kept warm. Again, because they are rainforest plants, they have evolved to enjoy temperatures between 60-85oF (16-29oC). Although they will tolerate temperatures going a little below this, they will start to suffer at 60 degrees F and below.
Your plant may grow more slowly if it is consistently cold, and it will be more vulnerable to diseases and pests. It is best to keep your prayer plant somewhere warm, but it should not be placed beside or above a heater.
Watering your plant has to be done carefully, as these plants prefer to dry out a bit in between waterings. You should check whether your plant needs a drink before you give it one.
Push the tip of your finger into the surface of the soil, to an inch or two inches down. If the soil is dry, you can give your plant a drink. If it is still damp, it does not need anything to drink yet. Check again in a few days’ time.
If possible, you should avoid watering your plant with tap water. It will not like the chemicals, or the limescale that is often dissolved in the water. Use rainwater or filtered water. If you only have tap water, let it stand out for twenty-four hours before using it for watering. This will let the chlorine evaporate, but won’t help with other dissolved minerals.
In terms of specific prayer plant care, what do you need to do? Misting it is a good step. As a rainforest plant, it likes high levels of humidity.
Your prayer plant will very likely survive even at normal humidity levels, but it will flourish if you give it a humidity boost. An alternative to misting is putting your plant on a pebble tray which is filled with water. This provides increased humidity as the water evaporates.
You can propagate a Maranta using two different methods:
- Dividing – This involves dividing a section of the roots and leaves away from the main plant when you repot it, which is best done in spring. To do this, simply tease a clump of the plant away, using your fingers to disentangle the roots and stems from the rest of the plant.
- Stem cutting – Simply use sharp secateurs to remove a healthy stem with at least one node from the plant. Let the end “cure” (dry out) for a few hours, and then place the cutting in damp compost or in a glass of water.
Keep refreshing the water or dampening the compost, and after a few weeks, roots should begin to sprout.
Pests & Problems
Various pests can attack your prayer plant, but spider mites and mealybugs are common issues. Look for threads of web on the leaves, or tiny white balls clinging to the undersides.
You can deal with these pests by spraying your plant with soapy water, or wiping the leaves with neem oil.
A common problem for a prayer plant is sunburning on the leaves. If you notice that the tops of your plant’s leaves are turning brown or crispy, particularly on the side of the plant that faces the window, it’s likely that the sun is too strong.
Fortunately, the prayer plant is not toxic. You still should not let your dog or cat chew on the leaves, so if they are very interested in the plant, it’s best to put it on a shelf out of reach. However, it should not hurt them if they do eat some, so prayer plants are excellent plants to grow at home if you have pets.
Common Questions About Prayer Plant care
Why are the leaves of my prayer plant curling and turning brown?
This is likely due to a lack of humidity. If your plant is being kept in a dry room, mist the leaves to refresh them. This is a particularly common issue during winter.
Why won’t my prayer plant flower?
It is quite rare for prayer plants to flower when they are kept indoors. Don’t be concerned if yours never flowers; it can still be healthy.
Are prayer plants easy to look after?
They are a reasonably easy plant to grow, but their need for humidity and indirect light makes them more challenging than some.
You should now know everything that you need to know about prayer plant care. These beautiful plants make a stunning addition to any home and following these tips will make yours flourish.