Maranta leuconeura is known by the common name “Green Prayer Plant.” The reason why?
Maranta’s fold their leaves into a huddle at night and go to “sleep.” The leaves fold upward like praying hands giving the plant its common name of prayer plant.
It is also often called the rabbit tracks plant because of the chocolate brown markings on the leaves of some prayer plant varieties.
Maranta leuconeura ‘Kerchoveana’
Maranta leuconeura ‘Kerchoveana’ is the one most often seen of the Maranta prayer plant species and related cousin the Calathea plant.
Its light green leaves are somewhat rounded with inconspicuous veining.
There are dark splotches on either side of the main rib. When the leaves are new, these splotches look dark brown. Sometimes, in another light, a deep green. This deep color fades as the leaf grows older.
The leaf construction of Maranta leuconeura ‘Kerchoveana’ is unusual. The two colors are not visible from the back, not even the vein arrangement.
The backs of the leaves are silvery green with a close lined vein system. This design makes the two sides of the leaf totally different.
The short section connecting the leaf and the stem is a deeper shade of green. It is here the change in leaf position is made.
This short section works like a hinge. It spreads the leaf during the daytime and at night, pulling it into a vertical position.
Some time ago, I acquired a small prayer plant listed as Maranta tricolor. It has produced one leaf in a year’s time, but it does have three colors, green, rose, and white.
The shape is much narrower than Maranta leuconeura. The leaf has the same very sharp point and the same hinged attachment to stem and leaf.
Maranta discolor grows about a foot high, and its manner of growth is the same as the others. The leaves do not have that sudden, sharp point but are long and narrow.
The full-grown leaves are six to seven inches long, plain dark green. The leaves have a very high sheen on top and deep purple undersides. They are thicker than the leaves of the other varieties.
Instead of changing the general direction of their leaves at night, they may droop some. The leaves fold lengthwise until the outside edges almost touch.
While not as showy as the others because the colors are dark, there is a rich contrast that adds dignity to the group.
Growing Maranta & Prayer Plant Care
Maranta’s like a shady location. The light conditions of a north window suit them for the months spent indoors. They can grow outdoors during the summer growing season in a cool and shady place, even in hanging baskets.
Maranta plants, like many from the family Marantaceae, rest at irregular intervals. Whenever they rest, they show their desire by the leaves browning at the ends.
Sometimes they die down to the ground, and even the roots dry up looking almost dead.
It was at this stage I discarded my first plant, with thoughts of failure.
If the pot is set aside and left almost dry, new growth will start of its own accord.
Where they are stored does not seem to be the important feature of the rest.
I have stored the pots in a warm, dry closet and in unheated ones. Put them where they do not freeze and keep plants dry.
New pink shoots will grow. Some plants rest once a year, and others may stay vigorous for two or three years.
If young leaves turn brown, your prayer plants may be receiving too much direct sunlight. A stuffy, hot room with no moisture in the air will cause portions of houseplant leaves to turn brown.
Soil For Maranta
I use a loose soil composed of equal parts of coarse sand, peat moss, shredded cow manure, and good loam or leaf mold. But, an African Violet potting mix will work fine.
Keep the soil for prayer plants moist at all times unless the plant is resting.
They receive a watering of half strength liquid soluble fertilizer every two weeks during the growing season.
NOTE: They are on the window sill with African violets. The low growing Maranta gets the same liquid fertilizer treatment as the African violets. The Maranta’s have shown their appreciation.
The most common variety ‘Kerchoveana,’ is not as hardy as:
- Snake plants (Sansevieria)
- The pothos plant
… and other plants grouped together and grown in indoor planters.
It adjusts well if the roots are not cramped, the soil is rich and loose, and the air humid. The maranta prayer plant makes an outstanding plant of interest for such a planting. Maranta’s on occasion display white flowers.
How Are Maranta Plants Propagated?
Maranta is propagated in two ways:
- Rhizome division
- Stem cuttings
- When prayer plants need repotting is the best time to divide plants and make new plants from smaller sections.
- Separate the plant as you shake the soil off the roots
- Trim bad or dead roots as needed
- Each new Maranta plant should have several stems and a good root mass.
- Pot these new starter plants up in small 3″-4″ inch pots in a well-drained soil like a African violet soil mix.
- Keep new plants in a warm area and the soil moist until new growth starts.
- Take cuttings below the leaf node using sharp sterilized hand pruners, scissors, or a knife.
- Dip the cutting in a rooting powder hormone.
- Place the cutting in a glass of water
- Change the water every two days.
- When roots start to form, pot the cutting in potting soil.
- Keep the plant in bright light and soil moist.
Prayer Plant Pests and Diseases
Spider mites are the number #1 pests for the prayer plant especially indoors. Plants experiencing attacks have a dull, lack luster appearance.
Clean the plant and leaves regularly. Apply Neem oil sprays to control spider mite populations.
For more read our article on: Getting Rid of Spider Mites
How Do You Know if Your Maranta is Underwatered?
- Burnt Edges of Leaves
- Brown Spots
- Lower Leaves Turning Yellow and Curling Under
Maranta leuconeura is not drought tolerant. Water the entire root ball and soil until all the excess water runs out of the drainage hole in the bottom.
NOTE: Personally I like to soak the root ball in a bucket of water for 20 minutes and allow all the air spaces to become filled with water and then drain the excess.
Do not allow plants to sit in saucers or a bucket of water for more than a 1/2 hour. Roots soaking in water without air for extended periods can lead to root rot.
Before watering again, allow the soil to become damp. The exception is during the winter when the plant is resting and soil should become dry.
NOTE: When watering use distilled water. Maranta’s are sensitive to fluoride often found in tap water which may turn leaf tips brown.
Brown Leaf Tips | No New Growth or Stunted Growth | Yellowing Leaf Margins, Wilting
These conditions describe the problem of low humidity often during the winter months in heated homes.
- Spray or mist plants daily
- Place the plant on a bed of wet pebbles, do not allow the bottom of the pot to come in contact with water
- Create a humid environment by using or adding a humidifier (winter)
Curled Leaves | Discolored Foliage With Brown Edges and/or Curled Leaves | Stems Prone to Rot
A prayer plant “growing” in cool temperatures often during winter display these symptoms. Move to a warmer location and provide brighter light. Consider adding a grow light.
Maranta leuconeura makes a wonderful addition to the home when allowed to display its attractive foliage.
by E McDonald