Prayer Plant Care – How To Grow Maranta Leuconeura

Maranta leuconeura is known by the common name “Prayer Plant.” The reason why?

Marantas 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.

leaves of the maranta prayer plant

It is also often called the rabbit track plant because of the chocolate brown markings on the leaves of some prayer plant varieties.

Maranta leuconeura ‘Kerchoveana’

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Maranta leuconeura ‘Kerchoveana’ is undoubtedly 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, and when the leaves are new, these splotches look dark brown sometimes, and in another light a deep green. This deep color fades as the leaf grows older.

One thing unusual about the leaf construction of Maranta leuconeura ‘Kerchoveana’ is that these two colors are not visible from the back, not even the vein arrangement. The color of the backs of the leaves is a silvery green with a close lined vein system, which makes the two sides of the leaf totally different.

The short section that connects the leaf and the stem is a deeper shade of green. It is here that the change in leaf position is made. This short section works like a hinge, spreading the leaf during the daytime and at night pulling it into a vertical position.

Some time ago I acquired a small prayer plant of what was listed as Maranta tricolor. It has produced just 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, but the leaf has the same very sharp point, and the same hinged attachment to stem and leaf.

Maranta Discolor

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 extremely sharp point, but are long and narrow.

The full grown leaves are six to seven inches long, plain dark green with 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, but they 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.

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Growing Maranta & Prayer Plant Care

These marantas like a shaded location. A light north window suits them for the months spent indoors. They can be put outdoors even in hanging baskets during the summer growing season in a place that is cool and shady.

Maranta plants like many from the family Marantaceae rest at irregular intervals, but whenever that may be, they indicate their desire by the leaves browning at the ends.

Sometimes they die down to the ground, and even the roots dry up and look almost dead. It was at this stage I discarded my first plant, with thoughts of failure.

But if the pot is set aside and left almost dry, new growth will eventually start of its own accord.

Just where they are stored does not seem to be the important feature of the rest, for I have stored the pots in a warm, dry closet, and in unheated ones. Just put them where they do not freeze, and are kept dry.

New pink shoots will eventually grow. Some plants rest once a year, others may stay vigorous for two or three years.

If young leaves turn brown, your prayer plants may be receiving too much hot 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 sand, peat moss, shredded cow manure, and good loam or leaf mold – again an African Violet mix will work fine.

The soil for the prayer plant should be kept moist at all times unless the plant is resting. They receive a biweekly watering of soluble liquid fertilizer which I’m sure I would not prepare for them alone, but because they are on the window sill with African violets, they receive the same treatment and they have shown their appreciation.

‘Kerchoveana,’ the commonly grown variety, is not as hardy as snake plants (Sansevierias), philodendrons, or the pothos plant, and other plants commonly grouped together and grown in indoor planters.

It will adjust fairly well to such a planting, and if the roots are not cramped, if the soil is rich and loose, and the air humid, the maranta prayer plant will make an outstanding plant of interest for such a planting. Marantas occasionally have common white flowers.

Prayer Plant Pests and Diseases

Spider mites are the number #1 pests for the prayer plant especially indoors. Plants experiencing an attack from spider mites will have a dull, lack luster appearance.

Clean the plant and leaves regularly and apply Neem oil to control spider mite populations.

Read our article to learn more about homemade remedies to get rid of spider mites.

Burnt Edges of Leaves, Brown Spots, Lower Leaves Turning Yellow and Curling Under

This sounds like classic underwatering.

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.

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 when homes are heated.

  • 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
  • Use or add 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 more lighting. Consider adding a grow light.

Maranta leuconeura makes a wonderful addition to the home when allowed to display its attractive foliage.

by E McDonald

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