Prayer plants may not have the greatest blooms or a lot of variegation, but the unique design of their leaves has made these plants quite popular.
Several plants bear the nickname prayer plant and tend to have very similar care needs.
Meanwhile, the unique way the leaves fold into prayer poses every night continues to baffle botanists and plant enthusiasts alike.
One common problem any prayer plant owner will face is how much and how often to fertilize their plants.
But perhaps the more important question is what fertilizer is best, considering many different types to choose from.
What Is The Best Prayer Plant Fertilizer?
Liquid-soluble fertilizers are easily the best choice if you want to go the chemical route.
However, you can also supplement the soil with organic materials to avoid the risk of chemical burns.
Why Are Slow-Release Fertilizers Bad?
Before going further, it’s essential to address one of the most popular types of fertilizer – the slow-release formulas.
Slow-release fertilizer is often recommended in sticks or granules because you can set it and forget it.
However, these do have some pretty serious drawbacks:
- The fertilizer will only release nutrients into the soil immediately around it, meaning you’ll have a concentration of nutrients and large patches where there’s a total lack of nutrients.
- Because slow-release fertilizers aren’t well-distributed, those little pools of nutrients can cause severe chemical burns to your plant’s roots where the two come into contact.
- Perhaps most important of all, different nutrients will be released at different rates based on how soluble they are, meaning the plant will get a huge burst of a nutrient than be deprived of it while another one gets mass released.
Obviously, these concerns far outweigh the perceived benefits of using slow-release formulas and may even cause you more work in the long run if the roots suffer burns.
Liquid Soluble Fertilizers
Liquid fertilizers come in two flavors:
The latter is generally the better choice because it has a much longer (and sometimes even indefinite, if properly stored) shelf life.
When it comes to prayer plants, balanced formula with a fairly low ratio is preferable, such as 8-8-8 or 10-10-10.
Always read the packaging label, as the ratio of fertilizer to water can vary from one brand to another.
Dilute the fertilizer by half and give it to your prayer plant once every other week from early spring to the beginning of fall.
Even though these plants remain active in winter, their activity level is greatly reduced, so feeding them at this time can lead to chemical burns.
Compost And Supplemental Materials.
Homemade organic compost is an excellent alternative if you don’t want to risk chemical burns or wish to save a little money.
It usually only needs to be applied once in the spring and keeps the soil fed all year.
You can also use worm castings, a nutrient-rich natural product that can simply be sprinkled on top of the soil instead of compost.
Just be warned, you should never use fertilizer if you’re using compost, as you’ll overwhelm the plant and end up hurting it.
Finally, supplement the worm castings or compost with some coffee grounds.
Used coffee grounds have a lot of nitrates which won’t actually go to your plant but instead provide food for beneficial nematodes.
Just be sure to shred the coffee filter and mix both the filter and grounds into your composting material.
The filter mimics leaves or other organic materials and can help balance out the grounds.
You should also ensure perlite or another aggregate, as even used coffee grounds can retain water.
Finally, coffee grounds are a supplement to be mixed into your composting material and should never be applied directly.
Of course, there are also other supplements you can add to your compost to increase trace minerals.
For example, crushed eggshell adds calcium while Epsom salts add magnesium.
Some people even use dirty aquarium water if there aren’t a lot of chemicals in it.
Signs Of Under-Fertilization
All plants can communicate when in distress, and prayer plants are no exception.
When the plant isn’t getting enough nutrients, its growth rate will slow, and you may see some yellowing of the leaves.
Of course, these signs can indicate other issues, so you may need to look closely at other potential causes before adding more fertilizer.
Signs Of Over-Fertilization
On the other side of the coin, too much fertilizer can cause serious damage to your plant.
Chemical fertilizers contain mineral salts that draw water away from the plant’s roots as thy build up.
Meanwhile, your prayer plant may suffer stunted growth, wilting leaves, or even be losing the lower leaves.
Older leaves will often develop dry, brown tips or margins, and you may see a crusty white substance forming on the soil surface from the salts.
Again, rule out other potential causes of these symptoms, such as sunburn or improper watering.
If the problem isn’t too severe, you can flush the soil by fully saturating it with running water for around 5 to 20 minutes (depending on the size of the plant, making sure all of the soil is exposed to the running water.
For more severe cases where you see a salt crust, and the plant shows signs of extreme stress, repotting will be necessary.
Uproot your prayer plant and remove all of the soil, running water over the roots to get all of the remaining dirt off.
You’ll want to examine the roots and remove any severely damaged ones, but don’t take off more than ⅔, or the plant will have a hard time recovering.
Give the pot a good scrub and repot y prayer plant with fresh soil.
Make sure you don’t fertilize for 1 to 2 months after repotting, as the plant needs time to acclimate, and the soil will have plenty of nutrients.