There are a lot of plants out there that have leaves that fold in a prayer-like pose at night.
These houseplants from the Marantaceae family are commonly referred to as prayer plants, although the most famous of these is Maranta leuconeura.
But whether you have a maranta, Calathea, or some other prayer plant, they all have similar needs and habits.
One of the most important of these common needs is light,
All prayer plants are tropical in nature and are adapted for life in forested areas where light isn’t always readily available.
As a result, some species will prefer more light than others, but all of them can survive under the same lighting conditions.
What Are The Prayer Plant’s Light Requirements?
As a general rule, all prayer plants prefer bright, indirect light to partial shade, although some species can also thrive in full shade.
Growing in Partial Shade
Almost all prayer plants can do well in partial shade, getting some morning or late evening exposure when the sun isn’t too harsh.
When you’re not sure of what species, variant, or cultivar your prayer plant is – and believe us when we say the constant scientific renaming of prayer plants confuses us all – go with partial shade as your default lighting choice.
Growing in Bright, Indirect Light
Bright, indirect light is perfect or variegated prayer plants, as it can really bring out their colors.
There are several kinds of lighting that classify as bright and indirect, such as:
Dappled Sunlight: With the kind of lighting prayer plants get in their natural environment, your outdoor plant is partially shielded by sunlight by nearby trees, resulting in patches of light and shade that move with the wind.
Filtered Sunlight: Similar to dappled light, this type of lighting can be replicated by placing the plant in a window with a sheet curtain or some other semi-transparent filter which will protect the plant from full sun.
Temporary Exposure: Your plant is placed somewhere the sun will only directly hit it at certain times of day, usually in the morning or evening when the atmosphere naturally dilutes the sun’s rays.
Examples of prayer plants that prefer this kind of light include:
- Ctenanthe lubbersiana (formerly Stromanthe lubbersiana)
- Calathea ornata
- Goeppertia Zebrina (formerly Calathea Zebrina)
- Goeppertia orbifolia (AKA Calathea orbifolia)
While not for every prayer plant, some species will thrive in full shade.
These plants may display some minor variegation on green leaves that gets stronger in partial shade but won’t completely fade out in full shade.
Ctenanthe burle-marxii (formerly Maranta amabilis) is a great example of a shade-loving prayer plant, as is its famous cultivar ‘Amagris’.
Plants living in low-light may need more sunlight in winter, so consider moving your prayer plant to a brighter locations during these cooler months.
Most prayer plants that can handle full shade will actually enjoy growing in the artificial fluorescent lighting of an office or dorm room.
The most famous of prayer plants, Maranta leuconeura, absolutely loves this type of lighting, which is perhaps the reason people tend to know it best.
The Risks of Full Sunlight
You should never leave your prayer plant in the path of direct sunlight for long.
Their large, sometimes fragile leaves can be easily scorched by the sunlight.
In addition, prolonged direct sunlight can affect your plant’s watering needs and even contribute to curling leaves.
In some cases, a little direct sunlight won’t cause harm, but this is usually only during certain times of day.
Tips on Indoor Lighting
Finally, let’s take a look at how to help create the best indoor lighting for your prayer plant.
For plants preferring bright, indirect sunlight, you should aim for an eastern or southern-facing room and place the plant near a window.
If the window has sheer curtains, you can place that between the window and plant.
Remember, windows refract sunlight and can amplify the effects of the sun’s rays, so you may need to move your plant further away in summer and closer in winter.
You will also have to keep in mind that prayer plants don’t like drafts, so don’t put it in front of an open window without some form of windbreak (such as the curtains) or running air conditioner.
For plants that like a bit more shade, you can put it by an eastern or western-facing window where it will be shielded from the sun for most of the day.
You may also wish to put your prayer plant in the bathroom or kitchen, where it can also benefit from the room’s higher humidity while still having access to some natural light.
Species that prefer full shade and/or fluorescent lighting are perfect for rooms that lack windows, as long as you make sure they get adequate artificial light (usually around 12 to 14 hours).