Prayer plants may not be for everyone, but those who enjoy the trademark way these plants fold their leaves at night know that the term prayer plant can apply to species across four genera:
The species Maranta leuconeura is the prayer plant variety most people think of.
But something else prayer plant fans know is that all prayer plants have very similar habits, preferences, and problems.
This makes caring for a calathea prayer plant easy if you already own a marantha, for example.
But caring for one or many require a basic knowledge of their needs, and soil is one of the most important.
What is the Best Prayer Plant Soil?
Prayer plants aren’t too demanding, so any good well-draining soil is enough to get by.
However, choosing or mixing something more precise is the difference between eating stale bread and a Reuben.
The Soil Baseline
You can use any good-quality, well-draining potting mix for your prayer plant, either with a little perlite or as the baseline for a homemade potting mix.
However, you should only buy reputable brands such as Miracle-Gro, as cheap brands often cut corners by not sterilizing the soil before shipping.
Soil that hasn’t been sterilized can contain harmful bacteria and other microbes capable of surviving long periods without a host.
Tobacco mosaic virus is one of the nastier microbial infections that can contaminate soil for up to 2 years and spreads easily to infect more than 350 species of plant.
Beyond microbial life, untreated soil can also host several pests that can lay dormant as eggs, larvae, or nymphs for long periods.
Thus, by spending a little extra for a reputable brand, you can avoid many headaches (and possible expenses) down the road.
Get to know the Fishbone Calathea
Prayer plants like acidic soil, with Maranta leuconeura and several others preferring a pH range of 5.5 to 6.0.
Other prayer plants may prefer slightly less depending on the species, so you should be prepared for a range of 5.5 to 6.5.
If you’re unsure of your specific plant’s needs, 6.0 is a good choice.
Adding Aggregates and Organics
To get the most out of your prayer plant, you should go one step further and amend its soil.
There are two types of amendment you will want: aggregates and organics.
Aggregates are small, coarse materials that prevent the soil from compacting too much.
The three most commonly used aggregates are coarse sand, gravel, and perlite.
Perlite is usually the preferred choice, as it also retains a small amount of water, although as a volcanic material, it can be harmful to a small number of plants.
Meanwhile, prayer plants like humusy soils, so organic material can encourage better growth.
The three most popular materials are coco coir, peat, and sphagnum moss, all of which will provide organic material and retain water – especially peat moss.
It’s important to keep this last fact in mind, as many people prefer to avoid peat moss if they’re worried about accidental watering. However, peat shouldn’t pose a problem for this plant when using proper watering techniques.
As a general rule, most decent potting mixes will contain some quantity of peat and perlite, although you may wish to add more.
One of the most common homemade blends for prayer plants uses one part of a balanced potting soil, aggregate, and organic component.
Just because you start with great soil doesn’t mean it will remain great.
Here are a few simple tips to ensure the soil quality doesn’t drop over time.
Indoor Soil Upkeep
Your soil is more than just a place to stick your plant.
It provides nutrients for your plant and takes on the plant’s wastes in return.
Proper watering helps flush out these wastes, while fertilization can help improve the soil quality.
Repotting container-bound prayer plants every spring with fresh soil will also ensure your plant is getting the right amount of nutrition and not suffering any buildup of mineral wastes.
Outdoor Soil Upkeep
Finally, it’s important to ensure any prayer plants in your garden are getting good soil maintenance since you can’t simply swap out the soil every year.
One good method is to use coffee grounds.
Your used coffee grounds don’t benefit the plant itself, but when mixed with an organic component (such as the coffee filter or dead leaves), the nitrates in your grounds will feed microbes.
This can increase the cooking temperature of your compost. Still, when added directly into your plant’s soil, beneficial microbes will break it down for its nitrates, which they usually steal from the fertilizer.
The grounds will also attract earthworms, which keep the soil aerated and can help reduce moisture retention.
But beyond grounds, it can be a good idea to add a bit of organic mulch every autumn to help insulate the plant from any temperature drops and restore nutrients into the soil.