Why Does My Prayer Plant Get Yellow Leaves?

There are quite a few “prayer plants” out there, most notable members of the Maranta genus. However, other members of the Marantaceae (arrowroot) family are also sometimes called prayer-plants.

These include varieties of the Calathea genus (AKA Goeppertia), Ctenanthe, and Stromanthe.

yellowing of prayer plant leavesPin

As a whole, plants in this family are referred to as prayer plants because the leaves lay flat during the day but fold up at night in a way that resembles hands in prayer.

Many, such as the fishbone prayer plant, develop attractive windows in their leaves.

Others, such as the neon prayer plant, are prized for their coloration.

But whether you’re talking about Calathea ornata, Ctenanthe Burle-Marxii, or Maranta leuconeura when referring to prayer plants, they all have similar problems with similar solutions.

One of the most common of these problems is yellowing leaves.

Why Is My Prayer Plant Getting Yellow Leaves?

There are several possible reasons your prayer plant might have yellow leaves.

Thankfully, these problems are fairly easy to fix once you identify the cause.

Overwatering and Underdraining

By far, having excess water is the leading cause of yellow leaves. Watering prayer plants is tricky.

All types of prayer plants prefer plenty of water but will suffer from root rot when left in damp soil for too long.

This may be caused by overwatering or poor soil drainage.

Never leave your plant in waterlogged soil or give it additional water when you still have wet soil.

Instead, finger test to make sure the soil is partially dry before watering.

If you notice water retention, you may need to switch to a pot with better drainage holes or use a better draining potting mix amended with an aggregate such as coarse sand or perlite.

Low Humidity Level

Another good trick is to keep an eye out for insufficient humidity.

As a tropical plant, your prayer plant is a humidity lover and can suffer from the lack of humidity during the winter months indoors.

Using a humidity tray or placing the plant near a humidifier can help to raise the ambient moisture levels or mist the leaves with water in a spray bottle.

This will also help reduce the amount of water it will need.

Cool Temperatures

Chances are, you already know these plants aren’t frost tolerant, but did you know that even slightly cool air can affect some species?

Always avoid placing your prayer plants near drafts, as the plants may react poorly and begin turning yellow.

Never place a prayer plant in temperatures below 55° degrees Fahrenheit.

Also, pay close attention to the particular species you have, as some will begin turning at temperatures as high as 60° degrees Fahrenheit.

In many cases, the yellowing is accompanied by some browning, making the temperature issue sometimes easier to spot.

Iron Deficiency

When a prayer plant specimen has new growth turning yellow, it’s almost always an iron issue.

There are two potential causes for this deficiency.

A high soil pH can prevent iron uptake, even if there are sufficient levels in the soil.

You can determine if this is the cause by performing a home soil pH test.

Conversely, the iron content itself might be low.

In this case, you may choose to use a chelated iron product, which is a type of liquid iron fertilizer.

Be sure to apply according to the label’s instructions.


Perhaps the most dreaded problem, yellow leaves, may be the sign of an infection or infestation.

Some common ailments for prayer plants include cucumber mosaic virus, helminthosporium leaf spot, and spider mites.

Both infestations and some forms of fungal disease may be treated using neem oil, but pruning and isolation may also be necessary during treatment.

Poor Water Quality or Lighting Condition

Finally, there’s the great trifecta, which will result in a yellow leaf with crispy brown leaf tips or edges.

Too much direct sunlight during the hottest hours of the day can cause scorching to the green leaves, requiring you to move the plant to a slightly more sheltered spot with indirect light.

Additionally, burns from using poorly diluted fertilizer can be a problem and may require a soil change to fix.

However, the most common cause of this issue is using tap water.

Read our article on Calathea Watering – How To Water And Why the Water Type Is So Important.

You should always use distilled water (whether store-bought or from an air conditioner or dehumidifier) or natural rainwater on your plants.

Tap water contains numerous harsh chemicals and minerals that can harm all of your indoor plants, resulting in chemical burns similar to using too much fertilizer.

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