How To Grow and Care For Prayer Plants

The prayer plant is a common indoor plant with strikingly beautiful and decorative deep green leaves.

Its velvety leaves have yellow splotches down right to the midrib and arching red veins traveling to the leaf margins.

Close up of bright green exotic 'Maranta Leuconeura Kerchoveana' Prayer Plant leaf with unique black patternPin
Bright green leaf of exotic ‘Maranta Leuconeura Kerchoveana’ Prayer Plant with unique black pattern | firn-DepositPhotos

Native to Central and South Americas, its botanical name is Maranta leuconeura [muh-RAN-tuh]. This flowering plant comes from the Marantaceae family which includes the Calathea genus.

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The colorful leaves of the prayer plant stay flat during the day and fold up like praying hands at night.

This perennial evergreen is also referred to as the ‘Praying Hands’ plant.

Related: Growing the Fishbone Prayer Plant

Prayer Plant Care

Prayer plants thrive when provided with greenhouse-like conditions:

  • Warm
  • Moist
  • Gentle airflow
  • Proper feeding
  • Flower on occasion in the spring

They survive the USDA hardiness zones 11 to 12.

Size & Growth

Maranta are low-growing, spreading plants, reaching 12″ inches tall and leaves 6″ inches long.

A well-grown prayer plant has six-inch-long leaves rising from a short center stem and draping down.

They are not necessarily easy to keep growing over the long-term.

Flowering and Fragrance

The prayer plant has different color variations of the leaves. During the evenings, the leaves lifted upwards.

The flowers are borne in a small spike and range from white to pale purple with purple blotches.

They contain rosmarinic acid, an active rosemary component. This gives the plant its characteristic rosemary scent.

Light & Temperature

Prayer plants have tender leaves. Direct sunlight will scorch, causing speckles on the leaves, or develop patches from the sun.

Position them in places where they’ll receive indirect light.

Prayer plants go into dormancy in the winter.

Grown as houseplants, they do best in temperatures between 60° – 80° degrees Fahrenheit. Anything lower can damage the leaves.

Prayer plants thrive in a very humid environment. But humidity in homes is often too low, so alternatives are needed.

Increase the humidity levels in your home with one of the following methods;

  • Place a small humidifier or bowl of water near the plant,
  • Fill a tray with small stones and add water to the level of the stones. Place the pot on top of the stones,
  • Mist the leaves with room temperature or warm water.

Watering and Feeding

Prayer plants need regular watering to thrive during the growing season. Keep soil moist. Never allow the potting soil to dry out.

Once the top of the potting soil begins to get dry, water the prayer plant immediately.

Prayer plants don’t do well in drought and are also very susceptible to fungal attack. To avoid this, do not let the plant stay soggy and don’t let water sit directly on the leaves.

Overwatering and insufficient moisture levels can cause the leaves to turn yellow and drop from the plant.

NOTE: Maranta plants are sensitive to chlorine and fluoride often found in tap water. When these chemicals build up in the soil or the plant leaf tips brown.

Water plants using lukewarm, distilled water, or rain water. If tap water must be used set a container of water out uncovered for 24 hours. This allows the chlorine or other chemicals to evaporate.

Reduce watering in the winter months.

Fertilizer is essential to the growth of the Marantas and Calatheas.

Use a water-soluble house plant fertilizer at half strength and apply every two weeks from early spring through fall.

Too little fertilizer will reduce the plant’s growth rate. Too much will burn the roots and over time kill the plant.

Reduce the usual amount of fertilizer used by half when the winter seasons come.

Soil & Transplanting

Prayer plants prefer acidic moist planting medium. Use a potting mix with a pH of 5.5 to 6.0.

A well-drained general-purpose houseplant potting soil will work fine.

Adding perlite or coarse sand to a general-purpose soil can increase the drainage capacity. Rocks or gravel at the bottom of a pot with a drainage hole can also help.

Grooming and Maintenance

Plants rarely need repotting. If plants need repotting repot in springtime before the growing season starts.

How To Propagate Prayer Plants

Propagation is easy and can be done in two ways, division or stem cuttings.

First, divide the plant into smaller plants.

  • Shake the soil off the root while working them apart.
  • Repot the smaller plants into small pots
  • Keep them warm and moist during the first weeks.

Also, take a cutting below the leaf node and placing it in a water glass allows the roots to grow.

  • Once the stem cuttings start to grow
  • Place them into potting soil
  • Keep them moist as often as possible.

Prayer Plants Pests or Diseases

Like most houseplants, Prayer plants are prone to pests like aphids, spider mites, and mealybugs.

It’s important to inspect the attractive foliage of new plants before bringing them indoors.

Check prayer plants when watering and feeding for any pests problems that may arise.

These plants are also prone to helminthosporium (a fungal disease) that causes spots on leaves.It’s caused by overwatering and can be controlled with an application of neem oil.

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