Prayer plants are a popular curiosity with plant enthusiasts.
Grown primarily indoors, these plants have a joint at the base of their leaves, allowing them to fold the leaves upwards at night to maximize photosynthesis.
As a result, the leaves end up in a prayer pose, giving these plants their common name,
While there are many different prayer plant species out there, Maranta leuconeura (muh-RAN-tuh loo-koh-NYUR-uh) is one of the most striking.
Best known as Red Maranta, the species name means “white nerves” and refers to the striking herringbone pattern on its leaves (which is red).
This perennial native of the Brazilian rainforest is a proud representative of the Marantaceae family and has several other common names, such as:
- Cathedral Windows
- Herringbone Plant
- Prayer Plant
- Rabbit Tracks
- Red-Veined Prayer Plant
Red Maranta Prayer Plant Care
Size & Growth
This slow grower is relatively small, reaching only 12” inches tall and 12 to 24’ inches wide.
The short stems give way to the main attraction: brown, oval leaves with wonderful variegation.
Green with lighter green edges, the veins are red to burgundy and surrounded by pale green to yellow variegation at the midrib.
The underside of the leaves is a rich red to burgundy, which goes on display as the leaves fold upwards at night.
Flowering and Fragrance
It’s a very rare sight to see red maranta bloom indoors, and it’s easy to miss when it does.
Small panicles appear in the spring bearing tiny 2 to 5 petal white, purple, or purple-spotted flowers.
Light & Temperature
Prayer plants may like light, but direct sunlight can damage the foliage or cause the variegation to appear washed out.
Instead, dappled light or bright, indirect light tends to be best.
While this plant can tolerate partial shade, the variegation will become less vibrant.
In winter, a popular trick is to augment the natural light with fluorescent lighting to help reduce dieback during the plant’s dormant period.
Red maranta tolerates average household humidity but prefers something closer to the 60% percent range.
Augmenting with a humidifier or pebble tray can result in a much happier plant.
While it’s possible to grow red maranta outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 11 to 12, it’s usually kept as an indoor plant or a container plant that’s overwintered indoors.
Temperatures between 65° and 75° degrees Fahrenheit are ideal, but the plant will tolerate a wider range of 60° to 85° degrees Fahrenheit.
Avoid exposing this plant to drafts or temperatures below 60° degrees Fahrenheit.
Watering and Feeding
As with most plants, the herringbone plant doesn’t like soggy soil and is susceptible to root rot if overwatered.
Prayer plants are also very sensitive to hard water, so only use distilled water or natural rainwater when possible. More on How To Water Prayer Plants.
The soak-and-dry method works best for red maranta, watering when the soil is dry approximately halfway down.
Use room temperature water and pour slowly and evenly, being careful not to get the leaves wet until you begin to see moisture seeping from the drainage holes.
Cut back on watering in the winter.
These plants are moderately heavy feeders and require a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to half-strength every two weeks from spring through autumn and stopping for the winter.
Soil & Transplanting
These plants thrive on organic soils due to their natural habitat, and an acidic soil pH of 5.5 to 6.0 is best.
A homemade mix of 2 parts moss, 1 part sand or perlite, and 1 part organic compost is a decent fix for those who wish to avoid commercial mixes.
However, any decent, organically rich mix for African violets will work with a little perlite mixed in.
Reed maranta has shallow roots, so an equally shallow pot is best.
Alternatively, you can use a slightly deeper pot with a substrate of gravel to aid in drainage.
Repot annually in the spring to prevent compacting and replace spent soil.
It’s usually best to transplant 1 hour after watering to help loosen the soil, adding a little more water once the plant is in its new soil.
Graduate to a 2” inch wider pot only if the plant is outgrowing its current one.
Grooming And Maintenance
Pruning twice per year can help encourage growth.
Then, using sharp, sterile shears, cut back older leaves and trim away any brown edges.
How To Propagate Herringbone Plant
The primary method of propagating this plant is through stem cuttings in soil or water.
On the rare occasion your red maranta flowers, you can also plant the seeds.
Prayer Plant Pests or Diseases
Red maranta is both drought intolerant and cold intolerant.
They’re mainly prone to fungus gnats, mealybugs, and spider mites.
Root rot and fungal infections due to the leaves getting wet or as a side effect of infestations are also potential problems.
Red maranta is not considered toxic to humans or pets, although you may wish to still put them somewhere they won’t be nibbled on.
Maranta Leuconeura Uses
Marantas are considered a symbol of gratitude, making them excellent gifts.
Their small size means they accentuate bookshelves or other small spaces.
In the landscape, they can be placed in front of taller flowering plants to create layers of attraction, as long as you account for a potential shallow root spread of up to 3’ feet (so match it with a deep-rooted plant).