How to Grow and Care for Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura)
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The prayer plant, scientifically known as Maranta leuconeura, is a tropical houseplant originating from the rainforests of South America.
Named for its distinctive leaf movement, the prayer plant’s leaves fold up at night, resembling hands in prayer.
This phenomenon is known as nyctinasty.
This beautiful and popular houseplant is also well-loved for its unique foliage colors and stunning patterns.
Learning to care for a prayer plant can be rewarding, and with the right approach, you can keep it thriving and looking its best.
|Get to Know Prayer Plant
|Garden Plant Type
|11 to 12 (U.S.)
|6 inches to 12 inches
|6 inches to 12 inches
|Overview of Prayer Plant Care
|Bright, indirect light, avoid direct sunlight
|Evenly moist, avoid soggy soil
|Evenly moist in spring and summer , allow top inch to dry in fall and winter
|Distilled, rainwater or low mineral, no fluoride water
|High, minimum 50% relative humidity
|Avoid drafts, vents, etc.
|Well draining indoor mix
|Low, sensitive to overfertilization
|With drain holes, remove excess water from saucers
Care for Prayer Plant: Light Requirements
Prayer plants thrive in bright, indirect light.
They should be placed near a window where they can receive filtered sunlight.
Avoid exposing them to direct sunlight, as it can fade the color patterns and lead to leaf burn, and damage.
Aim for a light range of between 250-1,000 foot candles of light (there are phone apps to measure this) for 8-12 hours per day.
This is considered a medium amount of light for an indoor environment.
Prayer plants can adapt to lower light conditions, but they may develop leggy growth and appear sparse.
Their distinctive colors may also fade in a low-light environment.
When this occurs, add supplemental lighting from a full spectrum grow light.
This will encourage growth that is more compact and uniform.
Temperature and Humidity
The prayer plant enjoys warm and humid conditions, replicating its native tropical habitat.
Keep the room temperature between 65°F to 80°F (18°C to 27°C) with a minimum of 60 degrees relative humidity.
A hygrometer is a handy tool to measure room temperature and relative humidity.
To maintain proper humidity, prayer plants thrive in a room with a humidifier.
Occasional misting may not provide enough humidity to keep this true tropical happy.
Prayer plants are ideal for a terrarium or other high-humidity microclimates.
Avoid placing the plant in drafty areas or near heaters or air conditioners, as extreme temperature fluctuations can cause leaf curling and leaf tips and edges to turn brown.
Consistent and appropriate watering is crucial for the prayer plant’s well-being.
Keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged and don’t allow the plant to dry out.
Overwatering can lead to root rot, while underwatering may cause the leaves to wilt and dry out causing browning and leaf damage.
Allow the top one inch of soil to dry in between waterings.
Prayer plants have a sensitivity to hard water and fluoride so it’s advisable to use distilled water or clean rainwater.
There are machines that can make distilled water at home to save money if you have a lot of plants that require it.
How Often Should You Water a Prayer Plant?
Test the soil’s moisture level every two to three days by inserting your finger about an inch into the soil.
If it feels dry, it’s time to water the plant.
This is the best way to know if your plant needs to be watered.
During the growing season (spring and summer), you may need to water more frequently.
In contrast, the watering frequency may slow during the fall and winter.
It’s best to use room temperature water as cold water can lead to root health issues.
It’s always a good practice to focus the water on the soil and to minimize the amount of water that is splashed onto leaves.
Using a watering can with a narrow spout makes the task easier.
Keeping the leaves dry helps prevent leaf-borne diseases.
In addition, water that is high in minerals may leave a residue on the plant’s leaves.
Soil and Potting
Use a well-draining indoor houseplant potting mix that retains moisture but does not become soggy.
Repotting is generally recommended when the plant has outgrown its current container.
When repotting, choose a container that is just slightly larger (one size) and has drain holes to accommodate the growing roots.
During the active growth period (spring and summer), fertilize your prayer plant with a balanced, water-soluble houseplant fertilizer every 3-4 weeks.
In autumn and winter, suspend fertilization.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper dilution and frequency.
Another option is to sprinkle a slow-release fertilizer onto the top of the soil in early spring.
This will provide fertilizer to the plant for approximately 6 months (throughout the growing season) and eliminates the need for a water-soluble fertilizer.
Note that prayer plants are sensitive to overfertilization which will cause the leaf edges to turn brown.
Pruning and Maintenance
Prayer plants can develop leggy or straggly growth over time, especially in low light.
To maintain a compact and bushy shape, consider pruning your plant.
Use clean, sharp pruning shears or snips to remove any unhealthy or unsightly foliage.
Prayer plants are rhizomatous plants that form clumps.
Therefore, propagation through division is quite easy.
As they grow, the clumps can be divided into individual plants and potted into their own containers.
Common Problems and Solutions
- Yellowing Leaves: Ironically, overwatering or underwatering can cause yellow leaves. Adjust your watering routine accordingly and ensure proper drainage.
- Brown Leaf Edges: Low humidity, drought, or excessive sunlight can lead to brown leaf edges. A hygrometer is a useful tool for monitoring a room’s humidity level. Prayer plants need a minimum of 50% relative humidity to stay healthy. In some environments, this level may be too low. Increasing the room’s humidity will always please a prayer plant.
- Pest Infestations: Keep an eye out for pests like fungus gnats, mealybugs or aphids. If detected, treat the plant with neem oil or insecticidal soap according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Are prayer plants easy to care for?
Prayer plants grow best in a terrarium or greenhouse, but when they are in high-humidity environments they thrive.
Do prayer plants flower?
Prayer plants do flower.
They have white flowers with purple spots.
These are rare in an indoor environment, but when grown in a greenhouse they may bloom.
Where is the best place to put a prayer plant?
Prayer plants thrive in indirect bright light without any direct sunlight.
Therefore, eastern exposure is ideal.
However, southern and western exposures are acceptable provided a curtain sheer protects the plant from the sun.
LED full-spectrum grow lights are helpful to provide light.
Place the plant a minimum of 12 inches away from the bulb to prevent leaf damage.
How tall do prayer plants get?
Prayer plants get 6 to 12 inches high and spread about 6 to 12 inches as well.
They have a clumping arching habit and are ideal for both growing in pots and hanging baskets.
How fast do prayer plants grow?
Prayer plants are relatively slow growing.
This is ideal for the plant parent that may not want to repot regularly and keep their plants contained.
Should I mist my prayer plant?
Although prayer plants thrive in high humidity, I don’t recommend misting as it can cause leaf diseases and is a very short-term burst of humidity for the plant.
The best solution to provide continual humidity and to create a more ideal growing environment is to use a humidifier.
Can you grow prayer plants outside?
Prayer plants are hardy to U.S. zones 11 and 12 and are a colorful groundcover.
They will not tolerate frost and do not grow well below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
In cold climates, plants can be acclimated to the outdoor environment and grown outside for the summer.
The process must be reversed when bringing the plants inside before winter.
Caring for a prayer plant can be a rewarding experience, and by providing the right conditions, you can keep this tropical beauty thriving in your home.
Remember to find a well-lit spot away from direct sunlight, maintain proper humidity, water the plant consistently, and periodically fertilize during its active growth period.
With a little attention and care, your prayer plant will continue to impress with its stunning foliage and unique prayer-like leaf movements.
Enjoy the beauty and tranquility this delightful houseplant brings into your living space!