How to Care for Prayer Plants

The shiest plant

Written by Natalie Anstey 

Never underestimate the power of the Prayer Plant! The Maranta leuconeura is an amazing and unusual plant hailing from the jungles of central and south America. As they are jungle plants they thrive on humidity and warmth making them an ideal houseplant if given the right humidity levels but what is truly remarkable about this plant is their beautiful and shape shifting leaves! The leaves of the Matara leuconeura are delicately striped and glossy and add a taste of the exotic to your living space but just wait until the evening when the plant shows you how it got its name. The leaves of the Prayer Plant curl up at night before opening again at first light - this phenomenon is called nyctinasty and is truly amazing to watch.

Botanical Name:Maranta leuconeura
Common Name(s):Prayer Plant, Cathedral Windows, Herringbone Plant,
Rabbit Tracks, Red-Veined Prayer Plant
Plant TypeHerbaceous perennial 
Place of Origin:Central and South America
Sun Exposure: Indirect Bright Sun/Filtered Sun 
Watering Schedule:Every 10-14 days
Seasonality: Spring and summer
Bloom Time: Spring
Toxicity:Safe for cats and dogs

PRAYER PLANT LIGHT REQUIREMENTS:

The Prayer Plant is a tropical rainforest plant and naturally grows under large canopies, so it can tolerate filtered sun or a more shaded position. Keep out of drafts and direct sun as this can cause the leaves to become brown and brittle. Avoid positioning the prayer Plant by a radiator also as this can cause the plant to dry out quickly. 

PRAYER PLANT WATER REQUIREMENTS:

Keep the soil moist from spring to fall but make sure to keep drier in the winter. The Prayer Plant benefits from being kept on a tray of damp pebbles/stones so that it can take the water up from the roots; This also acts as an easy way to increase the humidity levels around your plant. If possible, try to water with filtered or rain water at room temperature as cold water and lime in tap water can damage the leaves or cause unnecessary stress to the plant.

There is no set routine to water a Prayer Plant. They do not like to dry out but also do not like sitting in water as this can cause the leaves to turn yellow and the roots to rot. Aim to have good drainage and do not allow more than the top inch of soil to dry out.

PRAYER PLANT TEMPERATURE REQUIREMENTS:

Prayer Plants thrive in a temperature range of 60-75℉ and are best grown indoors. They can be grown successfully outdoors but require greenhouse type conditions where the temperature is continuously between 60-75℉ and has a more humid tropical climate which can be difficult to achieve.

PRAYER PLANT HUMIDITY REQUIREMENTS:

The Prayer Plant is found in the jungles of Central and South America so it's happiest in a warm and humid environment. If the leaves start to turn brown your Prayer Plant is drying out and should be positioned in a more humid spot or misted more. Placing your pot on a tray of wet pebbles is also an easy way to increase the humidity levels as is sitting the plant near other plants. Ideally the Prayer Plant should be sprayed with a fine mist of room temperature water daily to keep the foliage in top condition. Misting is particularly important during winter when the plant should be watered less but misted every day.

PRAYER PLANT SOIL:

As with all indoor plants, drainage is key. Allow sufficient drainage in the bottom of the pot using gravel or stones and use a slightly acidic soil (pH 5.5-6) that is rich in nutrients and organic matter and holds water well (but not too well!)

PRAYER PLANT FERTILIZER:

From spring to fall, feed the Prayer Plant with a liquid feed diluted to half every two weeks. 

PRAYER PLANT REPOTTING:

Repot the Prayer Plant in spring through summer and only when it shows signs of becoming rootbound. A good way to tell if this is happening, is to look underneath the pot and if your plant is running out of space the roots will start to push through the bottom of the drainage holes. Don’t go too big too quickly; aim to repot the Prayer Plant in a pot one size bigger than the previous using a general purpose compost/house plant compost.

There can be other reasons to repot - but generally the rule of thumb is to repot every 2-3 years as this is when the plant will have taken all the nutrients out of the soil and when it will begin to become a little too top heavy for the pot.

PRAYER PLANT PROPAGATION:

Separating your Prayer Plant is quick and easy and there are two main ways to do this. The best time to propagate your Prayer Plant is during the spring and summer. At this time simply take your plant out of the pot, shake off the soil and carefully separate it making sure each section has good root growth. Once this has been done, repot your new Prayer Plants with fresh compost and water.

A second and perhaps more lengthy but rewarding way is to take a cutting and this can be particularly useful if a stem breaks off. Carefully cut a stem off half an inch underneath a node. A node is a little bump on the stem where new shoots and leaves grow from and these are very prominent on a Prayer Plant so are easy to find. Simply pop in some water at room temperature making sure the node is under the water and place in a bright spot but not in direct sunlight. To create a more humid environment you can also place a clear bag over the top. Change the water every 2-3 days or longer if the water remains clear and in two weeks to a month enough roots should be visible to now pot in soil and that’s it! No rooting hormones needed!

PRAYER PLANT COMMON PESTS/DISEASES:

Like many other plants, Prayer Plants can suffer from pests and disease. Here are the main issues that occur and what you can do to stop them!

01. Yellow Leaves - This is normally caused by too much direct light and/or harsh chemicals in tap water. Place your Prayer Plant somewhere more sheltered and think about using filtered water.

02. Spider Mites - The easiest way of telling if your Prayer Plant has spider mites is little white spots on the leaves or webbing on the stems. Wipe the leaves to remove the spider mites and then use an insecticide or neem oil.

03. Mealy Bugs -
Mealy bugs love the sweet sap of new growth and show up on a Prayer Plant as white tufts. They are greedy and can destroy a Prayer Plant quickly so make sure to clean the leaves and treat with an insecticide or neem oil.

04. Thrips - Thrips also known as Thunderbugs are very common and carry disease from plant to plant. Although tiny, they leave black dust on the leaves so it is best to clean the leaves to remove them and then treat with insecticide or neem oil.

PRAYER PLANT TOXICITY 

If you’re a plant parent as well as a pet parent and wondering if Prayer Plants are toxic to cats and dogs, rest assured! These plants are non toxic and will not cause any harm to your fuzzy friends!

Download the Flora App for more tips and tricks on how to take care of your Prayer Plants!