The common name “praying plant” covers a wide variety of tropical plants, though it is often used to refer to those in the Maranta family. Prayer plants are available in many cultivars, and they all feature beautiful leaf patterns, making them popular ornamental houseplants around the world. The problem, however, is that they are not the easiest plants to care for – they do have some high maintenance needs.
Read on to learn more about prayer plant care, including soil, light, water, and temperature requirements.
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Prayer plant care at a glance
common name: prayer plant
The scientific name: Maranta lequinora
SoilHumid, well-draining, pH 5.5 to 6
light: partial shade to full shade
Water: Make sure the top layer of soil is moist
food: diluted fertilizer 10-10-10 or 20-20-20
temperature and humidity: high humidity
reproduction: root division or hydroponic propagation
safety: non toxic
Properties of the prayer plant
prayer plants (Maranta lequinora) It is native to the tropical forests of Brazil, where it grows as a perennial plant. The name of the prayer plant is derived from its “behaviour”. In the daytime its leaves are flat, and at night they rise and fold inward, giving the appearance of hands.
When mature, prayer plants will grow between 6 and 12 inches tall and will have leaves 5 inches across. The leaves vary in appearance based on the variety, but they usually have bold patterns featuring shades of green, red, and maroon. In its place of origin, the prayer plant produces small white flowers during the growing season, but this phenomenon is rarely seen in houseplants.
Types of prayer plants
- Tricolor prayer plant (M. leuconeura erythrophylla) is the most common of the maranta plants and has bright red veins punctuating the green leaves.
- Prayer plant rabbit tracks (M. leuconeura kerchoveana) has dark green spots that look like prints made by rabbit’s feet.
- Borl Marxist (Ctenanthe burle-marxii)also known as the herringbone prayer plant, has a herringbone pattern and a maroon underside of the leaves.
- Kegelians (Goeppertia kegeljanii) is characterized by a barely distinguishable green and yellow mosaic pattern.
- lemon (M. leuconeura) has a striking green and yellow pattern with prominent veins.
Soil selection for prayer plants
Prayer plants require well-draining soil because they thrive with frequent watering but are susceptible to root rot due to their delicate roots. It will work just fine with a commercial potting soil, although you can also make a perfect mix by mixing two parts sphagnum moss with one part loamy soil and one part coarse sand.
Since drainage is a major consideration, it is wise to choose a wide, shallow container with sufficient drainage holes and fill the bottom of the planter with rocks. Maranta plants thrive in acidic soils with a pH between 5.5 and 6.
Prayer plants are excellent indoor plant choices for corners of your home that don’t get direct sunlight. They thrive in moderate, indirect light or even full shade. In fact, if the leaves of the prayer plant are exposed to strong natural light, they can develop large brown spots and eventually fall off.
During the dormant season, which generally occurs during the winter, prayer plant leaves often die completely, but this does not mean that the plant itself is dead. If the leaves are provided with bright light, they are likely to grow back in the spring.
Watering prayer plants
Prayer plant watering schedules are a bit of a tricky thing to master because the plants thrive with soil that’s slightly damp to the touch. It is not drought tolerant and will die quickly if left unattended, so make sure you have someone water it if you go away for a week. In the growing season — which usually occurs in the summer — make sure the top layer of soil never dries out.
Avoid using cold water to irrigate prayer plants. They prefer room temperature water, though slightly warm water is also fine. If you notice the plant’s leaves turning yellow, this could be a sign of over or under watering.
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Fertilizing prayer plants
Ensure that your prayer plant grows and thrives by following a regular fertilization schedule. Prayer plants require fertilization every two weeks during their growing season and a cut back once a month while dormant. Choose a water-soluble fertilizer at a ratio of 10-10-10 or 20-20-20.
Always dilute the formula when fertilizing prayer plants, using half the recommended amount of fertilizer with the full amount of water. Then use the mixture to water your plant as needed. Be careful not to over-fertilize because it can cause the plant’s roots to burn, which can kill it.
Adjust temperature and humidity
Because prayer plants have tropical origins, they do best in warm, humid conditions that can be difficult to replicate in your home, which is why the plants have a relatively short lifespan when grown indoors in cooler climates. They can survive in standard room temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees, but they may die if temperatures are consistently on the lower end of that spectrum. Make sure to keep your prayer station away from AC units and heaters.
To create optimal humidity levels for the plant, place it near a humidifier or place the pot on a tray filled with water and rocks. Make the rock layer thick enough to raise the bottom of the planter above the standing water.
Increase prayer plants
There are two ways to propagate prayer plants: root division and water propagation.
- Propagation should be done by root division at the end of the dormant season. When replanting your prayer plant, untangle the roots and separate the stems. Remove one or more of the stems and replant them in another container.
- Aquatic breeding can take place at any time of the year. Simply snip a stalk below a knot using clean, sharp scissors. Then place the cuttings in a cup of room temperature water so that the knots are submerged. After between two and four weeks, the cutting should produce roots and be ready to be planted in soil.
Prayer plants are excellent houseplants for pet owners because they are non-toxic to both cats and dogs. It is also not toxic to humans, but make sure the little ones can’t reach into the planter and topple it.
Possible pests and diseases
Prayer plants are susceptible to attracting both spider mites and mealybugs. Mealybugs cause the leaves of the plant to curl, and they can be identified by their white, powdery appearance. To remove mealybugs, use a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol to wipe it off the plant’s leaves.
The spider mite leaves behind a white streak and causes dry spots on the leaves. The mites are small and black and can be removed by simply rinsing the leaves under running water. Neem oil and other natural insecticides can also eliminate pests on the prayer plant.
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Questions and answers about caring for prayer plants
While you’ve learned more about how to care for a prayer plant, you may still have some questions about its maintenance needs.
Q: Does the prayer plant need sun?
All plants require some level of natural light, but prayer plants can survive in low light conditions.
Q: Where should I put a prayer plant?
Place your plant in a location that does not receive direct sunlight and a distance from heaters and air conditioning units.
Q: Should I spray the prayer plant?
Because prayer plants like moisture, it is a good idea to spray them periodically. Use distilled water to avoid hard water spots on the attractive leaves of the plant.
Q: How do I make prayer plants bushy?
Prune your prayer plant in spring and fall to encourage bushy growth.
Q: How do I prune a prayer plant?
Prune the prayer plant, using sharp gardening shears to snip the stems just above a leaf node.
Q: How often should I water a prayer plant?
Water the prayer plant anytime you notice the top layer of soil is no longer moist.