How to Care for a Prayer Plant

The prayer plant boasts stunning foliage that is perfect for a floor container or hanging planter. The prayer plant has only a few particular care concerns and is therefore ideal for use in many indoor plantscapes.

The Arrowroot Family

The prayer plant is native to Brazil and is part of the family of plants known as the arrowroot family.  According to Wikipedia, there are several different genera of plants within the arrowroot family. The arrowroots most often grown as houseplants are found within the Calathea and Maranta genera. The common name prayer plant may be used to refer to several different species within the Calathea genus, but usually the name is associated with the Maranta leuconeura.  These plants are called prayer plants because their foliage folds up at night resembling praying hands.

Amazing Foliage

6629842953 73683d9f0e 300x212 How to Care for a Prayer PlantThe prayer plant has unique, large, oval shaped foliage with smooth margins. The leaves are usually bright green with dark green to red markings towards the center of the leaf. The veins have red coloring as well. The plant also has small white or purple flowers that grow on a stalk. However, it rarely flowers when grown indoors. Guide to Houseplants indicates that the prayer plant can grow up to 12 inches tall with leaves as large as 5 inches long.

Light

Like many houseplants, the prayer plant will thrive in bright, indirect sunlight, but it will also tolerate low levels of light. The growing season is during spring and summer. Guide to Houseplants recommends fertilizing the plant with a balanced fertilizer diluted to half strength every 2 weeks during spring and summer. The soil should be kept moist during the spring and summer. During the dormant season the soil may be allowed to dry some between waterings.

Challenges

One challenge to growing prayer plants is providing sufficient humidity. They require humidity year round to thrive. If a plant develops brown tips on the leaves it is a signal that there is not enough moisture in the air. Place the plants near a humidifier, next to a shallow tray with water in it or near other plants to increase the moisture in the air.

HowStuffWorks suggests that brown leaf tips can also be caused by mineral build up in the soil. To avoid mineral build up leach the soil regularly or water the plant with distilled water.

It is important to repot prayer plants in the spring. The roots prefer to have plenty of air circulation. Repotting annually will prevent the soil from becoming too compact and interfering with circulation. Their root system is shallow so they can be grown in a shallow container.

Propagation and Pruning

Cuttings can be taken in the spring to propagate new plants. Simply cut a four inch segment of stem with a few leaves. Then, dip the leaves in a root growth hormone and place them in a small container of potting soil. Guide to Houseplants also recommends dividing the plant when it becomes too large. Fall is the best time to prune the plant. Cutting the plant back will help it remain shapely and attractive. Pruning will also encourage new growth.

Share Your Experience

Prayer plants are easy to care for and will reward a grower with amazing foliage. How have you incorporated the prayer plant into plantscapes? Have you faced any challenges while caring for a prayer plant?

Photo “Maramte (Maranta leuconeura Kerchoveana)” courtesy of Maja Dumat

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