The prayer plant is a radiant houseplant with colorful and differentiated leaf markings. Their vibrant foliage has made it a beautiful centerpiece in any home. It is slightly fussy and has a few specific requirements, but this guide will let you know exactly how to look after it.
Let’s dive into its characteristics, how to care for it, and how to prevent any diseases and how to go about reviving your houseplant.
This houseplant gets its name from the nastic movement it makes. A nastic movement is a response to a stimulus, which in this case is a change in sunlight. This houseplant folds its leaves up as the sunsets, almost looking as though it’s “praying”, and then opens up its leaves again in the morning.
Its scientific name is maranta leuconeura and it belongs to the Marantaceae family. It was named after Bartolomeo Maranta, who was an Italian physician, botanist, and scholar.
This herbaceous perennial is native to South America and can only be described as striking, remarkable, and stunning. Its leaves are breathtaking with the patterns and colors on them, which sometimes appear as if they were hand-painted on the leaf.
Their bright, colorful leaves are similar to those of a rattlesnake plant, which is often mistaken for the prayer plant.
Fun fact: There are approximately 40 to 50 different species of the prayer plant. Each has uniquely colored veins, spots, and leaf color. The most popular is the maranta leuconeura kerchoveana, which has bright red veins.
How Big Do They Get?
The mature maranta leuconeura typically grows up to 6 to 12 inches (15.2 – 30.5cm) tall, with a 6 to 12 inch (15.2 – 30.5cm) spread. Its leaves grow up to 5 inches (12.7cm) wide and 6 inches (15.2cm) long.
There are mixed reviews about the growth rate of this houseplant, however, on average it’s about 2 inches (5cm) a year.
It produces 1 to 2 new leaves during the spring and summer months and reaches its mature height in 3 to 5 years.
In a humid, sunny, and moist environment, expect your houseplant to survive for 30 years, and it can potentially live for an astounding 70 years.
Be careful to maintain optimal conditions, as in an unsuitable environment it may only have a lifespan of a few months to a year.
Is It Toxic to Cats and Dogs?
Breathe a sigh of relief because your maranta leuconeura is not toxic to you or your pets.
The houseplant is actually beneficial for your health as it purifies the air by filtering airborne toxins.
How to Care
This plant prefers tropical conditions much like the Christmas cactus, which is also native to South America. The maranta leuconeura requires specific care but when it’s well looked after, it’ll be a happy houseplant that will live with you for a long period of time.
Let’s take a look at how to ensure that your houseplant prospers.
This houseplant is very susceptible to drought and needs to be kept in moist soil at all times. The potting mixture should not be dry, but it mustn’t become soggy or overly damp either.
Watering your plant every 1 to 2 weeks during the warmer spring and summer months, when it is actively growing, is perfect. During the cool Winter months, you can reduce watering, and only water it when the top 25% of the soil is dry.
The maranta leuconeura is sensitive to tap water and the chemicals in it. So, rather make use of lukewarm distilled water.
Here’s a quick tip; before watering the houseplant, pour your tap water into a container and let it sit overnight, so that the chlorine is evaporated.
Although the maranta leuconeura prospers in moist soil, it needs to be accompanied by good drainage. This can be achieved by well-draining soil and a container with a drainage hole.
An all-purpose potting soil with some pearlite, peat moss, or coarse sand will improve drainage and aerate the soil. This will prevent the soil from becoming soggy and causing root rot.
A pot with a drainage hole is a must, as this will allow excess water to flow out. You can enhance drainage by adding some sharp sand or gravel at the bottom of the container. Emptying out the water in the saucer underneath the pot will prevent the houseplant from sitting in it.
Pruning your houseplant will encourage vigorous growth and allow for your maranta leuconeura to become bushy. Trimming is also necessary to remove leggy stems and dead foliage.
When pruning, clean your shears, pruners, or scissors with a rubbing alcohol mixture to prevent any spread or transfer of diseases. Use your shears to clip the stems just above the leaf node. New shoots will be sent out below the cut area and can enhance the look of your houseplant.
A quick tip: If you notice that your houseplant is dusty, use a dry cloth to wipe the dust or debris off of the leaves.
The prayer plant only requires to be repotted every 2 years, or when it becomes rootbound, which prevents any new growth from occurring. You can tell when it’s rootbound, as the roots will begin to touch the sides of the container and even grow out through the drainage hole.
The best time to repot it is during the early spring months. Additionally, it should be repotted in a container that is 1 to 2 inches (2.5 – 5cm) larger than its current one. A larger container will not only allow for the roots to have more space but will also ensure that the plant gets plenty of air.
Repotting is fairly plain sailing. All you have to do is remove the plant from its current pot and place it into a larger container, then add some extra potting mix, and make sure that you’re watering it well for the next 3 days.
Here’s a tip: When repotting, take a quick look at the roots and if you see that any of them are damaged, then cut them back with a pair of sterilized shears or pruners.
Various environmental aspects must be met for the maranta leuconeura to thrive.
The maranta leuconeura prefers bright, indirect light. Direct sunshine will harm your plant’s tender leaves, and cause them to become scorched. It is best to place it by a windowsill.
Your maranta will survive in shady areas, but it will not prosper. So, make sure it receives ample amounts of indirect sunshine.
In the winter make sure you find a spot where it’ll receive slightly brighter light, however, it must still be under indirect light.
The maranta leuconeura and many other houseplants, like the rubber plant, prefer moist soil. It will thrive in an acidic potting mix with a pH of 5.5 to 6.0, but make sure it’s moist and well-draining.
A soil that allows for adequate drainage is imperative as it will prevent the roots from becoming saturated and soggy which causes the foliage to change color and eventually die off.
A general potting mix with an addition of coconut coir, peat moss, or perlite will allow for great drainage and make for an aerated mix.
Frequent use of fertilizer will encourage your maranta leuconeura to blossom and grow. Dilute the balanced fertilizer to half its strength, and add it every 2 weeks during the spring and summertime. Only fertilize it once a month during winter and autumn.
The overuse of fertilizer will not promote new growth but will damage your plant. Don’t add too much fertilizer or too strong a fertilizer as this will result in fertilizer overdose, burnt roots, and brown leaves.
Pot Size and Type
Typically, the pot should be 2 to 4 inches (5 – 10cm) in size, however, if it outgrows its home, then repot it in a container that is no more than 1 to 2 inches (2.5 – 5cm) larger.
The pot must have a hole at the bottom to allow for water to drain out. This houseplant requires moist potting soil, so a plastic pot is the best. A terracotta container will absorb too much moisture and may cause the potting mix to become dry.
The most optimal temperature is between 60 to 80°F (15.5 – 26.7°C). The prolonged exposure to cooler temperatures will cause its leaves to fall out and become damaged, while warmer temperatures will cause its leaves to become burnt and dry.
The houseplant absolutely flourishes in humid environments, just like the spider plant. This houseplant prefers tropical conditions, so mist it daily with slightly warm water and place it among other plants. To create a more humid environment, try using a humidifier as well.
Outdoors vs. Indoors
Your prayer plant can be grown outdoors, however only in USDA growing zones of 11 to 12. Placing it outside risks their leaves becoming burnt, so make sure that it only receives indirect sunlight and is planted in soil with good drainage.
If you live in a cooler region then the outdoors is not suitable.
The maranta leuconeura is an infrequent bloomer and it’s very rare for it to bloom indoors. If you’re lucky and have been caring for it well then you may see it flower during the spring or summertime.
The flowers are either a pretty white, or purple and usually, die off a few days after blooming. Make sure to save the seeds, as these can be used to grow a new maranta leuconeura.
A quick tip: regular fertilization, indirect sunshine, moist soil, and a humid environment encourage flowering.
How to Grow
There are multiple ways to grow a maranta leuconeura. You can propagate it in either soil or water, and if you’re lucky enough to have some seeds, you can grow it from a seed.
It is best to propagate your houseplant in the spring or early summer. To avoid infecting it with other bacteria or diseases use a sterilized blade when cutting the stems or roots.
When propagating it in soil, use moist soil with optimal drainage. There are two methods that you may use, either from stem cuttings or from root division.
From Stem Cuttings
- Choose a stem with 3 or 4 leaves attached, and cut this stem below the node close to the bottom of the stem.
- Find a pot with a drainage hole and fill it with a potting mix.
- Place the stem cuttings into the container, and water it until it runs out the hole at the bottom of the container.
- Put a clear plastic bag over the pot in order to retain moisture and create a humid environment. This will encourage new growth.
- Place your new houseplant in an area with a slightly lower level of sunlight than normal.
- Once new growth is visible, remove the plastic bag.
From Root Division
- Remove your plant by gently sliding it out with one hand, and protecting the leaves by holding them back with the other.
- You can use your hands to carefully remove the excess soil from the roots. Check if there are any damaged or shriveled roots, and simply cut these back until the healthy root tissue.
- Cut between the roots where there is a clump of stems, and make sure that they are not too connected to the mother plant, then gently pull these roots apart.
- Place your new plant in a pot full of good draining and moist soil.
- Water it until you notice it draining out, and cover the pot with a clear plastic bag to enhance moisture and humidity.
- Position your container in an area with a lower level of indirect sunlight.
- You should remove the plastic bag when new growth appears.
Propagating in water is great as it is fairly effortless. Always remember to make use of distilled water, as the maranta leuconeura doesn’t do well in tap water due to the chemicals and chlorine.
From Stem Cuttings
- Fill a clean glass halfway with distilled water.
- Cut a stem with 3 or 4 leaves, just below the node closest to the bottom of the stem, and dip the cut end in rooting hormone.
- Place the cutting into the glass and change the water on a daily basis.
- Position the glass in warm, indirect sunlight.
- Once the roots have grown to about 1 inch (2.5cm), you can repot it in soil.
Growing this houseplant from seed is extremely rare because the seeds themselves are often hard to come by. One can obtain these seeds when the prayer plant blooms, which is rare when indoors. Once you have a few seeds, the process is painless when following the upcoming steps.
- Prepare a new container with moist, well-draining potting mix, and remember that the pot should have a drainage hole at the bottom.
- Place the seed in the container underneath a thin layer of soil, and position it in an area with a temperature of 55 to 65°F (12.8 – 18.3°C).
- Water the pot to moisten the potting mix.
- Put a clear plastic bag over the pot to retain moisture and enhance humidity levels.
- As you notice new growth, slowly expose your plant to normal air over time, so that it can adapt to the environment at its own pace.
The prayer plant is not always the easiest houseplant to look after, as it’s a tad finicky. Don’t worry if it is looking slightly different, we’re here to help you find out what your houseplant is trying to tell you and how to revive it.
The prayer plant has stunning leaves that deserve to be proudly spread, but sometimes the leaves begin to curl and wither. Your maranta leuconeura’s leaves may be scorched or burnt.
A scorched leaf is caused by multiple environmental factors. The potting mix could be extremely dry, or there is a lack of humidity, or it has been sitting in bright, direct sunlight for a prolonged period of time.
If a lack of humidity is the case, this is easy to solve. Mist your maranta leuconeura with lukewarm water or place it amongst other houseplants to create a humid environment.
The maranta leuconeura doesn’t do well in direct sunlight, so a new home for your plant is recommended. Find a windowsill or area where it can thrive in bright, indirect light.
Overly dry soil can be cured through water soaking, simply follow the steps below.
- Fill a basin or bucket with 3 to 4 inches (7.6 – 10.2cm) of water.
- Place the pot plant in the sink, and let it sit for 45 minutes to soak up the water through its drainage hole.
- Check that the top 3 or 4 inches (7.6 – 10.2cm) of the soil is damp.
- Allow the excess water to drain out the potting mix and basin.
- Place it back in its normal position.
If you notice that your plant’s leaves are yellow, this may be the result of poor drainage, overwatering, or exposure to cold temperatures.
The maranta leuconeura prefers warm, humid environments with a temperature of no less than 60°F (15.5°C). Place it in an area where it’ll stay warm and receive plenty of indirect sunshine.
Your plant may be weathering soggy conditions due to poor drainage. To prevent a watery condition, make sure that the container has a drainage hole at the bottom.
You should also make sure that the potting mixture is well-draining, this can be achieved by adding peat or coir-based potting medium to the mixture. To improve drainage even further, try adding gravel at the bottom of the pot to allow for water to easily flow out.
Have you noticed your maranta leuconeura drooping or leaning to one side? This may be because of a combination of either low humidity, dry or overly moist soil, and an over-exposure to direct sunlight.
These conditions cause its leaves and its stem to become limp and weak. It’s relatively straightforward to revive your houseplant and can be done by making a few subtle changes.
Place it in a sunny position where it’ll receive indirect sunlight, ensure that the soil is well-draining but is moist at all times, and mist its leaves or place a humidifier nearby.
Brown Tips on Leaves
When the leaves begin to brown, this is either because of over-fertilizing, low humidity levels, or the impurities in tap water.
Overuse of fertilizer can cause fertilizer salts to build up in the soil. All you need to do is soak your pot plant in cool water for 45 minutes, drain the excess water through the drainage hole, and place it back in its home.
The maranta leuconeura is prosperous in humid regions, so either place a humidifier in the room or regularly mist with slightly warm water.
Remember that this houseplant is sensitive to the chemicals in tap water, and these impurities can cause the browning of leaves. Make use of filtered water or set your tap water in a container overnight so that the chlorine can be evaporated.
To Sum Up
The maranta leuconeura will make a beautiful addition to your collection and home.
It may be a little fussy when it comes to watering and humidity, but if you maintain a suitable environment it will flourish.