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Complete Guide to Maranta Leuconeura: How to Plant & Care for “Prayer Plants”

Read our complete guide to Prayer Plants for everything you will ever need to know! Tips for planting and caring for Maranta Leuconeura
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Bartolomeo Maranta was an Italian botanist and physician of the sixteenth century. His discovery of the Maranta genus bears his name, and this family of low-growing plants is native to the Central and Southern Americas, where it’s common in tropical climates.

The Prayer Plant gets its nickname from the ways its foliage curls up at night, and then spreads out during the day, giving an appearance of hands opening and closing while praying.

The Maranta leuconeura variety has some decoratively beautiful foliage that makes it one of the prettiest plants in the natural world. The tri-color variety is the most popular with indoor gardeners, and it’s a common houseplant throughout the United States.

This variety features dark green leaves with a velvety finish. You’ll find splotches of yellow on the ribs of the leaves, and deep red veins that arch to the margins. Mature prayer plants have 6-inch leaves that rise from a stocky central stem and drape down over the sides of the pot.

These plants only last a few years and trying to keep them around for longer than that is a challenge, even for professional gardeners.

In this guide, we’ll give you everything you need to know about growing prayer plants.

Maranta Red ‘Prayer Plant’, Available from Amazon

How Do I Grow Prayer Plants?

Prayer plants are a low-growing species that spread. Most of the varieties never get taller than 8-inches, but they can reach girths of up to double or triple the height of the plant. These plants make excellent indoor houseplants., and they look fantastic sitting on windowsills, with the leaves draping down the side of the pot.

Prayer plants do well in humid environments, such as terrariums, greenhouses, and conservatories. However, you can grow these plants in any room in your home if you know how to care for them. The plants require proper airflow to fight off bacterial and fungal infections but don’t leave them near a vent. Drafts may stunt the plant’s growth, and you’ll struggle to get it to recover.

Green Prayer Plant, From Amazon

What Light Conditions Suit Prayer Plants?

Prayer plants enjoy bright, indirect sunlight conditions. It’s vital that you never place them in direct sunlight, or the leaves will burn, and the plant will start to wither. Place your pot on a southern or northern window, and it will thrive.

The prayer plant is reasonably tolerant of low light conditions as well. If you live in a region of the country where its overcast for many days of the year, these plants will still keep growing in the dim sunlight conditions.

These plants enter a dormancy period in the winter. During this stage, you can leave the plant in a darker room to help it recover from the stress of the growing season. After a rest, the plant returns the following growing season.

In most cases, these semi-perennial plants only last between 3 to 5-years before they start to die off.

What Kind of Soil to Prayer Plants Need?

The prayer plant prefers light and airy soil that are slightly acidic in pH. The ideal pH for your prayer plant is between 5.5 to 6.0. Use a potting mix that includes peat moss, as well as a mixture of sand and perlite.

The perlite adds air to the roots of the soil while improving drainage. The peat moss also provides an airy substrate that holds onto moisture. Only use pre-packed soil amendments, and never use soil from your garden, unless you have a thriving flowerbed.

Using regular soil from the yard results in a compaction of the soil that water-logs the roots, causing the onset of root rot. These plants don’t like getting their “feet wet.” If the roots stay in soggy soil for extended periods, expect the onset of root rot.

Root rot causes wilting in the foliage, and shortly after that, the plant will die. To improve soil drainage, use a pot with plenty of holes in the base, and line the bottom of the container with a layer of small stones.

Green Prayer Plant, From Amazon

How Do I Water Prayer Plants?

During the spring and summer, the gardener needs to ensure that they keep the soil moist. Water every second or third day, depending on the climate conditions in your part of the country. Never let the soil dry out. Dry soil also encourages pest infestations, and they’ll ruin your prayer plants.

However, don’t overwater your plants. As mentioned, overwatering can cause the onset of root rot that kills the prayer plant. Press your finger an inch into the soil. If your fingertip feels dry, then its time to water the plant.

Prayer plants are susceptible to drought conditions. However, it’s also essential that the gardener does not get water on the leaves of the prayer plant when watering. Water on the leaves can attract fungal disease, and cause the leaves to wilt.

The prayer plant goes into a dormancy phase during the winter. Avoid watering the plant, and let it rest in a darker room during the winter. The prayer plant will return to life when you water it in the early springtime.

What are the Humidity and Temperature Requirements for Prayer Plants?

Prayer plants like to grow in warm climates between 60 and 80F. If the temperature falls below 55F at night, it can result in damage to the leaves. If you have prayer plants outdoors on your patio in pots, bring them in during the night to keep them warm.

If you live in a warmer part of the United States, such as Southern California or Florida, then you can wrap burlap around your prayer plants at night to keep them warm.

Prayer plants require a humid environment to thrive. It’s for this reason that they do so well on shorelines around the United States. However, if you live in a dry region of the US, you can simulate humid conditions by creating a micro-climate around your plant.

Place a few stones on a drip tray, and then place the pot on top of the stones. Add water to the drip tray, but don’t let the water level reach the base of the pot. As the water evaporates from the drip tray, it reaches the leaves of the prayer plant. As a result, you create a micro-climate around the plant that gives it the relative humidity it needs to thrive.

Another good option is to leave small prayer plants in pots in the bathroom. the steam left in the air after a hot shower or bath provides the prayer plant with all the moisture it needs from the air.,

Do I Need to Fertilize My Prayer Plant?

Prayer plants do well if you give them a boost of fertilizer in the early spring. Use an all-purpose liquid fertilizer, and dilute it to half strength. Using a full-strength fertilizer may burn the leaves. Use a 10-10-10 formula at half-strength, and feed the plant every second week through to September.

Prayer plants need fertilizer to achieve their full potential as houseplants. Those prayer plants that don’t receive any plant food during the growing season experience stunted growth.

Never fertilize your plants in the winter. If you keep feeding them in the dormancy period, it reduces the lifespan of the plant. Give your prayer plant a chance to recover in the winter, and leave it in a dark room until the early springtime.

Miracle-Gro Liquid All Purpose Plant Food, is Perfect

How Do I Propagate a Prayer Plant?

It might surprise you to learn that it’s easy to propagate your prayer plants. Popular propagating methods for prayer plants include rhizome division and stem cuttings to create more plants from the mother.

The most common type of propagation is division during the repotting phase.

  • When repotting, remove the roots and shake away the loose soil from the plant. Work the roots apart until you have several separate plants.
  • The size of the original plant determines how many new plants you get with the process.
  • Pot the divided plants in separate pots using the potting mixture described earlier.
  • If you want to propagate your plants with cuttings, make sure you take your cutting below the leaf node.
  • After taking the cutting, dip it in rooting hormone, and then place it in a container upright with some water. After an hour, remove the cutting and plant it in a small container with a potting mix.
  • Keep the soil moist using a spray bottle, so you don’t disturb the roots while they establish themselves. After the juvenile prayer, plants start to push out new shoots, send them to a larger container with the correct soil amendments.

What are the Pests and Diseases Affecting Prayer Plants?

If you’re growing prayer plants outdoors, then they run the risk of infestations with mealybugs, whitefly, aphids, and spider mite. These pests start showing up when your soil remains too dry for extended periods. The bugs lay eggs in the soil, and they hatch.

Always check your outdoor plants for pests before bringing them indoors, ort your run the risk of infecting your other houseplants.

If you notice any pests on your plants, use a natural insecticide like neem oil to get rids of the bugs.

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Hollie Carter

Hollie is a life-long gardener, having started helping her Dad work on their yard when she was just 5. Since then she has gone on to develop a passion for growing vegetables & fruit in her garden. She has an affinity with nature and loves to share her knowledge gained over a lifetime with readers online. Hollie has written for a number of publications and is now the resident garden blogger here at GardenBeast. Contact her at hollie@gardenbeast.com or follow on twitter https://twitter.com/greenholliec

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