Prayer Plant


The prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura) is a very special plant. Every evening, when it gets dark, the leaves of a prayer plant fold up as though praying. There is a small joint between the stems and the leaves that allows this to occur. In the morning, as the plant reache for the light, the leaves unfurl and open again. Because of the name, a prayer plant is often sent as a gift to funerals. Prayer plants are part of the Maranta plant group which includes four closely related plants, the calathea, ctenanthestromanthe and the prayer plant. All varieties of Marantas are part of the larger Marantaceae family and are native to tropical Central and South America and the West Indies. Today, the prayer plant is primarily grown as an indoor plant.


The large leaves of a prayer plant have colorful veins and bright patterns in red, green, brown, and cream. The flowers, however, are small and insignificant. The patches of color in the leaves get darker and more vibrant as the plant matures. A prayer plant is a short, spreading plant that is usually about 8″ to 12″  (20-25cm) tall and 12″ to 20″ (30-50cm) wide. The broad, oval, paddle shaped leaves are 5″ to 7″  (13-18cm) long.

Prayer Plant Varieties

Herringbone or Red Prayer Plant (Maranta erthrophylla leuconeura)  has bold red veins.

Black Prayer Plant ( Maranta leuconeura var. “Massangeana”) has blackish, green leaves with silvery veins.

Green Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura “Kerchoveana”) is also called a Rabbit’s Tracks prayer plant because its green leaves have two rows of small, brown patches.

Prayer Plant Problems

Dry air and low humidity cause stunted growth and brown leaf tips

Leaves curl and bottom leaves turn yellow when plant does not get enough water

Leaves burn and get ugly brown marks when the plant is in the direct sun

Leaf drop is caused by low humidity

Stems become limp and start to die when it is too cold or the soil is too wet


Provide high humidity

Keep winter temperature above 55°F

Keep soil barely moist at all times and water less in winter

Propagate by plant divisionLearn how to propagate plants by plant division at when you repot in the spring every few years


This lovely plant with beautiful leaves is not difficult to grow if you provide the specific care it requires. Lack of humidity due to the dry air in our homes is the main cause of most  prayer plant problems. A prayer plant is a non- poisonousPlants are a great addition to homes and offices, but it’s important to know whether your plants are dangerous to children, pets, or even adults. Some plants contain chemicals such as oxalates, solanine, glycosides, or alkaloid lycorine that may cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, swelling and redness of the mouth, throat, and lips, and trouble breathing. Touching parts of certain plants, especially the sap, may cause various skin irritations. The weight and age of the human or pet involved, and the part and amount of plant eaten determine how severe the reaction to the toxins will be. Although plants may be listed as non-toxic, they can still cause individual allergic reactions. If there is any question after a houseplant has been ingested or touched, immediately call the Poison Control Center 1-800-222-1222.  More poisonous houseplant information and pictures of common plants that are dangerous to children and pets can be found in my book Don’t Feed Me to Your Cat: A Guide to Poisonous Houseplants plant safe to have around cats, dogs, and small children.



Why Does My Prayer Plant, Which Is Sitting on a Windowsill and Getting Great Light, Suddenly Start to Get Brown Edges on Their Leaves? Am I Watering Too Much?

The main reasons a prayer plant gets brown leaf edges are dry air and low humidity.

Should I Cut the Flowers Off of My Prayer Plant or Leave Them Alone?

A prayer plant doesn’t develop leaves as quickly when it’s producing flowers. Personally, I like the leaves more than the flowers, so I always cut the flowers off.

A Friend Suggested That I Give My Prayer Plant Left-over Tea, Is That a Good Idea?

A prayer plant is an acid-loving houseplant, tea is acidic, so it’s definitely a good idea. Just don’t drown your plant in too much tea!!

Why Are the Leaves of My Prayer Plant Shriveling Up and Turning Brown?

There are several reasons why the leaves of a prayer plant shrivel up: too much direct sun, heavily chlorinated water, low humidity, and cold air.