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, ctenanthe, stromanthe 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
Quick Care Tips
Provide high humidity
Keep winter temperature above 55°F
Keep soil barely moist at all times and water less in winter
Propagate by plant division 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-poisonous plant safe to have around cats, dogs, and small children.
How much light does a prayer plant need: Provide medium to high light, but avoid putting a prayer plant in the direct sun. When there is not enough light, the leaves close at night and do not fully open during the day. When there is too much light or direct sun, the color in the leaves fade.
How much water for a prayer plant: Keep the soil barely moist but never soggy at all times. Unlike most houseplants, a prayer plant does not like to have the soil dry out before you water. Water less in the winter when the plant is resting.
How to feed a prayer plant: This is is acid loving houseplant, fertilize with a food like Miracid diluted to ½ the recommended strength every two weeks in the spring and summer. It’s not necessary to feed a prayer plant in the winter and fall; it will also benefit from your extra tea. A prayer plant develops yellow leaves when it’s getting enough iron. You can fix the problem by using a cheated iron product available where fertilizers are sold.
Best temperature for a prayer plant: Provide warm temperatures between 60°-80°F (15.6°-26.7°C). Low temperatures and cold drafts damage the leaves.
Does a prayer plant need high humidity: High humidity is essential! When the air is too dry, a prayer plant may lose leaves, get brown leaf tips, or have stunted growth. The humidity in ours homes is often too low. Increase the humidity by grouping plants together, putting a small humidifier or bowl of water near the plant, or setting a prayer plant on a tray filled with water and small pebbles. Be sure the plant is sitting on the pebbles and not in the water.
Does a prayer plant flower: The flowers are small and insignificant. It is the leaves that are the beautiful part of a prayer plant.
Prayer plant pests: Spider mites and aphids ca be a problem. learn how to recognize and treat these plant pests in the Glossary the website.
Prayer plant diseases: The high humidity a prayer plant needs encourages Leaf Spot disease and other fungal diseases. Providing good air circulation and keeping the leaves dry helps prevent diseases. Read more about Leaf Spot disease and how to identify and treat it in the Glossary of the website.
Best soil for a prayer plant: Use a well-aerated, peat based, indoor potting soil that retains water yet still drains quickly.
Proper pot for a prayer plant: Since this plant has very short roots, use a shallow pot that has drip holes in the bottom.
How to prune a prayer plant: Trim the stems twice a year to keep the plant compact and bushy.
How to propagate a prayer plant: Plant division and stem cuttings are the best propagation methods. Read more about how to propagate plants in the Glossary of the website.
A prayer plant is a popular gift for funerals. The leaves close at night and unfold the next morning, as though the plant were praying.
Poisonous Plant Info
A prayer plant is a non-poisonous houseplant and is safe to have around cats, dogs, and small children.
The main reasons a prayer plant gets brown leaf edges are dry air and low humidity.
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.
The leaves of a prayer plant usually fade because it is getting too much light. Move your plant to a shadier location and see if that solves the problem. Check the leaves carefully to be sure there is no spider mite infestation.
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!!
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.