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How to Grow and Care for Prayer Plants (Maranta)

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Many indoor gardeners are attracted by the mesmerizing beauty of prayer plants and choose to grow them. Native to Brazil, this is an exotic plant that can only be grown outdoors in very strict conditions. Its hardiness makes it only suitable for USDA regions 11 and 12 so most people prefer growing the prayer plant indoors. Scientifically named ‘Maranta leuconura’, this plant provides lots of reasons why you should consider growing it.

Prayer plants show off striking foliage with colorful herringbone patterns that helped to increase their popularity. The plant is grown for its broad leaves with variegated green splashes that make it a superb addition to any home. Although Maranta plants have fairly specific care requirements, it’s worth the effort to grow them considering the decorative potential of their luscious green foliage.

1. Growing Prayer Plants

As the prayer plant is adapted to tropical rainforests, it’s safe to say that you should focus on growing it indoors. It’s possible to grow it outdoors if your climate allows it but Maranta plants are exceptionally fragile to cold and excessive moisture. You will find it very challenging to attempt growing prayer plants outdoors unless you can provide it with the high level of humidity it craves.

The only drawback to growing the prayer plant indoors refers to not being able to see its characteristic white flowers that appear outdoors. You won’t be missing out too much considering the insignificant qualities of the small flowers. Maranta plants are not grown for their blooms but for their unique foliage.

2. Caring for Prayer Plants

There are lots of aspects that need to be carefully considered when growing and caring for prayer plants. Even though Maranta plants are relatively low-maintenance compared to other indoor houseplants, you still need to provide them with the right conditions for satisfying results. In the following section, we’ll explore the ideal environmental conditions that have to be mimicked in order to allow these plants to thrive.

2.1 Soil

As long as you’re using a well-draining type of acidic soil, you don’t need to focus on other specific qualities. A high-quality houseplant potting soil will work just fine to keep the plant healthy. Maranta plants have shallow root systems that can be vulnerable to root rot. It’s recommended to improve drainage by bringing coarse sand or perlite to the soil.

Aside from ensuring that your chosen pot is equipped with a reliable drainage hole, you can also prevent root rot issues by bringing in some extra compost or rocks to the bottom. If you’re really concerned about choosing the best pre-packaged potting soil quality, it’s worth trying a mix formulated for African violets. It seems to work exceptionally well for prayer plants as well.

2.2 Water

Maranta plants lack strong tolerance to drought but that doesn’t mean you should water them too frequently. They only have high watering needs during the initial development stages but full-grown prayer plants can be susceptible to fungal diseases from excessive sogginess. One important aspect to consider when watering this plant is to avoid having moisture sitting on the leaves.

Although other care requirements are fairly easy to meet for prayer plants, the watering needs are more challenging to get right. It’s essential to strike a good balance to prevent overwatering as well as insufficient water. Extra dry conditions can kill this plant quite easily compared to similar houseplants.

A great watering tip for the Maranta plant is to take into account the timing. The spring and summer seasons will make the houseplant require more water. Once temperatures go down in the fall and winter, it’s time to water the plants less frequently. Always remember to focus on watering the plant’s soil and not the leaves. Maintaining the soil moist is pretty much a requirement for the warmer seasons. However, leaves turning yellow can be a sign of overwatering.

2.3 Light

The prayer plant is not only tolerant of indirect sunlight but prefers it over direct light which can be damaging to its leaves. Bright indirect sunlight works best but low light conditions can also be successfully handled by the plant as long as its other needs are met. Inadequate light can cause various issues for the prayer plant. You can check the leaves in the morning for signs of insufficient light as they tend to not open completely at that time.

Maranta plants are grown well in hanging containers. This can simplify the placement issues to allow them to receive sufficient filtered sunlight. While you don’t have to worry about the plant getting enough light in the warm seasons, the winter period can cause some issues worth paying attention to. The low amount of sunlight in the winter makes the plant enter a dormancy stage. Without sufficient bright light, you might find out that your prayer plant dies back completely.

2.4 Temperature

When it comes to temperature requirements, Maranta plants are not particularly fussy. They will happily grow in typical room temperatures ranging from 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Just make sure the household temperature doesn’t drop below 55 degrees which represents the absolute minimum for the prayer plant to grow. Cold winter nights can be concerning for the health of the plant, especially if it’s exposed to drafts.

2.5 Humidity

The optimal growing environment for the prayer plant needs to be very humid. This is why excessively strong drafts or vented areas can have negative impacts on this plant. Dry air combined with too many temperature fluctuations can cause severe health problems for Maranta plants. Increasing the humidity in your home isn’t easy for some but it’s an important care requirement for many cases.

Boosting the level of humidity for prayer plants can be done most effectively with the help of a reliable humidifier. You don’t need a huge unit as even a small-capacity humidifier like this model from Amazon will be able to meet the extra humidity needs of Maranta plants. Alternatively, consider putting the plant close to other houseplants to boost the overall humidity and provide regular misting.

2.6 Fertilizer

The prayer plant can grow better if you offer it high-quality fertilizer in balanced doses. The best approach here is to fertilize the Maranta plant more frequently in the spring, summer, and fall but less often during the winter season. Early spring is a great time to start a fertilizing schedule. It’s recommended to opt for water-soluble fertilizers that can be easily diluted for a more custom treatment for your prayer plants.

Organic fertilizers are good options but some extra knowledge is required when choosing different types of fertilizers to ensure correct nutrient levels for the plant. It’s easy to make an unbalanced mixture that provides too much of a particular nutrient. Respecting the fertilizing schedule is also essential because too much fertilizer causes root burn and brown leaves. Give the plant time to develop vigorous stems and leaves.

2.7 Pruning

Speaking of vigorous growth, pruning your Maranta plant can contribute to that effect. This process has some great benefits for the plant while there’s minimal effort involved. You will need some well-designed pruning shears to clip the stems above the leaf nodes. This encourages the prayer plant to develop new shoots and create a bushier look. Pruning isn’t done often, just around three times a year should suffice.

2.8 Propagation

Maranta plants can be propagated through cuttings. Make sure you place them in water or rooting hormone that’s frequently changed. The cuttings require extra sunlight to develop and can be added to their own pot when the roots appear. Division when repotting is also worth trying and it can actually be an easier propagation method for this plant.

The prayer plant can be divided through the gentle separation of the roots. It’s important for each little plant to have a nice root system with plenty of stems. Find separate shallow pots to complete the repotting process. Due to the fragile nature of the prayer plant, it’s recommended to monitor the repotted plants and water them well for a proper establishment.

2.9 Repotting

There’s usually no need to repot your prayer plant but if you notice growth problems, that could be a notable sign that repotting is required. It’s possible that your plant gets root-bound and so it can no longer thrive. Keep in mind that repotting the Maranta plant can’t be done at any time of the year. Stick to the spring or summer seasons to successfully change the pot of your plant.

There’s a big risk to deal with this process during cold weather as the temperature shock can have a very negative impact. It’s best to deal with this task after the plant ends its dormancy phase. When it comes to repotting this kind of plant, it’s recommended to opt for a considerably wider container. Transplanting will usually require some extra soil mix as well. After the plant has been moved, make sure it gets more water in the initial days.

2.10 Pests and Diseases

Maranta plants are fairly susceptible to some common pests and diseases that affect houseplants. Aphids and spider mites are quite concerning when it comes to insect pests. The infestation is frequently brought from a different place so check new plants carefully to ensure they’re healthy. Excess humidity can keep spider mites at bay so that’s one more reason to be mindful of the plant’s humid environment.

Mealybugs can affect prayer plants. These pests are recognized by the white residue left on the leaves that seems to resemble cotton. It’s dangerous to leave a pest infestation untreated because the mealybugs can quickly drain the life from your prayer plant. Neem oil or commercial pesticides are recommended to treat the Maranta plants affected by these common pests.

In terms of diseases, prayer plants have some vulnerabilities. They’re commonly affected by leaf spot that appears because of overwatering. Simply reducing watering frequency should be enough to slow the disease. As the name of the disease suggests, you can check the plant’s leaves for the characteristic yellow spots or halos. Preventing the leaf spot disease through taking correct care of the plant represents the best level of protection. Established diseases are often very challenging to reverse so make sure you don’t reach that point by taking precautions.

3 Varieties of Prayer Plants

Now that we’ve seen how to grow and care for prayer plants, it’s time to check out other varieties of Maranta. The ‘Leuconura’ species (red prayer plant) is the most commonly found that’s favored by homeowners for its elegant red veins and variegated green leaves. However, it’s not your only option. Different markings and colors are available through more distinctive varieties of prayer plants. Here are some of the best examples:

Green Prayer Plant

Green prayer plants lack the typical veins of other Marantas but feature prominent spots in dark shades of green or purple. This beautiful prayer plant is known for being low-maintenance while the contrasting spots on the leaves provide it with distinctive visual appeal.

Lemon Lime Prayer Plant

Fans of variegated prayer plants won’t be disappointed by the lemon lime variety. It has a more subtle visual effect compared to a red Maranta plant. Notice the interplay of different shades of green on the leaves that will improve the style of any environment.

Peacock Prayer Plant

This is a stand-out prayer plant variety whose leaves combine variegated markings with elegant purple undersides for a striking appearance. It’s not hard to see why it’s called ‘peacock’ prayer plant considering the eye-catching display of its foliage. This plant pairs well with philodendrons and ferns.

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