Prayer Plant: Complete Care Guide

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One of the most effective ways to transform indoor space is to include a tropical house plant. While there are many fabulous options, the prayer plant stands out due to its stunning and lush foliage.

This low-growing plant comes in wide varieties and colors, allowing you to choose one that fits your home well. However, prayer plants are somewhat fussy in care and require a dedicated keeper.

Without the optimal conditions that encourage its growth and health, the prayer plant will become susceptible to myriad issues. Therefore, to ensure the thriving of your beautiful prayer plant, we’ve prepared this practical care guide.

The Prayer Plant: An Overview

Before we tackle every aspect of how to care for your prayer plant, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with its origin and main characteristics. People may also refer to the prayer plant as “maranta” or Maranta leuconeura, its official botanical name.

The maranta genus contains dozens of plant species named after the 16th-century Italian botanist and physical Bartolomeo Maranta. However, the prayer plant-specific epithet represents one of its uniqueness – an ability to fold the leaves in a prayer-like position during the night.

During the day, the prayer plant’s leaves stay flat, allowing you to enjoy its beauty. However, it’s also important to point out that this Brazilian-native plant is slow and low-growing and reaches a foot in height when placed indoors.

Prayer Plant Types

If you were to explore prayer plants in their native surrounding, you’d run into countless different types differing in colors, patterns, and even size. But when discussing a prayer plant as a popular indoor house plant, there are four easy-to-find options.

Black Prayer Plant

This type has silver-blue leaves and features olive green and purple areas. These purple markings are exceptionally dark, making them seem almost black, hence the name.

Herringbone Prayer Plant

Another name for the herringbone prayer plant is “red prayer plant” because it has bright red veins across lush green leaves. These red veins create a herringbone pattern, giving the plant a distinctive appearance.

Lemon Lime Prayer Plant

Visually nearly identical to herringbone prayer plant, but has bright green veins across the leaves as opposed to red. This type of prayer plant does well in hanging baskets.

Rabbit’s Foot Prayer Plant

The most distinctive features of the rabbit’s foot prayer plant are the deep brownish or orange patches uniquely arranged on the bright green leaves. These patches often appear as rabbit’s feet, hence the unusual name.

How to Care for Your Prayer Plant

If you find the prayer plant beautiful and believe it will enrich your living space, it’s essential to know how to care for it properly.

When purchasing any plant, it’s easy to get carried away with its beauty, and hope that it stays in the same condition with little effort. But when it comes to prayer plants, you’ll need to pay attention to a few crucial guidelines.

Here’s a full breakdown of how to care for your prayer plant.

Sun Exposure and Temperature

Undoubtedly, this is one of the most important aspects of maintaining indoor plants. You need to create optimal exposure to light and maintain the perfect temperature.

All types of prayer plants love indirect sunlight. However, direct sun exposure will damage the leaves, and you’d quickly notice dark patches and fading color intensity.

If you need to choose between bright and lower light areas, choose the latter, as prayer plants are relatively tolerant to low-brightness spaces.

The prayer plant’s tolerance range is between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. So they’ll do reasonably well in standard room temperature ranges if you keep them above 60 degrees. Also, these lovely plants need excellent airflow as it promotes faster growth.

Watering and Humidity Levels

As a tropical plant, the prayer plant does not like a dry climate. Unfortunately, that means it has a very demanding watering routine. You’ll need to keep the soil moist all the time, especially when placed in bright light areas.

However, allowing the soil to dry somewhat between watering is vital as it prevents the roots from becoming soggy. The water you use should be at room temperature to avoid a shock to its system.

Also, during winters, you can water the prayer plant less frequently as it goes dormant in this period. Furthermore, if you’re wondering if the prayer plant is one of those picky house plants that require distilled water – the answer is yes.

Ideally, you’d use distilled water in a spray bottle and mist the plant daily. This way, you’re mimicking the tropical environment the plant needs.

Prayer Plant

Soil

The good news is that the prayer plant is not fussy about potting soil. The general-purpose soil you can get at most stores works well, so long as it drains well.

However, if you can only find soil that doesn’t drain well, you can add some coarse sand to improve its draining properties.

Furthermore, if you add pebbles or gravel at the bottom of the pot with drainage holes, you’ll likely have zero issues with draining.

Fertilization

During the growing season, usually from late spring to fall, you’ll need to fertilize the prayer plant approximately every two weeks. A water-soluble fertilizer used with various house plants is an excellent option.

During the winter, you only need to fertilize your maranta once per month. However, it’s essential to keep in mind that you should dilute the fertilizer, using around half a teaspoon per gallon of water. Also, if you fertilize the soil too often, it can burn the roots, eventually killing the plant.

Repotting

As a slow-growing smaller plant, the maranta doesn’t require frequent repotting. However, if you keep the prayer plant in the same pot for too long, it might become root bound.

This leads to even slower growth, which can be disappointing. Therefore, plan a repotting project if you’ve noticed that your prayer plant has not grown in quite some time.

Ideally, you should do this during warm spring and summer months as it prevents the exposure to cold from shocking the plant. When choosing the next pot for your prayer plant, ensure it’s one to two inches wider than the previous one.

Always add a little extra soil and mix it with the existing. Then, several days after repotting, make sure to water the prayer plant well.

Propagation

If you want to propagate your thriving prayer plant, it’s best to do it in the spring. Often the best moment for propagation is when you’re repotting the maranta.

It allows you to take the cuttings or slips easily and plant them in a separate pot. Keep in mind that propagation of prayer plants from seeds is possible, though much more complex and less reliable.

Also, if a piece of your prayer plant breaks, you can place the piece in distilled water after dipping it into the rooting hormone.

Then, all you need to do is watch for signs of growth. When the roots grow over an inch, it’s time to plant them in a shallow pot.

Prayer Plant Troubleshooting

If your prayer plant isn’t correctly cared for, it will show signs that can help you act. For example, if the leaves curl inwards, you’re likely not watering the plant enough. However, once you water it, you’ll notice how quickly the leaves uncurl.

Wilting or yellowing leaves can be symptoms of overwatering and soggy roots. These symptoms tell you to leave the prayer plant’s soil to dry before adding more water.

Faded leaves and brown patches are usually caused by sunburn, so all you need to do is move it from direct sunlight. On the other hand, brown edges indicate too much exposure to dry air, so make sure to optimize the indoor humidity levels.

Pests

Like most houseplants, prayer plants are susceptible to pest damage. Spider mites, thrips, and aphids are maranta’s most commonly found pests. They cause lesions and deplete the plant from vital nutrients. However, with neem oil, a naturally occurring pesticide, you can successfully defeat these tiny insects and ensure your prayer plant continues to grow.

You may also struggle with fungus gnats, but they are more common on outdoor prayer plants. Finally, mealybugs are small cotton ball insects that feed on the plant’s sap. All you need to do is dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and use it to remove the mealybugs from the prayer plant slowly.

Diseases

Leaf spot is a common prayer plant problem caused by overly wet conditions. It’s an infection you’ll recognize by water-soaked lesions on maranta’s leaves.

Reducing watering is the first step, but you must also distance the prayer plant away from other house plants to prevent the disease from infecting other plants.

We’ve already discussed root rot caused by overwatering, but it may also occur from a type of fungi that thrives in wet conditions and warm temperatures. If you notice the prayer plant stems feeling soft to the touch, immediately reduce misting and watering and remove the damaged stems.

Flawless Care for Your Prayer Plant

Some people seem to have an easier time caring for house plants than others. They seem to have a “green thumb” and can easily grow any plant. But you don’t need green thumbs to keep your prayer plant alive and ensure it grows at its natural pace.

You will need to mind the watering schedule and keep it out of the bright light and cold. Fortunately, it’s not picky regarding soil, and the common pests and diseases have relatively straightforward solutions.

The repotting and propagation are simple too, but don’t forget the routine fertilization, and watch out for signs of distress.

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