MARANTA LEUCONEURA - PRAYER PLANT
NASA CLEAN AIR PLANT #32
Available for sale at our store located at 3856 Fort Henry Drive, Kingsport, TN 37663.
Native to the tropical forests of Brazil, prayer plants are some of the most beautiful indoor houseplants you can find. They’re great in hanging baskets as they spread low and wide.
The prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura) is a very special plant. Prayer plants’ leaves lie flat during the day and fold upward at night, as if in prayer. This is done in rhythm with the sun. The leaves point downward or straight during the day, and close vertically at night. This natural process is called nyctinasty, and is triggered by changes in sunlight.
This behavior is believed to have adapted to benefit the plant’s longevity. At night, when the leaves are closed, raindrops can fall through the leaves and reach the roots. This prevents rain from collecting on the leaves, reducing the likelihood of bacterial growth. It also helps the plant retain moisture.
There are around 40-50 different species of prayer plant. Prayer plants are part of the Maranta plant group which includes the four closely related plants, the calathea, ctenanthe, and stromanthe.
Maranta care is slightly more complicated than easier houseplants like pothos or dracaena.
Light - A prayer plant does well in medium to high light, but no direct sun. When there is not enough light, the leaves of a prayer plant close at night and do not fully open during the day. When a prayer plant gets too much light or any direct sun, the color in the leaves starts to fade.
Temperature - Prayer plants, due to their tropical origins, don’t like to be kept in extremely cold or extremely hot temperatures. They thrive when temperatures are around 65-75 °F. Colder temperatures (particularly those dipping below 50 °F) can stunt the plant and cause the leaves to shrivel up and turn brown.
Generally, a room’s ambient temperature is perfect for a prayer plant. You don’t want your prayer plant to be too cold or too hot. When your room is too hot (above 80 °F), your prayer plant will produce few leaves but instead shoot out long, spindly stems. This growth is a response to a lack of moisture in the air, which is common when temperatures rise too high.
As a result, you should avoid placing your prayer plant near a heating or cooling vent. While these can provide necessary ventilation for your prayer plant, they can also dry it out. Drafts and temperature fluctuations can kill your plant, causing its leaves to turn yellow and die back.
Water - Make sure you water well enough so that your soil does not become dried out, but not so often that it becomes soggy. When you touch the soil of your prayer plant, it should be slightly damp to the touch. Use room temperature water to hydrate your plant, allowing the plant time to adjust to the water. Water that is too cold will chill the roots of your plant and cause stress, which can shock its system and result in leaf-dropping behavior.
Try to water the plant in the morning. Watering in the morning will give your plant an entire day to absorb the moisture, and will allow excess water on the leaves to evaporate.
If you notice that your plant has begun to develop dark spots on its leaves, cut off the damaged leaves at the base and throw them away. This is a symptom of leaf spot, caused by fungal growth as a result of nighttime watering.
Humidity - A prayer plant needs a very humid environment on the plant may lose leaves, get brown leaf tips, or have stunted growth. The humidity in ours homes is often too low. You can 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.
Misting is NOT an option for your prayer plant as wet leaves will lead for fungal issues. Installing a humidifier can help increase the humidity when the winter air dries out the indoor environment, or when temperatures rise above 65 degrees in the summer. If a humidifier is not an option, you can also place your prayer plant in the bathroom. The steam from the shower and bath will help add humidity to the air. However, if your bathroom is devoid of windows or other bright, natural (but indirect!) light, it may not be the best choice.
Soil - Prayer plants grow more quickly in a well-aerated, peat based, indoor potting soil that retains water yet still drains quickly.
What’s more important than soil for your prayer plant is ensuring that it has optimal drainage. Prayer plants have exceptionally fine roots that grow in a shallow (yet dense) spread. They are susceptible to root rot, so you need to make sure the planting medium and container are both well-draining.
Fertilizer - Since a prayer plant is an acid loving houseplant, fertilize a prayer plant with a food like Miracid diluted to ½ the recommended strength every two weeks in the spring and summer. It’s not necessary to fertilize a prayer plant in the winter and fall. This acid loving plant will also love your extra tea. Prayer plants may develop yellow leaves when not getting enough iron. You can fix the problem by using a cheated iron product available where fertilizers are sold.
Re-pot - Prayer plants won’t need to be repotted often, but when they become root-bound, they will grow much more slowly. This will indicate that it is time to change containers. If you decide to repot your prayer plant, you should only do so in the spring or summer months. This will help prevent cold weather shock during the plant’s dormant period. When your container is full of roots, you will notice that your potting mix dries out quickly and your prayer plant grows slowly. Prayer plants have very shallow roots and should be planted in shallow pots with drip holes in the bottom.
Maintenance - Pruning a prayer plant consists of trimming the stems twice a year to keep the plant compact and bushy.
Pests - Prayer plants are prone to the same pests as other household plants. The most common ones are spider mites. These pests thrive in the plant’s bushy leaves, but luckily they hate excess humidity. Because prayer plants thrive when exposed to extra moisture in the air, keeping your humidity high is an easy way to help your plant thrive and keep pests at bay.
The high humidity a prayer plant needs encourages fungal diseases. Provide good air circulation around a prayer plant and keep the leaves dry to prevent diseases.
Leaf spot, also known as helminthosporium leaf spot, is one of the most common diseases to afflict prayer plants. This disease can be deadly if not treated quickly. It is caused by overwatering and can be slowed by adjusting your rate of watering.
You’ll know your plant has leaf spot if you notice that water-soaked spots are appearing all over your plant’s leaves. These yellow spots spread quickly, eventually looking tan in appearance. They may also have small yellow halos.
Unfortunately, leaf spot can be difficult to reverse once set in. That being said, maintaining a regular, even watering schedule can help prevent this disease in the first place. It is common in plants that are overwatered, or in those whose leaves are frequently covered in standing water.
Yellowing leaves are also common in prayer plants, typically caused by environmental stress, fungal disease, or viruses. Often, yellowing leaves are caused by something that can be easily adjusted, like the location of the plant or the type of fertilizer you are using. Other times, however, you may need to implement a more targeted approach.
More often than not, yellow leaves are a sign that your plant is being exposed to too much bright light. Move your plant to a new location, or install a sun screen to help filter the light. Excessive amounts of phosphate or fluoride, sometimes found in tap water, can also burn the tips of your leaves. Using filtered water or allowing your tap water to sit before using can help reduce this effect.
Chlorosis is another cause of yellowing foliage and is more common in younger leaves. This disease is essentially an iron deficiency, and it can cause death if not treated correctly.
Propagation - Cuttings should be taken just beneath the nodes that are closest to the bottom of the stem and then placed in a mixture of peat and perlite. Make sure the cuttings are kept adequately moist after transplanting. Put them in a sunny location, and cover them with plastic to help retain moisture. Once they are set in place, you should poke a few holes in the plastic cover. This will help allow air in while also promoting fresh growth.
If a piece of your prayer plant breaks off, you can dip it into rooting hormone and place it in distilled water. Change the water every other day, watching for signs of growth. Once your roots have grown to about an inch in length, you can take the plant out to place it in soil. Be careful to make sure there is at least some piece of stem on the leaves, or the plant will not take root. You can also place the pieces in soil directly, although the success rate may not be as high.
Potential Problems - Leaves that have turned brown or are curling up may indicate that your plant is receiving too much light. Try moving your plant to a new location. However, browned leaves can also be caused by chlorine in tap water. Use filtered water or allow tap water to sit for twenty-four hours before using.
Special Notes - A prayer plant is a non-poisonous plant safe to have around cats, dogs, and small children.