Basic Prayer Plant Care
Maranta plants get their nickname Prayer Plants from the unique way their leaves fold in the evenings which looks as if they are praying. Below you will find our complete Prayer Plant care guide with all the information you need to take care of your plant as well as deal with any issues you may run into.
Bright Indirect Light
I love the sunshine but too much direct light will damage my leaves.
I don’t like my soil to be too dry or too soggy. Little and often is what I’m after.
I thrive in humid environments so please mist my leaves every so often.
I need soil specifically for indoor plants as it retains the right amount of water.
About the Prayer Plant
Native to the tropical rainforests of Brazil, the Prayer Plant family is loved for their variegated leaves with intricate vein patterns. You can easily spot a Prayer Plant by its leaf undersides as shades of deep red are revealed when the plant’s leaves curl up at night, bringing a splash of colour to your home. This natural folding of the leaves is called nyctinasty. Not only do Prayer Plants curl their leaves when night falls, but they generally move around a lot during the day too. Prayer Plants naturally follow the source of sunlight and if you were to watch a timelapse of your plant, you’d be shocked at how much they move and dance around.
Prayer Plants are quite slow growers, which spread out rather than grow tall. You may only find that your Prayer Plant reaches only about 30cm in height, but they will become quite bushy as they mature outwards.
Don’t expect your Prayer Plant to produce an abundance of flowers in spring and summer as they only very rarely bloom when grown indoors. You may be lucky and see the occasional small white flower but this won’t be a regular occurrence, unfortunately.
There are several varieties of Prayer Plants that all look ever so slightly different. The most common is the tri-coloured Prayer Plant (M. leuconeura erythrophylla), also called the Herringbone plant which has red-veined leaves. You will also often see the Rabbit’s Foot Prayer Plant (M. leuconeura kerchoveana) which has more solid green leaves with darker green splashes. The third common variety is the Silver Band Prayer Plant (M. leuconeura massangeana) which has a dark green leaf background with a row of silver patches and white veins.
Prayer Plants prefer bright, indirect light
Although Prayer Plants can survive, and often thrive, in most light conditions, the ideal spot would be somewhere with bright but indirect sunlight. If your Prayer Plant gets too much bright indirect sunlight then the leaves can fade in colour and burn which shows up as brown or yellow burnt patches on the leaves. Unfortunately, this is irreversible so it’s important you make sure your Prayer Plant is away from direct sunlight in summer where the light is not only out for much longer each day, but the rays are stronger and more intense.
If your Prayer Plant is getting too little light, then the new leaves on your plant will start to lose their variegation and become a more solid green colour. If this happens, move your plant to a slightly sunnier spot in your home.
Prayer Plants need moist but not soggy potting mix
Watering your Prayer Plant is probably the most tricky part of caring for the plant as they need just the right balance to prevent their soil from drying out but not becoming soggy or waterlogged. We recommend buying a moisture meter to keep track of when your Prayer Plant needs a top-up.
We tend to go for a little and often approach when watering our Prayer Plants to ensure that the soil doesn’t dry out totally but it prevents any overwatering from occurring as root rot is the number 1 killer of Prayer Plants. It’s important that you use a tray or planter to capture any excess water which you should pour away 30 minutes after watering. This gives your plant enough time to soak up how much it needs. Make sure you use room temperature water as hot or cold water can shock or burn your plant which over time can cause real issues.
Top tip: when watering, water directly into the soil close to the base of the plant. Avoid getting the leaves wet when watering as they can begin to rot. Don’t worry about getting the leaves wet when misting as it won’t dampen the leaves enough to cause the leaves to rot but will hydrate the plant a little.
Use a well-draining potting mix for your Prayer Plant
Prayer Plants do best in a well-draining potting mix which includes perlite as this helps with not only drainage but aeration of the soil. Prayer Plants are very sensitive to overwatering so it’s important that your potting mix doesn’t stay too soggy.
To aid with drainage, you must have drainage holes at the bottom of the pot so excess water can run out. We also recommend putting a few small rocks at the bottom of the pot as these will prevent the drainage holes from being blocked by clumps of soil.
Prayer Plants need high humidity levels
As they are native to tropical rainforests, Prayer Plants like greenhouse conditions which include high humidity levels. If your home has quite dry air you need to increase the humidity in the room otherwise the leaves on your Prayer Plant will quickly dry out.
There are a few different methods you can use to increase the humidity for your Prayer Plant. Misting the leaves every few days using a spray bottle is super easy but does come with the slight risk of leaf rot if you mist your Prayer Plant’s leaves too much in colder months. You can also make your own pebble tray which allows water to evaporate around your plant. However, the most effective and reliable way to increase the humidity for your Prayer Plant is by using a humidifier. They create a stable humidity level in your home and some can even be set on a timer so you don’t need to worry about forgetting to turn them on.
Keep your Prayer Plant away from drafts
Prayer Plants don’t adapt so well to extreme temperatures so keep your plant away from drafty windows, AC vents or hotspots caused by radiators or cookers. Normal room temperature is the ideal environment for your Prayer Plant. If the temperatures are too low, your Prayer Plant will begin to lose leaves and if it gets too hot for your plant you won’t see many new leaves but instead, you’ll notice long spindly stems.
Use a water-soluble fertiliser
Prayer Plants are quite slow growers so the best way to enhance growth is by fertilising your plant. You only want to fertilise during the growth months as Prayer Plants go into a dormant period.
We recommend feeding your Prayer Plant once every few weeks during spring and summer using a water-soluble fertiliser. We tend to use less than the recommended amount as what it says on the bottle won’t be accurate for every single plant! Too much fertiliser can burn through your plant’s roots which can cause brown leaves and plant death.
Propagating your Prayer Plant is super simple
Propagating your Prayer Plant is really easy and can be done through two main methods; division and stem cuttings. The method that you choose depends on how mature your plant is as well as your personal choice.
When using the division method, carefully separate your mother Prayer Plant, ensuring a good amount of roots remain on both parts and plant straight into well-draining potting soil. How much you divide your plant depends on how mature your plant is and how many natural divisions there are in your plant.
You can also propagate your Prayer Plant through stem cuttings by taking a cutting below a leaf node and growing it in water. After several weeks you should start to see new roots growing from your cutting. Once these roots have matured a little you can plant them into well-draining soil and care for it as you would your mother plant. We recommend only taking stem cuttings in spring as it will take several months for roots to grow and doing the process in the warm sunny months gives your cuttings the best chance at success.
Watch out for pests on your Prayer Plant
Unfortunately, Prayer Plants are prone to pests such as spider mites and mealybugs. It’s important to keep a constant eye on your plant’s leaves to spot any early signs of pest as this will give you the best chance of spotting the issue early. Check the undersides of the leaves as that’s where the pests like to hang out. We also recommend giving any new plants the once over after buying them as this will help prevent bringing unwanted insects into your home.
The most common signs that your Prayer Plant is infested with pests are: white powder on the leaves, webbing across the leaves, brown dots on the plant or small holes in the leaves. Use a magnifying glass to spot any issues or even visible pests.
If you spot a pest infestation on your Prayer Plant, treat it with a natural insecticide. We have always found need oil to be really successful. Move your infected plant away from any other houseplants so that the pests cannot jump across the leaves and harm your other houseplants.
Only ever repot your Prayer Plant in Spring
Maranta Prayer Plants have very shallow roots as they grow outwards rather than upwards so you shouldn’t need to repot your plant very often. Once every couple of years or so will do. Repotting can cause your Prayer Plant to be a little shocked as moving home can be pretty stressful (plants are more similar to humans than you might think!).
When you do repot, choose a pot only a few cm bigger than the last or it can make the plant unstable and increase the risk of waterlogged soil. Due to their shallow roots, you should pick a pot that is wider than deep as this will help aid their spreading growth.
Prayer Plants are non-toxic to pets and humans
One great thing about Prayer Plants is that they are completely safe for dogs and cats. So you don’t need to worry about your pet coming into contact or digesting part of your Prayer Plant. However, it’s good to discourage your pets from eating any of the leaves on your Prayer Plant as some houseplants are extremely toxic!
Prayer Plants need good ventilation and airflow
Growing your Prayer Plants indoors means they don’t get any exposure to the outdoor elements. This definitely does have positives as there’s no risk of high winds breaking your plant and there are fewer pests to kill your plant. However, it does mean that your Prayer Plant may not get adequate airflow which leaves them much more susceptible to disease or other issues. Avoid placing your plant near any vents to achieve airflow but fans and open windows will give good ventilation and help your Prayer plant thrive.
Prune your Prayer Plant in spring
Throughout the colder darker months, your Prayer Plant will go into a dormant period where growth slows and becomes leggier. Pruning your plant in spring can encourage bushier growth and keep your plant looking healthier too! Using a clean pair of scissors (to avoid the risk of passing bacteria or pests onto your plant) and make a few cuts above the node on the stem. This will encourage new growth to form right under the cut.
If you spot a yellowing leaf on your Prayer Plant, you may be wondering if you should cut it off or wait for it to naturally fall off. Both options are fine but we tend to remove yellow leaves so your Prayer Plant doesn’t waste any unneeded energy trying to revive it. Once the leaf has turned yellow there is no going back so it’s best to remove it and it will help your plant look better too.
Prayer Plant FAQs
Quick and simple answers to the most common questions we see about the Prayer Plant .
How often should I water my Prayer Plant?
We tend to go for a little and often approach when watering our Prayer Plants to ensure that the soil doesn’t dry out totally but it prevents any overwatering from occurring that can quickly cause the roots to rot.
Are Prayer Plants fast-growing?
Whilst you shouldn’t expect new leaves to be constantly popping out, the Prayer Plant isn’t considered a really slow-growing houseplant.
Are Prayer Plants toxic?
One great thing about Prayer Plants is that they are completely safe for dogs and cats. So you don’t need to worry about your pet coming into contact or digesting part of your Prayer Plant.
Where are Prayer Plants native to?
Prayer Plants are native to the rainforests of Brazil.
How much sunlight do Prayer Plants need?
Ideally, you want to grow your Prayer Plant in an area with bright but indirect sunlight. If your plant is exposed to high levels of full sun (especially during summer) it can dry out, burn and discolour the leaves. When it comes to low light, they can sometimes adapt to this but it will cause the leaves to lose their pattern and turn a solid green colour.
Common Problems with your Prayer Plant
Here are some common issues that you might run into. It's important to diagnose any issues early to give your plant the best chance of bouncing back.
Why are my Prayer Plant's leaves curling?
Curling leaves on a Prayer Plant are most commonly caused by a lack of water or humidity. Make sure to take your plant out of its pot or use a moisture meter to check the moisture in the soil and adjust your watering accordingly. If the curling leaves are caused by a lack of moisture, they will soon recover and uncurl after watering again. If the soil is waterlogged and soggy replace it immediately to prevent further damage.
You can also increase the humidity for your Prayer Plant to stop the leaves from drying up and curling inwards. Prayer Plant leaves may also be curling due to temperatures being too low. Make sure your plant isn’t next to any drafty windows or doors as the cool air from outside may be shocking your plant, causing the leaves to curl.
Why does my Prayer Plant have brown leaves?
Brown leaves on a Prayer Plant are often caused by a lack of humidity or issues with sunlight. Prayer Plants are native to rainforests so are super sensitive to dry air. Misting or using a humidifier should prevent the problem from getting worse. Unfortunately, once the leaves have gone brown there is no going back from there.
If you’re still unsure about how to spot or fix the problem of brown leaves on your Prayer Plant, you can read more about it here.
Why are there yellow spots on my Prayer Plant's leaves?
If you notice yellow spots forming on your Prayer Plant’s leaves it is probably caused by bad water quality. Prayer Plants are quite sensitive to high levels of chemicals found in hard tap water. Leave out the water for around 24 hours so that the chlorine and fluoride evaporates. Alternatively, you can also use rainwater or distilled water to avoid this.
Why are the leaves on my Prayer Plant fading and losing their colour?
If you notice that your Prayer Plant’s leaves are discolouring, it will be caused by sunlight issues, either too much or too little. If the old leaves are fading they are being exposed to too much intense sunlight. However, if it’s the new leaves that are turning quite solid green and losing their variegation then it usually means your Prayer Plant needs more sunlight.
Why does my Prayer Plant have brown tips on its leaves?
Brown tips on a Prayer Plant is most commonly caused by dry air. If your room lacks humidity, it will cause the leaves to dry out, starting at the tips and edges. Increase the humidity by misting your plant every few days, using a pebble tray or investing in a humidifier to keep a nice stable humidity level for your Prayer Plant.
Why does my Prayer Plant have yellow leaves?
If the leaves on your Prayer Plant are turning a solid yellow colour then this indicates watering issues. It can be caused by both under and overwatering your Prayer Plant. They don’t like sitting in soggy soil but can develop yellow leaves quickly if the potting mix completely dries out.
Watering your Prayer Plant is a fine balance that is affected by a lot of factors such as the size of your plant as well as the environment its in. Schedules don’t really work so well for Prayer Plants so using a moisture meter is the best way to monitor how much you should water your plant.
If you have been underwatering your Prayer Plant, don’t overcompensate by giving your plant loads of water in one go. This will shock your plant and can damage the root system.
What’s causing the black leaves and stems on my Prayer Plant?
If your Maranta Prayer Plant has a blackened base, this is a sign that overwatering has cause the root system to rot. This will affect your plant from the roots upwards so will impact the lower section of the plant first.
Take your Prayer Plant out of its pot and replace the soil immediately if still soggy. Don’t let it naturally dry out as this will risk more damage. If there are no roots or lower part of the plant that is salvageable, we recommend propagating the stems to save your Prayer Plant.
Why is my Prayer Plant losing leaves?
If you notice that your Prayer Plant is losing leaves at a quicker rate than it is growing new ones then this may be caused by low temperatures. If the leaves feel quite dry before they fall off then it may also be caused by dry air and a lack of humidity. Move your Prayer Plant to a slightly warmer spot in your home and mist the leaves every few days.
However, if your Prayer Plant is losing a few leaves in autumn then it may be simply due to your plant going into the dormant period. It’s normal for Prayer Plants to stop all growth during autumn and winter and lose a lot of their leaves. It’s nothing to worry about and you simply need to give them a little bit more light and warm temperatures and they’ll regrow once spring is near!