Prayer Plant Care Guide: The Ultimate Guide to keeping your Maranta thriving!

Last Updated: October 16, 2023

Prayer Plant

Prayer Plant


Native to the tropical Americas, this plant is famed for its strikingly patterned leaves and unique daily movements. Although they’re tropical plants, Prayer Plants can thrive in your home regardless of where you live. This guide is designed to help you navigate the nuances of Prayer Plant care to ensure that your plant stays happy and healthy.

Why is it called the Prayer Plant?

The name is derived from its unique nocturnal routine. As sunset approaches, you’ll observe the leaves of your Prayer Plant slowly rising until they’re virtually vertical. Come dawn, the leaves will settle back to a flat position, creating a rhythmic cycle reminiscent of prayer.

Overview of the Prayer Plant

Before diving into the specifics of Prayer Plant care, it’s helpful to understand the plant’s natural habitat and growth habits. Originating from the tropical rainforests of Central and South America, this plant is adapted to warm, humid environments with medium light levels. These conditions should be replicated as closely as possible in your home to ensure your Prayer Plant’s optimal growth.

Interestingly, Prayer Plants are not heavy feeders. They do, however, require consistent moisture and humidity. They are also sensitive to the quality of the water they receive, making them a somewhat challenging plant to care for.

Characteristics of the Prayer Plant

  • The Prayer Plant boasts vibrant, patterned foliage in shades of green, red, pink, and white.
  • It is a relatively small plant, typically growing to a height of about 30 centimetres.
  • Known for its ‘nyctinastic’ movements, the leaves fold together at night, resembling hands in prayer.

The Prayer Plant family consists of several wonderful varieties, each with their unique charm. Each type is characterised by its distinct, intriguing leaf patterns and colours. Here, we delve into some of the most popular Prayer Plant varieties.

Maranta Leuconeura

This is perhaps the most common variety. Maranta Leuconeura, also named Green Prayer Plant, has dark green leaves with feathered, light-coloured lines stemming from the leaf veins. When they fold up at night, they reveal their beautiful purple undersides.

Maranta Leuconeura ‘Kerchoveana’

The ‘Kerchoveana’, or Rabbits Tracks, is a variety known for its light green leaves with dark blotches arranged in a herringbone pattern. The underside of the leaf is a lovely purple shade, adding to its unique aesthetic appeal.

Maranta Leuconeura ‘Erythroneura’

Often referred to as Red Prayer Plant, ‘Erythroneura’ features strikingly beautiful dark green leaves with bright red veins. The intricate pattern and vibrant colours make this variety a fantastic addition to any plant collection.

Maranta Leuconeura ‘Lemon Lime’

The ‘Lemon Lime’ variety showcases light, lime-green leaves with dark green veining. When the sunlight hits, the leaves emit a stunning neon glow.

Prayer Plant

Prayer Plant

Light Requirements

Your Prayer Plant’s light requirements are vital for its healthy growth and longevity. It is a tropical plant that thrives in medium to bright, indirect light. However, be wary of direct sunlight as it can cause the leaves’ beautiful patterns to fade and even damage the plant.

Positioning: Place your Prayer Plant near a north or east-facing window. This will provide it with the consistent, indirect light it needs. A well-lit office or a room with filtered light is also a good location.

Direct Sunlight: Though your Prayer Plant enjoys bright conditions, it doesn’t mean it should be exposed to direct sunlight. Too much direct sunlight will bleach and burn its foliage. If you notice the leaves start to fade or look washed out, it may be getting too much sun.

Low light: While they can adapt and survive in lower light areas, this is not optimal. You will start to see slower or stunted growth and any new leaves may be smaller and less variegated as a result of low light levels.

Artificial Light: If natural sunlight is not available, artificial fluorescent light can be a good substitute. Keep the plant at a reasonable distance from the light source to prevent overheating.

Watering your Prayer Plant: When and How Much

Watering your Prayer Plant, involves a delicate balance that is often more difficult than with the majority of other houseplants as they are sensitive to their moisture level.

When to Water your Prayer Plant:

  • Generally, the best time to water your Prayer Plant is when the top inch (about 2.5 cm) of the soil is dry. This usually happens once a week, but it can vary based on the conditions in your home.
  • Be sure to check the soil often. If it’s dry and crumbly, it’s time to water. If it’s damp and clings to your finger, hold off on watering.
  • Prayer Plants prefer high humidity. If your home is particularly dry, you may need to water more frequently or consider using a pebble tray or a humidifier to increase humidity levels (more on that below).

How Much to Water:

  • Remember, your Prayer Plant prefers its soil to be on the damp side, but never waterlogged or soggy. Too much water can cause root rot, while too little can lead to browning leaves and a dried out plant.

When watering, aim to make the soil moist, not drenched. If water starts pooling on the surface or pouring out of the pot’s drainage holes, you’ve gone a bit too far.

Top tip: always use room-temperature water for your Prayer Plant. Cold or hot water can shock/burn the plant and lead to leaf and root damage.

Humidity Requirements

Prayer Plants thrive in environments with high humidity. Native to the tropical rainforests of Brazil, this plant is accustomed to a moist and humid climate. Therefore, maintaining the right level of humidity is crucial for its survival and growth.

Optimal Humidity Level

The ideal relative humidity for a Prayer Plant is between 50% and 60%. However, it can tolerate levels as low as 40% and as high as 80%. Below 40%, the plant may start showing signs of distress such as browning leaf tips and edges.

Method to Increase Humidity

  1. Misting: Spraying a fine mist of water onto the plant leaves increases the surrounding humidity. Be sure to use lukewarm water to avoid shocking the plant and mist preferably earlier in the day so the water droplets can evaporate off the leaves before it gets cooler at night.
  2. Humidifier: A more consistent method to increase humidity is using a humidifier. This device maintains a steady level of humidity in the surroundings without you having to lift a finger!
  3. Water Tray: Place a tray filled with water and pebbles beneath the plant pot. As the water evaporates, it increases the ambient humidity.

It’s important to note that overdoing humidity can lead to issues such as root rot and fungal diseases. Always observe your plant’s health and adjust the humidity levels accordingly.

Temperature Requirements

It’s not just high humidity that Prayer Plants need to thrive, but warm temperatures too. They are particularly sensitive to sudden changes in temperature as well, which can lead to wilting or even death of the plant. Therefore, maintaining the right temperature is crucial for them to survive and thrive.

Indoor Temperature

Prayer Plants prefer a consistent indoor temperature between 18-27°C (64-80°F). They can tolerate a minimum temperature of 15°C (59°F), but anything below might start to cause issues over time.

Temperature fluctuations, especially sudden drops, can cause the leaves of your Prayer Plant to curl and brown. To prevent this, avoid placing the plant near air vents, open windows or doors that may cause cold drafts.

Outdoor Temperature

If you’re planning to keep your Prayer Plant outdoors, ensure that the temperature stays above 15°C (59°F). Cold winds and frost are not friends of the Prayer Plant and can cause irreversible damage.

Monitoring and Adjusting Temperature

To ensure your plant is in the right spot, keep a thermometer nearby to monitor the temperature around your Prayer Plant. If it’s too cold, consider moving the plant to a warmer location, or use a plant heater. Conversely, if the temperature is too high, move the plant to a cooler spot, or use a fan to help reduce the temperature.

Remember, consistency is key when it comes to temperature. Changes should be gradual and within the plant’s preferred range to avoid causing stress or shock to your Prayer Plant.

Variegated Prayer Plant

Variegated Prayer Plant

Choosing the Right Soil for your Prayer Plant

Understanding the Soil Needs of a Prayer Plant

A Prayer Plant desires a rich, yet well-draining soil. This means the soil needs to retain some moisture without becoming waterlogged. As such, a peat-based potting mix, which is light and fluffs up nicely, is an excellent choice. It provides the necessary drainage and fosters a favourable environment for the root system.

The Right Ingredients

When searching for the ideal soil mix, consider blends containing peat moss and perlite. Peat moss is capable of retaining water and nutrients, while perlite ensures good aeration and drainage. This combination helps prevent the roots from sitting in water, which could lead to root rot – a common issue in Prayer Plants (and a lot of other houseplants too).

Creating Your Own Mix

A simple recipe involves a combination of peat moss, perlite, and coarse sand in a 2:1:1 ratio. This mix will provide your Prayer Plant with the right mix of drainage, nutrient retention, and aeration.

Note: Always ensure your soil is pH balanced, as Prayer Plants prefer slightly acidic to neutral soil, ranging from 6.0 to 7.0 on the pH scale.

Remember to Refresh

Regardless of your chosen soil, remember to refresh it at least once every year or two. Over time, any soil can become compacted and less effective at draining water. Additionally, nutrients are gradually used up and need to be replenished to maintain your plant’s health.

How, Why and When to Fertilize your Prayer Plant

The Importance of Fertilizing

Fertilizing your Prayer Plant not only helps it grow but also boosts its overall health. An adequately fertilized Prayer Plant will display vibrant foliage and may even produce beautiful, subtle flowers. Without proper nutrients, your plant may experience stunted growth and lackluster leaves.

Choosing the Right Fertilizer

Your Prayer Plant will benefit from a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer. A common choice is a 20-20-20 NPK blend, which contains equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These three elements are vital for the plant’s overall growth, leaf development, and disease resistance, respectively.

When and How to Fertilize

Prayer Plants typically need fertilizing every two weeks during the growing season, which is spring and summer. In autumn and winter, avoid fertilizing at all as the plant enters a dormant state. Always apply the fertilizer to damp soil to prevent root burn.

Remember: Over-fertilizing can be just as damaging as under-fertilizing. Always follow the dosage instructions on the fertilizer packaging.

Signs of Over-Fertilization

Over-fertilization can lead to salt build-up in the soil, causing leaf tips to turn yellow and curl. If you suspect over-fertilization, flush the soil thoroughly with water to remove excess nutrients and consider repotting in fresh soil if necessary.

Propagating a Prayer Plant


Prayer Plants propagate really successfully through stem cuttings. This involves cutting a segment of the stem below the leaf node, where the leaf meets the stem. It’s where the plant’s growth hormones are concentrated.


  1. Choose a healthy stem – Identify a stem section with at least two leaves. Ensure it’s healthy with no signs of disease or pest infestation.
  2. Make the cut – Using a clean, sharp pair of garden shears, make a cut below the leaf node. A 2-3 inch cutting works best.
  3. Prepare for rooting – Remove the lower leaf, leaving the node exposed. This is where the new roots will sprout from.
  4. Place in water – Place the cutting in a container filled with room-temperature water. Ensure the node is submerged but the remaining leaf stays dry.
  5. Wait and watch – Patiently wait for roots to develop. This usually takes 2-4 weeks. Refresh the water every few days to prevent bacterial growth.
  6. Transplant – Once the roots are about an inch long, transplant your new Prayer Plant into a pot with well-draining soil. Care for it as you would a mature plant.

Pruning your Prayer Plant

Pruning your Prayer Plant is a vital aspect of its care. This not only helps to maintain a neat appearance, but also ensures the health and vitality of the plant. Pruning is often forgotten (accidentally and on purpose) by plant parents as it can be quite daunting. However, below you’ll find all the details on why, how and when to prune your Prayer Plant.

Why is Pruning Necessary?

Pruning prevents the plant from becoming leggy and overgrown. It encourages bushier growth, making your Prayer Plant more aesthetically pleasing. Additionally, pruning allows you to remove any dead or dying leaves, reducing the risk of disease and pest infestation.

How to Prune

When it comes to pruning, remember that less is often more. The idea is to remove only the parts of the plant that are not contributing to its overall health or aesthetic appeal. Here are some steps to follow:

  1. Use a sharp, clean pair of scissors or gardening shears. The sharpness ensures a clean cut, which is less likely to result in damage or disease.
  2. Identify the leaves that are yellow, brown or otherwise unhealthy. These are the ones you want to remove.
  3. Make your cut at the base of the leaf stem, as close to the main stem as possible.

When to Prune

The best time to prune your Prayer Plant is in the early spring, just before the growing season starts. This gives the plant a chance to recover before it begins its period of active growth. However, if you notice any unhealthy leaves at other times of the year, do not hesitate to remove them.

Flowers on a Prayer Plant

The Prayer Plant is not only known for its fascinating leaf movements but also for its distinct, petite flowers. Flowering in a Prayer Plant is not a common occurrence, especially when it’s grown indoors. However, with the right conditions and care, your plant can reward you with these delightful blooms.

Appearance of the Flowers

The flowers of the Prayer Plant are small and delicate, often appearing in clusters. They range in colour from white to soft pink or lavender.

When Do Prayer Plants Flower?

Prayer Plants typically bloom during late spring or early summer. However, it’s important to note that they might not flower every year, especially if the plant is not receiving optimal care. It can be very unpredictable so don’t expect them to bloom on a schedule.

Encouraging Flowering

To encourage your Prayer Plant to flower, certain specific conditions need to be met. These include providing ample indirect light, maintaining high humidity, and using a balanced, water-soluble fertiliser.

Tips and Tricks for Cleaning a Prayer Plant

Keeping your Prayer Plant clean is not just about maintaining its aesthetic appeal, but also about ensuring its health and vitality. Regular cleaning helps to keep pests and diseases at bay, whilst also enabling the plant to efficiently photosynthesise. Here are some tips and tricks to help you keep your Prayer Plant in pristine condition.

Regular Dusting

The leaves of your Prayer Plant can easily collect dust. Not only does this make the leaves appear less vibrant, but it also obstructs the plant’s ability to photosynthesise properly as the thin layer of dust acts as a blocker to the sun. Dusting your Prayer Plant weekly with a soft, damp cloth can help to mitigate this issue.

Avoid Harsh Chemicals

When it comes to cleaning products for your Prayer Plant, less is more. Avoid using harsh chemicals or soaps as these can damage the delicate leaves. Instead, opt for using lukewarm water to gently clean the surfaces of the leaves. To remove tough dirt and grime, just use a drop or two of dish soap but nothing more.

Watch Out for Pests

Prayer Plants can occasionally become a target for pests such as spider mites or mealybugs. Regular cleaning can help to prevent these pests, but if you spot any, gently remove them with a soft, damp cloth or a mild insecticidal soap (more on this below).

Shower your Plant

Last but not least, giving your Prayer Plant a gentle shower can be highly beneficial. This not only cleans the plant but also increases the humidity around it, mimicking its natural rainforest habitat. Remember to use lukewarm water and let the plant drain thoroughly afterwards.

Prayer Plant Toxicity to Humans and Pets

Prayer Plants are non-toxic, making them a great addition to homes with pets and children.

It’s important to note, however, that while generally safe, some people or pets may have allergic reactions. Symptoms can include skin irritation or gastrointestinal upset if ingested. Always keep an eye on your furry friends and little ones around any houseplant.

Toxicity to Humans:

  • If you or a family member are handling the plant and experience skin irritation, discontinue handling immediately. If symptoms persist, seek medical advice.
  • While not harmful if ingested, it’s best to avoid eating the leaves of the Prayer Plant as they can cause minor stomach upset.

Toxicity to Pets:

  • Despite being non-toxic, the Prayer Plant can still cause mild irritation in pets if chewed or ingested in large quantities. This can result in symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhoea.
  • If you notice your pet showing signs of discomfort after interacting with the plant, it’s wise to contact your vet immediately.

Common Pests and Diseases

Your Prayer Plant, like all houseplants, may occasionally face the threat of pests and diseases. This section will guide you on how to identify common issues and tackle them effectively.

Spider Mites

Spider mites are tiny insects that suck the sap from the leaves, causing yellowing or browning. You may notice webbing on the undersides of the leaves. It’s recommended to isolate the affected plant as soon as you spot them (or signs of them) and treat with neem oil and an insecticide.


Mealybugs appear as small, white fuzzy spots on the leaves and stems. They too suck sap from the plant, leading to wilting and discolouration. Control measures include manual removal or using an insecticidal soap.

Fungal Diseases

Fungal diseases like root rot and leaf spot can impact your Prayer Plant. Overwatering is often the cause of these problems. Ensure your plant has a well-draining soil and doesn’t sit in water. Always check the soil if you start to see these issues arise and refresh with dry soil if waterlogged.

Bacterial Diseases

Bacterial diseases such as bacterial leaf spot and bacterial blight often show as dark, water-soaked spots on the leaves. If left untreated, these diseases can lead to leaf drop and plant death. Use a copper-based bactericide for treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Common Problems

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