Botanical name: Maranta leuconeura
Maranta are low growing houseplants with long leaves known for their curious habit of folding and raising at night. They rarely exceed the height of 8 in. The leaves are about 6 in. long. Their common name (prayer plant) comes from their curious habit of folding and raising their leaves at night. With their uniquely colored and patterned leaves, they make excellent houseplants. Marantas are moderately easy to maintain; they require partial shade, moist soil at all times and regular moisting of the leaves. Due to their sensitivity to changes in growing conditions, growing them in the terrarium is a good choice. Many varieties and cultivars of Maranta are available. Some of the common ones include Maranta tricolor commonly called Herringbone Plant whose leaves bear prominent red veins. Maranta leuconeura kerchoveana commonly called Rabbit's Tracks whose leaves bear brown blotches which turn green with age. Maranta leuconeura massangeana whose leaves are blackish green with silvery veins among others.
Maranta are closely related to the Calathea, Ctenanthe and Stromanthe. These groups of plants are sometimes commonly called Prayer Plants in reference to their curious characteristic of closing their leaves at night.
Prayer Plants prefer partial light as colors fade in bright light. Too little light will cause the leaves to close like they do at night. Keep them away from direct sunlight as it can lead to sunburn on leaves. Prayer Plants can also grow under flourescent light. Learn how to ensure your plant receives the correct light in this guide on understanding light for houseplants.
Watering Prayer Plants requires keeping the soil moist at all times during the growing season. Reduce watering in the cold season. Use tepid water that is free of chlorine and flourides as Prayer Plants are sensitive to chemicals dissolved in water. Avoid waterlogging as it can lead to root-rot. To prevent fungal infestation, avoid wetting the foliage during watering or water from the bottom. Learn more on how to water houseplants.
Prayer Plants prefer average warmth with a minimum of 150C. Protect these plants from cold draughts and sudden changes in temperature. Learn more on temperature for houseplants.
Prayer Plants require high humidity. To raise humidity, surround the pot with wet moss or place the pot on a wet pebble tray. Prayer Plants can also be grown in a terrarium as the humidity in a terrarium is quite high. Clean the leaves by damp-wiping with a soft cloth to keep them clean and neat.
Feed Prayer Plants with a water-soluble balanced fertilizer once monthly through out the growing season. Withhold feeding in the cold season as growth is minimal so feeding at this time can lead to fertilizer. Learn more on feeding houseplants.
Repot Prayer Plants every 2 years during the growing period. Use a pot with a drainage hole(s) and free-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. Do not allow the plants to sit in soggy soil as it can lead to root-rot. Divide the plant at the time of repotting and use the splits to propagate new plants.
Pruning Prayer Plants is easy as it involves removal of dead and yellow foliage to maintain the plant neat and attractive. Cut back the stems at the beginning of the growing season to rejuvenate growth. Learn more on how to prune houseplants.
Prayer Plants can be propagated at the beginning of the growing season by division or from stem-tip cuttings.
Propagation of Prayer Plants by division
Divide the Prayer Plants into several sections at repotting and pot up in individual pots. Cover the pots with clear polythene to create a greenhouse effect in order to maintain warm humid conditions which hasten establishment. Place in a warm shaded place until new growth emerges. Gradually remove the polythene over a period of two weeks to acclimatize the plants. Then move the set up to a cool shaded place and maintain the soil moist until the plants are well established.
Propagation of Prayer Plants from stem-tip cuttings in soil
Take a stem-tip cuttings from a healthy Prayer Plant by cutting the stem just below a leaf node. Dip the cut end in a rooting hormone, insert the cutting in moist rooting soil and place the set up in warm semi-shaded place. Maintain the soil moist through out until new growth emerges. Allow the new plants to be well established before transplanting.
Propagation of Prayer Plants from stem-tip cuttings in water
The stem-tip cutting can also be rooted in water. Take a stem-tip cuttings from a healthy Prayer Plant by cutting the stem just below a leaf node. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone and place the cutting in a glass jar of water. Change the water at least every three days. When the roots are about 2 in. long, gradually add soil into the water to acclimatize the roots to growing in soil. When the roots are about 4 in. long, the cutting can be potted. Keep the soil moist and mist the plant regularly until new growth emerges. Allow the new plants to be well established before transplanting.
The cause of leaf drop in Prayer Plants is that is too dry air. These plants are very sensitive to low air humidity and prefer high humidity in order to thrive. To raise humidity, surround the pot with damp moss or place it on a wet pebble tray. Prayer Plants can also be grown in a terrarium as the humidity in a terrarium is quite high.
The reasons for limp rotting stems in Prayer Plants are the air is too cool and the soil is too wet. At this point, the plant may be too far gone to be saved.
Direct sunlight on Prayer Plants is the cause of discolored and scorched leaves. Move the plant to a shaded spot or protect it from direct sunlight immediately to prevent its death.
Underwatering is the reason for this. Prayer Plants require that the soil be kept moist at all times during the growing season. Do not let the soil dry out slightly between waterings during the growth period. Learn more on how to water houseplants.
The cause of brown and dry tips and stunted growth in Prayer Plants is Red Spider Mites infestation due to the air being too dry. Remove dead growth, mist the leaves regularly or set the pot on a wet pebble tray to raise humidity.
Prayer Plants are prone to Leaf Spot Disease due to the humid conditions which they prefer.
Prayer Plants (Maranta leuconeura) are non-toxic to both humans and pets. They are safe to grow indoors. However, they should not be eaten.