Prayer Plant Care – Growing The Maranta Plant

Prayer plants are some of the most beautiful houseplants you can find. They're great in hanging baskets as they spread low and wide.

Whether you're just starting out with houseplants or an an expert grower, the prayer plant is an excellent choice.

Prayer Plant Overview

Common Name(s)Prayer plant
Scientific NameMaranta leuconeura
FamilyMarantaceae
OriginCentral and south america, and the west indies
HeightUp to 3 feet
LightBright, indirect sun
WaterAverage
Temperature60-85°F
HumidityHigh
SoilWell drained
FertilizerAverage
PropagationStems or cutting
PestsSpider mites, mealy bugs, aphids

Maranta leuconeura has wide oval-shaped leaves that are dark green with white or light green running down the spine of the leaf. The veins that run up the leaves can be several shades of red, as are the undersides of the leaves.

The Prayer Plant gets it's name for it's unique habit of raising their leaves to an upright position at night time. The leaves fold together like hands during prayer!​

Types of Prayer Plant

There are around 40-50 different species of prayer plant, but the most common by far is Maranta leuconeura. Here are a few varieties of Maranta leuconeura:

Maranta leuconeura source

This is the classic Maranta leuconeura prayer plant variety.

Maranta leuconeura var. leuconeura

The black variety of this plant has a bluish-silver color on the leaves, with purple spots and a deep green leaf.

Maranta leuconeura 'Kim' source

'Kim' is a purple-spotted variety of prayer plant. Aside from the purple spots, the leaves have a cream-white streak for extra flair.

Maranta leuconeura 'Marisela' source

The leaves are a lighter shade of green, and the markings are an even lighter green — almost a cream-green color.

Maranta leuconeura var. erythroneura

Dark green leaves with purple-patterned markings. The veins are a deep blood-red color.

Prayer Plant Care

Maranta care is slightly more complicated than easier houseplants like pothos or dracaena.

Once you get the hang of it though, you should have no problem giving them what they need to thrive.​

Light

Direct sunlight can scorch the leaves of the prayer plant and can quickly kill the plant. It prefers bright but indirect sunlight and is generally tolerant of lower light areas.

Water

Prayer plants do not like to be dry. Keep the soil evenly moist all of the time, but never let it get soggy. When watering, use water that is at least at room temperature if not slightly warm.

In the winter months, reduce watering.​

Soil

A general purpose houseplant potting soil can be used, so long as it is well-draining. If you're using soil that doesn't drain well, add perlite or coarse sand to the mixture.

To mix your own soil for prayer plants, use:

  • 1 part perlite or coarse sand
  • 1 part garden soil
  • 1 part peat or humus
  • 1 pinch of lime dust

To improve drainage, add rocks or gravel to the bottom of your pot and be sure that the pot has a drainage hole.

Fertilizer

During the growing season (spring through fall), prayer plants should be fed every two weeks. Use a high quality water-soluble houseplant food.​

Repotting

You shouldn't need to re-pot your prayer plant often. However, when it becomes root-bound in its pot, it will grow much slower.

If you re-pot, choose a pot that is 1-2" wider than the existing pot. Simply remove it from the current pot and put it in the new pot with a bit of extra soil mix. Water well.​

Pruning​

If you want to encourage more vigorous growth, you can prune your prayer plant. Use a sterilized pair of garden scissors and clip the stems right above a leaf node.

The plant will respond by sending out new shoots directly below the cut area, making for a bushier appearance!

Propagation

Propagating prayer plants is surprisingly easy, given how finicky they can be to care for! 

All you need to do is make a stem cutting below a leaf node. Dip the cutting in a rooting hormone and place in a glass of water, making sure to change it every two days or so.

You can also insert the cutting directly into potting soil...just be sure to keep the soil moist and mist the plant from time to time.​

Problems

Growing Problems

If the tips of the leaves are turning brown or curling up, the plant is getting too much light. Another cause for brown tips can also be the chlorine found in tap water. Use filtered water or let water sit for 24 hours before watering the plant.​

Pests

Most of the common houseplant pests can infest prayer plants, but spider mites are the most common. The silver lining is that prayer plants like high humidity, while spider mites hate it! So as long as you're keeping humidity high, you shouldn't have many problems with them.

Diseases

If you notice water-soaked spots on your leaves, you are almost certainly dealing with helminthosporium leaf spot. This disease can decimate your prayer plant if not controlled. The easiest way to fix it is to stop over-watering the plant and avoid getting the leaves too wet. You can also use neem oil to kill an existing outbreak.

FAQs​

Goal: To answer common problems and questions about planting, caring for, harvesting, or storing this plant.​

Q. How do I keep the humidity high enough for my prayer plant to thrive?

A. A daily misting can help provide the plant with the humidity it needs that may not be present in your home. You can also set a container of water near the plant, the evaporating water will give the plant some added humidity.​

Q. The leaves of my prayer plant are curling even in the daytime...what's going on?

A. It's unhappy about something, likely too much light and a pot that is too big. Try re-potting in a smaller pot, increasing humidity, and decreasing the amount of light you are giving it.

Q. I'm having problems with the soil for my prayer plant. What should I change?

A. Prayer plants really love soil that drains well, so you should probably add some gravel, perlite, or coarse sand to it to improve drainage. Be sure you're not over-watering and that your post has a drainage hole as well.

Prayer plants or maranta plants are finicky houseplants that add a lot of beauty to your home. Learn how to properly care for this delicate plant in our guide.
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26 thoughts on “Prayer Plant Care – Growing The Maranta Plant

  1. Hi,

    I live in Northeast Ohio and I just potted three, small prayer plants into a shallow plastic pot. The location of the pot is an East facing window. Your article mentions that direct sunlight will scorch the leaves. This window does get some direct light, but it is morning sun. What is your opinion on the location?

    Thank you.

  2. Christine,

    I have my plant near a north facing window where it gets lots of indirect light and it is very happy. I would recommend keeping it out of direct light. If that window is the only spot you have for it, maybe put it on the ground near the window so that it isn’t in the direct light. I find these plants to be very hardy. 🙂 Enjoy it!

  3. Hi Rebecca,

    Thank you. Your advice is very appreciated! I was nervous putting the prayer plant where it is because the last 2 died. So far, it is doing very well, with no brown tips or wilting leaves. It is turning out to be hardy after all. Prayer plants are beautiful!

  4. I’m not real sure about the sunlight, I’d think that it would take prolonged periods of time to really hurt the plant. One of my neighbors actually had one planted in her yard in direct sun and it did fine. Maybe she was just lucky, not sure, but it was really pretty and looked great.

  5. I just put one outside of my house. I’m hoping it will grow out there. From the window in the house it wasn’t getting enough light and it was one-sided. It isn’t in direct sunlight and I’m hoping that it will grow full and not one-sided.

  6. Hanna,

    Your plant will grow evenly if you give it a quarter turn every time you water it (assuming that you water regularly and on roughly the same day each week). If you do that, all sides will get equal amounts of light. I have several plants that I need to rotate to maintain equal growth.

  7. I have had the same prayer plant for many years. Just this summer I have noticed brown spots on the leaves (not on the tips). Would too much light cause this too? Also, do you ever seperate prayer plants?

    I would appreciate any help.
    Thanks.

  8. ive had my prayer plant for bout 6months, it was all grownin relly well in my consereotory but i think i over watered it and now it wont dry out, my leaves are curled up, the tips are brown and are drooping and even the stems are drooping. I dont know what i should do with it now? any ideas?

  9. does anyone know where i could actually buy one of these plants ? ive been looking everywhere and i cant seem to find them

    many thanks
    anthony

  10. hi, my name is kevin. i am living in a nurse home, call saint france. address 417 indrustrail dr oberlin la 70655 ph 337 639 2934. i am asking plesae for a little help like a donation of a pray plant for me. this will be really niece to have one in my room. kevin gatte, i hope somebody out there can help me.

  11. Just received a prayer plant as a house warming gift, but after waiting for evening all day, it never closed or “prayed”… What happened? Do you think it’s because it has to adjust to it’s new enviroment? I also put it in my indoor glass “hot house” across from my window, in a bright room, out of direct sun light. Mine also is growing uneven, meaning one side is fuller/higher than the other side… Need a village to help me raise my prayer plant

  12. Im wanting to make another prayer plant and im not sure how to cut the leaves. I need a little better example. I think i understand how to do it just trying to make sure in a better way to cut it.

  13. Can you use a self watering pot for this plant? By self watering, I mean that there is water in The bottom of the pot and then the part that the plant is in sits in the water and is absorbed by the inner part of the pot. I use this type of pot for African violet plants and it works very well for them. Thx.

  14. I’ve had my plant for years maybe40 years. Each year it has make rizomes and comes up again. It also produces seeds. But this year when it is dying back it looks terminal. I don’t see any spures or spikes of a new plant coming up. Is it too old? or is it just slow. I think it may have been a bit too dry I am using VF 11 trying to revive it. What do you think is it just old?

    • You don’t need to trim them off – they aren’t really harming your plant. However, to prevent future browning, make sure to avoid uneven watering, dry air, and watering it with water that contains fluoride. Hope that helps!

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