How to Propagate Prayer Plants in 2 Easy Steps
Prayer Plants can be propagated from cuttings or by division, depending on the size of the plant and how many new plants you want to grow. Follow these simple steps to get it right.
Prayer plants (Maranta leuconeura) are a crowd-favorite, gaining popularity in recent years for their artistically painted leaves and interesting patterns. The shapes of the leaves are also quite interesting, especially when they move between day and night in ‘prayer.’
There are two easy ways to propagate these wonderful plants, allowing you to dot them around your home or share them with fellow plant lovers. You don’t need any specialized tools or knowledge to get started. Simply follow these easy steps, and double your stock in one afternoon!
About Prayer Plants
As with many common names, ‘prayer plant’ can mean different things, depending on who you ask. To get any confusion out of the way, we’re referring to Maranta leuconeura here and not any Calatheas with the same common name.
This interesting common name comes from the movement of the leaves throughout the day. They lie relatively flat when the sun is up, but move quite noticeably and close up at night, almost as if in prayer – hence the name.
The movement is known as nyctinasty and makes for a wonderful indoor display, especially for guests who may not have seen leaves move with a life of their own before.
The leaves of Maranta leuconeura are incredibly distinctive. They look almost artificial, with colorful stripes and patches of light green in the center that look too perfect to be real. Different varieties also feature slightly different colors and patterns, such as the red prayer plant with memorable pink pinstripes.
This, combined with their interesting movement, has made these plants essential additions to modern houseplant collections.
In the right conditions, these members of the Marantaceae family can also produce small white flowers. They don’t often flower when grown as houseplants, but the main attraction is the leaves.
Why Propagate Prayer Plants?
Considering their impressive aesthetic value and relative ease of care, it’s easy to see why prayer plants are so popular. Once you have one, you’ll likely want to grow even more to spread around your home or share with friends and family.
But they can be tough to find, depending on which variety you’re looking for. They often sell out, and the specialized cultivars are usually pricey, or at least costly enough to stop you from buying several at once. Luckily, you don’t need to spend any extra money if you can find just one.
As they grow relatively quickly, propagating during the growing season each year is almost always possible, allowing you to grow more of these sought-after plants continuously. I like to pop cuttings in vases while they develop roots to double as decorative features before potting them up.
When To Propagate Prayer Plants
Like most houseplants, the best time to propagate is from spring through to the end of summer. Warm temperatures encourage the quickest root growth, giving you time to transplant before any potential temperature drops that may slow growth over fall and winter.
However, this general window isn’t a strict rule. One of the best things about growing houseplants is that you can control the environment to get the plants to do what you want. To propagate over fall and winter, keep the pot or glass in the warmest room in the house, and you shouldn’t have any trouble propagating.
Wait to divide new seedlings until you’re ready to repot the plant. This lets you complete two tasks at once, giving you two full and lush sections to replant.
What Propagation Method Is Best?
You have two main options when propagating prayer plants – cuttings and division. Both are easy to complete and deliver reliable results. Base the method you choose on the size of your plant and how much effort you’re willing to put into the propagation process.
Division is the best route if you have a large plant and are happy with one or two additional plants. The plants will immediately look more mature than growing from cuttings, which is ideal for impatient gardeners that prefer not to wait around for cuttings to fill out in a container.
The established root system also means you can care for your new plants as normal after repotting without any specialized care or transplanting needed.
If you want to grow several prayer plants simultaneously, stem cuttings are better. You can remove several cuttings at once to increase your chances of success and grow far more plants year after year than if you waited to divide. As mentioned, they also look great in vases while they develop roots, allowing you to monitor their progress and enjoy the foliage simultaneously.
How To Propagate Prayer Plants From Cuttings
If you choose the cuttings route, you’ll need a sharp pair of shears. Clean them before you start to avoid transferring harmful bacteria, especially if you’ve recently pruned diseased plants. The other materials will depend on whether you’re propagating in water or soil, but you should have everything you need already if you’re a regular propagator and indoor gardener.
Choose A Stem
The right cutting starts with the right stem. It should have a couple of leaves and no signs of disease or damage. The healthier the stem, the higher your chances of quick rooting.
Then, you’ll need to identify the nodes along the stem before cutting. The nodes are the little bumps in the stem that contain tissues that allow the cutting to develop roots. If you cut in the wrong place without a node, your cutting will likely die off instead of rooting.
The nodes along a prayer plant can be identified by running your finger along the stem to feel for the bumps. You can also look for points where a single stem splits into multiple leaves. Including three or four leaves will help roots develop quicker, but even a stem with a single leaf can root under the right conditions.
Trim The Stem
Using your shears, cut the stem off just below the node you identified. I like to cut around half an inch to an inch below the node to prevent any potential node damage. Your cut should be clean to avoid damage to the parent plant and the base of your cutting.
If your plant is large enough, look for a couple of areas to cut. It’s helpful to choose stems on opposite sides of the plant to maintain the shape or cut off any overgrown areas to keep the original plant looking its best.
To encourage the cutting to produce roots, you can either pop it in a glass of water or plant it straight into the soil. I prefer water propagation to watch the progress of root growth. But planting straight in the soil does lead to stronger initial root growth and less chance of struggle when transplanting later.
Root In Water
All you need to root in water is a suitable glass and some tap, filtered, or rainwater. Tall glasses are usually required to stop the leaves from toppling the cutting out of the glass but experiment with what you have at home. I have a few small glass vases with narrow openings that work wonders – they keep the cutting inside the glass without the leaves dipping in.
Move the glass to a bright area with plenty of warmth but just out of the path of direct sun. If the leaves are exposed to intense direct sun for even a few hours, they may burn, impacting growth and your chances of successful rooting.
Continue to top up the water so the node is continuously submerged. If the water dries out, the cutting cannot develop roots. Change the water completely at least once weekly and clean the container to limit bacterial build-up.
Root In Soil
Rooting in soil requires a few more supplies. Start with a large container to bury the cutting and keep it anchored. You’ll also need to fill it with a light propagating mix that encourages root growth. I use a combination of equal parts coconut coir and perlite, but you can try several recipes online to work with what you have around the garden.
Fill the container with your propagating mixture and add water to moisten the soil. The excess should be able to drain freely from the bottom of the container to prevent rotting. Then, make a hole in the center of the pot with your finger and bury the cutting, leaving the leaves exposed. Press around the cutting gently to anchor it in place.
If you have several cuttings, you can plant them together around the edges of the same container. When transplanting, keep them together for a full plant or move them into individual containers to continue growing.
If you’ve gone the water propagation route, you will need to transplant into the soil eventually. You can leave them in water long-term, but this requires plenty of extra care and added nutrients in the water to keep the cutting alive.
Aim to transplant when the roots are around an inch or two long. This may take several weeks or a couple of months depending on conditions. When ready, transplant it into a container with a light and airy houseplant potting mix. Avoid standard potting or garden soil, as these are usually too dense for healthy houseplant growth.
You’ll also need to transplant when propagating in soil, moving the cuttings from a soilless mix to one with all the nutrients and textures required for long-term growth. You can usually wait a few months before transplanting, gently pulling on the cutting to test whether the roots have developed sufficiently.
After transplanting in either case, you can find the perfect bright and warm spot for your new plant and continue care as you do for the other members of your collection.
How To Propagate Prayer Plants By Division
Division is easy to complete when repotting, ideal for overgrown plants looking for extra space. If your prayer plant looks sparse with few leaves, the division will only make it look sparser. Choose this method if you’re happy to have two (or three) slightly smaller plants than your current one.
Remove The Plant From The Pot
Squeeze the sides of the container to loosen the roots, or run a knife around the edges of the pot. If the plant is quite overgrown or you haven’t watered in a while, it should easily slip out without trouble.
Turn the container on its side to gently pull the plant out. Avoid pulling from the stems to keep the leaves healthy and intact. Go slow, especially if any roots are hooked around the bottom of the pot. There is no rush when it comes to dividing, even if the plants can handle a bit of rough handling.
Tease The Roots
Next, gently tease the roots from the bottom, loosening any that have wrapped around each other and taken on the shape of the container. Remove some of the old soil simultaneously, making the roots more visible.
The more you tease the roots at this point, the easier the sections will be to identify and separate. Depending on your plant size, the process can take a while, but patience is key and leads to a far less stressful split during the next step.
Split The Plant
Identify sections where you can separate the plant while keeping a healthy number of roots with each section. I like to divide it in half to keep as many leaves with each section as possible, but you may be able to split the plant into three if it is large enough.
Continue to tease, shake and pull the roots apart until each section stands independently. Some smaller sections may fall off independently while you’re shaking the plant. Either pot these up into smaller containers or group them with the division they were a part of to keep the plant looking full.
Prepare as many containers as there are sections by filling them with a lightweight houseplant potting mix. Try to keep the texture of the new mix as close as possible to what the plants were in initially. This will keep the roots happy and limits potential issues with transplant shock.
Make a hole in the center of the pots and replant your divisions at the same level. Don’t bury too much of the stems, as they can rot if exposed to too much moisture. Press down around the base of the plant and water straight away to settle the roots.
When you’re finishing repotting, you can move one of the pots back to where it previously was and find new bright homes for the other plants. They may take a couple of weeks to become established, but you can care for them as you did the original plant, and you should eventually see new green growth to enjoy.
If you have a free afternoon and a lush plant you’d like to propagate, try both easy methods. You’ll have a home full of prayer plants in no time.