How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Stromanthe Plants

If you love colorful and beautiful houseplants and don’t mind a challenge, stromanthe plants are stunning tropical plants that look gorgeous when properly cared for. In this article, houseplant enthusiast Melissa Strauss goes over the care and keeping of these lovely plants.

Variegated Stromanthe leaves featuring a striking blend of vibrant green, crisp white, and deep red shades.


Stromanthe plants are a popular houseplant and member of the Marantaceae family. Plants in this family are commonly referred to as prayer plants. These tropical, colorful beauties have gained quite a following as somewhat fussy but rewarding cultivars.

They have some specific needs that make them a challenge, particularly for novices. This isn’t likely the best choice if you’re just getting started. However, with some dedication and armed with knowledge, it is possible to keep them for many years. Let’s talk about stromanthe and how you can care for one of your own


A close-up of Stromanthe leaves showcasing vivid variegated patterns and textures.
The Stromanthe is an evergreen plant native to the Tropical Americas.
Plant Type Evergreen
Family Marantaceae
Genus Stromanthe
Species 20+
Native Area Tropical Americas
Exposure Bright, indirect light
Height up to 6’
Watering Requirements Moderate
Pests and Diseases Spider mites, aphids, mealybugs, root rot, fungal diseases
Maintenance Moderate
Soil Type Rich, well-drained
Soil pH 6.0-8.0


Lush Stromanthe plants thrive next to a majestic tree trunk; their green and white leaves create a striking contrast against the rough bark.
Stromanthe species derives its name from Greek roots.

There are several popular species, the discoveries of which took place throughout the past hundred years or so. The name Stromanthe comes from the Greek stroma, meaning bed, and anthos, which means flower. One cultivar, ‘Triostar’ stromanthe, is a winner of the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. 

Native Area

Stromanthe plants arranged in black plastic pots, encircling the base of a sturdy tree trunk.
They are native to Brazilian rainforests and other tropical regions of the Americas.

Stromanthe is primarily native to the rainforests of Brazil. However, they are also found in other tropical regions of the Americas. They thrive in the tropical understory, which grows on the floor of the rainforest in the shade of tree canopies. 


A close-up of Stromanthe plants featuring leaves in shades of green, white, and red.
Marantaceae family members raise their leaves at night and lower them during the day.

Stromanthe plants are upright tropical plants with long, narrow, pointed leaves. They are rhizomatic and terrestrial, preferring the cool, moist understory of the rainforest. There are several different species, with most characterized by their colorful variegation. 

The leaves grow from a basal clump with a branching habit. They are distant relatives of ginger. They are part of the Marantaceae family, which we know as prayer plants and arrowroot. They have a unique habit of raising their leaves at night and lowering them during the day. This gives the appearance of praying hands when the leaves are raised. 


Stromanthe plants gracefully cascading from a rustic wooden hanging pot, set against a textured wood wall.
Stromanthe thrives outdoors in warm climates like Zones 10-12.

In very warm climates, stromanthe can live outdoors and are very beautiful landscape elements. Most people keep them as houseplants, though, because they are not frost-tolerant.

In Zones 10 through 12, stromanthe will act as an evergreen outdoors, sometimes reaching up to six feet tall. In Zone 9, it will grow outdoors as an annual, remaining root-hardy. Elsewhere, it needs to live indoors.

Where to Buy

Stromanthe triostar plants await purchase in a shaded nursery.
The plants are commonly found in stores and online.

You’re likely to find them any place that carries exotic houseplants. While some varieties are rare, some are very common and popular. You may even find the more common types in the grocery store from time to time.

You will typically find the rarer varieties online. I find the internet to be a great place to find rarer varieties such as this one.  The ‘Triostar’ variety is very popular for its white, green, and pink variegation. 


A close-up of variegated Stromanthe plant against dark soil, showcasing its intricate patterns.
Select a ceramic pot with good drainage for repotting your new moisture-loving plant.

Repot your plant as soon as possible after purchasing. The nursery soil may prove to be too dense for this moisture lover. While you can use a terracotta pot, it may make it difficult to keep the soil moist enough. A ceramic pot with proper drainage is best. 

How to Grow

Stromanthe can be a bit fussy. I don’t know that I would call them high maintenance, but they are moderate maintenance plants for certain. Striking the right balance of water, light, and humidity is very important. 


Vibrant red ceramic pot holds a lush Stromanthe plant; its leaves showcasing intricate patterns, under a warm sunlight.
Provide a location with bright, indirect light.

Provide a spot with bright but indirect light for most of the day. Like other prayer plants, they may seem to like direct sunlight for a period. However, if you leave them in direct sunlight for very long, the leaves will burn and become faded. Indirect or filtered light will keep the leaves vivid and perky. 

A window with privacy glass or a sheer curtain is an ideal spot. An hour or two of direct sunlight early in the day won’t hurt, either. Just make sure that it isn’t exposed to direct sunlight for long and particularly not in the afternoon. 


A close shot of a tricolor stromanthe in a white container is planted in moist soil. The container sits on hexagonal cobblestone outdoors.
Prevent brown leaf tips by using distilled water.

Stromanthe likes moisture but not soggy soil. Drainage is important for this reason. If your container has proper drainage and your soil is right, you should water about once every week and a half. It can be sensitive to the minerals in tap water. So, depending on your specific water, it might be better to use distilled water. 

If the ends of the leaves start to look brown, tap water could be the culprit. Try watering with distilled water for a month or so and see if that helps. A lack of humidity can cause this issue, too. 


A gardener repotting a variegated Stromanthe plant into a blue pot, with dark soil scattered on the table surface.
Repot promptly into nutrient-rich soil with added compost.

Because it likes to stay moist but not wet, well-draining soil that holds some moisture is best. If you’re concerned that regular potting soil will hold onto too much moisture, add some perlite. This will keep the soil aerated and fluffy, allowing water to pass through. 

Because of that affinity for moisture, many nurseries will pot them up in dense soil that stays too wet. It’s best to repot it as soon as you can. The soil should be nutrient-rich, so mixing in some compost is also a good idea

Temperature and Humidity

Lush Stromanthe plants showing green, white, and red leaves with intricate patterns.
Stromanthe prefers humidity levels of 60-80% to thrive.

Keep the temperature steady. They prefer a stable temperature between 65-75°F (18-24°C), which makes them excellent houseplants. Keep them away from drafty spaces where the temperature can drop below 60°F (16°C). Be aware of this in the winter, when the space around windows can get rather chilly. Sudden drops in temperature can cause your plant to drop leaves. 

These are humidity-lovers, which can be an issue in some homes. In the winter, this plant may need some extra care, as running a heater can dry out the air in the home. This plant will thrive best at 60-80% humidity, which can be difficult to achieve without damaging other objects in the home. 

Stromanthe will be very happy in the bathroom, as the humidity is typically higher here. In your other living spaces, give it extra humidity by misting or using a humidifier or a pebble tray


Stromanthe plants thrive in nutrient-rich dark soil, displaying natural patterns and textures.
Regular application of seaweed fertilizer every month or two enhances growth.

Stromanthe is a hungry plant that likes regular fertilizing. I like to use a fertilizer made for tropical plants on cultivars in this family. Fertilize once a month with a balanced fertilizer at regular strength or every two weeks with a diluted formula. A bit of seaweed fertilizer every month or two will give your stromanthe an extra boost.  


A person in blue gloves carefully cleans the leaves of a Stromanthe plant.
Prune in spring during active growth to maintain bushiness.

Pruning is good for several reasons. First, pruning can encourage blooming. This plant will flower, but it may need a trim to redirect energy away from the older foliage and toward the flowers. Pruning away dead or diseased growth will also give your plant renewed energy. 

Prune in the spring during an active growth phase. Avoid pruning during the winter when the during dormancy, as it will take longer for it to recover. Use sharp scissors and remove any damaged leaves and those with brown or yellowing edges. Keep your plant bushy by trimming leggy growth down to just above a node. Try to avoid trimming more than one third of the plant at a time.

Turn the pot once a week so that a different side of the plant is facing the light. This will help to keep it from growing more on one side or in one direction. It will create a fuller, more balanced, and attractive plant and a stronger root system. 

Growing Outdoors

A close-up of a Stromanthe plant showcasing its vibrant variegated leaves, illuminated by sunlight.
Amend poor or sandy soil with compost for optimal growth.

If you live in a warm climate, you can grow this plant outdoors. It makes a great container specimen but will grow well in the ground with proper care. Don’t place it in direct sunlight, as it will burn to a crisp. Make sure it gets bright but indirect sunlight. Some shade in the afternoon is good, but the more light your plant gets, the brighter the colors will be. 

Keep it well watered, as it is not drought tolerant. If your soil is poor or very sandy, amend it with some well-rotted compost and add some fertilizer at the time of planting. 


You can propagate from cuttings or by division. It is not difficult to propagate, and it’s a really fun to share with friends. 


Blood red stromanthe in a terracotta colored plastic pot sits in a white room in bright, indirect light.
Place new plants in a bright, indirect light location.

Divide in the spring as it enters its growth phase. This will give your divisions plenty of time to become strong and independent. Remove the plant from its container and use a clean, sharp knife to separate a clump with some roots attached. The sections should come loose easily. 

Trim the roots to a manageable size and repot your new divisions in well-draining potting soil. Set your new plants in a brightly lit area, out of direct sunlight. Keep them consistently moist, especially during this early period, so that they will root properly. 


A white ceramic pot with a Stromanthe plant, featuring striking variegated leaves in shades of green, pink, and cream.
Propagate a cutting by placing the stem in water immediately.

Propagation from cuttings is equally simple and effective. This beautiful plant is easy to multiply! Select a stem with more than one leaf and no damage. Make sure the stem is a healthy one. Use sharp, clean scissors to cut the stem just below a node. Then, cut off the lowest leaf or two, depending on how long the stem is. Make sure to leave at least one leaf intact.

Immediately set the stem in clean water. Don’t allow it to dry as you would with a succulent. Keep your cutting in a warm spot with plenty of indirect light, and watch the roots grow. It will take about two to three weeks to have sufficient growth. Then, plant your cutting in soil and keep it lightly moist, babying it until you see new growth


A ‘Triostar’ Stromanthe plant showing green, white, and purple leaves with distinct patterns.
This is a popular houseplant known for its striking variegated leaves.
botanical-name botanical name Stromanthe sanguinea ‘Tricolor’
sun-requirements sun requirements Bright, indirect light
height height 2’-5’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9-11

‘Triostar’ is likely the most popular variety. You will find this more often and easily than other types, and it’s not hard to see why. This is one of the loveliest houseplants around. The shoots are pale pink with pale undertones.

This pink deepens and covers the underside of the leaves. The tops of leaves have variegation in deep green, cream, and pale pink, where the underneath shows through. 


A ‘Charlie’ Stromanthe plant in a brown ceramic pot, displaying leaves with alternating shades of green and cream.
‘Charlie’, from Brazil, features subtle variegation.
botanical-name botanical name Stromanthe stromanthioides ‘Charlie’
sun-requirements sun requirements Bright, indirect light
height height 2’-3’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9-10

‘Charlie’ is a beautiful green and white variegated variety. A native to Brazil, the variegation is more subtle. It’s less eye-catching, but when it blooms, it’s gorgeous. Flower stalks hold tangerine orange calyxes, which open to small white flowers. Different plants display different concentrations of variegation, so two plants can look quite different. 

Magic Star

A close-up of a ‘Magic Star’ Stromanthe plant featuring deep green leaves adorned with intricate white patterns.
‘Magic Star’ features narrow, dark green leaves with light green ribs and white markings.
botanical-name botanical name Stromanthe thalia ‘Magic Star’
sun-requirements sun requirements Bright, indirect light
height height 2’-4’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 10-12

‘Magic Star’ has a unique appearance that might remind you of a calathea. The leaves are narrow and very dark green with light green ribs and scant but distinctive white markings. The stems and underside of the leaves are deep burgundy, creating plenty of dark drama

Common Problems

Stromanthe plants are not low maintenance, they certainly have a learning curve when it comes to their care. This is not a great beginner plant for that reason

Brown Edges on Leaves

A close-up of variegated Stromanthe leaves displaying intricate patterns and slight browning along the edges.
Excessive fertilizer application could potentially lead to brown edges on leaves.

As I mentioned earlier, this plant can be rather sensitive to minerals in tap water. Salts, chlorine, fluoride, and other minerals can build up and burn the edges of the leaves. This usually shows first in the tips of leaves. 

If you see this happening, switch to filtered, distilled, or rainwater for a period to see if the plant recovers. Too much fertilizer would also be the culprit, but it is less likely. Make sure the humidity level is also sufficient. 


A close-up of a brown Stromanthe leaf covered in spider mites and intricate webs.
Combat pests by rinsing them with water to reduce numbers.

As most houseplants are, this one can be attractive to certain pests that will suck the nutrients out of it and leave it looking unhappy. You may see actual signs of insects munching on leaves, but more often, you will notice leaves looking pale and the whole plant looking sad. 

As the insects drain the nutrients, it is likely to stop producing new leaves and might look unhealthy in general. The most likely culprits are spider mites, aphids, or mealybugs. To treat for these, spray the plants off with water to knock down the population, and then treat them with neem oil. For mealybugs, I leave an infested plant outdoors for a day or two, as they have many natural predators. If they don’t take care of them, rub them off with a cotton swab soaked in 70% or less rubbing alcohol.


Browning leaves of a Stromanthe plant, showing discoloration and dry edges caused by disease.
Ensure tropical plants have good air circulation to prevent fungal diseases.

With their higher moisture needs comes a higher risk for fungal diseases like root rot, powdery mildew, and leaf spot. It’s important to maintain air circulation around tropical plants to avoid these problems. Proper drainage and watering habits will also help to stave off fungal infections.

Final Thoughts

It’s not the easiest plant to care for. Stromanthe is ideal for the intermediate or expert houseplant gardener. If you have the time and dedication, though, it is striking and eye-catching. It’s a great plant to share, as it is easy to propagate, and when it’s very happy, it will even bloom indoors!

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