How to Grow and Care for Prayer Plants (Maranta leuconeura)

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Maranta leuconeura, commonly called the prayer plant, praying plant or praying hands, is beloved for its unique geometrical and colourful leaves. Originating from Brazilian rainforests, this herbaceous and rhizomatous perennial is remarkably pretty!

These plants also carry a very special meaning. They symbolize devotion and gratitude while encouraging self-reflection and personal growth. Prayer plants are perfect for thoughtful, spiritual, and gracious people. 

Even though they are relatively low maintenance, they are a little bit harder to care for compared to beginner plants such as snake plants and pothos. Luckily, with the right growing and caring instructions, your Maranta leuconeura will grow into a lovely mature plant. Below is an in-depth guide on how to grow and care for prayer plants! 

History

These plants are native to the tropical rainforests of Brazil. In this natural habitat, they tend to grow low to the ground and spread far out onto the rainforest floor. In indoor settings, they absolutely love to live in humid, tropical feeling environments.

They are frequently referred to as prayer plants because of their moving leaves. During the evening, their leaves shift upwards and mimic what looks like hands resting in a prayer position. This is also where their symbolism for thankfulness stems from!

Plant Facts

Scientific nameMaranta leuconeura
Common namesPrayer plant, praying hands
GenusMaranta
FamilyMarantaceae
Height6-12 in.
Width6-12 in.
USDA Plant Hardiness Zone11 to 12 USDA
OriginSouth America, Central America
Flower colorsWhite
Blooming seasonLate spring and summer
FoliageOval leaves, green, red, colourful, evergreen, soft to dark hues, almost geometrical looking

How to Grow Prayer Plant

Praying hands flourish living in hanging baskets, on windowsills, or even outdoors in your garden if you live in a USDA hardiness zone of 11 or 12. They do the best when they are living in an environment similar to a rainforest or greenhouse.

How to Propagate Prayer Plants

If you’re looking to propagate your plant, you’ve come to the right place. Follow four easy steps and you’ll have an endless supply of these tropical plants! Keep in mind that the beginning of spring is the absolute best time to propagate.

Step One

The first thing you’re going to want to do is grab all of your supplies. You will need a pair of clean scissors, a glass mason jar (a cup or vase works too), water, and of course, your mature prayer plant!

Step Two

Once you have everything you need, grab your plant and look for a brown node on the stem you’re going to cut from. Carefully cut about two centimeters below this node.

Step Three

Now that you have your cutting, place it into your mason jar with water. Ideally, the water should be filtered so that the plant doesn’t get damaged by any unwanted chemicals. Make sure to change the water every three to five days.

Step Four

Place your new plant in an area with bright indirect sunlight and watch it grow! When its roots are about two inches long, pot in soil. This can take anywhere from two to four weeks.

Repotting

This species of houseplant should be repotted every two years. You will know it’s time to move your plant into a larger container when it has become root-bound. If roots are growing out of the bottom of the pot or growing above the soil, they have become too constricted and will have an extremely hard time growing any further. 

Just like propagation, it is best to repot during the beginning of the growing season! Follow these easy steps and your prayer plant will be happily living in a new container very soon.

Step One

The first step is making sure you have everything you need. The plant will require a new container (about one to two inches larger than its current one), fresh potting mix, and water. You may also need something to help scrape out the plant and a pair of scissors to cut any damaged roots. 

Step Two

Grab your prayer plant and gently take it out of its current pot. If it doesn’t seem to be budging, grab a knife and scrape along the edge. Avoid accidentally cutting any healthy roots.

Step Three

After the plant has been removed, inspect the roots for any damage. If you notice any soft spots or abnormally dark roots, carefully cut them off. This will prevent any disease or damage to spread in the new pot.

Step Four

Place your praying hands into its new container and pack it using fresh soil. They do exceptionally well in a mix of two parts sphagnum peat moss with one part sand and one part loam. Pack the soil tight enough so that it doesn’t have any air bubbles.

Step Five

Water and feed your plant right away ensuring that the plant doesn’t lose any nutrients or moisture. 

Great news, your plant has been successfully repotted! 

Care and Maintenance

Prayer plants require some attention when creating the perfect plant care and maintenance routine. Even though they don’t require too much time, they do need to be cared for correctly in order to grow. 

Following these simple prayer plant care tips will encourage your plant to grow into a healthy mature plant!

Soil

This species of plant prefers a well-draining traditional potting mix. A soil with a pH between 5.5 to 6.0 offers the right amount of acidity for these tropical plants. If you are looking for the best results possible, consider mixing two parts sphagnum peat moss with one part sand and one part loam. This is the perfect combination for these plants!

Water

These plants need to be given a generous amount of water every time their soil starts to dry out. In the summer months, water roughly once every 3-5 days, and in the winter, about every 1-2 weeks. 

The soil needs to be moist, but not soggy, at all times. Additionally, the prayer plant prefers filtered warm or room temperature water.

Fertilizer

A water-soluble fertilizer with a 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 ratio is best for Maranta leuconeura. The plant should be fertilized during the end of spring all the way throughout the summer and beginning of fall. Feed your plant in these growing months once every two weeks.

Pruning 

Occasional pruning will make your plant grow at a more rapid speed. It will also make your plant appear fuller! 

Simply grab a pair of sterilized scissors and trim one centimeter above the leaf node. Trim off any dead, damaged, or slow-growing stems. Prune once at the beginning of spring and once at the beginning of fall for the best results.

Sunlight

Maranta leuconeura needs enough light throughout the day in order for their leaves to fully open. Bright indirect sunlight is great for these plants, especially in the winter season. Prayer plants can live in darker areas without dying, but grow better with good sun exposure.

Make sure not to place your plant in the direct light or else its leaves may get sunburnt, damaged, and/or discoloured. 

Temperature and Humidity

To mimic their natural habitat, keep your prayer plant in a climate between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If it gets too cold, you may notice your plant start to shrink. Place your plant in a warmer area right away so that its roots don’t become permanently damaged. In the summer, keep your plant away from air vents and in the winter, keep it away from cold windows.

These plants absolutely love living in humid environments and their leaves perk up when they are frequently misted. Placing your prayer plant next to other plants, near a humidifier, and misting it often will ensure the surrounding air has high levels of humidity. You can even place your praying hands in a bathroom if there is enough light!

Pest and Diseases

Spider Mites

A common pest that infests Maranta leuconeura is spider mites. Thankfully, these pests hate humid climates so as long as your plant is living in high humidity, this shouldn’t become a problem. To further prevent a spider mite infestation, make sure the foliage doesn’t get dusty.

If you notice small black dots or white webbing, your plant has probably been infested. Don’t worry! Wipe your plant down with an organic pesticide and the mites will disappear. 

Fungus

Helminthosporium leaf spot is another common issue with prayer plants. Water-soaked spots on the foliage are a clear sign that your plant has been infected by this fungal disease. Use neem oil to kill off the infection and make sure you are not over-watering the plant. If the soil feels soggy, it may be best to repot with fresh soil.

Uses and Benefits of Prayer Plants

Prayer plants make a great addition to homes, public spaces, and offices because of their striking appearance. They are often used for their decorative and sculptural qualities. They can make any space look more lively, colourful, and bright!

Like many houseplants, Maranta leuconeura naturally filters indoor air pollutants. This can help relieve headaches and allergies. 

Lastly, prayer plants are a lovely gift symbolizing gratitude and thankfulness. 

Common Varieties and Cultivars

There are upwards of fifty varieties of prayer plants! Some of the most common include Maranta leuconeura ‘Erythroneura,’ Maranta leuconeura ‘Massangeana,’ and Maranta leuconeura “Kerchoveana.’

The ‘Erythroneura’ variety, otherwise known as the red prayer plant, can be recognized by its dark green leaves and red veins. This variety is perhaps the most popular and can likely be found at your local nursery!

The ‘Massangeana,’ or the black prayer plant, is more rare than the red and green prayer plant. It can be identified by its black, silver, blue, and purple foliage colouration. 

The ‘Kerchoveana’ variety, very commonly referred to as the green prayer plant, is another popular variety. This type can be differentiated from the other two because of their light green leaves with patches of dark emerald green.

Conclusion

Praying hands is a fantastic choice for an indoor plant. With their thoughtful meaning, vibrant foliage, and air purifying qualities, they can improve any space they live in. Whether you’re working in an office or wanting to liven up your home, Maranta leuconeura might be the right plant for you.

Follow this guide on how to grow and care for prayer plants and your plant may live up to forty to sixty years!

~ image source: depositphotos/firn