Prayer Plant Care and Growing Guide

Prayer Plant Care & Growing Guide

Prayer Plants are fantastic beginner friendly house plants. Prayer plans are fast-growing, low maintenance, and kid and pet-friendly. Not to mention these plants looks really neat as well!

Unique to this plant is the pulvinus muscle under the leaf. This muscle stimulates nyctinastic movement, causing the leaves to change positions during the day and at night.

The upright position of the leaves at night look like praying hands which is why this plant is commonly referred to as the Prayer Plant.

Thankfully these neat plants are relatively hardy and will thrive when provided their ideal conditions.

Let’s cover the main conditions that affect a Prayer Plant in this Care and Growing Guide.

Prayer Plant Profile

Also called the Maranta leuconeura, the origins of the Prayer Plant are in South and Central America, particularly in Brazil.

The Prayer Plant received its name from an Italian botanist called Bartolomeo Maranta.

The Maranta leuconeura comes from the Marantaceae family.

The key characteristics of a Prayer Plant are:

  • Oval-shaped leaves
  • Colored blotches or veins
  • Striking vein patterns
  • Shading (light or dark)
  • Ability to curl its leaves at night
  • Can grow up to 15 inches tall in optimal conditions

People love Prayer Plants for their beautiful leaf structures and hardiness. The US Department of Agriculture categorizes this houseplant as hardy.

It is the perfect plant for novice gardeners because it is both low maintenance and hardy.

The beauty of the Prayer Plant is that it is ever-green and grows very wide. Its radiant leaves can stretch over 10 inches long in daylight. While at night, the leaves fold inwards, as if in prayer.

The colorful foliage makes this houseplant ideal for placing on shelves and mantles.

Another benefit of this houseplant is that it is a natural air purifier and filter. Nothing beats natural air purification.

Prayer Plant Species

There are about 50 species of Prayer Plants that you can choose from.

However, the following three are the most popular:

  • Green Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura Kerchoveana)

You’ll find this species in most homes. The contrast between the bright green spots on the leaves and the purple-colored veins is enthralling.

  • Red Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura Erythroneura)

Hues of red and dark green make an enchanting combination. The glossy dark green leaves contrast with a light green path along the spine and red-colored veins.

  • Black Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura var. Massangeana)

What is there to say about the olive-green and silver combination? The leaves have a dark olive-green color with gray-blue or silver markings.

How To Care For A Prayer Plant

Below are the watering, light, temperature, humidity, and soil preferences for Prayer Plants.

Water: How Often To Water Prayer Plants?

Prayer plants are native to tropical regions so they prefer to grow in moist but not wet or dry soil.

Typically Prayer Plants should be watered every 1 to 2 weeks. However, your prayer plant may need to be watered more often or less depending on how fast the soil dries out.

The best way to determine when to water a Prayer Plant is to feel the moisture in the soil.

When To Water A Prayer Plant

Follow these steps in order to determine when to water a Prayer Plant:

  1. Insert your index finger into the soil 1 to 2 inches deep
  2. Feel for moisture
  3. Water if the soil is dry
  4. Do not water if the soil is wet or moist

The best part of this method is you will notice that the soil dries out faster in summer than it does in winter. So this will change the watering frequency based on the Prayer Plant’s water needs.

This watering method will also prevent a beginner from overwatering the Prayer Plant which will cause health issues.

Overwatering A Prayer Plant

Overwatering makes the soil soggy and will lead to root rot. It also causes helimthosporium leaf spots, characterized by water spots all over the leaves.

Another sign of overwatering is drooping leaves on a Prayer Plant.

So make sure to feel the soil before watering the Prayer Plant otherwise too much water can become an issue with Prayer Plants.

Underwatering A Prayer Plant

Much like overwatering, underwatering a Prayer Plant will also cause issues.

Plants need water to survive so if the plant is not watered enough then the plant will eventually dry out and die.

Thankfully just feeling the soil for moisture is the easiest way to determine whether or not the plant needs to be watered.

If the soil is moist about 1 to 2 inches deep then do not water a Prayer Plant. Whereas if the soil is dry then the plant needs to be watered.

Make sure to water your plant more frequently during the spring and summer seasons and less during colder months when it becomes dormant.

Humidity: High Humidity For Prayer Plants

Prayer Plants prefer high humidity since humid conditions help the plant stay hydrated.

Low humidity levels will stress a Prayer Plant. The leaves of the Prayer Plant will become dehydrated and begin curling downward if kept in a dry area for too long.

See this article on how to fix curling leaves on a Prayer Plant.

Methods For Increasing Humidity For Prayer Plants

There are 3 common ways for increasing the humidity for a Prayer Plant:

  1. Periodically misting the leaves
  2. Placing the Prayer Plant on a Pebble Tray
  3. Using a Humidifier

Misting The Plant

Misting the plant is a great way to frequently check in and show your Prayer Plant some love.

Just fill a spray bottle with room temperature water and mist the Prayer Plant’s leaves. Spraying the plant a few times a week will increase the humidity for your Prayer Plant.

It’s also beneficial to occasionally spray the leaves and wipe them off in order to remove any dust that accumulates on the leaves.

If you’re a lazy gardener like me then check out the next 2 options for increasing the humidity for your Prayer Plant in an easier way.

Simple DIY Humidifier: Pebble Tray

Pebble trays are a simple and effective solution to providing more humidity to plants. A pebble tray is exactly what it sounds like – a tray full of pebbles.

Most house plants, including Prayer Plants, are tropical plants that can grow better in a humid environment.

Pebble Tray humidifier

In order to make a pebble tray:

  1. Select a shallow tray that is larger than the base of the plant’s pot
  2. Fill the tray with a single layer of pebbles
  3. Add water so it rises to about halfway up the rocks

That’s it! You have now created a simple but effective pebble tray for increasing humidity.

Next just place your plant on top of the pebbles and add water to your tray if it ever dries out.

Humidifier: Easy Way To Increase Room’s Humidity

One simple solution is to periodically mist your indoor houseplants to increase the humidity. However, this is manual and, personally, I’m too lazy to continually spray my plants every so often.

An easier solution is to place a humidifier in the room with all of your tropical plants. A humidifier will allow you to adjust the settings to provide the right amount of humidity year round.

Humidifier For Indoor Plants

I use this humidifier in my room and the water reservoir lasts for about 2 days before needing to be refilled. I highly recommend it for a low maintenance way of keeping the room humid for your houseplants.

Light: Bright Indirect Sunlight

Light influences the way the Prayer Plant folds and unfolds its leaves. This unfolding and folding is called photonasty.

Sunrise triggers the plant to unfold its leaves and expose them to sunlight for photosynthetic activity and energy production. Sunset or darkness triggers leaf folding.

Insufficient lighting hinders the plant from unfolding its leaves. In turn, Not enough light lowers photosynthetic activity and energy production.

Too much direct sunlight is also not ideal for Prayer Plants. Long-term exposure to the sun’s rays will burn and bleach the leaves.

The most suitable lighting for your Prayer Plant is a shaded area filled with bright indirect sunlight.

Avoid low light if you want the plant to thrive. Bright, indirect light causes your plants to grow taller and thicker.

If the perfect spot in your home is sitting in bright direct sunlight then a sheer curtain will help dampen the direct sunlight.

Hang A Sheer Curtain To Turn Direct Sunlight Into Bright Indirect Light

If the direct sunlight is too intense or is harming the prayer plant then you can hang a sheer curtain to dim the sunlight’s intensity. Sheer curtains are transparent curtains that allow in a fair amount of light while blocking direct sunlight.

Sheer curtains for indoor house plants

Most indoor houseplants thrive in indirect sunlight so this is a great option if you want to place other types of plants near the sunny south facing window.

Not to mention sheer curtains add a bit of privacy. Sheer curtains can be found on amazon in all colors and sizes.

Temperature: Warm and Tropical

Prayer Plants do not like extreme temperatures. In fact, the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map places the Prayer Plant between 11 and 12.

The ideal daytime temperature for a Prayer Plant is between 60°F and 85°F. At night, the temperature should not drop below 55°F.

Thankfully most homes have indoor temperatures anywhere from 60°F to 85°F so the Prayer Plant will thrive in most homes.

Soil: Light, Well Draining, and Nutritious

The best soil for Prayer Plants is acidic and well-draining. Creating a potting mix at home for Prayer Plants is easy.

Use the following ratios to create a nutritious soil that drains thoroughly:

  • 2 parts peat moss for water retention
  • 1 part sand or perlite for drainage
  • 1 part compost for nutrients

Prayer Plants have shallow roots so make sure to use a pot that is shallow and wide. A deep container is not necessary for a Prayer Plant.

Also make sure that the pot has drainage holes at the bottom to allow excess water to drain out.

The Prayer Plant’s shallow roots are susceptible to root rot so wet and poor draining soil can lead to root rot.

Fertilizing: Do Prayer Plant’s Need Fertilizer?

Fertilizing a Prayer Plant will help boost the plant’s growth during the spring and fall seasons.

A Prayer Plant that is not fertilized will grow just fine. However, the plant may grow slower compared to a Prayer Plant that is fertilized during its growing seasons.

Fertilizer Ratio For Prayer Plants

The best fertilizer for Prayer Plants have a ratio of (20-20-20) or (10-10-10) which are the balanced nutrient fertiliziers.

Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for mixing or diluting the fertilizer before applying it to the Prayer Plant.

Most fertilizers can be applied about once a month to a Prayer Plant.

Pest Infestation and Diseases

The most common pests that attack Prayer Plants are mealybugs and Spider Mites.

  • Mealybugs cover the leaves with a white, powdery substance that is sticky to the touch. The covering prevents the leaves from absorbing light.
  • Spider Mites leave a brown substance on the leaves. They detest humidity. So, the best Spider Mite control is to increase humidity.

Follow these steps in order to remove any pests attacking your Prayer Plant:

  1. Fill a spray bottle with warm water.
  2. Moisten a cloth with the water and wipe the leaves and stems.
  3. Wipe again with organic oils (such as Neem oil) to increase the plant’s tolerance to pests and fungal diseases.

*Neem oil is also great for reviving your dying Prayer Plant. Apply to the affected parts when repotting and watering the plant.

If you do not have neem oil then you can create your own homemade insecticidal spray that is both kid and pet safe. Spray directly onto the pests as needed until the pests have been fully removed.

Fungal Infections on Prayer Plants

The most common infection for your Prayer Plant is a fungal disease. When fungus attaches to your plant, the leaves develop yellow spots that turn a light brown over time.

Treat the fungal infection with homemade or store-bought general fungicide for houseplants.

  • General fungicide kills the fungus and prevents outbreaks.
  • You can make fungicide by mixing equal parts of baking soda and mineral oil in a bottle of water. Mix it thoroughly and spray on the infected parts. Spray daily until all spots disappear.

Propagating Prayer Plants

We recommend any of the four ways to propagate your Prayer Plant:

Propagating from Stem Cuttings in Soil

Stem cuttings are the most commonly used method for starting new Prayer Plants. Stem cuttings can be propagated in either soil or water.

Let’s cover how to propagate Prayer Plant stem cuttings in soil first:

  1. Cut a stem below the leaf node making sure there are 2-4 leaves on the stem
  2. Remove the bottom most leaves so the leaf nodes are bare (this is where new roots will grow from)
  3. Plant the cutting in a potting container full of soil
  4. Keep the soil moist while the cutting is growing
    • Pro Tip: Place a plastic bag over the pot so it creates a humidity dome for the cutting

After a few weeks the cuttings will be ready to be transplanted into larger pots.

A good test to see if the roots have grown in soil is to gently tug on a cutting. If you feel resistance then the roots have grown.

Propagating from Stem Cuttings in Water

Follow these steps in order to propagate Prayer Plant stem cuttings in water:

  1. Cut a stem below the leaf node making sure there are 2-4 leaves on the stem
  2. Remove the bottom most leaves so the leaf nodes are bare (this is where new roots will grow from)
  3. Place the cutting into a cup or jar of water
  4. Top off the water every few days to make sure the bottom of the cutting stays submerged in water

Roots will visibly develop after about 3 weeks to a month. The cutting can be repotted once the roots have grown to about 1 to 2 inches in length.

Slip Propagation

Slip propagation is where a portion of the plant including the roots are split from the mother plant. In effect, the mother plant is being broken into smaller plants.

Follow these steps for slip propagating a Prayer Plant:

  • Locate clumps of stems in your healthy Prayer Plant.
  • Remove the plant from its pot and brush off the soil. This should reveal the root system.
  • Locate clumps of the roots and the stems (the slips)
  • Cut or remove a clump of roots and stems (slips) from the mother plant
  • Place the new slips into smaller pots and repot the mother plant

Slip propagation is the fastest method for starting new Prayer Plants since the new plants already have a root system.

Common Problems: What Is Wrong With My Prayer Plant?

Q: Why do Prayer Plant’s leaves curl?

A: The most common reasons for Prayer Plant’s leaves to curl are too much direct sunlight, underwatering, extreme temperatures, and low humidity. See this article on how to fix curling leaves on a Prayer Plant.

Common Solutions:

  • For dry soil, soak the plant in a large sink or basin for 45 minutes.
  • Be consistent with your watering routine. We recommend installing a filtration system to filter out the chlorine, fluoride, and mineral salts that cause soil build-up.
  • Move the plant from a drafty corridor or area.
  • Keep away from the heating vent or air conditioner.
  • Increase the room’s humidity using a humidifier, regular misting, or a pebble tray.

Q: Why are the leaves turning brown?

A: Common reasons for Prayer Plant’s leaves to turn brown are too much direct sunlight, unfiltered water, uneven watering, fertilizer build-up, low humidity, and extreme temperatures cause leaf browning.

  • Too much direct sunlight bleaches the leaves and causes brown tips.

Solution: Move the plant to an area with bright but indirect light.

  • Excess chlorine in your tap water can also cause the leaves to turn brown.

Solution: Use filtered water

  • Neglect through under-watering or uneven watering will dry the soil and cause leaf browning.

Solution: Water your plant often (at least twice a week) and keep the soil moist, not soggy. If the leaves are brown on one side, your watering is uneven. Ensure you water the entire soil surface. You may have to turn the plant around to reach hidden soil surfaces.

  • Fertilizers can also cause mineral and salt build-up in the soil. These salts will dehydrate your Prayer Plant because they absorb moisture from the soil.

Solutions:

  • Dilute the fertilizer
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions
  • Leach the salts by drenching the soil with fresh water and draining it completely.
  • Low humidity from extreme heat or hot air can cause the leaves to turn brown

Solution: Increase humidity to 40%-60% through regular misting, a humidifier, or a pebble tray. Move the plant away from air conditioners or heating vents that lower humidity.

Q: Why are there yellow spots on the leaves?

A: Fungus and impure water will cause your Prayer Plant to develop spotty leaves.

Solutions:

  • Apply fungicide (homemade or general fungicide for houseplants) to the affected parts.
  • Filter the water through a filtration system. This will get rid of excess chlorine, fluoride, and other minerals in the water.

Q: Should I cut off brown leaves on my Prayer Plant?

A: In some cases, it is advisable to prune the brown leaves. It depends on how the leaves look.

If the leaf surface is damaged beyond reversal then it is ok to cut the damaged parts.

Q: How do I trim dead leaves on a Prayer Plant?

A: Trim dead leaves using a pair of sterilized pruning shears or garden scissors. Clip and cut from the stems or base of the leaf.

Q: Why won’t my Prayer Plant open?

A: The leaves will not open because your Prayer Plant is starved of light. Insufficient light will cause the leaves to clam up and remain closed. Place the prayer plant in an area that receives more light and the leaves will unfold.

Q: Why is my Prayer Plant not praying?

A: Your Prayer Plant will not ‘pray’ because of insufficient lighting. Low lighting hinders the plant from unfolding its leaves. In turn, this lowers photosynthetic activity and energy production.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do you clean Prayer Plant leaves?

A: Clean the top and underside of your leaves to remove dust and pests like spider mites. Two options are:

  • Wiping with a soft cloth dipped in a soap solution.
  • Dipping your hands in the soap solution and applying it to the leaves very gently.

Q: Is Prayer Plant poisonous?

A: Prayer plants are not poisonous or toxic making this a pet-friendly houseplant.

Q: What are Prayer Plants good for?

A: Prayer Plants are good for filtering the air in your home, enhancing your décor, and being gifted to your loved ones. This plant symbolizes prayer and a sense of gratitude, making them great gifts for showing your gratitude to someone.

Q: Are Prayer Plants hardy?

A: Prayer Plants are hardy, beginner friendly plants since they do not need intensive care to survive. Prayer Plants only need bright indirect light, warm temperature, humidity, and moist well-draining soil to thrive.

Q: Can I keep my Prayer Plant in the bedroom?

A: Prayer plants can be kept in the bedroom. This houseplant is adaptable to warm, humid spaces such as the living room, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and patios.

Final Thoughts

This detailed Prayer Plant Care and Growing Guide will provide all the information and resources you need to keep your beloved houseplant vibrant and healthy.

Prayer Plant are great beginner friendly plants since they are hardy and have relatively simple needs. These plants will thrive under the right growing conditions and enjoy a little TLC. 

Prayer Plants will thrive when kept in warm and humid environments away from direct sunlight. Keep the soil moist, use filtered water, leach fertilizers between applications, and prune regularly for thicker, more colorful foliage.

Refer back to this guide to ensure you’re providing the best conditions for growing your Prayer Plant.

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Steven

I'm learning how to catch, grow, and cook my own natural food and my goal is to help others eat more food from nature. Eating natural food can taste great, be affordable and accessible with a little planning. Don't get me wrong, I still eat taco bell and pizzas every so often, but I'm trying to eat more dank food from nature! So let's eat tasty natural food together.

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