Prayer plants are distinctive tropical plants native to Brazil. Characterized by their vibrant decorative leaves, these plants exhibit a unique diurnal rhythm, with their leaves laying flat during the day and folding upward at night, reminiscent of hands in prayer.
In this article, LotusBuddhas will guide you how to plant and care for prayer plants so that they grow well. We believe that with the right care and attention, prayer plants can serve as a captivating addition to your indoor plant collection.
What is a prayer plant?
|Taxonomy||Belongs to the Maranta genus, named for Bartolomeo Maranta, a 16th-century Italian physician and botanist.|
|Origin||Indigenous to Brazil.|
|Leaf Orientation||Leaves lie flat during the day and fold upright during the night, resembling praying hands.|
|Foliage Appearance||Especially in the tricolor variant: deep green, velvety leaves with yellow splotches and red veins.|
|Growth Rate||Relatively slow.|
|Potential Indoor Height||Can achieve up to one foot when grown indoors.|
|Cultural Significance||Highly valued for its decorative leaves, making it a preferred choice among houseplants.|
|Care Complexity||While it can be cultivated indoors throughout the year, maintaining its growth over prolonged periods demands meticulous attention and care.|
The Maranta genus, named in honor of Bartolomeo Maranta, an esteemed 16th-century Italian physician and botanist, encompasses several low-growing plants indigenous to Brazil. Among these is the notable Maranta leuconeura, commonly referred to as the “prayer plant”. This appellation derives from the plant’s unique diurnal rhythm, whereby its leaves remain horizontally oriented during daylight hours, only to adopt a vertical configuration reminiscent of clasped hands during nocturnal periods.
This tropical plant stands out prominently due to its ornate foliage. Particularly, the tricolor variant showcases deep green, velvety leaves punctuated with yellow splotches along the central vein and accompanied by striking red veins that extend towards the leaf margins. With a relatively slow growth rate, Maranta leuconeura, when housed indoors, can achieve a height approximating one foot. Although their aesthetic appeal has popularized them as indoor plants, sustaining their growth over extended periods presents certain challenges, requiring specific care and attention.
Types of prayer plants
The genus Maranta consists of several species, each with distinct appearances and care requirements. Some of the notable species within this genus include:
- Maranta leuconeura var. leuconeura: Recognized by its characteristic green leaves and purple spots, this species adopts the signature “praying” stance during the evening.
- Maranta leuconeura ‘Kerchoveana’ (Rabbit’s Foot): This variety possesses green leaves with dark brown blotches and purple undersides. The blotches on the leaves resemble tracks, earning it the name ‘Rabbit’s Foot’.
- Maranta leuconeura ‘Erythroneura’ (Red Nerve Plant): This variant is easily distinguishable due to its striking red veins contrasted against dark green leaves with lighter green patterns.
- Maranta leuconeura ‘Lemon Lime’: Featuring chartreuse green leaves with dark green patches, this species boasts a bright appearance, further highlighted by its purple undersides.
- Maranta leuconeura var. massangeana: Exhibiting dark green leaves embellished with dark blotches along the midrib, this variety also showcases a purple underside.
- Maranta leuconeura ‘Kim’: This cultivar is known for its silver-hued patterns on green leaves, coupled with dark green patches and a purple underside.
Each of these species exhibits the characteristic diurnal leaf movement of the Maranta genus, where the leaves transition from a horizontal position during the day to a vertical orientation during the night. This behavior is a key identifier for prayer plants. But LotusBuddhas have to emphasize that while these species are a part of the Maranta genus, there are other plants from different genera, like Calathea, that exhibit similar ‘prayer’ movements but are distinct in their taxonomy and care requirements.
How to care prayer plants
To cultivate prayer plants effectively, you must provide an environment mirroring greenhouse conditions. These plants, characterized by their low-growing and spreading nature, thrive optimally in warm settings with consistent moisture and gentle airflow. Additionally, an adequate supply of fertilizer is paramount for their health. It is imperative to avoid poorly drained soil, as this can precipitate root rot or lead to the plant’s collapse. Moreover, excessive exposure to sunlight can compromise the plant’s vitality, resulting in a washed-out appearance and the manifestation of brown blotches on the foliage.
For optimal growth and vitality of prayer plants, careful attention to lighting conditions is paramount. Position your prayer plant proximate to a window where it can bask in indirect sunlight.
You avoid exposing the plant to direct sunlight, as such intense exposure risks scorching the leaves, leading to the emergence of blotches or patches, and diminishing the color intensity. While prayer plants demonstrate a commendable tolerance to areas with reduced light, during winter, as they enter a state of dormancy and potentially recede entirely, it is imperative to provide them with bright light to sustain their growth.
During their growth phase, it’s incumbent upon you to maintain consistent moisture levels, watering the plant whenever you observe the uppermost layer of the soil turning dry. Under no circumstances should you allow the entirety of the potting soil to desiccate, as these plants exhibit a heightened vulnerability to drought conditions, with prolonged dehydration potentially proving fatal.
Nonetheless, to circumvent the onset of fungal complications, ensure that water does not stagnate on the foliage and refrain from over-saturating the soil. Discoloration, manifested as yellowing of the leaves, can be symptomatic of both under-watering and excessive hydration. When hydrating your prayer plant, it’s advisable to utilize water that has equilibrated to room temperature or is slightly warmer, thereby ensuring the plant’s optimal well-being.
To ensure the robust growth and health of prayer plants, the choice and composition of soil play a crucial role. While these plants demonstrate adaptability to a myriad of soil types, the fundamental requirement is well-draining characteristics.
A conventional potting mix suffices for this purpose; however, for those seeking a customized mix, you can craft one by amalgamating two parts sphagnum peat moss with one part loamy soil and one part perlite or coarse sand. It is imperative to maintain an acidic soil environment, targeting a pH value of approximately 6.0. To further enhance drainage efficacy, you are advised to introduce rocks or gravel at the base of your pot. Additionally, ensure that the selected pot is equipped with sufficient drainage openings to prevent over-saturation.
Temperature and Humidity
These plants are most conducive to the conventional household temperature range of 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Exposing them to temperatures below this threshold for extended durations can compromise the integrity of their leaves, precipitating their detachment from the plant.
Furthermore, these plants exhibit a predilection for highly humid environments. To cater to this humidity requirement, you have multiple strategies at your disposal. Positioning a small humidifier in the plant’s vicinity can enhance ambient moisture. Alternatively, situating the plant on a tray laden with water and minute stones can also elevate humidity levels. Moreover, frequent misting of the leaves with water – either equilibrated to room temperature or slightly warmed – serves as an effective method to augment moisture and bolster the plant’s well-being.
Prayer plants, to flourish and sustain their growth, necessitate judicious fertilization. For optimal results, it’s imperative that you administer a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer, diluted to half its recommended strength, bi-weekly from early spring to autumn.
During the winter months, curtail this frequency to a monthly regimen. Striking a balance in fertilization is pivotal: an insufficiency can stunt the plant’s growth, rendering it lethargic or even static. Conversely, excessive fertilization poses risks of its own, potentially scorching the plant’s root system. Symptoms of over-fertilization manifest as browning leaves, and in acute cases, can precipitate the plant’s demise. As such, a measured approach to fertilization, adhering to the stipulated guidelines, is paramount for the plant’s longevity and vitality.
Propagating prayer plants
Propagating prayer plants is an effective way to augment your collection, utilizing mature mother plants to produce new specimens. To propagate successfully through division, a technique renowned for its simplicity and effectiveness, follow this procedure:
- Initiate by repotting your prayer plant. In this process, gently dislodge the soil ensconcing the roots, subsequently segregating the plant into multiple, smaller entities.
- It is of paramount importance to ensure that each segregated plant boasts an ample root system, complemented by several stems.
- Subsequently, transplant these nascent plants into individual, shallow pots.
- During the initial weeks post-propagation, maintaining elevated temperature and humidity levels is critical. This nurturing environment fosters the emergence of new growth in the newly divided plants.
How to grow prayer plants from seed
Unlike propagating from mother plants, growing prayer plants from seeds requires a meticulous approach, ensuring optimal conditions for germination and subsequent growth. To successfully grow a prayer plant from seed, follow this comprehensive process:
- Seed Acquisition: Procure high-quality prayer plant seeds from reputable sources to ensure viability.
- Soil Preparation: Employ a mix of well-draining potting soil, ideally enhanced with organic matter to enrich nutrient content.
- Sowing: Sow the seeds lightly on the surface of your prepared soil mix. Given the minute nature of the seeds, resist the temptation to bury them deeply; a gentle press into the soil suffices.
- Moisture Management: Ensure consistent moisture, lightly misting the soil surface using a spray bottle. Avoid over-watering, which can hinder germination and promote fungal growth.
- Optimal Environment: Situate the planted seeds in a warm location with indirect sunlight. Maintaining temperatures between 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit facilitates effective germination.
- Germination: With the prescribed conditions, you can anticipate seed germination within a few weeks. Patience is paramount, as seed-based propagation can sometimes be unpredictable.
- Post-germination Care: Upon observing the emergence of seedlings, continue to maintain consistent moisture and temperature. As the seedlings grow, ensure they have ample space, thinning if necessary to prevent overcrowding.
- Transplantation: Once the seedlings have developed a robust root system and display several leaves, they are ready for transplantation into individual pots.
Common problems with prayer plants
Prayer plants, while captivating with their vibrant foliage, are occasionally susceptible to certain issues that can hinder their growth and aesthetic appeal. If you understand these common challenges, you can address them in advance or respond promptly when they manifest:
- Leaf Curling: Often a response to insufficient moisture, you may observe the leaves of the prayer plant curling. This can be mitigated by ensuring consistent watering and maintaining high humidity levels.
- Yellowing Leaves: This can be indicative of multiple issues. Over-watering or under-watering, exposure to cold drafts, or a lack of essential nutrients might be culprits. Periodically assessing the soil moisture and ensuring optimal watering routines can alleviate this problem.
- Brown Leaf Tips: Typically a sign of low humidity, it suggests that the ambient moisture is inadequate. Enhancing humidity levels through regular misting or utilizing humidifiers can rectify this.
- Fading Leaf Color: Direct sunlight can lead to the prayer plant’s leaves losing their vibrancy. Ensure that the plant is placed in indirect light to maintain its characteristic coloration.
- Pest Infestations: Prayer plants can occasionally fall prey to pests such as spider mites, aphids, and mealybugs. Regularly inspect the plant for any signs of infestation. If detected, isolate the affected plant and treat it using insecticidal soap or neem oil.
- Drooping Leaves: Over-watering or poor drainage can result in drooping leaves. Ensure that you’re providing well-draining soil and not allowing the plant to sit in stagnant water.
- Stunted Growth: If your prayer plant isn’t growing as expected, it could be due to a lack of nutrients. Consider introducing a balanced, diluted fertilizer during its growth phase.
Benefits of prayer plants in Feng Shui
Prayer plants, with their exquisite foliage and diurnal rhythms, carry profound spiritual symbolism in Feng Shui. These plants represent a harmonious blend of Yin and Yang energies, manifesting balance in your living space. Their leaves, which open with the sun and close in the moon’s embrace, are symbolic of the eternal dance between light and dark, reminding us of the cyclical nature of life and the universe.
In Feng Shui, the act of a plant’s leaves rising in prayer at night is seen as an offering of gratitude and a protective gesture, warding off negative energies. This makes the prayer plant an excellent addition to living spaces where you seek protection and spiritual grounding.
Furthermore, the lush greenery of the prayer plant resonates with the Wood element in Feng Shui, promoting growth, vitality, and prosperity. This element encourages upward and outward movement, fostering both personal and professional growth.
When you place a prayer plant in areas of your home dedicated to contemplation, relaxation, or spiritual practices, it can amplify the energies of tranquility and introspection. Moreover, its vibrant patterns stimulate creativity and can be a visual aid during meditation, helping you attune to natural rhythms and find inner harmony.
Why do prayer plant leaves curl during the day?
The diurnal movement, where the leaves fold up during the night and spread out during the day, is a natural behavior of the prayer plant, often likened to hands in prayer.
Can prayer plants grow indoors?
Indeed, prayer plants exhibit optimal growth when cultivated indoors. The intrinsic need for tropical conditions, characterized by consistent warmth and high humidity, renders them particularly suited for indoor cultivation. Many regions may not naturally offer these specific conditions outdoors, making the indoor environment a more controlled and ideal setting for the plant’s thriving growth.
Are prayer plants toxic to pets?
Prayer plants, scientifically known as Maranta leuconeura, are generally considered non-toxic to both cats and dogs. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), this species does not contain any known toxic compounds that would pose harm to pets upon ingestion.