The prayer plant or marantas is one of the most unique and interesting houseplants. Their leaves move throughout the day, with some folding up like praying hands at night. There are many varieties of prayer plants, but most of them have eye-catching leaves with spots, streaks, and lines that almost look painted on.
These plants aren't quite beginner-friendly, but they're not too difficult to care for, either. It takes a little more work to get them to thrive and last a long time, but these tips will help.
Thriving prayer plants should have sturdy stems and firm leaves that aren't brown, yellow, or dry. Look for white, yellow, or brown spots on the leaves too, which point to pests or fungal diseases. You don't want to see curling leaves either, but if you notice a little droopiness, it might be temporary.
The prayer plant moves in response to light, so it will look a bit different depending on where it's stored in the garden center.
You can plant prayer plants outdoors in zones 10b to 12, but many people keep them as houseplants because they do not tolerate temperatures below 60 degrees F. It's such a pretty and interesting plant, it just makes sense to keep it somewhere you can admire it throughout the day.
This species isn't too picky about soil, as long as it is slightly acidic and well-draining. Make sure the pot you're using has drainage holes, and add some rocks to the bottom, so water doesn't pool.
Because they naturally grow as ground cover in the rainforest, prayer plants do not need a lot of light. They do well in medium-light conditions, but they prefer bright indirect light. Place them in a corner or behind a curtain so they get some light from a nearby window but no direct sun.
Too much light causes their leaves to fade, and the leaves will curl if they get too little, so reposition your plant if you see either symptom.
Prayer plants actively grow in the spring and summer, so you need to water them regularly during these months. Make sure the soil doesn't dry out completely or get too soggy. When watering, avoid getting water on the leaves because this can lead to fungal growth.
Prayer plants are less active in the fall and winter, so they don't need as much water during these times.
Prayer plants hail from rainforests and prefer humid conditions. You can test your home's humidity levels with a hygrometer. Aim for at least 50%, but 60% is preferable to prevent brown tips on the leaves. Get a humidifier if the air is too dry or group it with other plants and let transpiration do the rest.
Alternatively, pop your prayer plant in the bathroom, where it gets pretty steamy unless you're a cold shower kind of person.
Your prayer plant will benefit from regular fertilizing, but maintain a delicate balance by diluting your fertilizer by half. During the warmer seasons, use a 10-10-10 water-soluble fertilizer twice a month for a nutrient boost. From late fall to early spring, you can reduce the frequency to once a month.
Don't fertilize a new purchase until two months have passed because fresh potting soil takes care of most of the plant's requirements.
Prayer plants don't have many special care requirements, but you should prune them regularly. These plants tend to get leggy, especially if they aren't getting enough light, so if you want a bushier plant, pruning is the way to go.
Trim the stems back twice a year using sharp, sterile shears. To keep the plant looking full, propagate these cuttings back into the pot.
Prayer plants do well when they're slightly root-bound; they just won't grow fast. So don't stress about repotting yours every year unless you want it to get bigger—every three years should be fine, and the soil will stay healthy. Roots creeping out of the drainage holes is one of the clearest signs that your plant needs a larger pot; look for one about two inches wider. Repotting in early spring is best.
Propagating prayer plants is easy, and it's the best way to ensure you get a full plant. Trim off any trailing or vining leaves an inch below a node. Place the stem in water, and keep the container in the same environment as the mother plant.
Change the water regularly, and in a few weeks, you should start to see some roots. Once the roots are an inch or so long, place them into the same pot as the mother plant.
The most common diseases that affect prayer plants are fungal issues stemming from incorrect watering. Overwatering or allowing water to collect on the leaves can lead to leaf spot: yellow spots that spread over the plant. You can normally treat leaf spot by correcting your watering schedule and technique.
Prayer plants are prone to infestations that commonly harm houseplants, including spider mites and mealybugs. Spider mites are the most common, but they are very small and hard to see. You may notice fine white webbing and stalled growth and find the tiny mites on closer inspection. Use neem oil or a systemic pesticide for spider mites.
Mealybugs are puffy and look almost cotton-like. They multiply fast and can quickly overtake your plant, though you can remove them effectively with streams of water or by pulling them off manually.
Prayer plants look so striking in hanging baskets or placed on, say, wooden display shelves where they spill over a little. You can put one on a small side table in your bedroom or lounge and enjoy the same spillover effect. We're fans of suspending a trio of prayer plant moss balls at different heights—they make a statement in kitchens and bathrooms and add a natural and rustic wow factor.
If you're looking for similarly non-toxic plants, parlor palms, African violets, Boston ferns, and baby's tears are worry-free cuties, even if the latter's name would suggest otherwise. Other plants that work in low-light conditions include pothos, lucky bamboos, and the ZZ plant, which seemingly thrives on neglect.
Prayer plants are also great air purifiers, so if you're keen on doubling down on the filtering, a shade-loving spider plant is a good option.
Glory be, the prayer plant is not poisonous. It doesn't look like it would be safe, what with its colors and patters that are almost snake-like, but we've been blessed. If your pets or kids somehow end up chewing some of this stylish calathea's leaves, it will taste unpleasant, and that will be the extent of the torture.
Your hands shouldn't become irritated if you handle this plant, either.
There are many prayer plant varieties to choose from, each with unique characteristics.