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Prayer plant care: Everything you need to know to grow a lush and healthy plant this winter

Guide on prayer plant care and how to troubleshoot common issues

Prayer plants are stunning houseplants with intricately patterned foliage, but they do have a reputation for being a bit finicky. Still, you don’t need to be hanging by a prayer when growing these plants indoors! All a prayer plant really wants at the end of the day is proper and consistent care.

Difficulty

Moderate

Duration

30 minutes

What You Need

  • Distilled water

  • Balanced liquid fertilizer

  • Pebble tray or humidifier

  • Hygrometer

Maranta
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What are prayer plants?

"Prayer plant" can be a catch-all term for different types of plants that fold up their leaves at night like praying hands. Calathea, stromanthe, ctenanthe, and maranta are genera within the Marantaceae family that are often referred to as prayer plants.

They all feature plants that go through this specific leaf movement. There’s no clear consensus on why these plants fold up their leaves. The most common theory is that at night, prayer plants fold up their foliage to keep water from sitting on them during nighttime, which could make them more vulnerable to developing fungal diseases.

The most common species of plants referred to as “prayer plants” is Maranta leuconeura, which is native to Brazilian rainforests. Maranta leuconeura tends to be more forgiving than other plants in the Marantaceae family, especially when it comes to watering and humidity.

This plant is known for its oval leaves with either dark green rabbit-track markings running down them or raised herringbone veins in white, red, or pale yellow. Marantas grow low, generally reaching a height between 1 and 3 feet. As houseplants, they're around 8 inches tall. Every so often, they can put out small, pinkish-white blooms.

Prayer plant in a pot near a window
ArtCreationsDesignPhoto / Shutterstock

How do you care for prayer plants?

Maintaining a prayer plant can be a delicate art, and you might have lots of ups and downs along the way. Here are important steps for prayer plant care to help you grow a hassle-free maranta inside your home. 

Step 1: Water your plant when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch.

While prayer plants appreciate light, well-draining soil, they also love their growing medium consistently moist. Note: Tap water can give them burnt edges, so leave out your tap water for a day to allow the chlorine and fluoride to dissipate, or use distilled water.

Step 2: Give your plant ample humidity.

These plants simply do best in moist air, generally preferring 50% or higher humidity. You can leave your plant on top of a pebble tray with water or turn on a humidifier for a few hours a day. It helps to use a hygrometer to gauge your home's humidity. 

Step 3: Provide your maranta with ample indirect light.

You’re better off giving your plant bright indirect light or medium light. Too much direct light can scorch its leaves. For your prayer plant growing during the winter, consider investing in grow lights

Step 4: Keep the temperature range for a maranta plant between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you’re using air conditioners and heaters in your home, pay attention to the humidity to keep your maranta happy.

Step 5: Apply a balanced liquid fertilizer every two weeks throughout the growing season.

Avoid using plant food in the fall and winter because this can make your plant vulnerable to leaf burn and diseases.

Maranta flowers
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Check for these common prayer plant issues

You might have a lot of troubleshooting to do if you’re a first-time prayer plant owner. Still, if you keep on top of signs of trouble, you’ll come out on the other side with a lush, productive plant. Keep an eye out for these prayer plant issues and manage them as they come.

Step 1: Look for brown, crisp edges, which could indicate hard water, harsh light, and dry air.

Address each potential problem one by one to pinpoint the culprit. Use distilled water in place of tap water, pull your plant away from the window, and turn on a humidifier.

Step 2: Check if you have any curling leaves.

Curling foliage is typically an indicator of underwatering, so give your plant a deep drink of water if you notice leaves curling.

Step 3: Remove yellowing leaves and identify the cause behind them.

Yellow leaves may indicate overwatering, so cut back on watering if you see them. Yellowing leaves with white specks can also mean spider mite damage, which should be treated with a foliar solution and extra humidity.

Step 4: Look for any fading foliage.

While too much direct light can scorch a prayer plant and burn its leaf edges, too little light can lead to fading leaves and leggy stems. If you don’t get enough natural light, consider investing in grow lights.

Despite having an intimidating reputation, the prayer plant can be a fuss-free plant under the right conditions and care. The three main culprits of a struggling plant are underwatering the soil, using hard water, and failing to supply ample humidity. Still, an adjustment period for a new prayer plant doesn't mean your relationship with this notoriously picky plant is doomed. All it takes is a little attention, and you'll have a thriving plant before you know it.

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Stacey Nguyen
Stacey's work has appeared on sites such as POPSUGAR, HelloGiggles, Buzzfeed, The Balance, TripSavvy, and more. When she's…
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