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Prayer Plant (Maranta Leuconeura) Care Guide

Prayer plants are known for their beautiful leaf patterns and unique appearance making them great accent pieces in the home or office. They also remove toxins from the air and provide natural humidity without requiring much maintenance.

Image Source: GettyImages/Crystal Bolin Photography

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The Maranta leuconeura is a houseplant, part of the Marantaceae family, is a bold and beautiful tropical plant. Native to the Amazon rainforest in South America and Brazil, this unique houseplant  is low-growing and features green leaves that grow in clusters of five at the end of long stems.
Maranta leuconeura also goes by a variety of other common names: prayer plant, herringbone plant, and praying hands.
There are many cultivars of maranta leuconeura including erythroneura and kerchoveana. Prayer plants are known for their beautiful leaf patterns and unique appearance making them great accent pieces in the home or office.
They also grow well in hanging baskets.  It also removes toxins from the air and provides natural humidity without requiring much maintenance.

Quick Maranta Leuconeura Care Guide

Botanical Name
Maranta leuconeura
Common Names
Maranta, Prayer Plant, Praying Hands, Herringbone Plant
Family
Marantaceae
Difficulty
Advanced
Plant Type
Neotropical rhizomatous herbaceous perennial
Growth Rate
Moderate
Sunlight Requirements
Bright to moderate indirect light, can tolerate low light
Water Requirements
Moderate watering requirements. Keep soil consistently moist but not waterlogged.
Soil Type
Well-draining houseplant soil mix
Propagation
Stem cuttings
Window Facing Locations (Ideal)
East or West Facing with more light. North facing for lower light.
USDA Hardiness Zones
10, 11, 12
Companion Plants
Calatheas
Toxicity
Non-toxic to pets
Pests
Mealybugs, Spider Mites, Thrips
Diseases/Issues
Root rot, Yellow Leaves, Brown Leaves, Brown Spots, Botrytis, Powdery Mildew, Blotches
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How to Grow and Care For Maranta Leuconeura

Beautiful maranta leuconeura or prayer plant in a white pot on a desk amongst other office desk plants.
Image Source:Prayer plants can be finnicky when it comes to their water and light needs. Make sure to keep soil lightly moist, but not soggy.
Maranta leuconeura, or prayer plant, are typically grown indoors year-round, but from a plant care standpoint they’re not necessarily easy to keep growing over the long term. This is a low-growing, tropical plant, so it does best in humid environments.
They can even tolerate lower light. If you want to keep your plant healthy, water it about every two weeks and make sure the soil is kept moist but not soggy to avoid root rot. Watch out for too much sun as the leaves can develop brown blotches and lose their beautiful color.

Growing Outdoors

Although prayer plants are typically kept as indoor plants, you can also grow them outdoors. Prayer plants are tropical plants, so they need warm temperatures to thrive. A prayer plant can grow in USDA plant hardiness zones 10 through 11. It is important to keep in mind that prayer plants prefer bright indirect light, so they are best suited to a spot with plenty of natural light.
Avoid direct sunlight as that can fade the color intensity on the leaves. Prayer plants are not frost resistant, so they cannot be planted outdoors during the winter. If you live in a warm climate and want to grow your prayer plant outdoors, choose a spot that receives plenty of indirect light but be careful of high amounts of direct sunlight.
You can also grow a prayer plant indoors if you live in a cooler climate. Keep in mind that it will need plenty of sunlight, so you may need to keep it near a window. Prayer plants are low maintenance and easy to care for, so they make a great indoor plant for novice gardeners.

💧 Water Requirements

Prayer plants require frequent watering and prefer high humidity, especially during the growing season, but are particularly susceptible to fungal infections. They prefer soil that’s consistently moist, but not soaked (waterlogged). Water the plant only when the top layer of soil (2-3 inches) is dry.
Use warm or room-temperature, distilled water, and avoid tap water as it can cause blotches on the leaves. If your prayer plant is located in low-light, it will not have to be watered as frequently as one situated next to a bright indirect light source.
To avoid fungal issues, don't allow the plant to become soggy or sit water directly on its leaves. Yellowing and dropping of leaves may be caused by either insufficient water or overwatering. 

☀️ Sunlight Requirements

Prayer plants thrive in bright indirect light to medium diffused light. You can place your plant near west-facing, east-facing windows that receive bright to moderate indirect light throughout the day. Prayer plants are frequently tolerant of lower light conditions, so you can also place them near north-facing windows which tend to receive the lowest amount of light.
However, if your prayer plant receives too little light, its new leaves will appear solid green. In this case, move to a location with more bright light. Do not position your plant in direct sunlight, as the sun will burn its leaves or cause blotches or spots that will fade in color intensity. Prayer plants are frequently tolerant of lower light environments.
Pro Tip Icon
How to know if your prayer plant is receiving too little light.
Pro Tip: However, if your prayer plant receives too little light, its new leaves will appear solid green.

🌡️ Temperature and Humidity

Being tropical plants, they prefer warm climates and high humidity environments. Maranta Leuconeura, or the Prayer Plant, prefers normal temperatures between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can place your prayer plant in high humidity areas like the bathroom, kitchen, or laundry room. If you want to create a humid environment, you can place a small humidifier nearby or place your plant on a tray filled with pebbles and water.
You can also mist the leaves with room temperature or lukewarm water. Prayer plants can be sensitive to changes in their environment, so make sure to place away from any drafts especially during the winter months
Pro Tip Icon
Avoid cold temperatures.
Be careful of leaving your plants in lower temperatures for too long as that can damage the leaves and cause leaf drop.

🌱 Best Soil

A prayer plant can survive in just about any sort of well-drained potting soil, whether it is a traditional potting mix. You can make your own with one made of one part loamy and airy soil, one part perlite, and one part perlite, pumice, crushed lava rock, or other gritty materials to help drain excess water.
To further improve drainage, including gravel or pebbles at the base of the pot. The pH of the soil should be 5.5 to 6.0 and have adequate drainage holes. 

🌻 Fertilizer

When in the growing season (spring through fall), fertilize your prayer plant every two weeks. During the winter months, once a month will suffice. You can use a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer diluted to half the strength.
Be careful over fertilizing as this will burn the plant’s roots and the leaves will start to brown leading to plant death.

😎 Pruning and Maintenance

If you want to encourage more new leaves and growth, and upkeep its busy appearance, you can prune your prayer plant. Make sure to use a sterilized pair of garden scissors and trim the stems right above a leaf node. You can prune your plant two to three times a year.
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How to Repot Maranta Leuconeura

Person repotting a houseplant wearing gardening gloves and with appropriate gardening materials.
Image Source:You'll likely need to repot your Prayer Plant when it looks top-heavy.
Repotting the Maranta Leuconeura (Prayer Plant) is similar to most other houseplants. You will want to repot them into a container that’s one size larger and shallow instead of deep. Repot them every two to three years.
You will know you need to repot your Maranta Leuconeura when it looks top-heavy. If you’re needing to water your plant more often than usual, this can also be a sign your plant has outgrown its container. If your roots are poking out through the drainage hole or are root bound (coiled up if you pull the plant out), it’s time to repot.
How to repot your plant:
  • Get a container one size bigger than your old container.
  • Add a layer of well-draining potting mix to the bottom of your new container.
  • Gently remove the prayer plant from the pot. If the roots are wound tightly, you can tease a few of them apart before placing into a new pot.
  • Softly remove any of the old potting soil clumps that are clinging to the roots.
  • Evaluate your roots. Are any of them mushy or soft to the touch? Trim them with sterilized garden scissors.
  • Place your new plant into your container and fill with soil.
  • Water thoroughly and enjoy!

Why do Maranta Leuconeura or Prayer Plant’s leaves move?

Prayer Plant leaves constantly move during the day, but most dramatically when they shift up in a vertical “praying hand” position in the evening. The motion called nyctinastic movement (sleeping movement) comes from the movement of liquid in special cells at the base of each leaf. The mechanism behind nyctinasty in Maranta Leuconeura is called pulvinus. Pulvini are located at the base of the underside of leaves and are a joint-like collection of cells. These cells either swell or contract depending on the amount of liquid present. Plants move in reaction to the amount of light in their environment. No one knows for sure why their leaves fold up at night, but one theory is temperature regulation and nighttime protection from animals or insects in the Amazon rainforests of Brazil.

Common Maranta Leuconeura Problems and Pests

Prayer plant top level view in a green pot on a wooden desk.
Image Source:Prayer plants can be susceptible to common issues especially due to overwatering. Root rot and fungal leaf spots are common.

Brown leaves, blotches 

If you’re seeing brown leaf tips on your prayer plant, this is typically a sign of dehydration, too much direct light, and a dry air environment. If your plant is in direct sunlight, make sure to move it into an area with bright but indirect light.
You can treat dehydration by ensuring you’re watering your plant and increasing humidity. You can do so by placing the plant on top of a tray with pebbles and water. You can also place a small humidifier near the plant or move the plant to a commonly humid area of the house like the bathroom or laundry room.

Root Rot

Root rot is a common issue with most houseplants. It’s usually caused by moist or waterlogged soil for prolonged periods of time. Symptoms can include rapidly yellowing leaves, stunted growth, and a rotten brown base. If you’re seeing these symptoms, here’s how to treat root rot.
  • Remove the plant from the pot and gently remove the soil so you can see the root system.
  • If the roots are brown and mushy, you must take action immediately.
  • Clean off the roots with sterile water.
  • Take sterilized scissors and trim any mushy roots.
  • You can use a diluted hydrogen peroxide solution to disinfect the roots.
  • Once cleaned up, repot your plant in fresh houseplant soil mix.

Pests

Prayer plants are susceptible to insects that feed on the nutrients in their leaves such as spider mites, thrips, and mealybugs. Maranta leuconeura is attractive to these because their thin leaves are easy to pierce through.
Spider Mites
Spider mites are red or orange looking bugs on your leaves. Although they are tiny, you can generally spot them with your eye! Take action immediately when you spot them as a severe infestation can spread quickly and kill the plant.
To treat the infestation, quarantine your plant immediately. Then, spray it with water if possible to rid of some of the insects. Then, we recommend applying insecticidal soap or neem oil mixture every 7-10 days until the infestation disappears.
Mealybugs
If you notice your plant looks like it is covered with snow or white spots, these are mealybugs. Quarantine your plant immediately so infestation doesn’t spread. Using a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol, wipe all visible mealybugs from the plant - including undersides of leaves, leaf joints and folds, and base of the plant. Treat your plant daily until infestation is gone. You can also use neem oil and insecticidal soap. 
Thrips
Thrips are small, straw colored insects. Blotchy brown discoloration can be an indication that thrips infestation is present. Quarantine your plant immediately so infestation doesn’t spread. As a first step, hose down the plant in sink or shower to dislodge the insects. You can also use a spray bottle and a microfiber cloth to wipe each leaf. Then, use neem oil or insecticide soap. Apply every one to two weeks until you no longer see bugs.

Where to buy Maranta Leuconeura?

The Maranta Leuconeura (Prayer Plant) is a unique plant that’s a great addition to a home, office, or your hanging basket! If you’re ready to grow your plant collection, you can purchase Maranta Leuconeura on Neverland (www.enterneverland.com). Their vetted selection of merchants means that you get a healthy, high quality plant delivered to your doorstep.

FAQs on Prayer Plants (Maranta Leuconeura)


Is Maranta leuconeura toxic to cats and dogs?
No, they are not toxic.
What is the meaning of the word Maranta?
Maranta is named after Bartolomeo Maranta, an Italian physician, botanist, and literary scholar.
How much sunlight does a prayer plant need?
They prefer medium, diffused light. Avoid placing them in direct sunlight.
What window is best for my prayer plant?
Ideal locations are near East, West facing windows that receive diffused light the majority of the day. Prayer plants can also tolerate low light so placing them near a North-facing window can also work.
Why are the leaves on my prayer plant curling?
Under watering is the most common cause of prayer plant leaves curling. If the moisture of the soil in the pot feels dry, this is likely your cause. Make sure to water your prayer plant consistently but let the top soil dry between waterings.
Why are there brown spots on my prayer plant?
If you're seeing brown, crispy edges, this is likely due to underwatering. Another common issue is using tap water. Tap water can contain fluoride, chlorine, and other chemicals that can negatively impact your plant causing brown spots and edges.
🔥 Join 52,560+ other plant parents.FREE Prayer Plant Care Cheat Sheet!
Access this guide anywhere, anytime! Just pop in your email and we'll send you a FREE printable Prayer Plant care cheat sheet!
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