Prayer plant leaves curling

The maranta leuconeura is also known as the prayer plant. Once evening descends, this low-growing Brazilian native has a habit of raising its leaves to an upright position and folding them as if in prayer. It can thrive outdoors only in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 11 and 12, so it’s typically cultivated indoors.

Prayer plant care isn’t difficult as long as you address its specific needs. As a tropical plant, it has distinct requirements for humidity, temperature and water.

Gardeners prize the strikingly beautiful leaves of the maranta plant. It has wide oval leaves with a range of variegation, depending on the variety. In the rainforests where it originates, the maranta plant blooms in the spring with small, white flowers. While this rarely occurs indoors, the plant’s stunning leaves more than make up for the lack of flowers. When they receive the right care, the maranta plant is one of the prettiest indoor plants you can grow.

  • Prayer Plant Overview
  • Types of Prayer Plants
  • How to Care for a Prayer Plant
  • Prayer Plant FAQs


Prayer Plant Overview

The prayer plant is named for Bartolomeo Maranta, an Italian physician and botanist of the sixteenth century. The striking beauty of the maranta leuconeura species makes it a well-loved and common houseplant. It is an evergreen perennial that is often grown in hanging baskets. As a slow grower, you don’t have to worry about it getting out of hand.

A well-grown prayer plant should have full, six-inch long leaves rising from a short center stem and draping down. It also grows horizontally over flat surfaces, so it can be used as ground cover if you live in a suitably warm and humid climate.

It is not demanding but does require special care to thrive. While it may not be best for those who prefer low maintenance plants, the prayer plant is a statement piece that rewards your care with bold and beautiful colors.

4 Types of Prayer Plant

Sometimes the term “prayer plant” is used interchangeably for both the maranta and calathea plants. The marantaceae family includes the calathea genus, so they are very closely related. Maranta and calathea care are similar enough that if you learn how to grow a maranta or prayer plant, you will know how to care for a calathea too.

Approximately 40 to 50 species of prayer plant are recognized, but the maranta leuconeura is the most common one. Here are a few varieties of maranta leuconeura:

Maranta leuconeura ‘Erythroneura’ (Red Prayer Plant)

The red prayer plant (or herringbone plant) has dark green leaves with white or light green running down the spine. The arching veins come in several shades of red. The tiny flowers are light lavender and it grows six to eight inches tall.

Maranta leuconeura var. ‘Massangeana’ (Black Prayer Plant)

The black prayer plant belongs to the subspecies “massangeana.” It is distinctive for its silvery-blue leaves with dark olive green edges and purple spots. It has small white flowers and grows up to eleven inches tall.

Maranta leuconeura ‘Kerchoveana’ (Green Prayer Plant)

This classic variety is most commonly found as a houseplant. The leaves are green and have purple markings between the veins. The veins are less prominent in this variety and it is noted for its large green spots which resemble animal tracks (hence the common name of “rabbit track plant”).

Calathea Ornata (Pinstripe Calathea)

This prayer plant variety is native to South America’s countries of Colombia and Venezuela. The dark green leaves have stripes of a very light green, creating a beautiful contrast and unique style of the plant. Usually the pinstripe calathea is an indoor plant, rather than outdoors.

Prayer Plant Care Tips

All species of maranta leuconeura require the same care. They thrive best when provided with conditions similar to a greenhouse (or their native rainforests). The care guidelines below will help you keep your plant healthy, but this free houseplant printable is a useful tool that outlines the prayer plant’s basic needs.

Sunlight: This plant is generally tolerant of lower light areas. However, the leaves won’t fully open during the day if there isn’t enough light. Direct sunlight can scorch the leaves of the prayer plant or cause the color to fade. It prefers bright but indirect sunlight. In winter, the light should be a bit brighter but still indirect or dampened.

Water: Prayer plants should be watered generously. Keep the soil moist at all times, but never let it get soggy. When watering, use water that is warm or at least at room temperature. In the winter months, reduce watering but never let the soil dry out completely.​

Keep the plant in a wide, shallow container that has drainage holes in its bottom. Its fine, shallow roots are susceptible to root rot. Both the planting medium and container need to drain well. A planting medium composed of two parts peat moss, one part loam and one part sand will ensure good drainage.

Keep in mind, these plants thrive in tropical conditions. A daily misting can help provide the plant with the humidity it needs that may not be present in your home. You can also place a container of water near the plant, as the evaporating water will increase humidity.​

Prayer plants are sensitive to fluoride, so don’t use hard water.

Temperature: These tropical plants grow best in warm temperatures, between 65 and 70 °F. They cannot handle extreme temperatures. If it is too hot, the leaves will turn dark as a result of burning. Temperatures below 55 °F could damage the leaves, which will shrink and turn brown.

Toxicity: The plant is not poisonous to humans. It is also non-toxic for dogs and cats, so decorate your home with them worry-free!

Pests: Clean the leaves occasionally with a dry cloth to keep them free of dust. Spider mites are the most common pest culprit. You’ll know your prayer plant might be taken over by spider mites if you notice tiny black dots. Leaves infested with spider mites may also be covered with white webbing and have yellow or brown dry spots. The good news is that spider mites dislike the high humidity needed to keep a prayer plant happy, so you should avoid them if you take care of your plant.

Problems: If you notice small, water-soaked spots on your leaves, the likely cause is a fungal disease called helminthosporium leaf spot. An application of neem oil will kill any active disease, but you’ll need to stop over-watering the plant and avoid getting the leaves too wet.

Repotting: You shouldn’t need to re-pot your prayer plant often. However, prayer plants are already slow growers and growing may come to a halt if it becomes root-bound in its pot. Choose a pot that is one or two inches wider than the existing pot. Simply remove it from the current pot and put it in the new pot with a bit of extra soil mix.

Propagation: Propagating prayer plants is surprisingly easy. All you need to do is make a stem cutting below a leaf node. Dip the cutting in a rooting hormone and place in a glass of distilled water, making sure to change it every day. Wait until the roots are about an inch long before taking it out to place in soil.

You can also insert the cutting directly into potting soil. Keep the soil moist and mist the plant occasionally.

Common Prayer Plant Questions and Concerns

Environmental problems could cause your prayer plant to become unhappy, but a few diseases and pests could also be responsible. Read on to see the answers to frequently asked questions about prayer plants.

Why is my prayer plant not closing?

If it sits near a lamp or other light source at night, it may not be getting dark enough for the leaves to fold up. Try moving it to a new location away from the light to see if it adjusts to light and dark conditions.

Why are the leaves on my prayer plant turning yellow?

Yellow-pigmented, spotted and curled leaves usually indicate that the plant is not getting enough water. Yellow leaves could also be a sign of chlorosis, especially on younger leaves. A switch to filtered water should alleviate the problem, or you can correct it with a dose of liquid iron fertilizer.

Why are the leaves on my prayer plant turning brown?

If the tips of the leaves are turning brown or curling up, the plant is getting too much light. The chlorine found in tap water could also be the cause for brown leaves. Use filtered water or let water sit for 24 hours before watering the plant.​

Why are the leaves on my prayer plant curling?

Curled leaves could indicate that the plant is under-watered or getting too much light. Try increasing humidity and decreasing the amount of light. You may also need to repot it in a smaller pot.

While more complicated than houseplants such as pothos or dracaena, once you set up the right conditions, you should have no problem giving your prayer plant what it needs to thrive. Now that you know how to care for a prayer plant, you may be eager to add one of these gorgeous and unique showy plants to your collection.

Calatheas and their curling leaves

The latest in plant care tips for keeping your foliage happy and healthy, brought to you by premium plant delivery service Léon & George.

Let’s be real here. The calathea is a difficult one in terms of care. It needs constant humidity and warmth. Here are the most common issues you’ll experience with plants in the maranta and prayer plant families.

  • Brown Edges – the air is too dry for your plant! Add misting to your watering routine or keep it on a bed of rocks and shallow water to add humidity. You can also trim the leaves, either removing the entire leaf at the stem’s base, or trimming the leaf itself, following the natural shape to get the plant and/or its leaves looking sharp again!

  • Curling Leaves – your plant is cold and thirsty! Give your plant a shower, or sit the bottom in a small bowl of shallow water till it soaks everything up. After 12-24 hours, watch the leaves unfurl.

  • Droopy Leaves – your plant is getting too much water! Allow the soil to air out or change the soil completely to decrease chances of root rot.

Read our complete Calathea Medallion care guide to learn more about how to keep your plant beautiful and thriving.

Ask a Question forum: Maranta Prayer Plant cutting dying?! HELP!!

I got 2 cuttings from my friends Marnta tricolor prayer plant about a month ago. But now just when I thought new leaves were appearing it’s instead curling up on both sides of the leaves and going brown dry crispy and dead on the bottom of the leaves.
A more detailed history of my cuttings:
When I first got them I placed them in a cup of water to allow roots to grow, but after about a week or so its started to go brown and dead on the tips of the leaves. I read online that people had had more success by planting them in sand or a lightweight potting mix. So thats when I took them out of the water, dipped them in a honey solution and planted them in a 50/50 mix of sand and cactus soil. Two new leaves (one from each cutting) then started to come out and unfold. But then the other leaves started curling in as if they wanted to go back in the earth, and the dead tips are slowly spreading up each leaf. I try to mist them every day as i live in scandinavia and its rather dry and cold inside this time of the year. It gets indirect light from a growlight, a big calathea gives it shade.
So how do I save my cuttings? Are they even dying? I really need these guys to survive if at all possible :O

| Quote | Post #1381315 (1)

Prayer plants (Maranta leuconeura) are some of the most elegant, profound plants you can find. Native to the tropics, these plants are easy to care for and offer brilliant green foliage and unique adaptive behaviors.

How to care for a prayer plant: Prayer plants need well-draining, but constantly moist potting mix, bright indirect light, high humidity and temperatures of 65-75 °F. Fertilize every 2 weeks during the growing season and prune up to three times per year as desired.

Getting these factors right is the key to producing healthy, long-lasting plants. In many cases, prayer plants can live well over thirty years. While learning how to care for a prayer plant requires some attention to detail, it is a task that can be accomplished by beginner or expert gardeners alike.

Caring for a prayer plant is not challenging if you have the right knowledge or experience. This guide will tell you everything you need to know to successfully care for your prayer plant.

Who Should Grow A Prayer Plant?

Prayer plants are beautiful houseplants and relatively low-maintenance. They can be grown in hanging baskets or larger containers. They spread low and wide, allowing their luscious green foliage to ornament your home and clean the air as they grow.

Prayer plants prefer humid conditions and well-drained soil. Despite their fondness for a tropical environment, prayer plants are rewarding to grow and don’t need too much attention to cultivate.

Prayer plants have attractive foliage. They are hardy indoor plants that don’t tend to grow too large for the spaces in which they are planted, unlike similar houseplants that constantly need to be repotted or moved. Prayer plants have variegated foliage but do not produce showy flowers, making them good options as modest ornamental statement pieces.

Indoor vs Outdoor Cultivation

In the wild, prayer plants are found in the tropical rainforests of Brazil. These rhizomatous perennials grow tall and broad (up to twelve inches in height). Leaves grow in clumps, each extending about five inches long. The second part of this plant’s name, leuconeura, means white-veined. This name is in specific recognition of the plant’s leaves, which sport that pattern.

Prayer plants’ leaves lie flat during the day and fold upward at night, as if in prayer. This is done in rhythm with the sun. The leaves point downward or straight during the day, and close vertically at night. This natural process is called nyctinasty, and is triggered by changes in sunlight.

This behavior is believed to have adapted to benefit the plant’s longevity. At night, when the leaves are closed, raindrops can fall through the leaves and reach the roots. This prevents rain from collecting on the leaves, reducing the likelihood of bacterial growth. It also helps the plant retain moisture.

Because the prayer plant is fragile when exposed to cold or very wet conditions, it is challenging to plant outdoors. While prayer plants aren’t typically planted outdoors in most areas of the country, they are often set in containers at grave sites, as they represent prayers and everlasting life for the deceased.

When grown outdoors, prayer plants are low-to-the-ground and produce six-inch long leaves. They also produce small white flowers that stand out sharply against the plant’s green, shiny leaves. This plant has a striking appearance that allows it to stand out on the rainforest floor.

Because prayer plants require minimum temperatures of at least 55 °F, they are really more suited to being grown indoors instead of outside. They prefer bright, indirect sunlight and very high humidity, conditions that can be tough to mimic in most outdoor environments.

Types Of Prayer Plants

There are at least forty different species of prayer plant, with the most common being Maranta leuconeura. This plant usually has a variegated green color with dark, irregular spots on the leaves. When you hear people talk about prayer plants, this is usually the variety to which they are referring. It also grows by the name of “Green Prayer Plant.” This is probably the type of prayer plant your grandmother used to grow, as it’s the most classic variety of this species.

Green Prayer Plant

There are numerous sub-cultivars of Maranta leuconeura, including the variety Kerchoveana(also known as rabbit’s foot) and Erythroneura (also known as herringbone plant or red prayer plant). The herringbone plant has purplish markings and deep, blood-red veins.

Maranta leuconeura “erythroneura”

The “Kim” cultivar is a purple-spotted prayer plant, with the leaves possessing an interesting white streaking pattern. It can also have purple spots, giving it a diverse appearance. “Marisela” is another popular cultivar. This plant has lighter green leaves, with the markings a dull shade of light green instead of white. Marisela is a hardy variety of the prayer plant.

The Black Prayer Plant is another common variety. Also known as the Fascinator, this plant produces leaves that are silver or blue (or a combination of the two), with dark green edges and deep purple spots.

Interestingly, prayer plants are often confused with the Pinstripe Calathea. Although these plants are distinct from each other, calathea plants are also perennial plants that are part of the Maranta family. Both originate from South America, these close relatives have differing requirements for their cultivation, so it’s important for you to be aware of the exact plant you brought home.

Pinstripe Calathea = Left. Maranta Leuconeura = Right.

Temperature Requirements For Prayer Plants

Prayer plants, due to their tropical origins, don’t like to be kept in extremely cold or extremely hot temperatures. They thrive when temperatures are around 65-75 °F. Colder temperatures (particularly those dipping below 50 °F) can stunt the plant and cause the leaves to shrivel up and turn brown.

Generally, a room’s ambient temperature is perfect for a prayer plant. You don’t want your prayer plant to be too cold or too hot. When your room is too hot (above 80 °F), your prayer plant will produce few leaves but instead shoot out long, spindly stems. This growth is a response to a lack of moisture in the air, which is common when temperatures rise too high.

As a result, you should avoid placing your prayer plant near a heating or cooling vent. While these can provide necessary ventilation for your prayer plant, they can also dry it out. Drafts and temperature fluctuations can kill your plant, causing its leaves to turn yellow and die back.

Best Location For Your Prayer Plant

Prayer plants can be grown in hanging baskets or in planters. They are not picky about where they are placed but keep in mind that they should not be exposed to direct sunlight. While prayer plants like to be warm, too much sun can scorch and dry out the leaves of the plant. Bright – but indirect – light is best, and when in doubt, remember that prayer plants can survive just fine in areas of lower light.

If you must grow your prayer plant in bright light, try to protect its leaves by hanging a sheer curtain or some other kind of screen against the sun. They should ideally be located in a room that faces the south or west. This will allow light to get to the plant without exposing it to direct sunlight. Your plants will grow rich and green, without becoming spindly or long as they reach for more light.

If your prayer plant’s leaves are faded in color, that’s a sure sign that they are receiving too much sunlight. If there is not enough light, the leaves will close at night and will fail to fully open during the day. This is a protective response that will stunt your plant’s overall growth, and can eventually kill it.

Balance here is key. Place your prayer plant in a corner of the room that receives plenty of indirect sunlight (not on the windowsill) and keep an eye on it to make sure it is adjusting well to its location.

Soil For Prayer Plants

Prayer plants need to be grown in a planting medium that is comprised of two parts peat moss, one part sand, and one part loam. This combination is ideal, ensuring optimal drainage, although you can often get by with a mixed potting soil as well. Prayer plants can tolerate acidic, loam, or clay soils, although a well-draining mixture is best.

If you have soil that does not drain particularly well, you can add perlite or coarse sand to the mixture. Potting soil may not be readily available, so if you want to create your own well-draining mixture you can combine equal parts peat, garden soil, and coarse sand. A pinch of lime dust will help balance the pH of this mixture. Adding rocks or gravel to the bottom of the pot can help improve drainage.

If you make your own potting mix, make sure you are only using clean materials that are free of insects and weed seeds. You don’t necessarily need to purchase soil or potting mix, but you need to make sure your potting mix doesn’t have anything undesirable in it that could lead to more stress for your plant later on down the road.

Watering Your Prayer Plant

What’s more important than soil for your prayer plant is ensuring that it has optimal drainage. Prayer plants have exceptionally fine roots that grow in a shallow (yet dense) spread. They are susceptible to root rot, so you need to make sure the planting medium and container are both well-draining. If your plant’s container does not have a well-draining bottom, consider drilling extra holes or using an even lighter planting medium.

You want to make sure you water well enough so that your soil does not become dried out, but not so often that it becomes soggy. When you touch the soil of your prayer plant, it should be slightly damp to the touch. Use room temperature water to hydrate your plant, allowing the plant time to adjust to the water. Water that is too cold will chill the roots of your plant and cause stress, which can shock its system and result in leaf-dropping behavior.

Try to water the plant in the morning. Many people are already aware of this watering tip if they have outdoor plants or a lawn that needs to be regularly watered. However, the same rule applies for houseplants. Watering in the morning will give your plant an entire day to absorb the moisture, and will allow excess water on the leaves to evaporate.

If you notice that your plant has begun to develop dark spots on its leaves, cut off the damaged leaves at the base and throw them away. This is a symptom of leaf spot, caused by fungal growth as a result of nighttime watering.

Exactly how much water your plant will need will be dependent on so many circumstances, so a regular timeline is something only you can determine once you get your plant home. Just because your plant is thirsty one week doesn’t mean it will require the exact amount of water next week. While your plant will need lots of water in the spring and summer months (periods of rapid growth and heat), you can reduce your watering in the winter months.

Whenever possible, use filtered water to water your plants. This will help prevent contamination by chemicals such as chlorine or fluoride, which can negatively impact your plant and affect its overall growth. If you don’t have access to a water filter, letting the water sit for a day or two before using it can also help some of the chemicals dissipate.

Hard water can also be damaging to a prayer plant. It contains chemicals that, in seriously unbalanced water, can harm your plant or, at the very least, stunt its growth. It’s important that you also empty your watering containers or saucers regularly. Stagnant water can contain harmful microbes that can affect your plant’s growth.

Check your plant every day, touching the top of the potting soil to determine its wetness. Your plant needs to be watered when the top of the potting soil is just beginning to dry out. You should never allow the soil to dry out completely, as this can cause your plant to die. Your leaves will turn yellow and fall of the plant.

If you are away or for whatever reason forget to water your plant, don’t try to compensate for the mixed watering by providing more water. Instead, return to your regular watering schedule and try to keep track of your watering in the future.

Humidity for A Prayer Plant

As a tropical plant, the prayer plant requires a very humid environment. If its leaves are too dry, they will turn brown and begin to drop off. Keep in mind that your plant can be deprived of humidity even if you are watering it regularly. If you live in a location that gets very cold winters, the cold will sap even the air inside your house of much of its moisture. The same goes for individuals who have their plants in drafty or stuffy locations.

Providing the proper humidity for your prayer plant, particularly in the winter, can be challenging because you don’t necessarily need to provide more water to your plant during the colder months. In fact, prayer plants are prone to over-watering during the colder months of the year. So what’s a gardener to do?

Installing a humidifier can help increase the humidity when the winter air dries out the indoor environment, or when temperatures rise above 65 degrees in the summer. If a humidifier is not an option, you can also place your prayer plant in the bathroom. The steam from the shower and bath will help add humidity to the air. However, if your bathroom is devoid of windows or other bright, natural (but indirect!) light, it may not be the best choice.

You can also spritz your plant’s leaves with a spray bottle. Avoid watering directly on the leaves, as too much water can cause fungal issues. However, a light mist once or twice a day won’t dampen your leaves to the point of rot, but it will hydrate them so they can continue to absorb nutrients from the soil.

In some cases, placing your prayer plant near other groups of plants can help, as plants naturally produce water as they grow. You could place a bowl of water near the plant, or place it on a tray filled with water and small stones. By placing your plant near sources of moisture instead of directly on or in them, you will help provide your plant with adequate moisture without soaking your plants and causing fungal problems.

Remember that another major issue with houseplants is the lack of exposure to the outside elements. While this can be beneficial in some regards (you don’t have to worry about damaging winds or outdoor pests getting after your plants), it also means that your plants don’t have access to natural elements like cool breezes or soil microbes.

The lack of a breeze can result in a lack of airflow to your plants. This is particularly detrimental when it involves your plants’ roots. Plants that do not have enough air will be stunted, with many developing pest or disease issues as a result.

The best way to provide adequate airflow for your plant is to avoid placing it on a heating or cooling vent, while at the same time adding a supplementary source of air, like a slowly rotating fan. This will help keep the air moving and prevent it from becoming stagnant, while also improving the overall health of your plant.

Fertilizing Your Prayer Plant

In the early spring, you should begin a regular fertilizing schedule for your prayer plant. The best frequency is once every two weeks. You can fertilize all throughout the summer months and moving into the fall but should stop during the winter months, when your plant will enter a natural dormancy period.

When you fertilize, use a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer and dilute it to half-strength. This is usually about half a teaspoon of fertilizer per gallon of water, but it could be higher or lower depending on the specific manufacturer of your fertilizer. Whatever the instructions list as a recommended dilution rate, reduce that amount by another half.

Try to find a balanced houseplant fertilizer. Keep in mind that organic fertilizers can be used, like worm or compost tea, but you want to be careful to ensure that all nutrient levels are balanced and not tipped too far in favor of one nutrient (such as nitrogen, which tends to be present in higher contents in things like aged compost or manure).

No matter what kind of fertilizer you choose, remember that too little fertilizer will cause your plant to experience stunted growth – or lack of growth entirely. Too much fertilizer, on the other hand, will cause your leaves to become brown and can even burn your roots. You need to find a happy medium in terms of fertilizing, allowing your plant plenty of time to access nutrients and to develop vigorously-growing, bright-green stems and leaves.

Pruning Your Prayer Plant

Pruning a prayer plant can help ensure more vigorous growth. This is easy to do. All you need to do is clip your stems right above the leaf nodes using a sterilized pair of garden scissors. Your plant will send out new shoots below the cut area, allowing your plant to develop a more bushy appearance instead of sending growing resources to dead or dying parts of the plant.

You can prune several times a year (two or three times is best). By using sharp, clean scissors, you will reduce the likelihood of damaging your plant as well as of spreading disease. If your plant produces flowers, you may either leave them to enjoy or prune them off. These flowers tend to blossom for only a few days at a time before falling off, at which point the plant will begin to make new ones. The flowers do not stunt the plant’s growth in any way, and can add a nice decorative touch to your room.

You may find that your prayer plant’s leaves become dusty from time to time. This is nothing to be concerned about. You can clean the leaves every now and then with a dry cloth to help remove dust or any other built-up debris.


Prayer plants are easiest to propagate in the spring, when you are in the process of repotting your plant. You can take stem cuttings or simply divide your plant.

Cuttings should be taken just beneath the nodes that are closest to the bottom of the stem and then placed in a mixture of peat and perlite. Make sure the cuttings are kept adequately moist after transplanting. Put them in a sunny location, and cover them with plastic to help retain moisture. Once they are set in place, you should poke a few holes in the plastic cover. This will help allow air in while also promoting fresh growth.

If a piece of your prayer plant breaks off, you can dip it into rooting hormone and place it in distilled water. Change the water every other day, watching for signs of growth. Once your roots have grown to about an inch in length, you can take the plant out to place it in soil. Be careful to make sure there is at least some piece of stem on the leaves, or the plant will not take root. You can also place the pieces in soil directly, although the success rate may not be as high.

Repotting your Plant

Prayer plants won’t need to be repotted often, but when they become root-bound, they will grow much more slowly. This will indicate that it is time to change containers. If you decide to repot your prayer plant, you should only do so in the spring or summer months. This will help prevent cold weather shock during the plant’s dormant period. When your container is full of roots, you will notice that your potting mix dries out quickly and your prayer plant grows slowly.

To repot, choose a container that is at least an inch or two wider than the existing pot. Remove your plant from its current home and place it in the new pot (make sure you add a bit of extra soil mix, too). Water well for the first few days after transplanting.

If you are interested in propagating your plant, you can divide it into smaller plants. To do this, simply shake the soil off the roots and work them apart. Each new plant will have a healthy, large mass of roots, as well as several stems. You can replant these smaller plants in shallow pots.

When you repot, make sure you are potting in wide, shallow pots. Prayer plants’ roots don’t need a ton of room, but they need plenty of air. To make sure they have enough oxygen, consider repotting every other year.

Medicinal Properties of Prayer Plants

Interestingly, the chemical rosmarinic acid is found in prayer plants. This chemical is also found in certain ferns and hornworts, as well as some herbs like basil. It is also the active ingredient in rosemary.

This chemical produces several antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. It can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Rosmarinic acid can be effective in reducing your body’s histamine response to pollen allergies, as well as reducing symptoms like nasal congestion and atopic dermatitis.

Common Prayer Plant Issues

Leaf spot, also known as helminthosporium leaf spot, is one of the most common diseases to afflict prayer plants. This disease can be deadly if not treated quickly. It is caused by overwatering and can be slowed by adjusting your rate of watering.

You’ll know your plant has leaf spot if you notice that water-soaked spots are appearing all over your plant’s leaves. These yellow spots spread quickly, eventually looking tan in appearance. They may also have small yellow halos.

Unfortunately, leaf spot can be difficult to reverse once set in. That being said, maintaining a regular, even watering schedule can help prevent this disease in the first place. It is common in plants that are overwatered, or in those whose leaves are frequently covered in standing water.

Yellowing leaves are also common in prayer plants, typically caused by environmental stress, fungal disease, or viruses. Often, yellowing leaves are caused by something that can be easily adjusted, like the location of the plant or the type of fertilizer you are using. Other times, however, you may need to implement a more targeted approach.

More often than not, yellow leaves are a sign that your plant is being exposed to too much bright light. Move your plant to a new location, or install a sun screen to help filter the light. Excessive amounts of phosphate or fluoride, sometimes found in tap water, can also burn the tips of your leaves. Using filtered water or allowing your tap water to sit before using can help reduce this effect.

Chlorosis is another cause of yellowing foliage and is more common in younger leaves. This disease is essentially an iron deficiency, and it can cause death if not treated correctly.

Chlorosis can be caused by a high soil pH or a soil that is too clay-like in structure. Soil that is overly compact or wet, or contains too much phosphorus, can also have too little iron.

While chlorosis less likely to occur in a pot-bound plant, it can frequently arise as the result of too-wet soil. If your soil is compacted or if you have been watering it heavily, back off. You may need to add an iron supplement until the nutrient balance of the soil rights itself.

Cucumber mosaic virus is another common culprit of yellowing leaves in the prayer plant. If you have some yellow spots with some healthy green tissue, this virus could be at work. You might notice that newer leaves are emerging, but are small and misshapen, while older leaves are developing yellow line patterns.

Sadly, cucumber mosaic virus is not treatable, and you will have to get rid of your prayer plant if you are worried about the disease spreading to your other houseplants.


Prayer plants are prone to the same pests as other household plants. The most common ones are spider mites. These pests thrive in the plant’s bushy leaves, but luckily they hate excess humidity. Because prayer plants thrive when exposed to extra moisture in the air, keeping your humidity high is an easy way to help your plant thrive and keep pests at bay.

Spider mites are tough to see with the naked eye, but they can cause your plant to stop growing altogether. You may find webbing on your plants, and upon closer inspection, see the tiny mites on your plant’s leaves. You can use ladybugs or other predatory insects to get rid of the mites, or even use an insecticidal oil like neem oil.

Mealybugs are another source of stress for prayer plant owners. These pests produce a white residue on a plant’s leaves that looks not unlike cotton. It is usually found on the stems and leaves and can be either the egg sacs of these pests, or the mealybugs themselves. These pests suck the life out of your prayer plant and can multiply quickly.

If you find this residue on your plants, make sure you isolate your plant from others immediately. Scrape away any spots you find, and then treat the plant with a solution of three parts of water, one part alcohol, and a splash of dish soap. Let the plant sit for a few days and repeat the process. Neem oil or commercial pesticides are also effective at getting rid of mealybugs.

When you first get your prayer plant home, make sure you inspect it carefully before bringing it inside. Particularly if you are purchasing your plant from a nursery or another third-party plant retailer, you need to make sure your plants aren’t harboring any unwanted visitors as you move them inside your home.

As your plants are growing, keep an eye out and inspect them regularly (perhaps during feeding or watering periods) for any signs of disease or pests. These issues usually crop up by surprise, so being vigilant can help you detect them early to minimize further damage.

Is A Prayer Plant Right For Me?

If you like to garden and are interested in a vibrant, verdant new addition to your home, then yes! A prayer plant is absolutely the right houseplant for you. These plants can live for many years, with some lasting several decades or more.

As long as you water and feed your plant regularly, providing it with plenty of space to grow – and, of course, lots of tender loving care – your plant will provide you with enjoyment and beauty for years to come.

Why are my prayer plant’s leaves turning brown?

Leaves that have turned brown or are curling up may indicate that your plant is receiving too much light. Try moving your plant to a new location. However, browned leaves can also be caused by chlorine in tap water. Use filtered water or allow tap water to sit for twenty-four hours before using.

Is the prayer plant poisonous?

Prayer plants are not toxic to humans, dogs, or cats.

by Matt Gibson

A popular houseplant also commonly referred to as rabbit tracks, the prayer plant got its name because of its habit of folding up its leaves at night similarly to how someone folds up their hands to pray. Read on to learn all about the prayer plant, including its history, the different varieties available to gardeners, and how to provide the best growing environment and care for the prayer plant to ensure its success.

About Prayer Plant

A native of the Brazilian jungle, the prayer plant is only hardy to USDA growing zones 11 and 12, and does not typically do well outdoors, unless it is provided with a very shady location in a subtropical environment with the right neighbors. Because it has such a tiny climate zone where it is happy, it is typically grown indoors as a houseplant, where it is provided with specifically warm and damp conditions, similar to the tropical environment where it is from, in the jungles of Brazil.

Not growing the prayer plant outdoors, however, means missing out on its tiny white flowers, which is actually not a big loss, as they are insignificant and barely noticeable when in full bloom. Instead of being grown for its tiny white flowers, prayer plant is actually coveted for its lovely odd and one-of-a-kind foliage.

The six inch long leaves show off a different array of colors depending on variety. The topside of the leaves are usually some shade of green with spots. The spots vary in color from light green to brown and gray, while the undersides of the leaves are dark red or bright green. The most popular, and most gloriously-hued variety of prayer plant boasts tricolor leaves of green which are bedazzled with yellow spots and bright red veins.

Varieties of Prayer Plant

Named after a 16th century Italian botanist and physician Bartolomeo Maranta, the Maranta leuconeura is just one of the low growing plants in the Maranta genus, and the eye-catching tricolor foliage of one of its cultivars, M. tricolor, also known as the herringbone plant, helped it to become a very popular houseplant.

Aside from the tricolor, there are a few other interesting varieties that make excellent houseplants. The M. leuconeura kerchoveana has cream colored leaves with dark-green splotches and light green veins. M. leuconeura massangeana has white leaf veins, a darker background green and silvery blotches on the middle of the topside of the leaf.

Maranta leuconeura ‘Erythroneura’ is known as the red prayer plant. It has dark green leaves with hints of red on the topside and deep red notes on the underside of the leaves. There is a burgundy tint to the veins of the red prayer plant as well.

Growing Conditions for Prayer Plant

Prayer plants bright filtered indoor light. Too much direct sunlight will result in faded colors, brown blotches on the leaves, and leaf scorch. Prayer plants like their soil to be just right. They do not like it to be too moist, nor too dry. They prefer an acidic soil with a pH balance of 5.5 to 6. A great soil mixture for prayer plants is two parts sphagnum peat moss, one part loamy soil, and one part perlite or coarse sand. You can also use pre-packaged potting soil, but make sure it has good drainage before settling. To improve the drainage, add in perlite or coarse sand and line the bottom of your pot or container with rocks or gravel (and be sure to use a pot with a drainage hole).

They enjoy a humid environment so an occasional misting will keep them extra happy. Your prayer plant will thrive in temperature between 85 and 65 degrees F during the day and above 55 degrees F at night. Keep it in a location that is free of drafts, especially in the cold weather months.

As marantas are generally low-growing plants that like to spread out but never reaching heights above eight inches tall, they are perfect candidates for low-lying windowsill displays. They will perform best in near greenhouse-like conditions. Give them a warm, moist, gentle environment with plenty of air flow and fertilizer. If prayer plants are kept in an environment that is too cool or too dry, they will begin losing leaves and may develop fungal infections, eventually dying from collapse or from root rot.

Care of Prayer Plant

When watering your prayer plant, which you will want to do regularly in the spring and summer and less actively in the fall and winter, use a luke-warm temperature water and be sure to water the soil, not the leaves. Prayer plant leaves should be kept dry at all times (other than a few light mistings per week) to avoid fungal issues. During the spring and summer, soil should be kept moist at all times, but be careful not to let the plant get soggy. The best way to do this is to improve drainage when necessary. Not enough water and too much water could both be the cause if you notice your prayer plant’s leaves are turning yellow or falling off.

Fertilize your prayer plants every two weeks from early spring through the fall by diluting a well-balanced (10-10-10), water-soluble, houseplant fertilizer to half-strength. Again with fertilizer, just the right amount of food is key to the prayer plant’s survival, and any imbalance will have negative results. Too much fertilizer will burn the roots, turn the leaves brown, and even kill the plant. Too little fertilizer will cause the plants to grow slowly or not at all. Feed regularly every two weeks during the spring, summer, and fall, and cut back feedings to once per month in the winter.

You should not need to replant or repot your prayer plant too often, but once it becomes root bound or pot-bound, its growth will slow greatly, so rehome it when you see this occurring, once every three to four years. When repotting prayer plant, choose a new container that is only about one or two inches wider than the previous pot. In the early springtime, before the new growing season begins, gently remove the plant from its old container, lightly shake and brush the roots clean with your fingers. Then place into the new container with fresh potting soil and water well immediately after repotting.

How to Propagate Prayer Plant

Propagation of prayer plants is quite easy and can be done by rhizome division or by stem cuttings, but the most popular, and easiest method of propagation is by division when repotting.

Divide your plant into several smaller plants by carefully shaking the soil and separating the plants by the roots, gently working them apart. Each new plant should have multiple stems and a good mass of roots. Pot the new, smaller prayer plants in their own shallow pots, keeping the soil moist and warm until new growth begins to emerge.

If propagating by stem cutting, make your cut just below a leaf node, dip in rooting hormone, and place into a glass of water. Once roots begin to develop, place the cutting directly into potting soil, keeping the soil moist and misting from time to time. New growth should begin as roots begin to establish themselves.

Pruning Prayer Plant

You can prune your prayer plant to encourage bushier and fuller growth. Using a sterilized pair of pruning shears or sharp scissors, clip the stems just above a leaf node. From that clipping, new shoots will sprout up from the cut area, making the plant appear fuller, and more bushy.

Garden Pests and Diseases of Prayer Plant

Fungal issues are the most common disease to plague the prayer plant and usually arise from under or over watering issues, or inadequate drainage. Inspect new plants thoroughly before bringing them indoors, as prayer plants are susceptible to aphids, spider mites, and mealybugs. Check established houseplants for pests and diseases at regular intervals such as when watering or feeding to make sure that no problems have arised.

Common Questions and Answers About Prayer Plant

The name “prayer plant” is sometimes used to refer both to Calathea and Maranta varieties, both of which are part of the Marantaceae family. However, only the Maranta variety closes its leaves at night, the action from which the prayer plant got its name. Maranta also grows in a clumping formation low to the ground. Calathea does not fold its leaves up at night, but it is a popular houseplant with pleated oval or lance-shaped leaves.

Are prayer plants easy to grow?

Prayer plants are easy to care for but require care that’s specific to their preferences. Prayer plants like to be kept moist but not waterlogged. They should not be permitted to dry out between waterings; instead, they should be watered when the surface of the soil is just beginning to get dry. They also like high humidity, which can be achieved by placing a humidifier near them or by misting them daily. Finally, the prayer plant needs five to six hours of bright, indirect light each day. It can only be grown outside in zones 10B-12, and in these zones, the light can be filtered through the tree canopy. When prayer plant is grown inside, it can get light from an eastern-facing window or from the inside of a room that has a window that gets bright light.

Are prayer plants safe for dogs?

The ASPCA has listed prayer plants as safe for dogs and cats.

Can a prayer plant live outside?

Prayer plants can be grown outside by gardeners in zones 10B-12. They prefer temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit and high humidity.

Can I cut back my prayer plant?

You can encourage your prayer plant to put out new growth by pruning it occasionally. Use clean, sterilized shears and make cuts right above a leaf node. New shoots will emerge just below where you’ve cut, making the plant fuller and bushier.

Can you propagate prayer plant?

It’s easy to propagate prayer plants either by taking a cutting or via rhizome division. Make cuttings below leaf nodes, using clean shears. Dip the end of the cutting in rooting hormone, then place the cutting in a glass of water. Be sure to freshen the water every couple of days. When roots appear, transplant the cutting into potting soil. Water the plant frequently enough to keep soil moist, and mist the plant occasionally as well.

You can propagate via rhizome division when you’re repotting your prayer plant. Gently clean the roots to remove excess soil, dividing them into a few portions. Each new portion should include several stems and a generous clump of roots. Divide the plants into their own smaller pots, keeping them very moist and warm until new growth sprouts.

Do prayer plants go dormant?

It is normal for prayer plants to sometimes go dormant during the winter. This means they’ll have a period of little growth when they need less water. Allow the soil to dry out more between waterings if your prayer plant is dormant. You can read more about dormancy in our article that covers the topic

Do prayer plants like coffee grounds?

Coffee grounds are commonly used to boost the nitrogen content of potting soil and to add a mulch-like texture. However, adding too much coffee on top of the soil your plants are in can trap moisture inside and invite fungal disease. Use no more than half an inch of coffee grounds on the top of soil, and cover this layer with four inches of mulch. Alternatively, use coffee grounds as part of compost that’s incorporated into potting soil to get the same nutrients without the concern about fungus.

Do prayer plants like to be root bound?

Prayer plants will not thrive if they are root bound—they should be repotted about once a year. If your plant displays symptoms of being root bound, such as wilted foliage, stunted growth, or needing more water than usual, check the root ball to see if the roots are winding around the inside of the container. You can learn how to prevent, recognize, and troubleshoot bound plants in our article on the topic.

Does a prayer plant bloom?

The prayer plant produces white flowers a few times a year, especially when it’s grown outdoors within its USDA hardiness zones (10B-12) and cared for well. Flowers can be hard to notice and are produced one at a time at the end of a long stem.

Does a prayer plant move?

The leaves of the prayer plant fold up when it’s been in the dark for 15 minutes. This motion is a process of nyctinastic movement, also called sleeping movement, which are the motions plants make in the dark. The closing and opening of the plant’s leaves is a result of cells at the base of the leaves swelling and shrinking.

How big can prayer plants get?

Prayer plants can get up to three feet tall, but on average reach a height of one foot, with leaves that are six inches long.

How did prayer plant get its name?

The prayer plant got its name because its leaves fold up at night, which reminded people of hands praying for vespers.

How often should you water prayer plant?

Keep the soil moist (but not waterlogged) by watering regularly during the active growth period in spring and summer, then water less often in fall and winter. Do not allow the prayer plant’s soil to dry out; provide water when the surface of the soil is just beginning to get dry. Give prayer plants lukewarm water, and water the base of the plant to avoid getting the stems and leaves wet, which can lead to problems with leaf spot bacteria.

Prayer plant is nontoxic to humans, cats, dogs, and birds, and it can even be used in terrariums with invertebrates.

Is prayer plant toxic to cats?

According to the ASPCA, prayer plant is safe for dogs and cats.

Should I mist my prayer plant?

Mist your prayer plant daily with warm water during its winter dormancy period to give it the added humidity it craves.

What is a prayer plant called?

Prayer plant is sometimes called “praying hands,” and its botanical name is Maranta leuconeura. The name “prayer plant” is sometimes also used to refer to Calathea plants, but the Calathea does not close its leaves in evening like the Maranta prayer plant does.

What kind of soil does a prayer plant need?

You can use a standard potting soil for houseplants as long as it works well for you. If more drainage is needed, mix in sand or perlite. Alternatively, you can mix your own soil blend by combining: 1 part garden soil, 1 part peat or humus, 1 part perlite or sand, and 1 pinch of lime dust.

What type of plant is a prayer plant?

The prayer plant is a flowering tropical plant that comes from the New World tropics. It is a member of the family Marantaceae, and its botanical name is Maranta leuconeura. The name “prayer plant” is also used to refer to the Calathea variety of the same family, but the Calathea plant does not close its leaves at night, the action for which the prayer plant was named.

When should you repot a prayer plant?

Prayer plants do not need repotting often, but if a plant is in danger of becoming rootbound, move it to a new container one or two inches wider than the current pot. (You can learn to identify, prevent, and troubleshoot rootbound plants in our article on the topic.) If repotting is needed, it’s best done in spring before the growing season begins.

Where should I put my prayer plant?

Prayer plants need five to six hours a day of bright, indirect sunlight, and they can only be grown outside in USDA hardiness zones 10B-12. In those zones, it can get bright, indirect sunlight that is filtered through the tree canopy. In other zones, it can be grown as a houseplant, and its container should be placed in an eastern-facing windowsill or in the interior of a room with a window that gets bright sunlight. Prayer plants should be cultivated in spots where the temperature stays between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Why are my prayer plant’s leaves curling?

The leaves of the prayer plant naturally close together after about 15 minutes of darkness each night. This is a feature of the plant and should not cause alarm. If the curling is a result of wilting, there are a variety of reasons a prayer plant’s leaves might be curling. Not getting enough water can cause leaves to wilt and dry out, while too much water can cause root rot, which results in leaves wilting and falling from the plant.

Wilting can also indicate that a prayer plant needs more humidity, which can be remedied by adding a humidifier near the plant, misting the prayer plant daily, and making sure the plant is not near cold drafts or heating sources. Too much sunlight can also result in leaves that wilt, dry up, and eventually are scorched brown. Optimally, prayer plants need five to six hours of indirect bright sunlight and temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Infestations of mealybugs, spider mites, or aphids can also cause plants to curl up, wilt, or drop from the plant. Treat affected plants with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol or a spray made of a teaspoon of neem oil, one liter of warm water, and four or five drops of dish soap.

Why are my prayer plant’s leaves turning yellow?

There are a multitude of reasons a prayer plant’s leaves might turn yellow, from environmental stress to diseases or insects. If you’re seeing a strip of yellow between the healthy and unhealthy parts of the leaf, your prayer plant is responding to either too-bright lighting or too much phosphate or fluoride. An excess of phosphate or fluoride can be remedied by switching to watering with purified water. Prayer plants need five to six hours of bright, indirect sunlight per day, which may be filtered through the tree canopy, come from an eastern-facing window, or from the interior of a room with a window that gets bright light.

Yellowing of younger leaves can indicate chlorosis, which can be resolved by treating with liquid iron fertilizer as long as the soil pH is around 6.0. If you aren’t sure, this Gardening Channel article will explain how to test your soil’s pH level.

Small waterlogged spots that turn yellow and spread, turning tan with a yellow outline, are a symptom of Helminthosporium leaf spot, a fungal disease. Treat with a liter of warm water mixed with a teaspoon of neem oil and four or five drops of dish soap. This disease is caused by overwatering, so resolve the excess moisture to prevent future outbreaks.

If yellow areas alternate with healthy green foliage, this is a sign of cucumber mosaic virus. You may see young leaves that are distorted or stunted or older leaves with yellow designs on the surface. If your prayer plant has cucumber mosaic virus, it’s necessary to destroy it and discard of the debris to prevent the disease spreading to other plants in your garden.

Why do prayer plant leaves fold up at night?

The leaves of the prayer plant fold up after about 15 minutes of darkness each night. This is an example of nyctinastic movement, also called sleeping movements, which are movements plants make in the dark. Scientists aren’t sure why the prayer plant does this, but they theorize it could be to protect the plant. The movement is a result of cells at the base of the leaves swelling and shrinking.

Why do the leaves on my prayer plant curl up?

The prayer plant’s leaves fold up each night after about 15 minutes of darkness. This nyctinastic movement, or sleeping movement, is the action for which the prayer plant is named, since the folded leaves resemble praying hands. Curling as a result of wilting can indicate a variety of problems for the prayer plant.

Leaves can wilt, curl, and dry out if the prayer plant isn’t getting enough water. On the other hand, too much water can cause leaves to curl, wilt, and drop off as a result of root rot.

Wilting leaves can also point to a need for more humidity. You can remedy this issue by adding a humidifier near your prayer plant or by misting the plant each day. Make sure the prayer plant isn’t positioned too close to heat sources or cold drafts.

Leaves can sometimes wilt, dry up, and eventually be scorched brown as a result of sunscald when they’ve gotten too much light. The prayer plant needs five or six hours a day of bright, indirect light. Outdoors, the light should be filtered through the three canopy. Indoors, it should come from an eastern-facing window or the inside of a room with a window that gets bright light.

Leaves can also curl or appear distorted in response to an outbreak of mealybugs, spider mites, or aphids. You can treat plants against these infestations with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol or by applying a spray of one liter warm water, one teaspoon neem oil, and four or five drops of dish soap.

Why does the prayer plant move?

The prayer plant’s leaves fold up each night once it’s been in the dark for 15 minutes, resembling hands folded for prayer—the prayer plant was named after this motion. Experts aren’t sure exactly why the prayer plant moves, but they theorize it may be to protect the plant. The movement happens because of the swelling and shrinking of cells at the base of the leaves. It is an example of nyctinastic movement, or sleeping movement, which are motions plants make in the dark.

Why is my prayer plant dying?

There are many reasons a prayer plant might be dying. The prayer plant requires soil that is moist but not waterlogged. It not be permitted to dry out between waterings and should instead be watered whenever the soil’s surface begins to feel dry. The soil must provide sufficient drainage to prevent fungal disease. If drainage is an issue, consider mixing perlite or sand into your potting soil to increase its drainage capability. Soil pH should be around 6.0. If you aren’t sure of your soil’s pH level, this Gardening Channel article explains how to test soil.

Prayer plants also need five to six hours a day of bright, indirect sunlight. When prayer plants are grown outside (only possible in USDA hardiness zones 10B-12), this light can be filtered through the tree canopy. When it’s grown as a houseplant, the light may come from an eastern-facing window or the inside of a room with a window that gets bright light.

If a prayer plant’s leaves are discolored, distorted, or falling off the plant, this might indicate trouble with disease or infestation. Prayer plants are susceptible to outbreaks of mealybugs, spider mites, or aphids. You can treat against these pests with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol or with a spray made of one liter warm water, one teaspoon neem oil, and four or five drops of dish soap. The same neem oil treatment can be used to remedy fungal diseases, but overwatering must be addressed to prevent them coming back in the future.

The leaves of the prayer plant close as a response to darkness; the plant needs about 15 minutes of darkness for the motion to begin. If your prayer plant’s leaves are not closing, it’s possible that it doesn’t get dark enough where the plant is growing to trigger the movement.

Want to learn more about growing prayer plants?

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