How Much Light Do Prayer Plants Need?

Prayer plants (Maranta leuconeura) are iconic tropical houseplants belonging to the Maranta genus. These beautiful plants are known for their striking leaves, which curl up at night before unfurling anew in the morning and offer a host of uses and benefits. A key component in caring for these plants is getting the light conditions right. In this article, we’ll run through everything you need to know about how much light prayer plants need to thrive. 

How Much Light Do Prayer Plants Need

How Much Light Do Prayer Plants Need? – The Essentials

Prayer plants need bright, indirect light, although filtered light also works well. These plants cannot tolerate intense direct sunlight as this scorches the leaves. Low-light conditions are acceptable, but the plant may lose some of its vibrant colors. East or southeast-facing windows are ideal for prayer plants to thrive in the home. 

The Role of Light in Plant Health and Growth

The Role of Light in Plant Health and Growth

All plants depend on sunlight for photosynthesis, which allows plants to manufacture food within their bodies. Plants use chlorophyll – the green pigment in their leaves – to absorb energy from sunlight. Using this energy, plants can then combine carbon dioxide and water to create glucose.

Glucose is a necessary sugar that plants use as fuel to manufacture cellulose. This material forms the building block of new cells and tissues within the plant, such as stems and leaves.

Without adequate sunlight, plants cannot produce enough cellulose, causing weak or stunted growth. Plants that don’t get enough light will try and create more chlorophyll, resulting in dark green leaves. This can cause plants to lose their leaves’ vibrant colors or patterns.

However, a plant can suffer if it gets too much light. Direct sunlight, especially during the afternoons, can scorch a plant’s leaves. This can cause colors and patterns to fade and may also cause long-term damage.

Different plants require different levels of sunlight exposure. This is usually influenced by the amount of light a plant receives in its natural habitat.

Common Light Terminology for Indoor Plants

Providing each plant with the correct amount of light is extremely important. However, there can be lots of different terms for light exposure that can become confusing. Generally, there are four main categories of light exposure for indoor plants:

Bright, direct light 

Bright, direct light means that sunlight falls directly onto a plant’s leaves for most of the day. Areas of bright, natural light usually include south or southwest-facing windows with no filter. This type of sunlight is too much for most houseplants except for cacti or succulents.

Bright, indirect light 

Bright, indirect light is ideal for most houseplants. These light conditions occur in areas where a plant is close to a window, but the sunlight doesn’t fall directly onto the leaves. Plants receive bright, indirect light when placed up to 3 feet away from an east or south-facing window.

Filtered light 

The type of sunlight is essentially bright, indirect light that passes through a filter like a blind or net curtain. Filtered light is ideal for plants that can be sensitive to bright light. East-facing windows are perfect for providing filtered light.

Low light 

Also known as partial shade, low-light conditions are best for plants that are extremely sensitive to bright light. Low-light conditions usually occur in rooms with north-facing windows.

Typical Light Conditions That Prayer Plants Receive in Their Native Habitat

Typical Light Conditions That Prayer Plants Receive in Their Native Habitat

Prayer plants are native to tropical rainforests in Brazil. In these warm, humid habitats, prayer plants grow as ground cover on the rainforest floor. Prayer plants are compact plants that rarely exceed 12 inches tall.

In this rainforest environment, prayer plants receive dappled or partial shade. Direct sunlight is filtered through the rainforest canopy down to the prayer plants on the forest floor.

Signs That Your Prayer Plant is Receiving Too Much Light

Signs That Your Prayer Plant is Receiving Too Much Light

Brown, or Burnt Leaves

If a prayer plant receives too much direct sunlight, the edges of the leaves can start to burn or turn brown. Move the plant further away from the window or into an east-facing room.

Fading or Discoloration

If the vibrant leaves of a prayer plant start fading or losing color, the plant may be receiving too much light. Discolored leaves will look bleached or washed out.

Drooping or Shriveling Leaves

Drooping, wilted, or yellowing prayer plant leaves are another sign that your prayer plant is receiving too much light. This indicates the plant isn’t receiving enough water or humidity due to the intense sunlight.

Increased Water Requirements

Prayer plants that get too much sunlight will require more water. Ideally, prayer plants should be watered approximately once a week or whenever the top 2 inches of soil feel dry. The soil dries out more quickly with increased sunlight, so you’ll have to water more often.

If you’re worried that your prayer plant is receiving too much direct sunlight, move it approximately 3 feet away from the window. If symptoms continue, you may have to move it to a slightly shadier area.

Signs That Your Prayer Plant isn’t Receiving Enough Light

Signs That Your Prayer Plant isn't Receiving Enough Light

Darker Foliage

Although prayer plants can tolerate low-light conditions, they can receive too much shade. This causes the leaves to turn dark green as the plant tries to produce more chlorophyll. This can make the beautiful patterns on the leaves disappear.

Leaves Don’t Fully Open

Every night, prayer plants curl up their leaves before unfurling them again in the morning. However, if your prayer plant doesn’t get enough light, the leaves may not fully unfurl during the day.

Weak, Leggy, or Stunted Growth

Prayer plants can only produce enough cellulose with sufficient sunlight to develop strong, healthy growth. Prayer plants may produce leggy, weak, or stunted growth in extreme low-light conditions. New leaves will be smaller and have larger gaps between other leaves on the stem. It’s also prudent to keep an eye out for common prayer plant pests and diseases affecting plant growth.

The Best Light Exposure for Prayer Plants Indoors

The Best Light Exposure for Prayer Plants Indoors

Prayer plants require bright, indirect, or filtered sunlight to grow at their best. Ideally, prayer plants should receive approximately 6 to 8 hours of bright, indirect sunlight every day. Prayer plants can also tolerate low-light conditions, but growth will be less strong.

Prayer plants cannot tolerate bright, direct light as it can burn and discolor the leaves. South or southwest-facing windows may provide too much bright, direct sunlight. Move your prayer plant at least 6 feet away from the window in these rooms.

If prayer plants are left in low-light conditions for too long, plants will develop weak or stunted growth. Low-light conditions can also cause discoloration because the plant produces more chlorophyll to compensate for the lack of sunlight.

The ideal position for a prayer plant is approximately 3 feet away from an east or southeast-facing window. This provides plenty of bright, indirect light during the morning when sunlight is less intense. Protect the plant by using blinds or net curtains to create filtered light.

South or southwest-facing rooms provide too much intense sunlight in the afternoon for prayer plants. Keep the plant about 6 feet away from the window in these rooms. North-facing rooms often provide too much shade for prayer plants, but you can use artificial grow lights in these areas.

Always rotate your prayer plant regularly to help the plant grow evenly. Prayer plants are very active and will noticeably lean toward light sources. If you don’t rotate the plant regularly, it will become lopsided and won’t look as good.

Prayer Plant Light Requirements FAQs:

Can Prayer Plants Handle Low-Light Conditions?

Prayer plants can tolerate low-light conditions but grow best in bright, indirect, or filtered light. Too much shade can cause discoloration and weak or stunted growth.

How Much Light Should a Prayer Plant Get?

Do Prayer Plants Need High Light Levels?

How Do You Know if Your Prayer Plant is Getting Enough Light?

Optimal Light Conditions for Prayer Plants – Wrapping Up

Prayer plants are prized for their colorful, vibrant leaves that unfurl in the morning. These plants require 6 to 8 hours of bright, indirect light a day, ideally from east or southeast-facing windows. Prayer plants can also tolerate filtered light and low-light conditions. Direct sunlight, especially in the afternoons, can burn or discolor prayer plant leaves.

For more, see our in-depth guide on where to position prayer plants in the home for optimal care and feng shui benefits.

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