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Everything You Need to Know About Prayer Plants Including Origins, Symbolism, and How-to-Grow

Prayer plants are loved for their interesting leaf structure and care-free nature which make them excellent options for houseplants. Here we’ll take you through everything you need to know about Prayer Plants including:

Looking for your next Prayer Plant? Check out our expert guide on Where to Buy Prayer Plants.


About the Prayer Plant

About Prayer Plants

The official name for Prayer Plants is Maranta leuconeura – it’s named after famed Italian botanist and physician Bartolomeo Maranta.

An evergreen, low ground tropical plant, the prayer plant is distinctly famous for its fascinating and adorning 6-12 inches long leaves. These leaves spread themselves out during the day and fold inwards in the evening resembling the plant in contemplative prayer.

In addition to looking stunning, Prayer Plants are also highly regarded for their ability to filter and purify the air we breathe.


Prayer Plant Origins, Family, and Species

Prayer Plant Origins, Family, and Species

The Maranta plant is a genus of the flowering plant from the family of Marantaceae and has around 50 species.

The prayer plant’s botanical name is Maranta leuconeura. It belongs to the family of Marantaceae and includes ‘arrowroot.’  It is one of the low-growing plants native to Central and South America, primarily in the rainforests of Brazil.


Popular Types of Prayer Plant

According to Wikipedia, there are approximately 50 species of the Maranta leuconeura.

Here are 3 of the most popular varieties to grow at home:

·       Maranta leuconeura ‘Erythroneura,’ aka Red Prayer Plant:

Red Prayer Plant is a common type of prayer plant with dark green leaves. These leaves have a light shade of green running down the spine. The arching veins in the plant come in a variety of red hues. It commonly grows from 6 inches to 8 inches tall.

·       Maranta leuconeura ‘Kerchoveana,’ aka Green Prayer Plant:

The most popular type of prayer plant to grow at home is Green Prayer Plant. The beauty of this plant is that it is a classic type with green leaves and purple markings in between the veins. This is also commonly known as ‘rabbit track plant’ because of the large green spots.

·       Maranta leuconeura var. ‘Massangeana,’ aka Black Prayer Plant:

Another popular type of prayer plant is Black Prayer Plant. This variety commonly has dark olive-green leaves with silvery blotches. It grows up to 11 inches tall and has small white flowers.


Prayer Plants Uses & Benefits

In addition to being a very popular ornamental houseplant, Prayer Plants are also well regarded for their medicinal properties (including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antiviral).

What’s more, Prayer Plants are expert air purifiers and do a stellar job filtering airborne toxins.


Prayer Plant’s Symbolism & Meaning

Prayer Plant Symbolism and Meaning - Bloomscape
Credit: Bloomscape

Have you ever thought that the prayer plants at your home or office are just for décor, or is there something more to it? Every plant has their own unique symbolism.

Speaking of Prayer Plants, these plants symbolize daily prayer of gratitude as the reflective action. The leaves of prayer plants curl up every night, almost like they’re praying. These making excellent gifting plants particularly when offering thanks or gratitude.  


How to Grow Prayer Plants

How To Grow Prayer Plants - The Sill
Credit: The Sill

Prayer Plants are generally easy to grow successfully at home. There are a few key pointers to follow that we’ll cover here. Prayer plants thrive best when provided with conditions like that of a temperate greenhouse – think mild to warm throughout the day and moisture rich whenever possible.

What is the best soil mix?

Generally, prayer plants prefer acidic soil that drains really well. A good peat-based moss mixed with sand and a handful of perlite would be great. Make sure you buy a pre-packaged and clean material that has been processed commercially and free of weed seeds and insects.

Suitable Pots and Planters

As with most plants, aiming for a planter that’s proportionate to the size of the plant you’re potting. This will make it much easier to ensure you water the plant effectively and provide sufficient space for the plants roots to develop and aerate as necessary.

I’d recommend a glass, ceramic or plastic container, one that’s relatively shallow and has a good drainage systme (simply add a tray underneath).

How big do Prayer Plants grow?

Generally, the size of the prayer plant can grow up to 12 to 15 inches tall. The plant will have oval-shaped leaves with striking patterns, blotches, lines, and shading that trails over and down alongside the pot.

Prayer Plant Light Preferences

Though the prayer plants can tolerate low light conditions plenty of indirect and bright light is best. Also, please note if your prayer plant doesn’t get sufficient light, the leaves won’t open properly.


How to Care for the Prayer Plant?

Caring for Prayer Plants - The Sill
Credit: The Sill

Prayer Plant Watering Preferences

During the growing season from early spring through fall, the prayer plant needs to be frequently watered. However, care needs to be taken while watering the prayer plant. You should water it only when the top of the potting soil starts becoming dry. Never allow the potting soil to dry out completely.

Make sure you put in nominal water. Too much water can cause fungal problems in the plant’s roots. Also, the water should not sit directly over the leaves or make the soil pot soggy.

It’s best to use water at room temperature. During winters, the watering needs to be reduced, as the prayer plants go dormant and don’t need much water to grow.

Feeding Preferences

Prayer Plant Feeding Preferences

During the growing season of spring through fall, the prayer plant needs to be fertilized every month or so.  Aim for a water soluable all-purpose feed and aim for a relatively weak mixture (dilute to approximately 50% strength). Always feed prayer plants when the soil is relatively moist.

Pruning Prayer Plants

Pruning is done to encourage or stimulate more vigorous growth. This can be done twice every year during the spring and summer months to improve the shape of the plant and to keep the plant compact and bushy. The process of pruning requires sharp garden scissors.

The stems need to be cut above the leaf nodes. After this, the plant will respond by the growth of a few new shoots just below the cutting area, making it appear bushier.

Propagation

Propagating prayer plants is amazingly easy, given the fact of how fickle they can be.  There are 2 possible ways of propagating the prayer plant.

  • Stem cutting: The stem cut should be at least 10cm in length with 2-4 leaves attached. The stem needs to be cut below a leaf node. Now dip that cut stem in a rooting hormone and keep it in a container filled with water, preferably distilled. The water needs to be changed every day.
  • The second method is through cutting the stem and directly placing the stem into the potting soil. The best mix is of sand and peat moss. Rooting will take about a month of time and then should be placed in a regular pot with standard soil.

Re-potting Prayer Plants

Prayer plants may need to be repotted when the prayer plant roots become root-bound in its pots. In that case, the plant will grow much slower. To check whether the prayer plant is root-bound, place 2 fingers around the base of the plant, turning it over and gently, and pull it out of the pot. If there is a need to repot, the root ball will be nearly solid.

To repot the plant, choose a pot which is 1-2″ wider than the existing pot. Remove the prayer plant and place it in the new wider pot and fill it with potting mix soil.


Prayer Plant Pest and Disease Considerations

Pest and disease considerations are a must for indoor prayer plants. The plants can be quite susceptible to spider mites and mealybugs in-particular.  

The prayer plants like humidity, whereas pests like spider mites hate it. If you find white webs or fungal over the leaves, it’s time to get the humidity around the prayer plant under check and control to the right amount. A good warm water spray will also help and damp cloth to wipe away the webs and good organic horticultural oil will also help to boost your plant’s general tolerance to invaders.

Common Problems

Common Prayer Plant Problems, Pests & Diseases
  • If the leaves of the prayer plants are curling up or turning brownish, it’s a sign that it’s getting more sunlight than it requires. Prayer plants’ leaves are much greener in shade. Much sunlight makes the leaves bleach. Another cause of brown tips could be the chlorine content in the tap water. To resolve these problems, use filtered water or let the water sit 24 hours before watering it again.
  • If you see water spots over the leaves, it’s conclusive to say that the prayer plant is certainly dealing helimthosporium leaf spot. If it is not controlled, this can destroy the plant. This is caused due to overwatering and can be stopped by stop over-watering the plant. Another remedy to fix it is to use neem oil over the leaves.

Essential Tools

There not much requirement of tools, the basic tools that would be required are:

  • A plastic or glass pot or glazed ceramic container with a drainage hole
  • Saucer or tray to catch water beneath the pot
  • A small shovel
  • Knife or garden scissors
  • Watering can
  • Gardening gloves
  • All-purpose plant feed and horticultural oil.

As the epitome of gratitude, the prayer plant brings luck and prosperity to the house. The plant gets its common name from a fact that every night the leaves of the plant fold up like praying hands. This species of Maranta leuconeura is strikingly mesmerizing, and they are commonly popular for the variety of leaves and their arching red veins traveling to the leaf margins.

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