Prayer Plant Care

Prayer Plant Care

Maranta leuconeura are tropical indoor plants renowned for their eye-catching variegated foliage. The leaves make subtle movements throughout the day in response to light, and then strikingly fold upward at night. This folded position is said to resemble praying hands, earning this plant the nickname “Prayer Plant” or “Praying Hands Plant.”

These tropical natives thrive in environments with abundant filtered light, moist soil, and high humidity—potentially challenging conditions in a northern household in winter. But once you get the conditions right they are actually quite easy and will reward you with their stunning foliage and unique movement patterns. Read on to learn how to care for a Prayer Plant, and add these dazzlers to your houseplant collection.

Soil: Prayer Plants require moist, well-draining soil with a slightly acidic pH. Use a standard houseplant potting mix and select a potting container with plentiful drainage holes.

Light: Prayer Plants thrive in bright, indirect sunlight. Avoid direct sunlight, as this can bleach or burn the leaves. While these plants can tolerate lower light, this will slow their growth.

Watering: Prayer Plants are highly sensitive to drought, so keep the soil evenly moist, but not soggy. Every few days, check the moisture level by inserting a finger ½” into the top of the soil. If it feels dry, water it thoroughly, allowing excess water to drain away from the plant. Never allow the pot to sit in water, as this can cause rot.

While they require watering less frequently during dormant periods in the fall and winter, Prayer Plants should never be allowed to dry out completely, as this can cause severe damage.

Tap water with high chlorine and/or fluoride content can cause discoloration of the leaves. If this is an issue, let the water sit overnight so that contaminants evaporate before watering your plants. You can also water your plants with rainwater or filtered water.

Temperature/Humidity: Prayer Plants thrive when the ambient temperature is kept between 60 and 80ºF. These cold-sensitive plants may be grown outdoors in USDA Hardiness Zones 11–12, though most people choose to keep them indoors as houseplants.

When kept indoors, these plants do best in an average temperature of 60–80ºF, but take care to position them away from drafty windows or air vents that could harm their foliage.

Prayer Plants are particularly susceptible to variations in humidity. During the winter months when furnaces and fireplaces cause the air to dry out, consider increasing the humidity above 50%. The best way to increase the humidity around your plants is to run a humidifier nearby.

You can also set Prayer Plants in trays filled with pebbles or gravel, adding water to a level just below the tops of the pebbles. Never allow the potting mix to come in contact with the water, as this can oversaturate the plant and cause rot. Refill the trays frequently to replace water lost through evaporation.

Fertilizing: When Prayer Plants are in active growth from spring through summer, use a balanced houseplant fertilizer monthly, diluted to half strength.

Pruning: Because Prayer Plants originate on the forest floor, they have a tendency to grow in low, sprawling patterns. To help achieve a more attractive shape, pinch back leggy growth.

Repotting: Prayer Plants may require occasional repotting every 2–3 years as they outgrow their containers. When possible, repot them in the spring during active growth periods.

Select a container about 1–2” larger than the current one. Carefully remove your plant from its container and place it in the new container with fresh potting mix formulated for houseplants. Thoroughly wet the soil, allowing excess moisture to drain away, and then proceed with care as usual.

Pests/Diseases: Mealybugs and spider mites can affect many houseplants, including Prayer Plants. They often present as white spots, holes, or webbing on leaves and typically result in the leaves curling, yellowing, and eventually dying. These pests are easy to remove with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol, or an application of neem oil. Periodically wipe the leaves with a damp cloth to remove dust.

Common Prayer Plant Problems & Solutions

Prayer Plant Leaves Curling

Prayer Plants thrive in high ambient humidity and temperatures above 60ºF. If humidity levels drop too low, the leaves may begin to curl. If you notice this, increase the humidity with a humidifier or by setting small trays of water around your plant.

Prayer Plant Yellow Leaves

Yellow leaves on a Prayer Plant are a prime indicator that the plant is experiencing stress. Review the care instructions above, ensuring the plant is receiving appropriate levels of water, humidity, sunlight, and ambient temperatures to help alleviate stress and revitalize the plant.

Prayer Plant Brown Tips

While it is normal for older leaves to exhibit brown tips, excessive brown tips on your Prayer Plant signal environmental issues. Review the watering instructions to ensure the plant is receiving sufficient moisture—Prayer Plants are particularly susceptible to dehydration, and this is the most common cause of brown leaf tips. If the brown tips appear on only one side of the plant, this may mean the plant is not being watered evenly. Be sure to water the soil around the entire plant to deliver appropriate moisture throughout.

Using water with a high chemical or mineral content can also result in browning leaf tips, so let tap water sit for a few hours before administering it to your plant, or switch to rainwater or filtered water to avoid impurities.

Low levels of humidity can also cause Prayer Plant leaves to brown, so maintain an indoor humidity of at least 50%. Use a humidifier or place small trays of water around the plant to help increase humidity levels.

Prayer Plant Drooping

Dehydration is the most common cause for Prayer Plants drooping. These plants require consistently moist soil, especially during active growth periods in the spring and summer. Overwatering can also cause a Prayer Plant to droop. Abide by the watering instructions above to remedy drooping.

How To Revive A Prayer Plant

If your Prayer Plant is dying, check for pests that may be harming it. If you discover signs of an infestation, identify the pest and treat the plant accordingly. If no pests are present, review the care instructions above. Prayer Plants are tropical plants with specific requirements for water, temperature, and humidity levels. If any of these variables are off, the plant will struggle, so make sure you provide the plant the appropriate environment to encourage healthy growth.

If the plant is overly wilted or its leaves are blackened, it may be time to dispose of the plant.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Prayer Plants flower?

All Prayer Plants are capable of flowering, though those kept indoors rarely bloom. Prayer Plants flower in the spring and produce small white or purple blooms that appear similar to snapdragon flowers. The flowers are mildly scented and blooming may last up to a few months, with individual flowers lasting only a few days. To encourage your plant to flower, follow the care instructions above.

Are Prayer Plants toxic to cats and dogs?

No, Prayer Plants are not considered toxic to cats, dogs, or humans, though it is still best to avoid ingesting large amounts of any houseplant.

Why do Prayer Plant leaves move at night?

While many theories exist as to why Prayer Plants’ leaves move throughout the day and at night, we do not know for sure what caused this trait to evolve. Some suggest it is a response to their native habitat, where the leaves unfold and move throughout the day to maximize sunlight, and then fold up at night to prevent dew from collecting on the leaves. Others suggest the movement helps ward off insects that would otherwise feed on the foliage. Whatever the reason, many gardeners are fascinated by the graceful movements of their Prayer Plants.