By: Heather Rhoades
Most people are familiar with how to grow prayer plants. The prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura) is easy to grow but has specific needs. Keep reading to learn what those needs are.
How to Grow a Prayer Plant
Although prayer plant houseplant is somewhat tolerant of low light conditions, it does best in bright, indirect sunlight. The prayer plant prefers well-drained soil and requires high humidity to thrive. Prayer plant houseplants should be kept moist, but not soggy. Use warm water and feed prayer plant houseplants every two weeks, from spring through fall, with an all-purpose fertilizer.
During winter dormancy, the soil should be kept drier. Keep in mind, however, that dry air can also be a problem in winter; therefore, placing the prayer plant among several houseplants can help create more humid conditions, misting daily with warm water. Placing a bowl of water near the plant or setting its container on top of a shallow dish of pebbles and water is also helpful. However, do not allow the prayer plant to sit directly in water. Ideal temperatures for the prayer plant are between 60 and 80 F. (16-27 C.).
Prayer Plant Propagation
Repot in early spring, at which time prayer plant propagation can be accomplished by division. Use ordinary potting soil when repotting the prayer plant. Stem cuttings can also be taken from spring to early summer. Take cuttings just below the nodes closest to the bottom of the stem. Cuttings can be placed in a mixture of moist peat and perlite and covered with plastic to retain moisture levels. You may want to poke a few air holes in the plastic to allow for adequate ventilation as well. Place the cuttings in a sunny location.
If a piece of prayer plant has broken off, dip the broken end into rooting hormone and place it in distilled water. Change the water every other day. Wait until the roots are about an inch long before taking it out to place in soil. Keep in mind with prayer plant propagation that there needs to be a least a small portion of stem on the leaves in order for the piece to take root. Alternatively, the piece can be rooted directly in soil, as with cuttings.
Prayer Plant Pest Problems
Since prayer plant houseplants may be prone to pests such as spider mites, mealybugs and aphids, it is a good idea to inspect new plants thoroughly before bringing them indoors. You may also want to occasionally check prayer plant houseplants as an added precaution during watering or feeding intervals for any problems that may arise.
Learning how to grow a prayer plant is easy and its rewards well worth any issues you may come across along the way.
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4 Basic Ways of Propagating Prayer Plant
Don’t be intimidated if you’re planning to expand your plant collection for the first time, propagating prayer plants is relatively easy after all!
The best time to propagate your prayer plant is during spring. During this season, the young cuttings you take from the mother plant are eager to root.
However, they are also at a greater risk of drying out if you don’t know how to proper care for them. You should also have a healthy plant that you will use for propagating.
Propagating Prayer Plant from stem cuttings
The first method is the most popular and frankly the easiest method by far. Start by observing the stem of your prayer plant. You will find the leaf nodes over the surface of the stem.
Before making a cut, make sure to choose a strong and healthy stem do the cut just under the leaf nodes using sterilized pruning shears.
To let the roots develop, make sure that the entire node from your cut is in one piece.
Keep your prayer plant cuttings about ten centimetres long with 3 to 4 leaves in it. You can root the cuttings directly in soil on a pot that measures about 2-3 inches. After a month, your cutting will start rooting. You can now move them in a standard soil and pot.
Most gardeners dip the cuttings first in the combination of water and rooting hormone powder. When the roots are about an inch long, that’s when they are planted in a moist potting medium.
When rooting your cuttings, place them in an area with low light to make the roots develop faster. You can move them to a brighter location once they have fully adapted.
Propagating through root division
Root divisions are usually done when repotting the prayer plant. With this method, you need to shake off any clinging soil in the roots.
Split the plant into a couple of portions. Be careful in doing so since the root system of your prayer plant is a little delicate. You need to be cautious and gentle when prying them apart.
You can use your hands or a small knife when you’re dividing the plant. To help minimize shock from your plant, you can cut them back slightly right before you place them in a new pot.
Remember to do this method as fast as possible so the roots won’t dry out.
What about slip propagation?
This type of propagation can also be considered under the propagation from cuttings. However, it also closely resembles the root division.
Basically, it’s not much different from the two. Using this method, you will need plant slips.
You can get the slips if you have a healthy prayer plant with lots of vigorous stems. Before you start dividing these slips, have clean pots and fresh potting soil ready.
Take out the prayer plant from its pot then softly remove the excess soil on the roots until the root system is exposed.
Using your fingertips, gently comb the different clusters of stem and roots separately into strands. You now have the plant slips.
You can then proceed to plant these slips in other pots just as deep as they were planted previously.
Propagating from seed
Propagating prayer plants from seed is a really rare method. It’s because it can be quite a drag to do this, not to mention that it can be a challenge to even find maranta seeds.
Another thing is that you can’t get the seeds that you need from your existing prayer plant especially if you’re growing them indoors.
Why? There is a low chance for your prayer plant to make blooms indoors. No flowers mean there are no seeds to propagate.
If you ever get the chance to have a seed, you just need to plant them in a moist potting medium. The perfect temperature for your prayer plant seed to germinate is in about 55 to 65 degrees F.
Make sure to put a plastic bag cover over your germinating plant to maintain the moisture.
Again, you can first place your new plant in an area with less humidity. As they grow, you can slowly expose them to their natural or normal growing conditions.
This way, you can let your prayer plants become accustomed to their environment at their own time.
How to Propagate a Prayer Plant
The prayer plant is a stunning house plant, with its big, deep green green foliage marked with colorful red veins. It's appropriately named because the leaves fold up at night like praying hands. Prayer plants are fairly easy to maintain, as long as they have sunlight and adequate humidity. If you have access to a healthy prayer plant, it's easy to start a new plant by taking a cutting.
Fill a small planting container with good quality houseplant potting soil. Any container with a drainage hole in the bottom will work.
Choose a young, sturdy leaf that shows no signs of wilting or drooping, and use a sharp knife to remove a four to six inch stem. Make the cut just below a leaf. Pinch the leaves off the lower half of the stem cutting, and leave the upper leaves intact.
- The prayer plant is a stunning house plant, with its big, deep green green foliage marked with colorful red veins.
- Any container with a drainage hole in the bottom will work.
Dip about half an inch of the cut end of the stem cutting in rooting hormone. Make a hole in the potting soil, and plant the cutting in the hole. Tamp the soil down carefully, and try not to scrape off too much of the rooting hormone. You can plant several cuttings in a pot, but the leaves shouldn’t touch, because they can rot.
Mist the soil well, and place a plastic bag upside down over the pot. Attach the bag to the pot with a rubber band. If the plastic is touching the leaves, put a few stakes in the soil to hold the bag up and away.
- Dip about half an inch of the cut end of the stem cutting in rooting hormone.
- If the plastic is touching the leaves, put a few stakes in the soil to hold the bag up and away.
Make sure the environment in the plastic bag is humid at all times. The plastic bag will keep moisture in like a greenhouse, but if you notice the soil is getting dry, remove the bag and spray the soil.
Put the container in a warm place where it will get indirect sunlight. Never put the cuttings in direct sunlight, especially a windowsill, because as long as the cutting is under plastic, it will be too hot.
Check after two to three weeks to see if the cuttings have taken root. You can check for tiny roots coming through the drainage hole, or you can carefully pull out a cutting and replace it. When the roots are at least an inch long, remove the container from the plastic bag and transplant it to a larger pot.
- Make sure the environment in the plastic bag is humid at all times.
- You can check for tiny roots coming through the drainage hole, or you can carefully pull out a cutting and replace it.
Feed the prayer plant a water soluble houseplant fertilizer after it’s established in its new pot, and once a month thereafter. In spring and summer the feedings can be increased to every other week.
Put the prayer plant in indirect light. Keep the soil consistently moist, and don’t allow it to dry out between watering.
How to Get Starts From a Prayer Plant
Prayer plant, or Maranta leucoreura, is a popular herbaceous perennial that serves well as a houseplant. While it prefers bright, indirect light, its relatively lower lighting tolerance allows it to adapt well to typical indoor growing conditions. Prayer plants propagate readily from cuttings, or starts, taken anytime during the spring or early summer.
Choose an attractive, healthy prayer plant to get your starts from. The cuttings will grow into a clone of the parent plant, so select one that you like.
Find the lowest node on a mature, unblemished stem of the prayer plant. Use a sharp knife to cut cleanly through the stem just below this node.
- Prayer plant, or Maranta leucoreura, is a popular herbaceous perennial that serves well as a houseplant.
- The cuttings will grow into a clone of the parent plant, so select one that you like.
Fill a well-draining 4-inch pot with a mixture of equal parts peat moss and Perlite. Set the pot in a shallow container of warm water until the surface feels moist. Remove the pot from the water and allow it to drain for about two hours.
Dampen the lower 1/2 to 1 inch of the stem and dip it in powdered rooting hormone. Plant the powdered area in the pot and firm the soil well. Seal the cutting in a clear plastic bag to retain moisture. Poke a few holes in the bag to allow for good air circulation. Set the start in a warm, brightly lit spot out of direct sun. A windowsill, the top of your refrigerator or above a hot water heater are good choices.
- Fill a well-draining 4-inch pot with a mixture of equal parts peat moss and Perlite.
- Plant the powdered area in the pot and firm the soil well.
Open the bag and check the soil every day to ensure that it never dries out. Water as needed to keep the surface evenly moist, but not soggy or wet.
Check the start for root development in about two weeks. Tug on it very gently. If it resists, roots are forming. If not, try again in another week.
Remove the plastic bag when the prayer plant start’s roots have developed enough for the plant to strongly resist your tugging. Plant it in all-purpose potting soil and place it in a warm, bright windowsill out of direct sunlight. Keep the young prayer plant’s soil surface evenly moist, but not soggy or wet.
Feed the prayer plant an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer about two or three weeks later. Continue fertilizing every other week for the rest of the growing season. Follow the packaging instructions carefully.
Keep It Alive
- Although tolerant of low light, it does best with bright, indirect sun. With insufficient light, the leaves do not fully open in the morning. When there is too much light, the leaf colors can fade.
- Prefers well-draining soil and high humidity. This means it should be kept moist but not soggy. Also placing the plant among other plants can create a more humid environment. Another idea is to mist daily with warm water.
- Feed a prayer plant every couple of weeks—spring through fall—with an all-purpose fertilizer. Also use warm or at least room temperature water when giving it a drink. (If you miss a feeding or two, don’t worry. Your prayer plant will survive.)
- Because of its shallow roots, your prayer plant should be in a container that is more squat than deep.
See more about calatheas and marantas in Prayer Plants: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design. And see more of our favorite tropical plants in Tropical Plants 101 and more indoor plants with exotic foliage in Houseplants 101. For more inspiration:
Finally, get more ideas on how to successfully plant, grow, and care for prayer plant with our Prayer Plant: A Field Guide.
Finally, get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various houseplants with our Houseplants: A Field Guide.
Interested in other tropical plants for your garden or indoor space? Get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various tropical plants with our Tropical Plants: A Field Guide.