The prayer plant is such a beautiful being that you often forget it’s real—colors and shapes, almost directly from a fantasy world.
Taking care of this plant, however, is no easy job. Do it the wrong way, and it may die.
You don’t want that to happen, right?
What’s the solution? Learn to propagate and take care of it the to make it happy (and yourself too!).
Don’t let that prayer plant grow weak and ugly. Keep it thriving for long with our advice below.
What is a Prayer Plant Exactly?
The Maranta leuconeura is an herbaceous perennial from the Marantaceae family that lives in South America, Africa, and Asia.
Its scientific name comes from Bartolomeo Maranta, a botanist from Italy who first discovered the plant back in the sixteenth century.
Why is it called the Prayer Plant? Because the plant stays flat in the day and folds up like it is praying at night.
It can grow to 12 inches tall and wide. Prefers tropical environments. And produces small, orchid-like flowers in the spring.
What makes it different from other plants is the gorgeous array of colors. It looks almost like a painting, with leaves sporting yellow, purple, light, and dark green, sometimes even black tones. The underside of the leaves is purple to make it even more enticing.
It also grows slowly, thrives indoors, and makes any environment look a lot more striking.
Varieties of Prayer Plant to Consider
You will find over 50 species from the prayer plant. Here are three you should consider for their popularity and beauty:
Red Nerve (Maranta leuconeura var. Erythroneura)
It is the most popular of all prayer plants, primarily due to its unique array of colors. The Red Nerve name comes from a bright pink-to-red vein that goes all through the center of the leaves and sideways.
Boasting dark and light green tones plus a thoroughly purple underside, the Red Nerve will make any place attractive.
Rabbit’s Foot (Maranta leuconeura var. Kerochoviana)
Another common Maranta is the Rabbit’s Foot. The name comes from the unique marks on the leaves, resembling the mark a rabbit leaves in soil.
It sports velvety leaves with a light green tone. The marks are often dark, brown when it is growing, and almost black when it is mature.
Maranta Fascinator (Maranta leuconeura var. leuconera ‘Fascinator)
You could say the Fascinator variety is the combination of a Red Nerve with a Rabbit’s Foot. It comes with velvety leaves and a fascinating array of colors from the Red Nerve.
The enticing pink-to-red patterned midrib with the light-green to yellow tones add up to an attractive plant all around.
How Long Does It Take to Propagate a Prayer Plant?
Depending on the method you follow, this could take from a couple of weeks to a month or more.
The focus is to let the root system grow long enough to be transplanted into the soil more easily. However, propagating from seeds may take a lot more than that (up to 2 months to see results).
Where Should You Cut a Prayer Plant for Propagation?
The perfect place to cut a prayer plant for propagation would be just below a node. This node is where leaves and roots grow from.
You can identify nodes for their slightly different color from the rest of the stems and branches. Nodes also tend to be a little bulgy. We recommend picking a node close to the roots for better results.
What Does the Prayer Plant Need to Survive Propagation?
Coming from the tropics makes it a warm-environment plant that likes some humidity and prefers very rich soil. It is not a sun-loving plant like other tropical species, and it can grow pretty easily on pots or gardens.
We explain everything more in-depth below:
Spacing and Potting
Planting the prayer plant requires little space. So it is not an invasive plant like other tropical species. And it doesn’t need much space to thrive either.
Plant it on pots as little as 6 inches in diameter if you want to keep it happy. You can also plant it in any garden, and it should have no problem growing after propagation.
Soil and Fertilizer
A prayer plant flourishes as long as the soil is rich enough. Soils with pH levels between 5.5 and 6.0 are the best for the plant. Well-draining soils are the best, though.
It can grow on any potting soil mix as long as it is decently fertilized. Fertilizing once every two weeks is often enough. The plant prefers slow-release fertilizer or diluted, especially in the coldest months. It tends to get burned with overfertilization.
Water and Humidity
Tropical plants typically prefer humid environments over dry ones. That would also be true for the prayer plant. It prefers VERY moist places over dry ones. Without enough humidity it will actually struggle.
Achieving a humid soil and environment is possible by watering at least once every two days. You can also place a humidifier close to the plant (indoors). A grow tent setup could also work.
Sun and Wind
You may think it needs a lot of sun exposure given it is a tropical plant. And you would be wrong.
While it doesn’t care if there’s direct sunlight, it actually does best with partial shade. Ensuring 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight a day is more than enough for this plant. Leave it under direct sunlight for more than 6 hours, and its leaves will start to scorch.
Considering it is a tropical plant, it requires a bit of wind. But this is mainly in the sense that it thrives with humidity. So a bit of a mist from time to time would be fantastic.
Temperature and Environment
A tropical plant that doesn’t like warm environments is not a tropical plant. This one is no exception.
The prayer plant thrives in hardiness zones between 11 and 12. It only prospers if temperatures don’t go below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it can withstand temperatures as high as 85 degrees as long as there’s enough humidity.
You can place this plant indoors or outdoors as you prefer. But considering it is a humidity-loving plant, it prefers enclosed areas where humidity lasts longer.
3 Ways to Propagate Prayer Plant
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty. Below, you’ll find 3 methods for propagating this plant you should consider:
1. Propagate Prayer Plant from Cuttings
Nothing is as effective and quick as propagation from cuttings. It is the easiest method as well. And the whole reason is the ability of the plant to throve when you cut directly from a node (roots grow quick from it).
Here’s how to propagate a prayer plant from cuttings:
- Start by examining the plant you want to get a cutting from. Check all the nodes and parts where leaves come from. Identify the thickest yet healthiest node you can.
- Once you’ve identified the node, you can proceed to cut it. We recommend removing it with shears or pruners but cutting just below the node and not on it. Again, the node should be integral.
- With the node cutting in hand, now dip the cut area in water. Then dip it on the rooting hormone. After that, you can let it rest in water for a while.
- The water should be in a glass or container you can cover with a plastic bag. Leave it until the root starts sprouting (1 to 3 weeks).
- After the root sprouts, you are ready to take the cutting to a pot or garden. Use a well-draining potting soil mix for the best results.
- Keep the cutting under direct sunlight while the cutting grows in soil. Make sure the environment is humid enough for the plant to thrive.
This should take between 3 to 6 weeks for the plant to fully grow roots, adapt to the new soil, and start growing as a standalone plant.
2. Propagate from Slips
Another way to propagate a prayer plant that is actually more effective but less practical for the original plant is the slip method.
A slip is a stem from the prayer plant that has its own roots. You could say it is like a cutting, but directly from the rhizome.
Here’s how to make a prayer plant slip work:
- Start by checking the healthiest stems from a prayer plant. You need to pick the most vigorous one possible for the plant to establish faster.
- To get the slip out, we recommend using a spade and hands to dig. Once you reach the rhizome, cut the section of the root directly connected to the slip. Next, clean the root from soil excess (preferably leave it clean).
- Proceed to bring a potting medium, preferably nutrient-rich and well-draining soil to a pot. Open a small hole where the rhizome fits and insert the slip in.
- You can use several slips or divisions in the same pot if necessary. But using only one is often a better idea.
This method tends to work effectively as long as you follow the steps above. However, it is vital to cut the slip carefully not to cause any damage to the original plant.
The slip should start growing by itself in no more than 3 weeks once the roots establish.
3. Propagate from Seed
It is totally possible to propagate marantas using seeds. But it isn’t the easiest method, as finding seeds for prayer plants can be difficult.
The obvious solution would be to wait for a prayer plant to bloom and use the flowers as seeds once they dry up. Of course, buying the seeds can also help, but that wouldn’t be propagating.
Anyway, if you get to find the seeds, here’s how to make them work:
- Prepare a potting soil mix with sufficient fertilizer. Then, use a slow-releasing fertilizer for the job.
- Check the temperature of the soil and make sure it is between 55- and 70-degrees Fahrenheit. If so, then plant it.
- While the seed germinates, cover the pot with a plastic bag or something similar. Keep the soil moist and the environment humid around the soil.
- Water the soil at least once a day and keep it sufficiently moist for the seed to sprout.
The seeds should sprout within 6 weeks of planting. Propagate from seeds in spring for better results.
How to Take Care of Prayer Plants
Once you’ve propagated the plant successfully, it is essential to keep it growing (and hopefully propagate again later on). But for that, you should follow these tips:
Avoid Direct Sun Exposure
While a tropical plant, the Maranta leuconeura is not a full-sun species as you may think. In fact, it actually prefers partial shade over full sun exposure, given the velvety leaves that thrive in humid areas.
That’s why you should try to expose it for no more than 6 hours a day to sunlight. As little as 4 hours should also work.
Don’t Leave Them Outside
The solution is to avoid leaving them outside for too long. Clean them thoroughly before bringing them indoors as well.
Keep its Soil Dry in Winter
They love humidity, but only when temperatures around are warm. In cold environments, like in winter, the plant requires dry soils instead. The moisture from the season should be sufficient to keep it hydrated.
Keep it hydrated using a warm mist if you want. But avoid overwatering in winter, especially in temperatures going below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is the prayer plant toxic to cats?
It is not toxic to either cats or dogs. However, it could cause mild stomach issues if ingested.
Can you grow prayer plants from cuttings without rooting hormone?
Yes. If you cut directly below a node, the cutting should root with no problems over time. Be aware that the rooting hormone accelerates the process.
Why do prayer plant leaves fold up at night?
Because the plant belongs to tropical environments, it spreads in the day to catch the water from rains. Then, it folds up to let the water trickle down its stem and into the soil at night.
Where should you place a prayer plant?
After propagating, you should place it in a place that receives enough light and maintains humidity. We recommend hanging it close to windows.
Can a prayer plant be put outside?
Yes. It is not the best choice given how fragile the plant is to pests. But it’s still worth doing in safe environments. As long as it receives indirect light and humidity, it won’t mind.
Propagating a prayer plant shouldn’t be much of a problem now that you’re aware of all the ins and outs of the process.
You won’t have to wait for the plant to get sick to propagate. Use all our advice above, and you’ll have a seamless experience. Try it all out now!