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The maranta or “prayer plant” is one of the most unique yet easy-to-care-for plants you can find. In this post, we’ll learn all about prayer plant care and propagation.
Maranta plants and calatheas are frequently confused. While they both belong to the Marantaceae family, they are not the same. Calatheas are not prayer plants, and only maranta plants should be called prayer plants.
The prayer plant is native to the rainforests of Brazil. Its leaves are oval, about five inches long, and known for their bold markings consisting of different shades of green with thin, pink stripes. New leaves start off growing in a tube-like form and then unfurl and grow outwards.
If you let the plant grow long enough it’ll grow out from its bushy center and start to trail, like an awkwardly shaped vine. Prayer plants can also bloom little white and purple flowers. These blooms are more common in the wild than on houseplants, but I’ve seen mine bloom a few times.
This plant has a mind of its own—it moves constantly! At certain times, mainly at night, the leaves will be folded down resembling hands folded in prayer (hence, prayer plant). At other times, you’ll see the leaves pointing straight up towards the sky.
It’s actually kind of unbelievable how active this plant is. I frequently see a leaf pop or bounce as it slowly moves into its next position. My friend once called it an alien. It’s quite the conversation piece!
Where Can I Find a Prayer Plant?
Prayer plants are not rare, but depending on where you live they might be tough to find. I believe your best bet for easily finding one is on Etsy. Check out this gorgeous prayer plant from one of my favorite Etsy shops. (I mean seriously, aren’t they just stunning plants?)
How Do You Take Care of a Prayer Plant?
I’m a fan of all plants, but I’m a HUGE fan of plants that look funky and unusual, yet are really easy to care for. The prayer plant is definitely one of those. It’s SO low maintenance, fast growing, and, bonus points, extremely easy to propagate! Let’s review prayer plant care requirements below.
Prayer plants prefer bright, indirect light, but part of what makes prayer plant care so easy is they are pretty flexible when it comes to light levels.
They should do fine in brighter light or lower light if you adjust their watering accordingly. Just as long as they’re not sitting in direct sun for hours or in the darkest corner of the room, they are pretty easy to please.
Determining the light levels in your home can be difficult sometimes. If you’re struggling with this, check out my guide to natural light for indoor plants. Also, my easy guide to grow lights for indoor plants will help you if your plants are in need of a lighting boost. (If you’re in a hurry, my two favorite grow lights are below!)
These plants like to remain moist, but not wet. Water them when the top inch or so of the soil is dry. I find that I water mine around every two weeks. This is only because it doesn’t get much light, so it takes a lot longer to dry out.
If the leaves start to curl then your plant is telling you that it really needs to be watered. My post on how to tell if your plant needs to be watered has more helpful tips for watering your plants.
Prayer plants also love humidity so feel free to give them some extra humid attention. If you see the leaf tips getting crispy, this is most likely an indication that the air is too dry.
Prayer plants do not need to be repotted too often. Generally, about every two years. If yours appears to be growing very slowly or not at all, it may be getting too rootbound.
You can confirm this by slipping the plant out of its pot and checking if the roots are in a heavy coil around the outside of the soil. In that case, it should definitely be repotted.
Choose a pot that is one size larger than your current pot and has a drainage hole. The best time to repot is in the spring or summer, if possible.
Use a balanced, water-soluble houseplant fertilizer and dilute it to half its strength. You don’t want to use too much or it can end up hurting the plant. Always make sure to read the fertilizer instructions on the label.
Prayer plants typically should be fed every other week from in the spring and summer. However, I don’t fertilize mine and have never needed to.
I like my plants to have character, so I tend to let my prayer plant trail rather than keep it neatly tamed. But with that, it sometimes gets a bit scraggly. In this case, I go in every so often and trim off any wonky-looking or browning pieces.
You can prune your plant with clean scissors just ABOVE a node to achieve bushier and fuller growth. (Above a node means the node is NOT included on the part you cut off.)
Scroll down a tiny bit further to my “Where do you cut a prayer plant” section for help identifying a node.
Propagating a Prayer Plant
As I mentioned earlier, I’m a huge fan of plants that are funky and unusual but really easy to care for. Well, I’m also a huge fan of any plant that is super easy to propagate. I definitely recommend you try your hand at propagating a prayer plant.
Where do you cut a prayer plant?
First, let’s review one important thing people are often confused about. You should cut BELOW a node to propagate a plant, meaning the node will be included on the cutting. A node is where leaves and roots grow out of the stem, but the nodes on a prayer plant are trickier to identify than other plants.
A prayer plant node is where the petiole (little stem attached to a leaf) attaches to a main stem, or where another branch of a stem attaches to a main stem. There is sometimes a little bulge there, too.
Propagating a Prayer Plant in Water
To propagate the prayer plant, simply take a clean pair of scissors and cut off a piece below a node. It’s important for the node to be included on the cutting because that’s where new roots will sprout from. Try to cut at a 45-degree angle to create more rooting surface area.
Place that cutting into a jar of room-temperature water so that the node is below the surface. Make sure there aren’t any leaves that are submerged.
Put it in a location that receives bright, indirect light. Replace the water when needed and top it off when you see the level getting lower.
After a few weeks to over a month, your root system should be enough (about two to three inches long) that you can transfer the cutting into soil. Then, give your new plant a good watering and care for it how you normally would.
Propagating a Prayer Plant in Soil
You can also follow the same process, but place the cutting directly into a container of moistened soil instead of water. Make sure the node is buried but don’t bury any leaves.
Place it in a location that receives bright, indirect light, and keep the soil moist as the roots develop. You can also place a clear plastic bag over the top to help lock in humidity. Just remove it every other day to let in fresh air.
After a few weeks, test the cutting by giving it a gentle tug. If you feel resistance, the roots have developed and you can treat your cutting like a normal plant.
Personally, I’m a big fan of water propagation because I enjoy being able to see the process. However, both methods work perfectly fine!
Are prayer plants toxic to cats and dogs?
Prayer plants are non-toxic to cats and dogs. However, one of my cats got into my prayer plant once and became sick for a few days. Even if a plant is non-toxic, it could still cause an upset tummy and vomiting. It’s always best practice to keep all of your plants away from your pets regardless of toxicity level.