Prayer plants are so named because they fold their leaves at night to resemble a pair of praying hands. Growing and caring for these hardy indoor plants can be challenging due to their unique needs, but with a little knowledge and attention, your prayer plant will thrive.
You should grow your prayer plant in moist, well-drained, and fertile soil. Caring for and growing a prayer plant involves fertilizing and watering the soil and ensuring it has enough light for photosynthesis to make energy.
In the rest of this article, I’ll take you through the processes of planting, growing, and caring for your prayer plant. From the right planting tactics to the amount of water and light your plant needs, you’ll get everything needed for optimal growth. So let’s get started!
Prayer plants are not low-maintenance plants. They require planting and growing conditions that match their native origin; the South American and Caribbean tropical zones. Without providing these conditions, your plants could be doomed to fail.
It’s worth knowing the conducive environment in terms of climate and soil before proceeding to actually planting. This way, you’ll know if you’re in the right conditions to grow this ornamental plant.
Prayer plants are native to South America and grow well in USDA hardiness zones 11 and 12. These zones provide conducive environments in terms of temperature and humidity. The average temperature should be about 45-80°F (7.22-26.67°C) with a relative humidity of 50-70%.
Plant hardiness zone 11 has a minimum temperature range of 40 and 50°F (4.44 and 10°C). On the other hand, zone 12’s temperatures average between 50 and 60°F (10 and 15.56°C).
Some USDA hardiness zones 11 and 12 include:
- Puerto Rico
- Florida keys
If you live outside these zones, don’t worry. You can still grow your prayer plant indoors where the temperatures are more moderate. However, you must provide the right humidity level, which we’ll discuss later.
Now that you know the conditions you need to mimic, you have a clearer idea of how much work it’s going to take to maintain.
It’s worth mentioning that some hybrid varieties of this plant are protected under patent. Therefore, it’s illegal to propagate such varieties by any means.
If you’ve decided that you’re ready to take it on, let’s move on to planting. You can start a prayer plant in two ways:
- From seeds, or
- Propagation through stem cutting or division
Planting from seeds is a challenging endeavor. These plants rarely flower when kept indoors. As a result, it’s not easy to find their seeds. Even if you do manage to find a seller, the prices are usually exorbitant enough to make it a discouraging option.
As a result, using cuttings is a much better option. Here’s how to grow prayer plants asexually:
You can propagate prayer plant species that have a spreading growth habit. Some examples of a few species that do this are:
These species can be propagated through stem cuttings as they have nodes that produce new roots readily. Nodes are extremely important for propagation. In fact, they are essential and it’s almost impossible to use a cutting with no node to propagate a mature plant.
You might get some growth but you’ll likely end up with a cutting that’s staying alive but cannot regrow into a full plant.
Nodes contain all of the information that plants need to keep growing and without them, you cannot propagate. As a result, any stem cutting you use should have a node attached to it.
Also, remember that the ideal time to take stem cuttings is in spring or summer when plant growth is at its peak.
The following are the steps to propagate your prayer plant using stem cuttings:
- Start by taking a cutting that’s about four to six inches (0.33 to 0.5 feet) long from a healthy and mature plant.
- Use a sharp knife or shear to make a clean cut just below the node.
- Place the cuttings in moist peat. Cover the container to retain the moisture content.
- Poke holes in the container for ventilation.
- Place the container in the sun.
- Give the roots time to grow and reach an inch (0.08 feet) long. This can take at least two weeks.
- Pot the plant.
Mature prayer plants have underground tubers and rhizomes. You can divide these root structures to propagate your prayer plant.
The ideal time to divide your prayer plant is when you’re ready to report, preferably in early spring before the new growth begins.
To divide your prayer plant, follow these steps:
- Dig around the base of the plant to loosen it from the soil.
- Carefully lift it from the ground so as not to damage any roots.
- Use a clean and sharp knife to divide the rhizomes into two or three sections. Each section should have at least one growth bud.
- Plant each division in a separate pot filled with well-draining soil.
- Water the plants generously and place them in an area that receives bright, indirect sunlight.
After successfully propagating your prayer plant, it’s time to focus on its growth and care. This involves providing the right environment, watering, and feeding schedules.
Prayer plants are known for their colorful foliage. The leaves have various colors and patterns that make them quite striking. However, maintaining this vibrancy requires a great deal of work from you.
Prayer plants grow in the rainforest, where they receive dappled light. Such light exposure is necessary to maintain the colors and patterns on their leaves. Dappled sunlight on the rainforest floor translates to indirect bright indoor light.
Choose a spot that receives bright indirect sunlight when growing prayer plants indoors. East-facing windows are ideal as they provide a soft light in the morning, which is perfect for prayer plants.
You can also grow your plant under artificial light, such as fluorescent bulbs about 12 inches (1 foot) above the plant.
Although these plants can survive in low-light conditions, the bold variegation on their leaves will start to fade. If this happens, simply move your plant to a brighter location.
Finally, excessive direct light will fade or scorch the leaves and damage their vibrant appearance.
Prayer plants grow in moist soils, and as such, they require frequent watering to maintain these conditions. However, while they love moisture, these plants are particularly susceptible to root rot which thrives in waterlogged soils. As such, you must be careful not to overwater.
It’s advisable to water your plant regularly during the growing period. The best way to prevent water logging is by watering only when the top layer of soil becomes dry. You should not let the potting soil dry entirely as this will damage the plant.
Prayer plants enter a state of dormancy during the winter months. As such, they don’t need as much water, and you should only water when the soil is dry to the touch.
It’s worth noting that apart from causing root rot, overwatering turns the leaves yellow.
It’s also essential to avoid watering your prayer plant with ice-cold water as it causes root shock, which can damage the plant. Instead, water with lukewarm water to prevent this.
In some cases, municipal water contains contaminants that can destroy your plant. On the other hand, well water is heavy with minerals that may be hard on the plant.
Therefore, rainwater is the best option for watering these plants. Understandably, rainwater can be hard to get regularly so a good option is distilled water which you can easily get from your local convenience store.
Prayer plants are heavy feeders and they require regular fertilization to maintain their growth. These plants are mainly active during the spring and summer when they experience the most growth and need sufficient nutrients.
The best way to fertilize your prayer plant is by using a balanced liquid fertilizer that you dilute before each application. Ideally, you should always use a fertilizer balanced with equal parts of nitrogen and phosphorus.
A good rule of thumb is to fertilize every two weeks during the growing season and monthly during winter.
Note that prayer plants can be quite sensitive to the type and amount of fertilizer you use. As such, you should only use reputable brands and be careful not to over-fertilize.
A sure way to know your plant needs fertilizer is by checking its leaves. Small and pale leaves signify a nutrient deficiency that can be fixed with adequate fertilizer.
It’s advisable to fertilize at half the recommended rate to avoid damaging your prayer plant. You can also flush the potting soil with water every month to remove any excess fertilizer salts that might have accumulated.
Prayer plants require regular pruning to maintain their shape and size. These plants are particularly vigorous growers and can quickly become leggy and untidy.
You should regularly pinch back the tips of the stems to keep your plant in check. This will encourage branching and result in a fuller plant.
You should also remove any yellow or brown leaves as they appear. These leaves are usually an indication of stress, and they can drag the plant down if left unchecked.
Prayer plants also benefit from yearly pruning in late winter or early spring. This will rejuvenate the plant and encourage new growth.
Here is the procedure to prune you’re praying to plant the right way:
- Cut back the main stems by a third of their length.
- Remove any dead or damaged leaves.
- Trim back any long and leggy stems.
You should cut back to the base of the stem if you want to prune an entire leaf. This ensures that the new growth is compact and bushy.
Also remember to use a clean, sharp knife or shears for this.
Prayer plants thrive in humid environments. The ideal humidity level for prayer plants is between 60% and 80%.
You can increase the humidity around your prayer plant by:
- Grouping it with other houseplants
- Placing it on a pebble tray
- Using a humidifier
Prayer plants will develop brown leaf tips if the air is too dry. This is usually a sign that your growing environment is not humid enough.
To correct this, you can mist the leaves with water every few days or use a humidifier to increase the moisture in the air.
Prayer plants grow best in moist, well-drained, and fertile soil. These soils contain the right amount of nutrients and minerals for optimal growth. The ideal pH level should be between acidic and neutral, about five to seven on the pH scale.
You can make your prayer plant’s soil more acidic by adding organic matter such as compost or peat moss. Alternatively, you can use a fertilizer specifically designed for acid-loving plants. Such fertilizers contain:
- Ammonium nitrate
- Ammonium sulfate
- Sulfur-coated urea
Prayer plants are also sensitive to fluoride, and they will start to experience leaf burn if the level of fluoride in the soil is too high. This usually happens when the plant is grown in potting soil that contains too much perlite.
To avoid this, you can use a different potting mix or add some organic matter to the soil to increase its fertility.
Temperature is an essential consideration for the growth and survival of your prayer plant. Optimum temperature facilitates photosynthesis, a necessity for the plant’s growth.
The ideal temperature range for prayer plants is between 60 and 80°F (15.56 and 26.67°C). Your plants will experience stress if the temperature falls outside this range.
Too much heat can cause the leaves to turn brown and crispy, while too much cold can cause the leaves to turn yellow and fall off.
Prayer plants are also sensitive to changes in temperature. They will quickly adapt to their new environment if the temperature difference is gradual. However, they will experience stress if the temperature change is sudden. As a result, you should acclimate your prayer plant to its new environment by increasing the temperature slowly.
Repotting is a crucial part of caring for your prayer plant. Majorly, it gives the newly developed roots more room to grow and expand.
An added benefit of this process is that it allows you to identify cases of root rot early enough. As a result, you can remove the unhealthy roots and save the plant by making it easy for new and healthy roots to grow.
It’s worth noting that repotting your prayer plant must be accompanied by sufficient watering. The roots need to be hydrated to absorb new soil’s water and nutrients quickly.
Prayer plants are typically repotted every two years. However, you may need to do it more frequently if the plant grows rapidly or the potting mix breaks down quickly.
Prayer plants can be grown in various pot sizes and materials. The most important consideration is that the pot has drainage holes to allow excess water to drain out.
Some of the best pots for prayer plants include:
- Terra cotta pots
- Glazed ceramic pots
- Plastic pots with drainage holes
Expert Tip: When repotting, you should only move your prayer plant one pot size up. A bigger pot may retain more water, exposing the roots to rot. Ensure the pot has enough drainage holes to allow water to drain out.
Marantaceae species require special attention when it comes to potting. Due to their unique requirements, regular houseplant potting mediums may not be safe.
Here are the factors to consider when choosing a potting medium for a prayer plant:
- Material: According to Penn State University, the medium should not be made from perlite. Perlite contains fluoride, a hazardous compound for the growth of prayer-plants as it exposes them to tip burn.
- Water retention: The pot should have peat moss to help the plant retain water. Alternatively, you can go the natural way by using Sphagnum moss.
- Drainage: The potting mix should have good drainage to facilitate the growth of prayer-plants. It should have drainage holes if it’s non-porous.
- Fertility: The potting mix should also have the organic matter to increase fertility and provide the prayer plant with the nutrients it needs to grow.
- pH level: Maintaining a slightly acidic pH level in the potting medium is crucial. A range of around pH level six is ideal for prayer plants.
The reporting procedure is crucial as it affects the plant’s survival. Therefore, you should take extra care when repotting your prayer plant.
Here’s the procedure:
- Water the plant: You should water it a day before repotting to hydrate the roots and make them easier to work with.
- Prepare the new pot: Add some of the potting mixes to the bottom of the new pot and pack it down to remove air pockets. You can also add a layer of gravel to facilitate drainage.
- Remove the plant from the old pot carefully: Gently loosen the roots and lift it from its current pot. Be careful not to damage the roots as they are fragile.
- Place the plant in its new pot: Center it in its new pot and backfill it with the potting mix. Make sure there are no air pockets around the roots.
- Water the plant: Water the plant generously to settle the potting mix and help the roots take up water and nutrients from the new soil.
- Fertilize: Add a slow-release fertilizer to help your prayer plant grow. Follow the instructions on the label for the best results.
- Place the plant in its new location: Once it is repotted, you can place it in its new location. Choose a spot that receives indirect sunlight and has high humidity.
Planting, growing, and caring for a prayer plant is not as difficult as it may seem. With the right potting mix and some TLC, you can grow a healthy prayer plant that will thrive for years. The focus is on providing sufficient light, water, and temperature. These conditions will sustain the plant to produce the beautiful foliage necessary for indoor aesthetics.
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Hi! I’m Sophia, and I love plants – especially an expert in growing house plants. I stay in Chicago, United States of America, and through my blog and social media platforms, provide tips and tricks on how to grow healthy, vibrant plants indoors. Check out more here.