Maranta leuconeura is a leafy flowering plant that’s native to the tropical forests of Brazil, but it’s more commonly known as the “prayer plant” because the leaves fold together at night to form what looks like a pair of praying hands.
Its native environment offers the right conditions and allows it to grow up to 15” tall, but that isn’t always the case for prayer plants grown in home gardens. Homegrown prayer plants can sometimes stop growing for varying reasons.
Your prayer plant may not be growing due to too much direct sunlight or lack of enough water. Bad soil conditions and diseases like leaf spots and root rot can also prevent prayer plants from growing.
In this article, I’ll explain in greater detail the reasons prayer plants fail to grow and what you can do to remedy the situation. Let’s dive in!
You’re Exposing Your Plants to Too Much Direct Sunlight
Okay, let’s get into prayer plants and sunshine. When you adopt a new plant, the natural response is to place it in a spot with direct sunlight. After all, plants need the sun to grow, right? Of course, most plants need sunshine to grow well.
However, different plants have different sun needs 一 just like humans need varying amounts of food.
Prayer plants have adapted to need less light because they are native to Brazil’s forests. In these forests, there’s a lot of extra shade from surrounding trees. Since prayer plants sit low to the ground, there’s little light reaching them.
If your prayer plant’s leaves are turning brown or closing at night but not fully opening during the day, it may be a sign that it’s receiving too much light. Prayer plants thrive in moderate light. So if you put one of these plants in direct sunlight, it can have difficulty adapting.
Don’t go putting your prayer plant in a dark closet, though! They definitely still need the light.
Prayer plants need about six to eight hours of indirect light per day. Indirect light basically just means partially shaded. To create this environment, surround the plant with furniture, other plants, and anything else that can filter the light through to the prayer plant.
Be aware of how the light affects the temperature surrounding the plant, particularly if the plant is outdoors. Prayer plants are approved for hardiness zones 10B to 11. Unfortunately, the United States isn’t known for its tropical climate.
So unless you’re living in someplace like Miami or Los Angeles, keep your prayer plant inside where the temperature is more regulated.
If you’ve just gone out into the backyard and dug up some soil for your prayer plant, that might be why it’s not growing. I’m kidding, mostly. Prayer plants, like any other plant, require loads of nutrients to survive and even more to thrive. Prayer plants also don’t do well in overly dry or clay-based soil.
Is your prayer plant in regular garden soil or something a little harsher? If it’s the latter, bad soil might be why your plants won’t grow.
Most prayer plants will be potted, meaning they’ll also have relatively good-quality soil. However, the soil sometimes lacks nutrients, water, and other key things.
Even if the initial potting soil had all the right nutrients and minerals, these elements are bound to be used up by the plant with time. At some point, the soil will require replenishing. So if you haven’t done that in a while, chances are that’s what’s behind your plants’ stunted growth.
Take a close look at the soil you’ve planted your prayer plant. Does it seem dry? We’ll get more into this in a few minutes, but water is a big growth factor for prayer plants. You want to ensure the soil is damp but not soaked.
Prayer plants grow best in soil that is two parts peat moss, one part sand, and one part loam. Mixing up the best soil combination can be a little time-consuming, but I can promise you that your prayer plant will thank you for your dedication.
This specific mixture allows water to flow freely while providing enough absorption for the plant to maintain a constant water supply.
Ideally, you’ll also want to fertilize your prayer plant about once every two weeks. Fertilizer continuously adds nutrients to the soil, giving your precious plant more to soak up.
Since prayer plants are native to the tropics, it’s no surprise that they love water. Okay, don’t get crazy on me and go drown your prayer plant just yet. It doesn’t need that much water.
Prayer plants function best with regular shallow watering. You don’t want to dump an entire gallon of water on it all at once, but you also don’t want to let it go days without water. Just treat your prayer plant like you (hopefully) treat yourself 一 provide it with small amounts of water relatively frequently.
Water is likely an issue if the plant isn’t completely wilting but isn’t growing well. You don’t want to wait too long to fix the issue because if your prayer plant wilts due to lack of water, it might not recover. You can’t just throw some water on it and wait for it to come back from the dead.
You’ll want to pay attention primarily to the top layer of soil. As soon as that soil starts to dry out, that’s your cue to add a little more water to your prayer plant. Water your plant until the soil is fully moistened, ensuring you don’t leave any dry patches behind.
Prayer plants thrive in environments where water is readily available. They don’t want to have to wait on water. If you’re ever in a situation where you’re leaving town and won’t be able to water your plants as frequently, it’s best to overwater a little bit and allow the plant to soak up over time.
Diseases are an unfortunate part of life for all living things, including plants. Since I was just discussing the topic of watering, I want to present a word of caution here. There are
two main diseases that affect prayer plants, and they’re typically caused by overwatering.
Because prayer plants are more on the sensitive side, as well, they can become diseased a bit more easily than some other plants.
Let’s review some of the common diseases affecting prayer plants.
Have you ever seen a plant whose leaves were just covered in black spots? Most of us have. Those black spots are known as leaf spots and are caused by fungi.
Fungus tends to plant itself wherever it can find nutrients. Like all things, it’s simply trying to survive. However, you don’t want it to survive in your prayer plant because fungi are constantly working to break down and decompose the items near it.
Leaf spot most is commonly caused by overwatering. Soaking up your plant provides the fungi with the right conditions to grow. You’re less likely to encounter this issue with an indoor plant, but it still happens.
If your prayer plant has gotten a leaf spot, you’ll want to carefully prune away the most affected leaves and lay off watering for a time. When you eventually water the plant, avoid getting water on the leaves. In addition, separate your prayer plant from any other surrounding plants. Otherwise, the fungus will spread.
The other common disease affecting prayer plants, root rot, is also caused by fungi getting inside the plant. In the case of root rot, however, the fungus isn’t affecting the leaves as much as the inner system of the plant.
The primary sign that your prayer plant is experiencing some degree of root rot. It definitely can spread into the leaves, though, and sometimes you’ll find that a heavily affected plant has both leaf spots and root rot.
If you’ve identified root rot in your plant, you’ll want to clean the roots under running water if you can. This will wash away some of the harmful fungi that have taken hold of your plant. If possible, also cut away the plant’s infected areas.
One of the best things you can do in a situation where root rot has presented itself is repotting the plant in brand new soil once you’ve cleaned and cut away affected roots. Otherwise, it’s like getting rid of lice and then sleeping on your unwashed, lice-infested pillowcase.
There you have it! Now you know all about prayer plants. While I’ve tried my best to be thorough today about why your prayer plant may not grow well, remember that other factors could be involved, such as pests, other plant relationships, and so on.
Hopefully, the solutions I’ve provided in this post will help get your plant growing healthy again. All the best!
You may also like:
- Why Is My Prayer Plant Turning Yellow?
- Why Is My Prayer Plant Leaves Turning Brown?
- Why Is My Prayer Plant Flowering?
- When Should You Repot a Prayer Plant?
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.