Updated: Mar 29
Prayer plants are native to the Brazilian tropical forests, and they are a part of the family Marantaceae. The particular species consists of the maranthas, calatheas, stromanthes and ctetanthes.
Despite its religious sounding nickname, there isn’t any spiritual connotation to these plants. The name is earned by the fact that as evening starts to approach, the leaves of the plants will turn upwards, as if they’re in prayer.
Why this happens is unknown for the most part, however it is speculated that it could be a way for them to reduce bacteria and fungus from forming on their leaves. Regardless of the reasoning, the leaves are very colorful and it’s fascinating to watch them move into position.
They’re a great addition to your home if you’re looking for a new houseplant and the other good news about them is that prayer plants are pretty easy to grow. But like all plants, they do have their own specific needs.
Let’s take a look at a few important things that you need to keep in mind to ensure that you can take as much care of your prayer plants as necessary:
It’s no secret that prayer plants need water on account of the fact that pretty much every living thing on the planet needs water to survive, but it’s always important to know the specific watering needs of each different plant.
Prayer plants do need to be watered pretty generously, but you need to be carefully when it comes to the soil. These plants have very fine, shallow roots and that makes them susceptible to root rot.
If the soil gets too soggy and isn’t drained all that well, then the roots could suffer as a consequence. To prevent this, keep the plants in wide shallow containers that have drainage holes cut into the bottom.
This will ensure that you can water them every single day as is needed while also avoiding the damp soil. It would be best to use warm or room temperature water for prayer plants because they are more used to a warm environment. With that in mind:
Being from the rainforests in Brazil, the best way to ensure that these plants will actually grow is to keep them in a desirable temperature. 60-70°F is ideal and it is almost guaranteed to die if the temperature drops below 50°.
They are also used to humidity, and naturally that is a difficult thing to achieve in your home and also something that you probably don’t want to have to deal with yourself, but you can solve that problem.
One way is to use a spray bottle filled with water which will coat the leaves in a fine mist. You could also stand the container on a tray that’s filled with gravel, which will help to generate the desirable kind of microclimate.
Going back to the plant’s origins in tropical rainforests, that’s an environment where they are unlikely to be getting any direct sunlight. As such, if they are left in direct sunlight it will result in leaves being scorched.
It will also mean that during the day, the leaves won’t open as fully as they should. To achieve indirect sunlight, what you should do is place the plant just a couple of meters away from a South-facing window.
You could also cover the window that’s providing the plant’s sunlight with a sheer curtain which will filter the light. It’s unlikely that too much sun will kill a prayer plant very quickly, but it will cause them to lose the effect of the colorful leaves which is the appeal in the first place.
The most significant pest problem that you will have to worry about with prayer plants are spider mites. When you have an insect that combines spiders and mites, it kind of sounds like the worst thing ever.
Spider mites aren’t dangerous to you at all though and in fact you probably won’t even be able to see them, but you will see the effect that they will have on the leaves of your prayer plant if you don’t take measures to keep them at bay.
You might see tiny black dots, or maybe white webbing on the leaves. It will happen generally if the leaves are dusty so it’s worth your while to regularly wipe them down with a dry cloth. Also, if you keep the leaves misted for humidity it should reduce the risk of mites too.
Propagation, for those who don’t know, is the act of breeding specimens of a plant through natural processes from the parent stock. Not everyone is going to want to do this with their prayer plants, but if you do, there are a few things to know.
Firstly, there are certain varieties of the prayer plant which are patented and as such, it’s illegal for you to propagate them. Before you try this, be sure to check that your variety has no patents attached to it.
The best methods of propagation is by either division, which is basically just dividing the root structures manually and separating them into separate containers, or stem cutting which involves cutting a part of the plant off at the stem and replanting it by itself.
So in short, these are pretty easy plants to take care of, as long as you follow a few simple steps, and their beauty and personality makes that effort more than worth keeping a prayer plant in your home.