Sumo Gardener
Shares

Prayer Plant (Maranta Leuconeura) Growing Guide

Maranta leuconeura, or the prayer plant, boasts some of the most strikingly intricate leaves of any tropical house plant, with a sprawling habit that belies its architectural substance.

In this article we’re going to talk about this shade-loving houseplant, and how to find the exact right spot in your house to keep your Maranta happy and maintain those intricately patterned leaves in all their glory.

More...

Prayer Plant (Maranta Leuconeura) Growing Guide

What is Maranta Leuconeura?

What is Maranta Leuconeura

Maranta leuconeura, like Calathea and Goeppertia, close their leaves at night, forming pointed spires of wrapped up pastel red leaves. In the morning they reveal precise patterns of red, white and green across their silky leaves. All three genuses share these traits and are very often confused.

Plant Name:

Maranta Leuconeura

Genus:

Maranta 

Species:

 leuconeura

Common Names:

Prayer plant

Location:

Indoor

Type: 

Tender perennial, flowering house plant

Growth:

Height 15”, Spread 12”

Sun Requirements:

Partial shade, low light

Foliage Color:

Variegated, green and red

Flower Color:

White

Flowering:

Spring (in ideal conditions)

Fruit:

None

Maintenance Level:

Medium

Poisonous for Pets:

Non-toxic to cats and dogs

In fact, all three (Calathea, Goeppertia and Maranta) share the common name Prayer Plant thanks to their habit of closing their leaves at night like praying hands.

Maranta are a perennial houseplant with distinctly different stalks and a very particular way of carrying its petioles (leaf stalks) than Calathea. Maranta leaf stalks are far more akin to Bird of Paradise, whose leaves emerge from points within the previous year’s growth.

Maranta Prayer Plant Growing Habits

Maranta leuconeura have thick fleshy roots that, when mature, develop tubers which store energy and can be propagated to form new plants.

Like all tuberous plants, Maranta fires up the main stem, which branches off into multiple petioles, which hold their delicate leaves, growing almost like Monstera from distinct sections of the stem, producing leaves along its length.

Other prayer plants are rhizomatous, which limits them to growing single petioles that host each leaf, rather than leaves in sequence along a single stem.

Maranta Leuconeura’s Natural Habitat

Maranta leuconeura is native to Central and South America, growing only in the tropics, with almost every species found in the rainforests of Brazil. Like most tropical ground cover plants they don’t require much light to photosynthesize but do need some access to sunlight through the day. 

The most important factor of their care is humidity, so they can regulate their papery leaves without developing dry tips.


Best Maranta Leuconeura Varieties to Grow

Maranta leuconeura ‘Kim’

Maranta Kim, or Beauty Kim, is a pastel green prayer black, with black variegations and yellow flourishes that grow uncharacteristically in random splashes across each leaf.


Beauty Kim is more compact than most Maranta and performs best as a trailing ground cover plant, so is perfect for indoor planters and larger containers, rather than in a pot of its own.

Maranta leuconeura ‘Kim’ is more compact than most Maranta and performs best as a trailing ground cover plant

Source: gardentags.com

Maranta leuconeura ‘Silver Feather’

The Silver Feather Prayer plants look like it’s been drawn by a skilled comic book artist, with truly mesmerizing fades and serrations between the silvery centers of each leaf, and the broad emerald green of the leaf borders.


The rounded leaves of Silver Feather spread faster than most Maranta too, meaning they become an impactful statement plant in a matter of weeks from cuttings.

Maranta leuconeura ‘Silver Feather’ leaves spread faster than most Maranta

Source: etsy.com

Maranta leuconeura ‘Marisela’

Marisela has a beautiful habit of developing patterns across leaves as they age. As young leaves emerge, they are almost entirely black with bright green (almost white) flashes running from the central vein to the leaf borders.


As they open out and mature, each leaf slowly develops a refined green striping and the black fades to border the central vein.


If you enjoy plants that grow with you and look different every day, then Marisela is the prayer plant for you.

Maranta leuconeura ‘Marisela’ has a beautiful habit of developing patterns across leaves as they age

Source: foliacollective.com

Maranta leuconeura var. Fascinator

The more rounded leaves of Fascinator imply a darker forest environment than some of its other naturally occurring cousins, better able to capture the dappled light under the canopy of trees than slimmer leaved varieties.


The reverse of each leaf is almost translucent too, allowing light to pour through leaves like stained glass.

Maranta leuconeura var. Fascinator

Maranta leuconeura var. Kerchoveana

Maranta leuconeura Kerchoveana is commonly known as the Rabbit’s Foot Prayer Plant thanks to its adorable patches that look like a rabbit’s paw print.


It grows in a typical mound formation, and isn’t fast-growing in most indoor spaces, but will tumble gracefully if placed over shelves in the bathroom.

Maranta leuconeura var. Kerchoveana is commonly known as the Rabbit’s Foot Prayer Plant

Source: davisla.wordpress.com

Maranta leuconeura var. Erythroneura

Erythroneura is a natural variant of the typical leuconeura, preferring to grow tumbling from a hanging basket to a tabletop container.


Their peacock feather leaves fade from forest green to jade, with a grassy flash down the middle. 


The red flushes that draw the graduated leaves out from the center are perfectly symmetrical and relate perfectly to the satiny crimson backs of each leaf.

Maranta leuconeura var. Erythroneura is a natural variant of the typical leuconeura, preferring to grow tumbling from a hanging basket to a tabletop container

Source: plantingman.com

Maranta leuconeura var. Erythroneura ‘Lemon Lime’

The small leaves of this diminutive cultivar are the perfect tumbling variation on the unadulterated species archetype.


While it is lacking the red streaks of its larger parent, this Maranta variety is quick to establish, and great for cuttings too, and it quickly recovers and sprouts for cut nodes.

Maranta leuconeura var. Erythroneura ‘Lemon Lime’

Maranta leuconeura ‘Massangeana’

One of the rarest Maranta and most sought after by collectors is the haunting Maranta leuconeura ‘Massangeana’ whose leaves have a hypnotizing depth, unlike any other prayer plant.


The white liens mask a graded green leaf, interrupted only by sunken black ovals that flow from the central leaf vein.


You’ll have to be prepared to part with your cash for Massangeana though as they don’t come cheap.

Maranta leuconeura'Massangeana' a is one of the rarest Maranta and most sought after by collectors

Source: glasshouseworks.com

Best Maranta Leuconeura Varieties to Grow

Maranta leuconeura ‘Kim’

Maranta leuconeura ‘Kim’ is more compact than most Maranta and performs best as a trailing ground cover plant

Source: gardentags.com

Maranta Kim, or Beauty Kim, is a pastel green prayer black, with black variegations and yellow flourishes that grow uncharacteristically in random splashes across each leaf.

Beauty Kim is more compact than most Maranta and performs best as a trailing ground cover plant, so is perfect for indoor planters and larger containers, rather than in a pot of its own.

Maranta leuconeura ‘Silver Feather’

Maranta leuconeura ‘Silver Feather’ leaves spread faster than most Maranta

Source: etsy.com

The Silver Feather Prayer plants look like it’s been drawn by a skilled comic book artist, with truly mesmerizing fades and serrations between the silvery centers of each leaf, and the broad emerald green of the leaf borders.

The rounded leaves of Silver Feather spread faster than most Maranta too, meaning they become an impactful statement plant in a matter of weeks from cuttings.

Maranta leuconeura ‘Marisela’

Maranta leuconeura ‘Marisela’ has a beautiful habit of developing patterns across leaves as they age

Source: foliacollective.com

Marisela has a beautiful habit of developing patterns across leaves as they age. As young leaves emerge, they are almost entirely black with bright green (almost white) flashes running from the central vein to the leaf borders.

As they open out and mature, each leaf slowly develops a refined green striping and the black fades to border the central vein.

If you enjoy plants that grow with you and look different every day, then Marisela is the prayer plant for you.

Maranta leuconeura var. Fascinator

Maranta leuconeura var. Fascinator

The more rounded leaves of Fascinator imply a darker forest environment than some of its other naturally occurring cousins, better able to capture the dappled light under the canopy of trees than slimmer leaved varieties.

The reverse of each leaf is almost translucent too, allowing light to pour through leaves like stained glass.

Maranta leuconeura var. Kerchoveana

Maranta leuconeura var. Kerchoveana is commonly known as the Rabbit’s Foot Prayer Plant

Source: davisla.wordpress.com

Maranta leuconeura Kerchoveana is commonly known as the Rabbit’s Foot Prayer Plant thanks to its adorable patches that look like a rabbit’s paw print.

It grows in a typical mound formation, and isn’t fast-growing in most indoor spaces, but will tumble gracefully if placed over shelves in the bathroom.

Maranta leuconeura var. Erythroneura

Maranta leuconeura var. Erythroneura is a natural variant of the typical leuconeura, preferring to grow tumbling from a hanging basket to a tabletop container

Source: plantingman.com

Erythroneura is a natural variant of the typical leuconeura, preferring to grow tumbling from a hanging basket to a tabletop container.

Their peacock feather leaves fade from forest green to jade, with a grassy flash down the middle. 

The red flushes that draw the graduated leaves out from the center are perfectly symmetrical and relate perfectly to the satiny crimson backs of each leaf.

Maranta leuconeura var. Erythroneura ‘Lemon Lime’

Maranta leuconeura var. Erythroneura ‘Lemon Lime’

The small leaves of this diminutive cultivar are the perfect tumbling variation on the unadulterated species archetype.

While it is lacking the red streaks of its larger parent, this Maranta variety is quick to establish, and great for cuttings too, and it quickly recovers and sprouts for cut nodes.

Maranta leuconeura ‘Massangeana’

Maranta leuconeura'Massangeana' a is one of the rarest Maranta and most sought after by collectors

Source: glasshouseworks.com

One of the rarest Maranta and most sought after by collectors is the haunting Maranta leuconeura ‘Massangeana’ whose leaves have a hypnotizing depth, unlike any other prayer plant.

The white liens mask a graded green leaf, interrupted only by sunken black ovals that flow from the central leaf vein. You’ll have to be prepared to part with your cash for Massangeana though as they don’t come cheap.

How to Grow Prayer Plants

Prayer plants enjoy warm, humid, spaces with low light so are ideal for bathrooms and shower rooms where they thrive in diffused light and steam from the shower.

How to Grow Prayer Plants

In the section below we’ll explain how to recreate their tropical forest floor environment in your own home.

Maranta Leuconeura Sun Requirements

Maranta leuconeura almost always comes with a label that says ‘grows best in shade’. That isn’t necessarily the whole truth, as they do require some light to grow and develop, so find a spot in your house where they can benefit from around 6 hours of light per day, but never be in direct view of the sun. 

Filter light from frosted windows is also a useful way to diffuse direct sunlight for forest floor plants, so bathrooms are an ideal spot.

Prayer Plant Soil

Prayer plants don’t ask for much from their soil and can cope with very poor conditions provided they are well-drained and slightly acidic. The ideal potting mix for Maranta is a 1:1:1 mix of sieved compost, perlite, and garden soil. 

You can of course substitute some elements, like perlite for grit, or compost for sphagnum moss. Essentially, they need one part water retention (compost), 1 part drainage (perlite) and one part host material (soil).

Note: A standard houseplant fertilizer is adequate for Maranta leuconeura. They are not heavy feeders but do benefit from an occasional feed through summer.


Caring for Prayer Plant

Caring for Prayer Plant

Watering Prayer Plant

The only thing prayer plants like less than sitting in wet compost is drought. They should be watered whenever the surface of their soil is dry to touch, and never splash their leaves.

Their leaves are thinner than most houseplants and don’t store water as efficiently, so water spots quickly scaled the plant when light hits, letting bacteria into the weakened surface.

Humidity

More important than all other Maranta care tips is keeping them well humidified. In modern homes with air conditioning, this might mean using a humidifier or keeping them in a bathroom to benefit from a daily steam treatment. 

In other homes, just keep them away from radiators, and mist them twice a week with a fine water mister in the mornings. Never mist Maranta in the afternoons or evenings as this can lead to scorch or standing water. Both can damage Maranta leaves.


Maranta Prayer Plant Propagation

Maranta are an excellent houseplant for anyone who enjoys propagation or wants to learn. Prayer plans can be propagated from seed, division, or cuttings, and all are reliable ways to create new plants.

Maranta Prayer Plant Propagation

Propagating Maranta Prayer Plant from Seed

Growing prayer plants from seed is surprisingly simple, the hard part is getting your hands on Maranta seeds. Because Maranta is so simple to propagate using other methods commercial growers tend not to harvest their seed, and when you grow them at home it’s unlikely you’ll ever see their flowers.

If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on Maranta seeds, this is how to germinate them:

  1. Fill a seed tray using any sieved seed compost.
  2. Water the compost thoroughly.
  3. Place on a sunny windowsill or a heated propagator at around 65F for an hour so the soil warms up.
  4. Sow prayer plant seeds thinly across the compost, and gently firm in.
  5. Cover the seed tray with plastic wrap, or a propagator lid to keep moisture in, and wait for around 14 days. For germination.
  6. When plants have their first leaves and are big enough to handle, prick them out into their own small pots, and water well to establish them.

How to Propagate Prayer Plant from Cuttings

The fastest way to make dozens of new plants from a healthy Maranta is to propagate from stem cuttings. Seeds take time to mature, and division limits propagation to 1, maybe 2 new plants from each plant, while a single stem from a mature Maranta can produce at least half a dozen nodal cuttings.

To take cuttings from your Maranta:

  1. Choose a healthy, mature stem, and cut it at its base, leaving other stems intact to bush out.
  2. Identify the leaf nodes – the bumps where a leaf protrudes from the stem.
  3. Cut just below the first leaf node, and just above the next leaf.
  4. Dip the base of the cutting in rooting hormone and place it in moist soil with at least 50% perlite so it can drain.Repeat this process for as many cuttings as you can from that stem (cut below a node, and above the next leaf, keeping the leaf intact).
  5. Cover the cutting with a cloche or plastic bag to retain humidity, and check every few days to make sure the soil isn’t completely dry.
  6. If the soil is dry, water lightly until you see new growth.
  7. Once roots have formed, and new leaves begin to emerge, treat your cuttings like any other prayer plant.

Propagating Maranta leuconeura from Division

Also known as slip propagation, propagation by division is the simple art of pulling apart existing plants. It might sound harsh, but it works every time and creates instant semi-mature plants that will take just a few months to reach the vigor of their former selves.

To propagate Maranta by division:

  1. Remove your prayer plant from its pot.
  2. Gently shake off as much soil as possible (this is more important with Maranta than other divisions, as you need to see what roots connect to which sections of the plant clump).
  3. As carefully as possible, pull apart the roots so each section of the prayer plant above the soil has a corresponding set of roots.
  4. Place each division into its own container (just big enough for the roots to fill) without being confined) and cover with sieved compost and perlite.
  5. Water well, and leave in partial shade until new leaves appear.

Maranta Leuconeura Pests and Diseases

Maranta leuconeura, or the prayer plant, boasts some of the most strikingly intricate leaves of any tropical house plant

Maranta aren’t particularly prone to pests as they produce no notable essential oils worth eating, but when grown indoors they can be a useful host for spider mites, mealybugs and whitefly, who adversely spread diseases to the plant.

In the section below we cover all of the most common pests Maranta suffer from indoors, all notable prayer plant diseases, and how to manage them.

Prayer Plant Mealybugs

Mealybugs are small black insects that appear white on your plants as they cover themselves in a bitter mucus to deter predators like ladybugs. 

These frustrating pests can be difficult to get rid of as they lay their eggs hidden on the underside of plant leaves, and often in the soil. They typically cause fungal infection due to the increased humidity from their mucus, which is visible as yellowing, or brown patches on Maranta leaves. 

To get rid of mealybugs on prayer plants, simply dab them directly with rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab. This kills them on contact, and the same can be done for eggs on the underside of leaves. Mist your plant to dilute the alcohol afterwards.

Prayer Plant Spider Mites

Spider mites can appear black or red depending on the breed, but most common indoor spider mites are black, leaving a trail of silk behind them. Their egg clusters are often confused with mealybugs as they are foamy looking balls of silk.

Spider mites are particularly troublesome for Maranta as they enjoy dry plants, so feed on the chlorophyll, making leaves look weak and dry, and the typical response of plant parents is to mist, or increase watering which then leads to fungal problems.

If your plant’s leaves are looking dry, but the soil is moist, try rubbing or spraying diluted neem oil over the entire plant, then seeing how it responds after a week. If the leaves begin to recover, the neem oil has done its job!

Whitefly

Whitefly or aphids cause havoc in homes and are nearly impossible to eradicate thanks to their incredibly efficient reproduction methods, which include self-cloning, egg-laying, and metamorphosis.

If you spot whitefly on your houseplants, move them outdoors for a few days to attract ladybugs. They will quickly prey on them, and in summer your Maranta should be happy outdoors for a few days in part shade.

If you don’t have outdoor shade, try neem oil to reduce the problem, and regularly shower your plants in the morning to blast away the persistent pests.

Maranta leuconeura is best grown as an indoor plant, but grows happily outdoors in the tropical climate provided there is plenty of shade

Cucumber Mosaic Virus

Cucumber mosaic virus, like it sounds, is most common in cucumber plants, but can be spread to prayer plants. Symptoms are spotty patches across entire leaves, including brown, yellows, and black spots, which can spread between touching leaves, down stems, or by aphids and spider mites walking across affected areas.

If you notice the cucumber mosaic virus, the best course of action is to destroy the entire plant. However, if you’re confident that there is a stem that has been unaffected, you can use that to propagate new plants from cuttings.

Helminthosporium Leaf Spot 

Leaf spot on Maranta or Helminthosporium leaf spot is a fungal infection that occurs when water is left sitting on prayer plant leaves. Leaves won’t recover from leaf spots, so should be removed to prevent cross-contamination of other leaves, but the rest of the plant will be ok.

To reduce future occurrences, don’t water Maranta from overhead, and only mist your plants in the morning when they have time to evaporate the moisture through the day.

Root Knot Nematode 

If your plants have slowed down their growth all of a sudden, there are two likely possibilities. One is root rot, the other is the root knot nematode, which can be spread by other pests, or brought in via poor quality compost. Treatment of both is the same. 

Be sure to check out our guide on how to make your own compost the right way to avoid using poor quality compost in your garden. 

To treat root knot nematodes, you’ll have to discard the entire plant, but the top growth will be unaffected, so this is a great time to take nodal cuttings, which will grow fine in new, sterilized, compost.

Prayer Plant Tip burn

If your prayer plant is exposed to direct sunlight, high alkaline soils, or a high phosphate fertilizer has been used by mistake they can suffer tip burn on their leaves.

Tip burn symptoms include brown leaf tips and crisping margins, and as the problem worsens the center of the leaves will turn yellow until the entire leaf shrivels off the plant.

To avoid tip burn, water and fertilize moderately, and avoid using fertilizers with phosphate. 

Yellowing Prayer Plant 

Prayer plants need slightly acidic soil at a pH of around 6. This helps them take up nutrients from the soil. If their soil has limited nutrients or isn’t acidic enough it can lead to an iron deficiency that causes evenly yellow leaves.

This will be most noticeable in young leaves but thankfully is recoverable. Gradually increase fertilizing, and use a pH testing kit to adjust the acidity.


Maranta leuconeura FAQs

Prayer plant in a pot

Is Maranta leuconeura an indoor plant?

Maranta leuconeura is best grown as an indoor plant, but grows happily outdoors in the tropical climate provided there is plenty of shade. They make beautiful houseplants and will tumble down gracefully from hanging baskets, or can be trained upwards in smaller rooms.

Is Calathea the same as Maranta?

Calathea and Maranta are often mistaken for each other as they have a similar habit of closing their leaves in the evenings, and both have beautifully patterned foliage, but they are distinctly different species.

Should I cut brown leaves on a prayer plant?

Any time you notice a dead, damaged, or diseased leaf on your prayer plant it should be removed, including the leaf stalks. Brown or yellow leaves can be a sign of fungal infection so it is better to remove them quickly than risk spreading infections to the rest of the plant. 

Why is my prayer plant droopy?

While Maranta gladly grows in a trailing habit, if its leaves are looking floppier than normal this is commonly caused by low humidity, and air conditioning units drying the air around the plant out.

Maranta don’t store water in their leaves, so they dry out faster than most house plants.

Do Maranta like terracotta pots?

Maranta do best in plastic pots as they help regulate water, while terracotta or stone pots help reduce moisture in the soil, which can create a dry environment for these delicate moisture-loving tropical houseplants.


Start Growing Mesmerizing Maranta Leuconeura Today

Prayer plants are intensely mesmerizing plants, with leaves worthy of meditation, and mindfulness in themselves, but as they close up in the evening they become part of the atmosphere in the room, not just a plant in the corner.

Maranta are definitely pickier than most houseplants about where they live, and how you water them, but Maranta leuconeura are well worth the effort.

About the Author Mabel Vasquez

Mabel has enjoyed a long career as a horticulturist, working in nurseries and greenhouses for many years. Although she loves all plants, Mabel has developed a particular passion over the years for herb gardens and indoor plants. Mabel has since retired from her horticulture career and loves sharing her many years of experience with our audience here at Sumo Gardener.

Leave a Comment: