The prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura) gets its nickname from the way its foliage curls up at night and spreads out during the day, giving the appearance of hands opening and closing during prayer. In this article we will learn how to propagate, grow the prayer plant or Maranta and its care.
The Maranta leuconeura variety has foliage of great decorative beauty which makes it one of the most beautiful plants in the natural world. The tricolor variety is the most popular with gardeners.
This variety features dark green leaves with a velvety finish. You will find yellow spots on the leaf veins and dark red veins that arch towards the margins.
The mature prayer plant has 6 inch leaves that arise from a sturdy central stem and fall down the sides of the pot.
Most varieties never exceed 20cm in height, but can reach circumferences up to double or triple the height of the plant.
These plants only last a few years and trying to maintain them for longer is a challenge, even for professional gardeners.
Where to grow the prayer plant?
They do well in humid environments, such as terrariums and greenhouses. However, you can grow these plants in any room of your house if you know how to care for them.
Plants need adequate airflow to fight off bacterial and fungal infections, but don’t let them near a vent. Drafts can stunt plant growth and they will struggle to recover.
As for the pot, it is good to use a large entry pot so as not to have to transplant often, a 10 liter pot is perfect for this plant.
How to Propagate a Prayer Plant
You may be surprised to learn that the prayer plant is easy to propagate. Popular propagation methods include dividing rhizomes and stem cuttings to create more plants from the mother.
Propagate by root division
The most common type of propagation is division during the transplant phase.
When transplanting, remove the roots and shake loose soil from the plant. Separate the roots until you have several separate plants.
Place the divided plants in separate pots using the potting soil described above, covering all roots well and watering thoroughly.
Propagate by cuttings (stems)
If you want to propagate your plants with cuttings, make sure you take the cutting from below the leaf node and that it is at least 10cm tall.
After taking the cutting, place it in an upright container with a little water. After an hour, remove the cutting and plant it in a small container of potting soil.
Keep the soil moist with a spray bottle so you don’t disturb the roots as they establish.
When the plants begin to produce new shoots, send them out to a larger container with the appropriate soil amendments.
Proper Lighting Conditions for the Prayer Plant
The prayer plant enjoys bright, indirect sunlight. It is essential never to place it in direct sunlight, otherwise the leaves will burn and the plant will begin to wilt.
It is also reasonably tolerant of low light conditions. If you live in an area where it is cloudy several days of the year, these plants will continue to grow in low sunlight conditions.
These plants go into dormancy in winter. During this stage, you can leave the plant in a darker room to help it recover from the stresses of the growing season. After a break, the plant returns to the next growing season.
Type of soil for the prayer plant
The prayer plant prefers light, airy soil with a slightly acidic pH. The ideal pH is between 5.5 and 6.0. Use a potting soil containing peat moss and a mixture of sand or perlite.
Perlite or sand provides air to soil roots and improves drainage. Peat moss also provides an airy substrate that retains moisture. Use only prepackaged soil amendments and never use soil from your garden unless you have a flower bed.
Using normal garden soil causes soil compaction which clogs the roots, causing root rot to appear.
These plants do not like to have “wet” feet. If the roots remain in soggy soil for long periods of time, root rot is to be expected.
Root rot causes the foliage to wilt and soon after the plant will die.
To improve soil drainage, use a pot with many holes in the bottom and fill the bottom of the container with a layer of small stones.
Prayer Plant Care
In spring and summer, the gardener should make sure to keep the soil moist. Water every two or three days, depending on the weather conditions in your area. Don’t let the earth dry out. Dry soil favors the appearance of pests, which will ruin your prayer plants.
However, do not overwater your plants. As mentioned before, overwatering can lead to root rot, which kills the prayer plant. Stick your finger one inch into the soil, if the fingertip feels dry, it’s time to water the plant.
It is also essential that the gardener does not run water over the leaves of the prayer plant when watering it. Water on the leaves can attract fungal diseases and cause the leaves to wilt.
The prayer plant enters a dormant phase during the winter. Avoid watering it and let it rest in a darker room during the winter. The plant will come back to life when you water it in early spring.
humidity and temperature
Prayer plants like to grow in warm climates between 15 and 26 C. When the temperature drops below 12 C overnight, leaf damage can result.
If you have outdoor prayer plants on your patio and in pots, bring them in overnight to keep them warm.
If you live in a warmer region, you can wrap your plants in burlap at night to keep them warm.
They need a moist environment to thrive. For this reason, they grow so well on the ribs. However, if you live in a dry region, you can simulate humid conditions by creating a microclimate around your plant.
Place a few stones in a drip tray, then place the pot on the stones. Add water to the tray, but don’t let the water level reach the bottom of the pot.
As the water evaporates from the tray, it reaches the leaves of the plant. As a result, a microclimate is created around it, providing it with the relative humidity it needs to thrive.
Prayer plants do well if given a boost of fertilizer in early spring.
Use an all-purpose liquid fertilizer and dilute it halfway. Using a full-strength fertilizer can scorch the leaves. Use a half-strength 10-10-10 formula and feed the plant every two weeks until late summer.
They need compost to reach their full potential as houseplants. Prayer plants that receive no food during the growing season experience stunted growth.
Never fertilize your plants in winter. If you continue to feed them during the dormant period, the lifespan of the plant is reduced.
Pests and diseases that affect the prayer plant
If you grow prayer plants outdoors, they are likely to be infested with scale insects, whiteflies, aphids and mites.
These pests begin to appear when the soil remains too dry for long periods of time. The insects lay eggs in the soil and hatch.
Always check your outdoor plants for pests before bringing them indoors, otherwise you risk infecting your other plants.
It may also be interesting to read: How to propagate, cultivate Adam’s rib and its care.
If you notice pests on your plants, use a natural insecticide like neem oil to get rid of the insects.
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