Get to Know Maranta

Get to Know Maranta

Maranta, is one of the easiest and most popular houseplants you can grow. No two leaves are alike and look like the ink blots from a Rorschach test. By Doug Jimerson
By Doug Jimerson

Maranta, is one of the easiest and most popular houseplants you can grow. Also known as prayer plant, this spectacular beauty produces leaves with boldly colored spots, blotches, and/or veining. No two leaves are alike and are often said to resemble the ink blots from a Rorschach test.

Maranta gets its common name, prayer plant, from the fact that their leaves have a tendency to fold up at night, as if they are praying (the process where leaves close up at night is called nyctinasty).  See how prayer plant moves. 

Over time, mature plants also send up small flower stalks of pretty white flowers. The plants grow low to the ground, spreading wider than they are tall. Most varieties grow under 12 inches tall, but can spread 24 inches wide. 

Native to the jungles of Central and South America, maranta thrives in moist, low light conditions. You can display them in a dim bathroom or bedroom and they’ll be just fine as long as you remember to water them. 

Choosing Prayer Plants
The most common member of the maranta family is the Green prayer plant. It develops broad oval, light green foliage, conspicuously marked with purplish-black blotches. New leaves emerge in a tight tube and slowly open to reveal a unique, new pattern.

Red prayer plant (in photo) is a stellar selection with dark green leaves, purple markings and bright red veins and stems. The reddish-green undersides of each leaf also adds to the color show. Like the green prayer plant, this variety’s foliage also emerges in a tightly packed roll.

For a change of pace, the Black prayer plant offers silvery blue foliage with purple spots and olive green edging. The low-flat foliage is so thick you can barely see the pot the plant is growing in.

If you want to brighten a dark corner in your home, you can’t go wrong with Marisela prayer plant. This charming beauty sports dark green leaves with lighter green highlights between the veins. Plus, each leaf has a cream colored main vein running through the center.

One of the most cheerful looking prayer plants is Kim. This little plant shows off light green leaves with contrasting purplish spots and creamy white streaks. Place one look at these happy looking plants in your kitchen and start your day off with a smile.  See all the prayer plant varieties here. 

Here is how to care for your prayer plant:

Prayer plants can live for years if you treat them right. The key to success is water. Prayer plants don’t like to sit in wet soil, but they hate being dry, too. This means, you should water as soon as the soil starts to feel dry to the touch. Also, make sure your plant is in a pot with drainage holes to allow excess water to escape. It’s also wise to use water at room temperature. And if you are using tap water, let it sit for 24 hours to allow the chlorine to dissipate before using.

Prayer plants will do well in low and medium light situations. Just be sure to keep them away from direct sun. Because they evolved on the jungle floor, they prefer bright, indirect light. Of course, remember that no plant can get along without light, so move yours to a brighter room every few days if you want to keep your plant in a windowless room. 

You can grow prayer plants in any good quality potting mix designed for indoor plants. However, they do prefer slightly acid soil so if possible, use a mix designed for African violets which share their love of a slightly lower pH. 

Temperature and Humidity
Thriving in temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees F, prayer plants work well in most any setting. However, because they are jungle natives, they do prefer moist, humid air. If your home has dry air, especially during the winter, there are several things you can do to improve life for your plants. First, you can cluster your plants together which will help humidify the air directly around them.

Or, you can set your plant on a pebble-filled tray that’s filled with water. Set your plants on top of the pebbles and as the water evaporates it will add moisture to the air. But, if you have a lot of plants, you may want to add a humidifier to your home. Not only will your plants thank you, but your own skin will, too.

During the spring and summer your prayer plants will thank you if you feed them a little liquid houseplant fertilizer every other time you water. You can buy liquid houseplant fertilizer at most garden centers. It’s easy to administer, just follow label directions. Stop feeding your plants in the fall and winter.

Prayer plants are not super fast growers, but they can eventually grow large enough to require repotting. Look for a pot that’s about one to two inches larger in diameter than the pot the plant is currently growing in. Add fresh soil and you’re done.