Prayer Plant/Maranta Care Guide

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In the interests of staying relevant, I used ChatGPT to write the introduction to this article. Not a fan. It’s too upbeat for a plant that is so so so easy to care for until one day it’s like ‘er, no. Imm die now’.

So here it is:

Marantas, also known as prayer plants, are a popular choice among plant lovers due to their unique foliage patterns and easy-to-care-for nature.

Native to the tropical rainforests of Central and South America, these plants are part of the Marantaceae family and can thrive both indoors and outdoors in warm and humid conditions.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at Maranta care, including how to water, fertilize, and propagate these plants, as well as common issues and how to solve them. Whether you’re a seasoned plant parent or new to the world of indoor gardening, this guide will help you keep your Marantas healthy and thriving.

It’s nice that AI has such faith in me to deliver a good article. It’s nice to have the support. Really got my week off to a good start.

Whilst AI can’t really help me with my articles (unless I can teach it to change the water in my propagations), I might ask it to give me compliments before work.

**This is so sad, reading it back, but it really makes me happy***

ANYWAY

Are Maranta easy to care for?

Yes. Compared to Calathea. But not compared to Stromanthe.

I shall rank the Marantaceae I’ve owned in terms of ease of care:

  1. Ctenathe
  2. Stromanthe
  3. Maranta
  4. Calathea

HOWEVER, the top two, whilst being super to easy care for, have a hunger for spider mites that cannot be quenched. If you love them a lot, and have the money to spend on them, consider getting some predatory mites. If you worry you won’t be able to sustain the spider mite popular, get a couple of crotons too!

Maranta aren’t quite so predisposed to get spider mites but they also have an alarming habit of being super happy and then…not. I kept mine near an east-facing window for, like, a year, and it was so happy – lots of growth, no crispiness, HAPPY.

Then it just started to die. Nothing had changed. Roots were fine. I moved it into exactly the same position but one floor up and it was fine. I can only assume it was bored.

Can Maranta take full sun?

Not without burning.

If your Maranta’s growth has slowed, then putting it in bright light can kickstart growth but the leaves will probably be a bit crispy.

You’ll also find that the patterns on the leaves fade a bit.

The main reason we like maranta is the cool patterns on the leaves, so bleaching them away to nothingness is a bit sad.

In the wild, they grow on rainforest floors. They can climb a bit, because they grow on vine, but they tend to spread over the ground rather than up trees.

Obvs not a tonne of light can get to the rainforest floor so they naturally live in dappled light, filtered by the rainforest canopy.

I know it seems like this indicates that maranta can live in low light, but dark outside is significantly brighter than dark inside. Bright, indirect to medium light is best. Mine THRIVES in an east-facing window (or north-facing, in summer thoguh it might be too cold in winter) but as I mentioned, sometimes likes to switch floors.

Do Maranta need to be misted

I wouldn’t recommed misting maranta, but they do grow faster and healthier if kept in high (65%+) humidity.

Misting is not the same as high humidity. Misting is more like raining on your plant, which plants (especially prayer plants) do NOT like. Water on the leaves causes them to close their stomata and have to stop photosythesising, and plants don’t want to do that.

Lack of humidity can cause brown tips on Maranta, and can cause the new leaves to take their sweet time unfurling.

This isn’t necessarily a problem BUT sometimes when the plant guttates (cries, weeps, sweats, whatever) the water can get trapped in the rolled-up leaf and cause browning.

How to water Maranta

Ok, I have a lot of articles on how water plants, so I thought I’d do something a bit different. I gave ChatGPT this question:

Please tell me how to water maranta, include information about the type of pot, soil and water I should use

If you weren’t aware, ChatGPT looks through all the info it can on the internet to compile an answer. I’ll go through the points it brought up and explain why it said that. Basically, it came up with a TONNE of really generic info that is bandied around a LOT in house plant articles.

Pot type: Maranta prefers to be planted in a pot with drainage holes. This will help to prevent water from pooling in the soil, which can lead to root rot.

Definitely true, but there are things we need to take into consideration:

  1. Pot material – I like to keep maranta in plastic nursery pots because it helps the soil to retain moisture. If you’re an overwaterer, terracotta is a great idea BUT it’s probably too drying for the rest of us
  2. Pot size – too big of a pot means more soil and water retention. If the soil stays wet for too long then we end up with root rot. Ideally we don’t want the pot to be much bigger than the root ball
Soil type: Maranta prefers well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. You can use a high-quality potting mix or make your own by mixing equal parts of peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite.

Er, no. ‘Rich in organic matter’ is code for ‘appealing to every fungus gnat in a ten-mile radius’. Do NOT put compost or food scraps in your soil. It won’t harm your plant, but the gnats will drive you wild (and not in a good way).

Also, a good quality potting mix is NOT achieved by mixing equal parts of peat moss, perlite and vermiculite. I use ABG mix for my maranta (because my boyfriend buys it and I steal it), which is moss, orchid bark, charcoal, and tree fern fiber. Maranta LOVE it.

Water frequency: Maranta likes to be kept consistently moist, but not soggy. Water your plant whenever the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. This may be once or twice a week, depending on the temperature and humidity of your home.

They do like to be consistently moist but not soggy BUT they won’t cry about it if you accidentally dry them out. They’re nowhere near as bad as Calathea or maidenhair ferns.

The ‘water when the top inch of soil is dry’ is BS. You need to check ALL of the soil. I like to use a moisture meter and water at the 3 mark, but you can just stick your finger in and water when it’s starting to feel dry near the bottom.

I have a big Monstera in a big pot and the top inch is dry a couple of hours after I water it because it lives in a big, south-facing window. The rest of the soil is wet.

You could also try poking the soil through the drainage holes and seeing if it’s still damp.

Water amount: When you water your maranta, make sure to give it enough water so that it flows out of the drainage holes. This will help to flush out any built-up salts in the soil. However, avoid letting the plant sit in standing water, as this can also lead to root rot.

Yup, this is all true. A lot of people get confused about overwatering and worry about giving the plant so much water that it’s draining out the bottom.

Overwatering is caused by watering too frequently, not by giving a lot of water at one time. Soil can only hold so much water, so you can’t overwater a plant in one watering session, even if you continuously watered it for an hour.

As long as you’re waiting for the soil to dry out a bit before watering again, it’ll be fine (as long as it doesn’t wash away or something).

Water quality: Maranta prefers slightly acidic water with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5. If your tap water is alkaline, you can add a few drops of vinegar or lemon juice to lower the pH.

Ok. Maranta do prefer slightly acidic soil but don’t worry too much about this. If there’s sphagnum in your soil mix, that should increase the acidity. Don’t add vinegar or lemon juice, you can end up killing beneficial bacteria in the soil.

If you do have SUPER alkaline water (which if it was, you’d know) you can add sulfur to help combat this. It’s very rarely, required, but if you really struggle with maranta, then it could be worth looking into.

I water my Maranta with tap water, but if you tend to get crispy tips, switch it out for rain or filtered water.

If you choose to use distilled water, make sure you use a fertiliser with a full micro and macronutrient profile to make up for the lack of minerals in the water.

How often do you fertilise Maranta?

This is what ChatGPT had to say:

Marantas, also known as prayer plants, should be fertilized once a month during their growing season, which typically runs from spring through summer. 

You can use a balanced fertilizer with an equal ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. 

Be sure to dilute the fertilizer to half strength and apply it to moist soil to avoid burning the plant's roots.
 
During the fall and winter, when Marantas enter a period of dormancy, it's best to avoid fertilizing them altogether.

The first three points are…fine. If your plant is growing super fast then you don’t necessarily need to dilute the fertiliser to half strength but if your leaves are getting crispy tips then you may want to consider it.

I’ve found that using hydroponic fertiliser reduces the chance of crispy tips, compared with regular house plant fertiliser.

The last point is simply not true. It can be, but Maranta don’t have a natural dormancy period, because they evolved in a country that doesn’t experience seasonality the same way that the UK and a lot of the Northern hemisphere do.

They can, however, experience situational dormancy if the conditions in your house are a bit…wintery.

BUT

Some people have warm houses year-round, and big windows/grow lights. If the conditions inside are consistent year-round, then your Maranta will keep growing. And if it’s growing, you can fertilise.

Maranta propagation

Maranta, like Ctentathe, but unlike Calathea and Stromanthe, can be propagated from nodes. i don’t have a picture of my Maranta propagating, but here’s one of my Ctenanthe:

ctenanthe propagation

Maranta grow on a vine, so just take a cutting that includes a node, and stick it in water. After a few weeks, the node should have sprouted roots. Once those roots have divided (or your roots have roots!) you can plant them in soil.

Maranta problems

Root rot

If you’re consistently getting root rot but don’t feel like you’re watering too much, you may need to aerate your soil more.

I try to teach people not to water too often, but some people just can’t resist. If that sounds like you, then by making the soil less water retentive, you can reduce the amount of water your soil can absorb, regardless of how often you water.*

*obviously you can still overwater, but it’s more difficult when the soil can’t hold as much water.

If your Maranta has a bad bout of root rot, then read this article and follow the steps. If you don’t have time to read a whole other article, just remove the mushy roots, dry out the soil (or use fresh) and repot it.

Pests

Different people have different preferences for eradicating pests. Maranta aren’t particularly prone to a certain pest, but they’re also not naturally less likely to get them (which some plants, like peace lilies, seem to be).

I like to spray my plants every week or so with diluted castile soap. You’ll need to do it a couple of times a week (and make sure you hit each leaf) if you have an active infestation but I’ve found a little preventative spritz keeps pests at bay.

A lot of people swear by systemic granules, but a lot of us nowadays are looking for more natural methods. When it comes to natural and easy you can’t go far wrong with using predatory mites BUT they’re not the cheapest option.

Yellow leaves

Yellow leaves are usually caused by either old leaves or overwatering. You can get yellowing on the leaf from underwatering and low humidity, but you’re also likely to see brown as well.

Pests can also cause yellow leaves. I don’t have an example of a Maranta with yellowing caused by pests, but here it is on a Monstera:

yellow leaf from thrips damage

Generally, yellow leaves caused by pests look like the green has been rubbed out with an eraser. If you have multiple yellow leaves, check the roots for root rot. If there’s just a couple lower down, it’s probably just the ned of the leaf’s natural life cycle.

Crispy tips

Crispy tips are usually caused by poor water quality or incongruent watering.

Firstly, switch to rain, filtered, or aquarium water. See if that makes a difference. Now, once the leaf tips are brown, that part of the leaf is dead and isn’t coming back. Therefore, you’ll need to check new growth to see if the water type is making a difference.

If it doesn’t try to be more on it with your watering schedule. Get into the habit of checking the soil every day or every other day so you water as soon as the soil is starting to dry out.

Brown tips are often caused by the plant nearly getting too dry and then being watered.

If this is too much effort, consider a humidifier (or cloche) instead.

How to make Maranta bushier

Maranta are more viney than bushy, but they do well if you employ the chop and prop method. Basically, take a lot of cuttings, root them in water, and then plant them back in with the mother plant.

You’ll struggle to do this any other way. You can activate mutilpe growth points by increasing the temperature, raising the humidity, and basically caring for your maranta perfectly, but the chop and prop method is easier and tends to yield bushier results.

I see a lot of people on Facebook complaining that they thought their plant was bushy, but it’s actually just a load of cuttings in a pot BUT that’s just the way things are done. A lot of plants just…aren’t bushy in terms of their growth pattern so we have to persevere to get the aesthetic we want.

Are Maranta toxic?

No, but as always, try to get into the habit of keeping pets away from ALL your house plants because they’re better able to understand ‘don’t eat the plants’ than ‘don’t eat plant, but you can eat that one’.

I share my house with two rabbits (and a human) and they love anything from the Marantaceae family. Gobble down a whole plant in one go.

Types of Maranta

There are around 40/50 types of maranta in the genus. Maranta arundinacea is used to make arrowroot powder (I’m vegan so I’m well acquainted with arrowroot – we use it as an eg substitute).

Maranta leuconeura is the ‘normal’ house plant maranta. Within the species there are various different forms

Maranta leuconeura

This is bog standard maranta.

    You can also get a variegated version which are quite common but I can’t find a picture of.

    The other common type is also a Maranta leuconeura but var. kerchoveana which is the reddish one that looks like this:

    why is it wet? Is this meant to be a glamour shot??

    Aaaand there are other forms too, like this lemon lime:

    Do Maranta bloom?

    Yes, and they are CUTE.

    A lot of people recommend chopping them off because they take away energy from the plant, but I like them. They’re nice. I buy plants because I like the way they look, so chopping off the pretty parts seems a bit of a waste of time.

    I’ve never noticed the flowers having a detrimental effect (I don’t recall there being any when it was deteriorating before) but if you’d prefer to chop them off just in case, go for it.

    Final thoughts

    I’m actually not a massive fan of the regular form marantas – I just don’t like the way they look. I am colour blind though (I can still see colours, they just look different to me apparently) and I don’t think I can see the red ones the same way everyone else can.

    I LOVE the lemon-lime though. So so pretty. They used to be hella expensive but they aren’t any more, so don’t spend more than, like ¬£20 on one. They’re pretty easy to find on Etsy in the UK, but the ones in the US seemed a bit…dubious. Planterina has them though!

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