Maranta Prayer Plant; 15°C/60°F; Tropical America

Mostly superb foliage plants the marantas need warm, moist and shaded locations. An interesting feature of this plant is the way in which leaves fold together as darkness descends. The most striking in this respect is M. leuconeura ‘Kerchoveana’ the leaves of which stand perfectly erect at nightfall-a greenhouse full of them can be an eerie sight when the lights are turned on during the night. This plant has pale grey-green leaves with distinctive dark blotches that make the plant very interesting. When potting, all the marantas will require a peaty soil, also shallow pots which will be more in proportion with their squat appearance. They will all also do better if plant pots can be plunged to their rims in moist peat. Marantas are rapid growers and need potting on several times until they are in final 15cm/ 6in pots.

A more recent introduction is M. leuconeura ‘Erythrophylla’ which has reddish-brown colouring and intricately marked leaves in a herringbone pattern, and is an altogether bolder grower than the first mentioned. Despite the exotic colouring that would seem to suggest a delicate plant only suitable for the heated greenhouse, it is much more tolerant of room conditions than would seem possible. Growth that becomes untidy can be pruned to shape at any time, but is probably best done during the summer months when severed pieces can be cut up into sections and used for propagating new plants. A peat and sand mix should be used for inserting cuttings in and a warm propagator will greatly improve chances of success.

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