Prayer Plant – Maranta leuconeura

Prayer Plant varieties can be distinguished from one another by their leaf markings. These vary from irregularly-shaped dark patches to light colouring along the veins. Many leaves have red on their undersides.

The rain forests of tropical Central and South America are the natural habitats of these plants. For this reason they need a good deal of warmth and humidity to survive in cultivation. Because they are forest plants they cannot tolerate direct sunlight, although they do need bright light. Many of them do best in humid greenhouse conditions.

At sunset, the leaves fold up, closing leaf to leaf, like hands in prayer. Some varieties, however, do not close completely.

These plants rarely grow to more than 30-38cm (12— 15in) in height. If they are properly cared for they will produce 5-6 new leaves each year. They have a shallow root system so are best grown in rather shallow containers.Prayer Plant - Maranta leuconeura

Colours and varieties Of the many varieties available, some are more popular than others. Moranta leuconeura ‘Kerchoveana’ is one of the best-known cultivated varieties. It has light green leaves with a pale central stripe and dark brown patches, a characteristic that has resulted in the common name Rabbit Tracks.

‘Erythroneura’ has velvety-green leaves with darker green patches and clearly defined red veins extending from a light green centre. The undersides are marked with reddish-purple. This attractive plant is commonly known as the Red Herringbone Plant.

M. leuconeura var. leuconeura is also a popular cultivated variety. It has dark green leaves with silvery-green centres and veins. The undersides of the leaves are reddish-purple.

Propagation

The easiest way to propagate your Prayer Plant is by division.

1. Divide in spring when you are potting on the plants for the new season. Carefully pull the plant apart by hand. Cutting may wound the plant.

2. Once the plant is divided, shake each section to remove the old compost.

3. Use a compost that is airy and well-draining with plenty of organic matter. Mix ¾-parts soil-based compost with ¼ part peat moss. Provide good drainage by placing gravel or charcoal at the bottom of the pot.

Pests And Diseases

The plant looks generally unhealthy and the leaves begin to turn yellow if suffering from a red spider mite attack.

Treatment: Isolate the plant immediately and spray with an insecticide.

The leaves turn brown along the edges if the plant is too cold, stands in a draught or the humidity is too low.

Treatment: If it is too cold, move to a warmer position. If low humidity is causing the problem, mist spray more frequently.

Leaves droop and turn yellow or brown if the plant is too dry.

Prevention: The Prayer Plant needs to be watered generously during the summer; don’t let the compost try out.

PLANT CARE

Some varieties are fairly easy, so long as you give them a little attention, particularly warmth and humidity during the growing season.

  • Potting: Repot in spring, using a light, well-draining potting mixture of soil-based compost mixed with peat moss.
  • Water generously in summer and mist often. Water sparingly in winter.
  • Feeding: Feed every other week in summer using half the recommended strength of a standard liquid fertilizer. Do not feed in winter.

BEST GROWTH ENVIRONMENT

  • Light: The plant thrives in a bright position but will not tolerate direct sun, so place in a partially shaded position.
  • Temperature: Normal room temperatures are suitable in summer. In winter, keep at about 15°C (60 °F).

Buying Tips

  • Prayer Plant is available from garden centres and nurseries throughout the year.
  • Choose a plant with healthy leaves and good clear colour. Avoid any plants with pale or withered leaves.
  • In ideal conditions the plant will last for many years, but it is best to divide it every three years to maintain its vigour.

Prayer Plants are grown for their attractive foliage, which has unusual and often spectacular markings. It takes its name from the fact that the leaves fold up at night, like hands in prayer.

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