Also known as the prayer plant, the Red Maranta (Maranta leuconeura Erythroneura), this beautiful gem was selected to reflect the optimism we all need to see going into 2021. After the rough year of COVID-19, murder hornets, and rioting, the world needs some good karma. And the maranta is a great start with its amazing red herringbone pattern on its leaves. And, get this, the leaves move at night.
How the Prayer Plant Got its Name
Okay, the leaves do not actually dance around or anything. But they close up at night like praying hands, which is where it got its nickname of prayer plant. Its other nickname, the herringbone plant, comes from the patterns on the leaves. There are actually about 50 different species of prayer plants.
They Need Heat to Flourish
Native to Brazil, you cannot grow these tropical plants outside year-round unless you happen to live in Brazil or another tropical climate. But they make excellent house plants. Many people grow them in hanging baskets that can be brought in when it is cold. They cannot tolerate temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Characteristics of the Prayer Plant
The prayer plant is a slow-growing plant with oval-shaped leaves that are between four and eight inches long and about three or four inches wide. With proper temperature and sunlight as well as good soil, they can grow up to two feet tall and four feet wide. Though the branches tend to hang down rather than stand upright, so it is more long than tall.
Taking Care of Your Prayer Plant
This is a perennial so it will last for many years as long as you take care of it. But the care is not too difficult. You do not have to do too much to make the prayer plant happy. Just as long as you keep it warm enough and give it a bit of light once in a while, it will be fine. But if you want it to flourish, you can follow some of the actual care practices.
Soil Consistency is Important
The soil for this plant should be moist but well-drained and acidic. The pH should be between 5.5 and 6.0. It should have a lot of humus mixed into it like a potting mix you can buy at any department store or nursery. Or you can make your own by mixing one part sand or perlite, one part loamy soil, and two parts peat moss.
Water and Feed the Prayer Plant Regularly
Many people place it in a pot standing in a tray of wet pebbles to keep it moist. They do not do well if they dry out. That is the main thing that can kill your prayer plant. Drought is not something they can tolerate. But too much water can hurt it too since it is susceptible to root rot.
You also need to feed your prayer plant. Fertilize it every two weeks during the growing season from spring until late fall. The mixture should be a water-soluble fertilizer for houseplants that is 10% potassium, 10% phosphate, and 10% nitrogen. Be careful. If you don’t use enough, it will not grow well. But if you use too much, you can burn the roots. During the winter, only feed them once a month.
Give it Some Light
Indoors, hang or set your plant near a window where it gets indirect light. They do not like too much light as it will bleach the color right out of its leaves. In fact, they do fine in low light areas too. During the winter, they go dormant and may even look like they are dead. To revive them, give them some bright sunlight until they perk up.
Only Repot if You Have To
If your prayer plant becomes pot bound or root bound, it will grow slowly no matter how much you feed it and how much sun it gets. However, it does not like to be repotted often so be sure to get a pot that is going to be big enough for your plant. When repotting, gently remove it from the pot and shake the roots before placing it into a new pot with fresh soil.
Propagating Your Prayer Plant
Want to share your beautiful prayer plants with others? You can propagate them by rhizome division or stem cutting. The best time to do this is during repotting if you have to repot your plant. To divide your plant, shake the soil from the roots and gently work them apart. Pot the new ones in smaller shallow pots and keep them warm and moist.
Propagating your prayer plant by cutting is easy as well. All you have to do is make a cut in the stem below one of the leaf nodes. Dip the cutting into a root hormone and then put it in a clean glass of water. Change the water every two days. After the roots start growing you can plant them in a small pot with moist soil. Then you can share them with whoever you want. After all, it is the 2021 plant of the year.