Today, we're taking a look at Maranta leuconeura var. kerchoveana, one of the most commonly available prayer plants in the US market.
While not a difficult plant to keep, there are a few things that can be done to optimize thriving conditions for these tropical, forest floor-dwelling plants.
Keep out of direct sunlight.
- Commonly marketed as a lower light plant, it will thrive in higher light situations. However, the plant will begin to burn if kept in direct sunlight.
Manage and monitor humidity.
- Like a good portion of tropical plants, Marantas enjoy their humidity and will thrive in it and suffer if the air becomes too dry. You'll know when this happens when the leaves begin to curl into themselves.
- Because of how crucial humidity is to the thriving conditions of the plant, I highly recommend obtaining a humidity monitor to help objectively gauge how humid or arid the air is.
Provide moist, but aerated soil conditions.
- A well draining but partially water retentive soil will not only boost the ambient humidity around the plant, but provide hospitable conditions for the roots and rhizomes of the plant. This is not a plant that will be happy if it gets to a bone dry state.
- Here at Cultivate Propagate, we've had good success growing our Marantas in a regular ol' potting mix with some added perlite in roughly a 3:1 ratio. Both of these are inexpensive and commonly available at the big box hardware stores and garden centers.
Pick the right pot.
- A plant you may have to keep a little more moist can lead to the dreaded root rot preceded by a stint overwatering . To mitigate this, pick a planter that has a hole at the bottom to allow that excess water to run through. And remember to toss the water that accumulates in the drip tray!
- Our Marantas have done the best in glazed ceramic planters. We found that breathable terra cotta may have been too breathable and dried out the growing medium a bit too quickly in our home environment this winter. We really like our ceramic pots so we haven't experimented with plastic ones. But we would be willing to bet money those would work well for this plant in the average home environment too!
The M. leuconeurain in our personal collection was procured from a Fred Meyer clearance rack as a sad, singular, leggy vine with about five browning leaves.
The vine was cut at the base and divided into a few cuttings that rooted readily in a glass of water.
Shortly after the roots had developed, they were transferred to a pot with soil. The plant took off! It was not only throwing out new leaves, it even flowered this past summer.
Sidenote: If your plant produces blooms for, you're doing it right.
However, winter rolled around and that was when the plant seemed as if it was quickly on its way to the sad state it was originally purchased it in. The soil was also notably more soggy than it should be.
This prompted a plant protocol we fall back on when these kinds of situations arise: an emergency repot.
The general rule of thumb is to wait for the active growing season (most commonly, Spring) to do anything drastic to your houseplants, this includes disrupting roots. But in situations like these, postponing repotting for "the active growth season" can mean death for a plant.
When the struggling plant pal was removed from its pot, the media was soggy and there was indeed evidence of rot but there were some pretty neat things happening...
Multiple clusters of tubers (or rhizomes) had been developing beneath the surface! Not only that, but these clusters were producing new growth! Little white spikes promised a future swath of that gorgeous green foliage we love this plant for.
The remaining leaves were snipped from the plant and divided into another batch of cuttings in an attempt to revive them.
Hopes were not high as they were curled and plentiful in dead brown tips.
Surprisingly, despite their sad state, those cuttings took off! As you can see, not only did the roots develop beautifully, new spikes of growth began to show.
Interestingly, unlike the white spikes that developed in soil, these were green.
So, to all you plant parents out there, don't lose hope if your Maranta looks like it's a goner. It may just be working on a new batch of fantastic foliage for you!