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What is a Prayer Plant?

By Jackie Johnson
Updated: Feb 20, 2024

The prayer plant is a type of houseplant in the Marantaceae family. Its leaves are spotted, often with striking colors. At night it slowly rolls its leaves up, hence the name prayer plant. The plant can be particular about its growing conditions and typically likes warm, humid weather. It is native to Africa and is in the same plant family as the arrowroot plant, which is commonly used to make food thickeners.

Growing a prayer plant can present a few challenges. It does not like chlorine or fluorine in the water, and it requires a good deal of humidity to flourish. It also generally requires a regular dose of a balanced plant food. The prayer plant may best thrive in the moist environment of a terrarium or in a grouping of other plants. Placing a it on a waterproof tray covered with pebbles and water is another way to provide enough humidity for the plant to thrive.

The prayer plant typically likes light soil. A potting mix that contains perlite or other absorbent material may best support the roots. The perlite absorbs water and releases it to the roots over time, helping to avoid soggy soil. The plant responds well to water that has stood overnight in a bowl or jar, which allows the chlorine and fluorine in tap water to evaporate. The prayer plant can generally tolerate a broad range of pH levels in the soil, from 6.1 all the way to 7.8.

Under the right conditions, the prayer plant is a prolific grower. It can reach 15 to 18 inches (38 to 46 cm) tall when mature. When the plant outgrows its pot, it can be removed and the roots carefully separated to create new potted plants. The new plant may experience transplant shock, but given enough humidity and regular watering, it usually will recover.

Few plants reveal their satisfaction with the light they receive quite like the prayer plant. When they do not close their leaves at night, they are searching for more light before they can rest. Moving the plant to a brighter location can help it receive an adequate amount of light. Since the plant likes moderately warm temperatures, it may be tempting to place it next to a sunny window in the winter, but that may stunt its growth. Windows can let in a lot of cold air, something the it does not tolerate well.

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Discussion Comments
By Heavanet — On Mar 14, 2014

@talentryto- The prayer plant does very well as an indoor plant, because you can closely control the temperature of its environment. While it will potentially thrive outdoors on warm, moist days, I would not leave the prayer plant outside if the weather is chilly. I would also bring it indoors on days that are extremely hot and dry.

By Talentryto — On Mar 13, 2014

I purchased a prayer plant as a house plant last fall, and kept in in a warm, sunny room all winter. Does anyone know if this plant will thrive outside in the summer? Would I need to bring in indoors on cool days?

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