Prayer plants are often thought of as sensitive, and high maintenance. I certainly struggled with these plants when I tried to keep them in a sheltered environment away from what they actually love. Once you get the basic conditions right, these plants are super fast growing, very rewarding, and actually one of the easiest plants to grow.
These plants are pet-friendly!
Calatheas display something called nyctinastic movement using a little muscle just below the leaf called a pulvinus. The pulvinus looks like a little swollen part of the stem connecting to the leaf. During the day the leaves on this plant will move into position to capture the most sunlight. At night they stand up straight. This is where they get the name ‘Prayer Plant’.
Many members of the Marantaceae family form small rhizomes under the soil where they store water and nutrients. Due to this adaptation they are well equipped to deal with dry soil conditions and will not suffer if they are not watered for extended periods of time. Inversely, I find that if they stay wet for too long their robust root system is prone to rotting and will often manifest as leaf damage.
Wait to water your Maranta once the soil is at least half way dry during the warmer months. Allow the soil to become totally dry during Winter. Generally I find I am watering about once every 2-4 weeks. I often forget about my maranta and leave them with bone dry soil for a few extra weeks which they do not mind at all.
Marantas prefer mid to bright light. If you can walk into the space and not need electric lighting to use the space comfortably, then that is enough natural light. It will be enough ambient light that you can read a book easily during the day. This is a good place to start.
If you want your Maranta to grow faster, keep them in a brighter position. Cool direct sun is totally fine, but not necessary.
Most common members of the marantaceae family that you will find for sale at Melbourne’s indoor plant shops are not sensitive to low temperatures. Many of these plants can even tolerate growing outdoors during winter in a sheltered position. My Maranta leuconeura are perfectly fine living outdoors on my balcony in Melbourne.
Warmer temperatures are always a bonus for these plants, but be careful of the heat during summer. Direct afternoon sun in the peak of summer can burn these plants if they do not have adequate humidity.
The humidity in Melbourne is totally adequate for your Maranta all year round, but keep in mind every house is different. If you are consistently running heating or cooling you may want to move your Maranta away from that dry moving air. Maranta can tolerate some moving air but it is best to keep them out of the wind. More humidity is always welcome. If you do want to raise the humidity, use a pebble tray or humidifier.
Remember that indoor plants like to be a little cramped. Maranta are totally happy to be in a small pot and look great when they start to spill over the sides. A pot that is too large will contain a lot of excess soil. That extra soil will hold too much moisture causing issues down the line.
Terracotta pots are great, particularly if you often have trouble with over-watering. Use a well draining soil mix. Premium potting mix, or cacti succulent mix are fine options.
Re-pot in spring/summer. Make sure the plant has completely filled the pot with roots before upgrading the size of the pot otherwise you may damage the health of the plant. Incremental upgrades of 1-2 inches is recommended. Make sure to have a good look at the roots to check out the lovely rhizomes your plant has formed!
Apply a liquid fertiliser during the warmer months of the year. A good pattern to follow is to fertilise every second time you water in Spring and Autumn. Fertilise every time you water in Summer. Don’t fertilise in Winter as the plant won’t need the extra nutrients.
Crispy brown dry leaf tips: Low humidity
Dark soft leaf and stem damage: Too much water
Leaves curling: Low humidity
Leaves standing up on end during the day: Heat stress
Washed out colour: Too much light
Greener House Nursery is an Indoor Plant Nursery located at 95 Sydney Road, Brunswick. Check out what Marantas we have available here!