Native to the rainforests of Central and South America, Prayer Plants are low-growing ornamental plants. They’re popular for their gorgeous decorative leaves, which lie flat during the day but rise and fold at night like praying hands—hence the name.
Prayer Plants aren’t just visually pleasing, though. These kid and pet-safe tropical plants can grow and thrive indoors all year round. They’re ideal for plant parents who wouldn’t mind tending to their plants once a week.
In this article, we’ll go into detail about how to care for Prayer Plants. Before we dive in, however, let’s answer one crucial question: “Are Prayer Plants hard to care for?”
Prayer Plants aren’t hard to care for as long as you meet their specific needs. They aren’t considered beginner-friendly, though.
As tropical plants, Prayer Plants prefer greenhouse-like conditions. Replicating and maintaining these conditions indoors can be high maintenance.
What’s more, Prayer Plants don’t always show what they need through clear signs. As a result, growing and caring for a Prayer Plant requires some experience.
Still, once you know how to care for your Prayer Plant, you’ll be able to enjoy stunning colors and fascinating rhythmic movement all year long.
By creating an ideal environment, your Prayer Plant will be able to grow and thrive. Here’s what you need to know to provide your plant with the best conditions to increase its growth rate and enhance its health.
Prayer Plants prefer medium to bright indirect light conditions. So, the ideal location to place a Prayer Plant is a few feet from a south-facing window covered with translucent curtains.
That way, the plant can receive plenty of light to thrive and maintain its colorful foliage without risk.
Prayer Plants can also handle dim, low-light conditions. Their leaves, however, won’t fully open during the day and may lose some of their bold variegation.
Most importantly, you should never place your Prayer Plant in absolute darkness or direct sunlight.
Total darkness can stunt the plant’s growth and fade the foliage color to pale green. In direct sunlight, on the other hand, the leaves may fade in color or scorch.
Prayer Plants will thrive in high humidity and warmer temperatures similar to their native tropical conditions. So, an ideal weather condition is somewhere between 65°F and 85°F at all times, which is luckily similar to temperatures inside.
Temperatures above 90°F and below 55°F, on the other hand, can stress and damage Prayer Plants.
In addition, Prayer Plants need a fair amount of humidity. You can increase indoor humidity by placing a small humidifier near your plant or placing the plant on a pebble tray. You can also group your houseplants next to each other.
Nevertheless, don’t mist your plant to increase humidity. Wet leaves can lead to fungal infections, which are common in Prayer Plants.
Prayer Plants aren’t like other houseplants that can go without watering. They need frequent and consistent watering so that their soil remains moist.
During the growing season, you should water Prayer Plants once every 1–2 weeks, allowing the soil to dry halfway down between waterings. Once temperatures drop, you can reduce watering to once every 2–4 weeks.
In either case, you shouldn’t let the soil dry out completely. If you’re not watering your plant enough, its leaves will brown at the tips and margins.
That said, avoid overwatering your Prayer Plant or letting it sit in standing water. Soggy or waterlogged soil can lead to leaf discoloration, root rot, and other overwatering-related problems.
What’s more, Prayer Plants can be sensitive to the chemicals in tap water, so it’s better to use rainwater, filtered, or distilled water.
Prayer Plants aren’t fussy about soil, but their ideal substrate is a potting mix that’s slightly acidic with good drainage and soil aeration.
You can make your own substrate by combining commercial potting mix with loam soil and coarse sand. Add peat moss or coconut coir to improve the soil’s moisture retention. Then, add lava rocks, gravel, or perlite to improve drainage.
Most importantly, avoid garden soil because it can infect the plant with pests and diseases.
Prayer Plants don’t like sitting in waterlogged soil. That’s why it’s crucial to plant them in soil with excellent water drainage.
Otherwise, poor draining soil increases the likelihood of root rot, which can cause leaf discoloration. In severe cases, root rot can be fatal to any plant.
One way to improve water drainage is to plant Prayer Plants in pots with drainage holes. These holes will help drain any excess water.
Prayer Plants aren’t heavy feeders, but they require regular fertilization. Otherwise, they’ll grow slowly, if at all.
During the growing season, you should fertilize your Prayer Plant every two weeks or so with a water-soluble indoor plant fertilizer. You don’t need to fertilize it more than once a month in the winter.
Keep in mind that over-fertilizing can increase the soil’s mineral concentration, which can burn the plant’s roots. As a result, the leaves may begin to show signs of discoloration and scorching.
That’s why it’s recommended to dilute the indoor plant fertilizer to half the recommended strength.
Because Prayer Plants are slow-growers, they’re easy to care for. However, if left to their own devices, Prayer Plants can grow and spread in a vining growth pattern.
That’s why, your Prayer Plant may require pruning, transplanting, repotting, and propagating from time to time.
The most common reason some people prune their Prayer Plants is for aesthetics. You can trim your Prayer Plant’s foliage 2–3 times a year to give it a fuller, bushier appearance.
Another common reason to prune your Prayer Plant is if it becomes leggy. Most houseplants that don’t receive enough light stretch out their vines and reduce their foliage to reach out toward the light source.
You should also prune your Prayer Plant if you notice any old, discolored, diseased, or dying leaves. Pruning those leaves makes room for new, healthy growth.
Prayer Plants are typically pruned in the early spring before the growing season begins. This allows the plants to heal more quickly and easily, as well as promote new growth when the weather warms up.
The first step to pruning is to sterilize a pair of sharp shears by spraying or wiping them with a disinfectant. That way, no pathogens spread from the pruning tools to the plant.
To prune leaves, trim them just above the nodes where the leaves meet the stems. Remove the leaves wherever you wish to promote new growth if you want to change the plant’s growth pattern.
You can prune leggy vines the same way, by trimming right above the node where the vine meets the plant.
Prayer Plants don’t require frequent transplanting and repotting. However, they need to be moved to a larger container when they grow beyond the size of their containers.
A telltale sign is when a Prayer Plant’s roots start poking out of the drainage holes, which can happen around every two years. If not transplanted to a bigger pot, the Prayer Plant can become rootbound, making it difficult to absorb water and nutrients properly.
Here’s how to transplant and repot a Prayer Plant:
- Get a plant pot that’s 1–2 sizes bigger than the original pot
- Fill up a third of the pot with new substrate
- Gently uproot the Prayer Plant from the pot
- Remove excess soil and check for root rot
- Snip off any wilting parts
- Put the Prayer Plant in the bigger pot
- Fill up the remaining two-thirds of the pot with substrate
- Water the soil until excess moisture seeps through the drainage holes
- Place the plant in its original spot
It’s worth noting that Prayer Plants can experience shock and stress when transplanted and repotted. That’s why it’s best to do this early spring so that the plant can recover quickly.
Prayer Plants aren’t climbers, so there’s no need to stake them for support. Even if you secure your Prayer Plant to a support, it’s unlikely that the plant will climb it.
If your Prayer Plant is drooping or growing sideways, it doesn’t need support. Low humidity, excessive sunlight, and dry or wet soil are all common causes of droopiness in Prayer Plants.
Just make sure your plant has reached maturity, as young plants may not survive division. You should also repot and propagate your Prayer Plant in the early spring to avoid stress, as well as take advantage of the growing season.
Here’s how to propagate a Prayer Plant through division:
- Take out your Prayer Plant from the pot and gently remove soil from around the roots
- Gently separate root clumps using your fingers, ensuring that every clump has a solid root system, several stems, and leaves
- Repot the parent plant and every divided plant in new containers filled with fresh soil mix
- Water both the parent plant and the divided clump thoroughly
- Place both pots in a location that receives indirect sunlight and high humidity
Like many houseplants, Prayer Plants are prone to pest infestations. Not to mention prolonged poor conditions can invite unwanted pests and diseases.
Aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, thrips, and plant scales are the most common pests that infest Prayer Plants. These insects cause damage to a Prayer Plant by sucking away its sap, which contains vital nutrients.
As a result, a pest-infested Prayer Plant will show signs of discoloration, stunted growth, defoliation, deformation, and even rotting. If left untreated, the infested plant may not last long.
While a pest infestation may sound alarming, you can effectively treat the affected area by wiping it with neem oil, insecticidal soap, or rubbing alcohol.
To avoid an infestation altogether, you should:
- Check for pests in between the crevices, on the stems, and under the leaves before you bring the Prayer Plant inside
- Always transplant your plant in fresh and clean soil
- Maintain ideal conditions to keep your plant healthy
- Regularly wipe the plant’s leaves
Another precaution you can take is to regularly inspect your plants to catch any problems before they fester. You can also plant basil or mint near the Prayer Plant to repel pests.
Prayer Plants aren’t particularly prone to any diseases. However, they thrive in a moist, humid environment and are susceptible to houseplant pests. These two conditions increase the likelihood of Prayer Plants contracting fungal and viral diseases.
The cucumber mosaic virus is a disease that manifests in Prayer Plants’ foliage. When infected, the leaves can turn mosaic or a mottled bright yellow. In addition, new leaves are stunted and distorted.
Unfortunately, the only treatment for this disease is to dispose of the infected plant so that the virus doesn’t spread to other houseplants. As such, it’s best to avoid exposing your Prayer Plant to the virus in the first place.
The most common vectors of this disease are aphids, which can carry the virus from one plant to another. To avoid virus transmission, it’s crucial to prevent aphid outbreaks.
The cucumber mosaic virus can also spread via contaminated gardening tools and even your hands. For that reason, make sure to sterilize your tools and thoroughly wash your hands between handling plants.
Helminthosporium leaf spot is a lethal fungal disease that thrives in moist, warm environments. It often takes hold of overwatered plants and constantly wet leaves.
The first sign of this disease is small, water-soaked spots that appear on the Prayer Plant’s leaves. In a matter of days, these spots turn yellow and spread until they merge, turning tan with yellow halos. If left untreated, the infected Prayer Plant leaves can die.
To avoid this ordeal, check for any signs of an infection in new plants. You should also avoid using garden soil as a potting mix.
Another way to eliminate future risks is to avoid overwatering and overhead watering. You can also apply neem oil or a fungicide every 14 days as a preventative measure.
Prayer Plants may not be one of the more low-maintenance houseplants. However, with their unique foliage and mesmerizing nyctinastic leaf movement, they’re among the most fascinating and rewarding.
As long as you provide your Prayer Plant with plenty of indirect light, water, drainage, humidity, and warmth, it’ll grow and thrive.
So, now that you know how to care for Prayer Plants, you can add those one-of-a-kind plants to your houseplant collection.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.