Skip to Content

Why Is It Called a Prayer Plant Anyway?

Why Is It Called a Prayer Plant Anyway?

Share this post:

Disclaimer: Some links found on this page might be affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and make a purchase, I might earn a commission. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Prayer plant is a common name for a species of plants in the Marantaceae family. It’s native to the tropical forests of South America.

It got its name prayer plant for its habit of folding its leaves at night, giving the appearance of hands clasped together in prayer. Additionally, it’s also known by other names, such as herringbone plant and maranta.

In the 16th century, the prayer plant was discovered by European explorers and was introduced to other parts of the world. The plant is now widely cultivated for ornamental purposes because of its unique foliage and easy care requirements.

Where Did The Prayer Plant Get Its Name?

The prayer plant earned its name because it folds its leaves upward at night, resembling hands held in prayer. This specific behavior is called nyctinasty, and is common to many species in the Marantaceae family.

What Are The Other Names of the Prayer Plant?

The prayer plant has several common names, depending on the region or its physical characteristics.

Scientific Name of Prayer Plant

The scientific name for the prayer plant is Maranta leuconeura. The name Maranta originated from Bartolomeo Maranta, a famous botanist and physician who documented plants in the 16th century.

The specific name leuconeura refers to the white veins contrasting with the green leaves.

Names of Different Varieties of Prayer Plant

There are different varieties of prayer plants, but they’re all related despite their varied appearances. The most common Maranta leuconeura varieties include:

  1. Kerchoveana: The primary distinguishing feature of this variety is its velvety, green leaves with dark red veins.
  2. Erythroneura: This type of prayer plant is known to have green leaves that have bright red veins and are often less velvety compared to other varieties.
  3. Variegata: The distinctive white or yellow margins in contrast to its green leaves, gives this variety a patched look.
  4. Fascinator: This is a hybrid variety known for its green and pink leaves, with a dark green pattern.
  5. Little Missy: As the name suggests, this is a smaller variety with green leaves and light green veins.

Prayer Plant and Its Nicknames

The prayer plant is known by several nicknames, including:

  1. Evergreen plant: This is due to its ability to maintain green foliage throughout the year.
  2. Hand in prayer plant: The player plant got this nickname by its habit of folding its leaves at night.
  3. Zebra plant: It earned this nickname because of its black and green stripes.
  4. Herringbone plant: As the name suggests, the prayer plant has herringbone-like patterns on its leaves.
  5. Rabbit’s Foot plant: This is because of the fuzzy texture of its underleaf.
  6. Maranta: named after the Italian botanist and physician, Bortolomeo Maranta.

Is The Peacock Plant a Prayer Plant?

The peacock plant is a plant species under the Marantaceae family. However, peacock plants belong under the genus Calathea, while prayer plants belong to the genus Maranta.

Though they may come from the same plant family, they aren’t the same plant. There are several differences between the Maranta and the Calathea genera.

In the Maranta genus, the leaves of the plants are usually oval-shaped. Meanwhile, the Calathea has varied leaf shapes, which may be oval, rounded, or lance-shaped.

Additionally, Calatheas don’t have the habit of folding their leaves at night, which Marantas do. Finally, Marantas are generally easier to care for than Calatheas.

Physical Description of the Plant

Prayer plants typically grow at a moderate pace, reaching an average height of 6-12 inches and a width of 12-18 inches. The leaves are usually 4-12 inches long, depending on the variety.

The leaves are often oval or elliptical, with a bright green background and distinctive light green veins. It produces small flowers on spikes, but this plant is primarily grown for its unique foliage.

Usually, we grow this plant in pots or hanging baskets. It requires warm temperatures, high humidity, and well-drained soil to thrive.

Significance of the Prayer Plant’s Physical Appearance

The physical appearance of the prayer plant plays a significant role in its popularity. It’s important in several ways too:

  1. Aesthetics: Prayer plants make a popular indoor plant with its attractive foliage, bright green leaves and distinctive light-colored veins.
  2. Behavior: The plant’s habit of raising leaves at night sets it apart from other houseplants.
  3. Identification: With their unique leaf shape, vein patterns, and night-time habit, prayer plants become easy to identify.
  4. Cultural significance: In some cultures, the plant’s behavior is believed to have spiritual significance, which is sometimes associated with prayer or meditation.

Benefits and Uses of the Prayer Plant

The prayer plant has several uses and benefits in horticulture including:

Indoor Plant

Because of its appearance, the prayer plant has been widely cultivated as an indoor plant. It’s often used in offices, houses, and other indoor environments in many countries.


In warm, tropical countries, the prayer plant is used as an addition to outdoor gardens. This is mainly because of its low-maintenance care requirements.


Prayer plants are often used as ornaments because of their unique foliage. They’re usually placed as accents in indoor gardens, or as centerpieces with other tropical plants.

Air Purification

Research has shown that, like many other plants, prayer plants improve air quality by removing pollutants in the air. This makes it a valuable addition to any indoor garden.

Therapeutic Benefits

Indoor plants can have a positive impact on anyone’s mental and physical health, and prayer plants are no exception. With their beauty and unique behavior, prayer plants are a popular choice for those who seek to improve their well-being.


Studies show that prayer plants are non-toxic for both humans and animals alike. This is a huge help for anyone who wishes to build their indoor garden.

How To Care For Your Prayer Plant

Prayer plants are popular houseplants known for their attractive foliage and easy care requirements. Here are some tips on how to care for your prayer plant:

When it comes to light, prayer plants prefer bright and indirect sunlight. It’s important to avoid exposing your plant to direct sunlight, as this may scorch the leaves.

Your prayer plant’s health also depends on maintaining a consistent moisture level. Be sure to wait for the first top inch of the soil to dry up before watering again.

Prayer plants thrive in humid environments as well. It’s recommended that you mist the leaves regularly, especially during cold months.

It’s important to note that these plants like warm temperatures (65-80°F) and don’t tolerate cold drafts either.

When potting your prayer plant, choose a pot that has proper drainage holes. Additionally, use a well-draining potting soil mixture.

For prayer plants, water-soluble fibers are the best kind too. Finally, make sure to trim any brown or yellow leaves that appear.

Final Thoughts

The plant was named prayer plant due to its unique habit of folding its leaves upward at night, giving the appearance of hands held in prayer. This behavior is due to changes in light intensity that cause the leaves to close up, creating a praying gesture.

The plant’s distinctive habit led to its well-known name and has contributed to its popularity as a houseplant. It’s also sometimes referred to as the Herringbone plant or Zebra plant due to the distinctive pattern of its leaves.

Today, it’s known in many countries for its decorative and landscaping qualities, air purifying capabilities, and therapeutic benefits. Its unique foliage and vibrant appearance, combined with low maintenance requirements, make it a popular choice.

Share this post: