Green Prayer Plant Calathea (Maranta Leuconeura)
Native to the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, the Green Prayer Plant Calathea (Maranta Leuconeura) actually has a fairly understated appearance compared to all the flashier Marantas and Calatheas it sees at family reunions. But really, it’s all relative. When we see a compact, 12” mound of soft, medium-green leaves that sport twin rows of purple-green “rabbit track” spots and silvery white undersides—and that tilt upward each night as if the plant is folding its leaves to pray—let’s just say that’s our kind of understatement.
There’s an old joke that says the reason Calatheas and Marantas (two closely related genera. Technically, this “Calathea” is a Maranta) are often called prayer plants is because you can only pray that they’ll survive. It’s a witty joke, but not a very accurate one. True, these rainforest beauties aren’t the easiest potted pet to make comfortable. But once you understand their natural habitat and a few simple steps that’ll help you emulate it—all explained on this very page—anyone can keep a Green Prayer Plant happy and healthy for years.
Characteristics and traits of a Green Prayer Plant Calathea (Maranta Leuconeura)
Scientific Name: Maranta Leuconeura
Genus: Maranta / Calathea
Common Name: Green Prayer Plant Calathea, Prayer Plant, Rabbit Track Plant
Indoor: All year round as long as temperatures are above 65F
Outdoor Zones: 11-12
Type: Perennial; Can be propagated by division or stem cuttings.
Mature Height: 10-12”
Mature Width: 12”-18”
Plant Height when Shipped: XXXXXX
Growth Rate: Slow
Flower: Rare. Delicate white, trumpet-shaped flowers with purple blush borne on central stalk
Foliage: Soft green oval leaves with two rows of dark, purple-green splotches that run alongside the leaf veins. Leaf undersides are solid silvery white.
Plant Care and Advice for Green Prayer Plant Calathea (Maranta Leuconeura)
Grown In: Inside: all zones year round, Outside: zones 11-12
Light Requirements: Thrives in bright indirect but can tolerate medium as well. Quickly scorched by direct sun.
Water Requirements: Keep roots moist at all times, but never soggy.
Drought Tolerance: Fair
Temperature: Prefers indoor room temp. 65-80F.
Air Purification: Good
Fertilizer: General fertilizer at ½ strength every two weeks during growing season
Container Friendly: Yes - But must have good drainage
The most important thing when repotting a Maranta Leuconeura is using the correct soil type. This plant needs its roots to be moist at all times, but will quickly contract fungal root rot if allowed to sit in saturated soil. To ensure adequate moisture retention without sacrificing drainage (or vice-versa), use a gritty, peat-based soil mix such as African violet mix or a custom blend of equal parts peat moss, sand, and garden soil (bonus if you also add a bit of lime dust).
Once the soil mix is prepared, the actual act of repotting is a simple matter of moving the plant from its old pot into a new one 1-2” wider and watering it in. Of course, it’s also never a bad idea to put a shallow layer of pebbles in the bottom of the pot to help with drainage.
Green Prayer Plants are native to the Brazilian Amazon, where they receive very little direct sunlight (because of the tall trees) but plenty of indirect light. In the home, they prefer bright indirect light, but can tolerate medium to medium-low light as well. They dry out easily, so water enough to ensure their roots are always moist—but never soggy. Waterlogged roots are a quick ticket to potentially disastrous root rot. They’re slightly sensitive to water temperature and purity, so if using tap water, let it sit 24 hours before use, so the water warms up to room temperature and added fluoride, chlorine or other chemicals can dissipate out (or, to avoid the hassle, use room-temperature rain water, bottled or distilled water). Also, try to water the soil, not the plant itself, as excess moisture on the leaves can attract fungal infections.
Green Prayer Plants require high humidity to thrive, and do best when lightly misted (as in, no standing droplets on the leaves) and when their pot is placed atop a slightly wider tray filled to the top with pebbles and half-way with water. On a related note, they do not enjoy temperatures above 80F or heavy air flow of any temperature (both conditions that decrease humidity), so locate them away from heat and A/C vents.
From spring through fall, Green Prayer Plants will appreciate a light feeding of general houseplant fertilizer, administered every two weeks at half strength. Also, unlike many Calatheas, Green Prayer Plant Calatheas actually can benefit from pruning 1-3 times annually. Trim the stems just above a leaf node and the plant will likely send out multiple new shoots from the node, creating a bushier plant in the long run.
While the nightly “folding up” of its leaves is trademark behavior for Marantha Leuconeura, curled leaves can be an indication that your Green Prayer Plant Calathea needs less light or, on rare occasions, more water. Brown leaf tips can be another sign of too much light, but can also signal that the plant needs more humidity or is getting too much chlorine, most likely from freshly poured tap water. Remember, too, that even perfectly healthy water that is too cold can cause leaves to drop, so always let tap water sit for 24 hours before use.
Maranta Leuconeura can occasionally fall victim to the usual plant pests, the most common being spider mites. Fortunately, these are easily treated with neem oil or insecticidal soap. If overwatered, the plant can develop root rot or helminthosporium leaf spot, a potentially devastating fungal disease identifiable by the yellow, water-soaked spots it creates on the plant’s leaves. The leaf spot can also be treated with neem oil (but also throttle back on the water, of course).
Marantha Leuconeura is surprisingly easy to propagate from cuttings. Simply cut a piece of stem that includes at least one mature leaf and at least one available leaf node further down, and place the cutting in a glass of water (preferably after a dip in rooting hormone) and wait, changing the water every few days, for roots to form. Alternately, you can place the cutting directly into moist soil—just be sure to keep the soil moist during the entire rooting process (and beyond, actually).Finally, while Green Prayer Plants can be tricky to keep healthy, it also has impressive rejuvenative abilities. If your plant seems to decide to just take a break and dies back to the ground, especially if you can’t identify any specific cause for its distress, don’t throw the plant out. Instead, simply place its pot somewhere where it will not freeze and keep it from drying out completely. There’s a strong chance new shoots will sprout when the plant wakes from its “nap”.
It seems as if this may actually be Maranta leuconeura ‘Kerchoveana’. If that's correct, it might be google-smart of us to adjust the on-page names to include the "Kerchoveana" as well.