The Maranta, commonly referred to as the prayer plant, is a highly popular houseplant due to its lavish foliage. The name "prayer plant" refers to the plant's ability to fold and raise their leaves during the night hours. Noted as one of top ten houseplants in the United States, the Maranta leaves have colored veins with some varieties having blotchy patterns that are striking against the green foliage. This popular plant is not difficult to care for but does have some requirements that are needed to keep the plant thriving and looking its best.
The Maranta prefers average air temperatures. During the cold months, the Maranta should be kept at temperatures of 60 degrees Fahrenheit and above. Sudden drops in the air temperature can damage the foliage in certain varieties.
The plant soil of the Maranta should be kept moist at all times but should not be water-logged. During the winter months (non-growing season), reduce the amount of water provided as too much water in the cooler weather may lead to rotting stems. Soft, tepid water is best for watering the Maranta. Leaves that become curled, spotted, or appear to have yellowed are signs that the Maranta is not receiving enough water.
The Maranta is a humid-loving plant and should be misted regularly. The soil can be surrounded with damp peat to help provide and retain humidity levels. For rooms that have low levels of humidity, a humidifier can help maintain humidity levels that this plant needs. Browning of the foliage tips or loss of leaves can be a sign that the plant is not getting the humidity that it requires.
Because the vibrant colors of the foliage can fade in bright light, the Maranta should be kept in partial shade especially during the hotter months of the year. During the cooler winter months, the Maranta should be moved to a brighter area that provides a fair amount of sunlight but still should not be left in direct sunlight. Direct sunlight will not only dull the vibrant colors of the plant, it can scorch the leaves and ultimately kill the plant.
Fertilizing the Maranta should be done sparingly using a liquid-based fertilizer that has been diluted. Do not use fertilizer at full strength or fertilize the plant too often.
The Maranta plant should be repotted at least every two years, preferably in the spring. A peat-based potting mix will help the plant retain moisture and humidity. Propagation can be done when the plant is being repotted. Propagated plants should be kept warm until they have been established.
Varieties of Maranta can be found being sold under names like Maranta tricolor, the Herringbone Plant, and Rabbit's Tracks with each displaying unique foliage patterns. The leaves of most varieties can reach up to six inches in length which add to the appeal that has made this plant so admired by plant enthusiast. With a little attention and care, the Maranta will add splendor and color to any home decor.
• The House Plant Expert by Dr. D.G. Hessayon, copyright 1994.