November 17, 2022
By Maddy Hogan
Prayer plant is the common name for plants that belong to the genus Maranta and Calathea which have ornately decorated leaves that appear hand painted. These beautiful leaves rise and fall in accordance with a circadian rhythm that mimics the daylight hours and makes them appear to be ‘praying’. The process of the praying leaves is called nyctinasty and is believed to be an adaptation that allows for maximum light absorption by changing the pressure of the water in the leaves of the plant.
Native to tropical and humid climates, these plants provide more than just a scenic sprucing to a home, they serve functions. In Brazil, it is very common to see the wider and broad leafed calatheas used for wrapping food, while the more long and narrow leaves are used for basket weaving. Some of the species have edible nodes on the root systems as well, but for the purposes of your houseplants, we do not recommend taste testing them even though they are considered non-toxic and pet safe!
Because these species originate in tropical regions and are below the canopy dweller, they can be particular when it comes to their light and watering requirements. Calatheas and Marantas have beautiful but sensitive leaves that can burn in direct or intense sunlight. A sign of burnt leaves is a yellow tint with the ornate patterns fading away. The great thing about calatheas and marantas is that while their leaves are sensitive to light exposure, they are resilient to trimming with snips. If you find your plant with brown or crispy edges, feel free to clean up the edges with your snips, the leaves will survive just fine.
They prefer a bright indirect to moderate light and a consistently moist, but never soggy, soil. The soil moisture levels can be what calathea and maranta owners find the most frustrating when starting out with these plants. If the plant is overwatered, resulting in a soggy dark soil, the leaves will begin to yellow and have the beautiful ornate patterns fade from them. If the plant is under watered, allowing the soil to dry out too much, the leaves will typically curl and become brown and crispy around the edges. Moisture meters can be a huge asset to those that are learning about what moisture level their plants need and we carry the Classy Casita ones in our downtown Napa location.
Another element that can assist with the retention of moisture in the soil is creating a humid environment for these species. Humidity can be achieved in a variety of ways, whether it is regular misting on the leaves and topsoil, putting multiple plants together in one area to increase water vapor expulsion, adding a humidifier to the room, or a pebble tray with water underneath the potted plant. While calatheas and marantas do love humidity, do not let this be a deterrent because it is not mandatory to create additional humidity. Our indoor environments naturally have sufficient humidity for these plants to live a happy and healthy life.
1300 1st Street Suite 355
Napa California 94559
PHONE: (707) 637-4388
*In the alleyway in-between Eikos and Copperfield books.
ROOTED IN NAPA
Riza (noun); Greek for ‘Roots’. Riza’s mission is to connect people through plants. We handpick the highest quality plants, ceramics, and indoor garden supplies for our customers, and consider ourselves a hub for all things relating to indoor plants. Whether you want to connect more with nature, brighten up your living space, or learn about caring for your new indoor plant, we take the time to work with your skill level and environment to find the perfect piece of greenery.