By: Kristi Waterworth
The oval-shaped, beautifully patterned foliage of the prayer plant has earned it a favored spot among houseplants. Indoor gardeners love these plants, sometimes too much. When prayer plants turn yellow, it’s often because of environmental problems, but a few diseases and pests could also be responsible. If your prayer plant is turning yellow, read on to find out the possible causes and their treatments.
What Causes Yellow Leaves on Prayer Plants
By far the most common Maranta prayer plant problems are caused by incorrect care. Bright lighting or excessive phosphate or fluoride can cause leaf tips and margins to burn, leaving a band of yellow tissue between the healthy and dead tissues. Chlorosis causes yellow prayer plant foliage, especially on younger leaves.
Move your plant to a location with indirect light and begin watering with purified water. A dose of liquid iron fertilizer mixed per package directions can help correct chlorosis, provided the pH of your medium is around 6.0. A soil test may be in order, or it could be time to repot.
Helminthosporium leaf spot is a fungal disease that causes small, water-soaked spots to appear on prayer plant leaves. These spots soon yellow and spread, eventually becoming tan areas with yellow halos. This fungus takes hold when plants are chronically over-irrigated and leaves frequently are covered in standing water.
Correct the irrigation problem to eliminate future risk of disease and water only at the base of the plant in the morning, so that water evaporates from splashed surfaces quickly. An application of neem oil or the fungicide chlorothalonil can kill active disease, but prevention of future outbreaks is vital.
Cucumber Mosaic Virus
The cucumber mosaic virus may be responsible for yellowing leaves on Maranta, especially if the yellowing alternates with otherwise healthy green tissue. New leaves may emerge small and distorted, older leaves develop yellow line patterns across their surfaces. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do for plant viruses. It’s best to destroy your plant to prevent other houseplants from contracting the virus.
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Why do the leaves of this prayer plant curl inwards? The plant have been in the same spot, with the same routine (watering, fertilizing) for about two years. Since late September, the plant look like this.
Your prayer plant could do this for a few reasons. Too much sunlight will do this. They shouldn't receive direct light, rather, just indirect bright light. The most common cause is too much light. They like to remain only slightly moist. And even just a little drier during the winter months. Here is an article to address proper care.
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My plant was looking sad and rootbound so I am repotting it now and found small sacs/nodules attached to some roots. Some are firm and some have flattened out and are empty. Is this some kind of nematode that I don't want in the pot or is it part of the prayer plant's normal root system?
These are just nodules the plant uses to store extra energy. They are fine to leave when repotting.
Additional Prayer Plant Care Instructions
We’ve already covered the basics of watering, placing, and feeding your plant. If you can follow all of this advice, you have a good chance of succeeding. However, if you want your plant to be as happy as possible, read on for some more care tips.
Maranta likes to be repotted every year, although we cannot stress enough how careful you have to be while moving the plant. The roots are very easy to damage and the plant will not recover well, but the benefits of new soil outweigh the risks.
New soil removes any problems that can arise from the minerals in tap water building up in the soil. Maranta also likes air circulation, both above ground among the leaves and below ground between the roots. Annual repotting will ensure that the soil never becomes too compact for the air to penetrate it.
Although the plant lives for decades, the leaves themselves don’t have the longest lifespan and can easily show wear and tear. Luckily, a Maranta can be pruned up to 3 times a year with no ill effects, so you can keep it looking its best.
As well as old or damaged leaves, you can trim any leggy growth to keep your plant in an attractive, bushy shape. Make sure you use clean, sharp shears when you’re pruning.
Because the leaves of a prayer plant are quite delicate, they are vulnerable to a range of common house plant pests. Spider mites, mealybugs, and aphids can be a problem.
You should check your plant for the first signs of pests – residue on the leaves, brown spots or curling leaves – every time you water it. This way, you’ll have time to treat the problem before the damage becomes irreversible.
The good news is that spider mites dislike humidity, and if your prayer plant is getting enough, they’re likely to be less of a problem. Mealybugs can be more stubborn, but washing the leaves or spraying them with neem oil are good options before you resort to a chemical pesticide. Just be careful not to let any soapy water drip down to the soil, as this will damage the roots and leave your plant open to fungal infections.
Don’t snack on your house plants. It should go without saying. However, if a pet or a young family member does get part of your Maranta in their mouth, only the plant will be damaged.
Maranta is one of the few house plants that is recognized as non-toxic to humans, cats and dogs.
There are over 40 different varieties of prayer plant. They’re differentiated by the color patterns on their leaves. Some even have colorations that get bolder as the plant matures.
The green bi-color variety is the most common. It’s also known as rabbit’s trail or rabbit’s foot because the irregular emerald patches on the leaves resemble an animal track. But, if you’ve already mastered this plant or are looking for something more colorful, it has many cousins you can try.
Erythroneura is also known as the herringbone or red prayer plant. This variety has a ladder of bright green in the center of a darker green leaf. The veins are a striking red.
Kim is a variety quite similar to the classic prayer plant, but the spots are a deeper purple color. Under the right conditions, it also has white streaks on the leaves.
Marisela has the reputation of being the hardiest prayer plant, and its leaves are also some of the most graphic. It has bright green leaves with light green, almost white veins in a regular pattern.
Keeping leafy plants together increases the humidity and keeps every Maranta happier. Not that we’re trying to enable you, but isn’t that a good excuse to track down more than one variety?
Where can I buy a prayer plant?
You might get lucky and spot a prayer plant in a store but, as we’ve learned, they’re difficult to keep happy if the conditions are not ideal. Most large stores can’t provide the right light, warmth or humidity to keep Marantas healthy, and you might end up with an unhappy plant.
It’s best to look for a specialist grower online. You’ll get to choose between different varieties to find one you love. Make sure whoever you choose can ship your delicate plant quickly and in proper packaging.
How often should I water it?
We cannot answer this for you. Because Maranta hates to dry out at all, its watering schedule is going to be dependant on the size of the pot, the temperature of your room, and the weather outside. It’s up to you to check your plant and adjust its watering based on the time of year.
This also means you need someone to look in on your plant every few days if you go on holiday.
How can I revive it?
Prayer plants can suffer from wilting and curled leaves for many different reasons. They’re not very forgiving, but if you notice the problem quickly, you may be able to revive your plant.
If the leaves turn yellow, water or feed it less. If they don’t open, give it more sun. If they fade, give it less.
If adjusting your watering routine or moving the plant doesn’t help, you can try switching to watering with distilled water. Chemicals in tap water can make the plant unhappy, especially if it’s due to be repotted.
When your plant is looking healthier, you’ll have to prune away any damaged leaves. If nothing seems to be working, consider taking a cutting so you can grow a new plant from scratch if the mature plant doesn’t pull through.
Will it flower?
Yes, prayer plants do produce flowers. They’re small in size and white and purple in color. Some people call them ‘insignificant’ but we quite like how they stand out against the leaves.
If your plant is happy, it could flower at any point in the growing season.
What’s the best pot?
You should always choose a plastic pot for your prayer plant because terracotta will encourage the soil to dry out too fast. Make sure that it has plenty of drainage holes so the plant is less likely to stand in water.
The pot should also be as shallow as possible to match the shallow root system of the plant. It can be tricky to find a shallow pot which isn’t made of earthenware, but be persistent in your search. A deep pot makes it far easier to overwater and drown your delicate plant.
How do I propagate it?
Marantas grow quite well from cuttings. You can either place them straight into an extra well-draining soil or start them off in water first. If you do place the cutting directly in the soil, it’s worth covering the pot with plastic wrap to keep the humidity in.
If you’re lucky, you can also propagate a dying prayer plant from broken leaves. In this case, dipping the cutting in a rooting hormone first will give you the best chance of success.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How do I keep the humidity high enough for my prayer plant to thrive?
A daily misting can help provide the prayer plant with the humidity it needs that may not be present in your home. You can also set a container of water near the prayer plant, as the evaporating water will increase the humidity.
Q. The leaves of my prayer plant are curling even in the daytime…what’s going on?
It’s a sign conditions aren’t ideal, so try less light throughout the day, and examine the root zone for a healthy medium amount of moisture in the soil.
Q. I’m having problems with the soil for my prayer plant. What should I change?
Prayer plants really love soil conditions that drain well, so you should probably add some gravel, perlite, or coarse sand to it to increase drainage. Be sure you’re not over-watering and that your container has a drainage hole as well.