Caring for Red Maranta Prayer Plant, 2021’s “Plant of the Year”

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Red Maranta plant in a pot

1-800-Flowers’ 2021 “Plant of the Year” award is credited to the red maranta plant. Also referred to as the “prayer” plant for the way it folds and closes its leaves at night, this Brazilian beauty is also known for its colorful and unique foliage. A symbol of respect and gratitude, this plant gives people hope for a better, happier year ahead.

When it comes to taking care of red maranta, you don’t have to do a lot. However, there are still certain considerations you should put in mind.

If you want to try your hand at growing the plant of the year in your home, you can use these tips to start off. Implementing these tips will keep the plant thriving and prevent drooping later down the line. 

Light

One of the most important things you should consider when caring for red maranta is lighting. You’ll want to set or hang it near a window where there’s sufficient but indirect sunlight. You should avoid putting the plant in direct sunlight because excessive amounts can scorch its leaves, cause blotch development, or make their color fade. If the plant’s leaves are damaged, it can’t perform essential functions like photosynthesis.

Red maranta mainly thrives in low light areas. In the wintertime, when the plant goes into dormancy, you should continue to provide sufficient sunlight to maintain growth.

Soil

So long as you’re draining them properly, prayer plants can thrive in a wide range of soils. In most cases, a traditional potting mix is sufficient, but you can always create your own by combining one part loamy soil, two parts sphagnum peat moss, and one part coarse sand or perlite. You want your soil to be slightly acidic, with a preferred pH of 5.5 to 6.0. And of course, it’s important to ensure the pot you’re using has a drainage hole, adding gravel or rocks near the bottom to further improve drainage.

Temperature and Humidity

Red Maranta Plant, also known as the Prayer Plant.

Temperature and humidity play an important role in the stability of red maranta. The plant thrives in normal household temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Exposing the plant to a persistently lower temperature will cause significant damage to its leaves and could make them drop off.

The prayer plant also thrives well in very humid environments. You can increase the humidity in your home by placing a small humidifier or bowl of water close to the plant. You can also fill the plant tray with small stones and add water until they’re all slightly submerged. Then, place the plant pot on top of it and mist the leaves regularly at room temperature.

Water

Not many plants can survive without water, and red maranta needs more than a good amount of it. During the warmer seasons, you should water the plant on a regular basis. Never allow the soil in its pot to dry out completely, as the prayer plant is very susceptible to drought and can’t survive for long if you don’t water it.

When watering, you should also be careful to avoid fungal problems. To do this, you’ll need to actively prevent the plant from getting soggy. Keep in mind that both overwatering and insufficient watering can cause yellowing of the leaves, which could also cause them to drop from the plant.

Another thing you should consider when watering the plant is using water that is slightly warm or at least at room temperature.

Fertilizer

When fertilizing the prayer plant, you’ll want to use a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer that’s at half-strength. It’s very important that you use moderate amounts of fertilizer. This is because when you use too little of it, the plant will grow very slowly and with many challenges. When you use too much, it could burn the plant’s roots, turning the leaves brown and potentially killing the plant completely.

It’s important to fertilize the prayer plant at least every two weeks from early spring to fall, but you should fertilize it only once in the winter.

Pruning and Propagation

Red Maranta plant in a pot

You should also propagate the prayer plant on a regular basis. One easy, common way to do this is by splitting it up when it comes time to repot. You can divide the plant into smaller off-shoots by gently shaking the soil of its roots and sorting them apart. Just make sure that every new plant has sufficient roots and stems, then pot them all separately in shallow pots. It’s also important to keep each new division extra moist and warm during the first few weeks.

Another way to propagate red maranta from cuttings. You can do so by making a stem cutting just below the leaf node. After that, you’ll want to gently dip the cutting into a root hormone and place it in a glass of water, making sure to change the water once in the first two days. When the roots form, place the cutting directly in its intended pot. You should then keep the plant warm and moist on a regular basis.

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