Maranta leuconeura
Common Name: prayer plant
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Marantaceae
Native Range: Brazil
Zone: 11 to 12
Height: 0.50 to 1.00 feet
Spread: 0.50 to 1.00 feet
Bloom Time: Rarely flowers indoors
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Colorful, Evergreen

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 11-12 where it may be grown outdoors in sheltered locations in moist, humusy, well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. Prefers temperatures that do not dip below 60 degrees F. Zero tolerance for frost. In St. Louis, it is grown as a houseplant. It performs well in a soil-based potting mix and with bright indoor light but no strong direct sun. Too much sun will bleach out the attractive leaf colors. Keep soils consistently moist and fertilize monthly during the growing season, but reduce soil moisture and substantially reduce fertilizer applications from autumn to late winter. Consider placing this plant in a humidified room and/or in standing pot in a tray of wet pebbles to increase humidity. Propagate by cuttings or division.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Maranta leuconeura, commonly called prayer plant, is an evergreen, rhizomatous, low-growing, clump-forming, tropical perennial that is noted for its beautiful foliage. It typically grows to 12-15” tall and as wide, featuring broad-elliptic to oval, predominately green leaves (to 5” long) with striking patterns, lines, blotches and shading. White veins radiate from the midrib to the margins. Leaf undersides are grayish-green to purplish-green. It is native to Brazil. Leaves close upward at night in a manner resembling praying hands, hence the common name of prayer plant. White, two-lipped flowers with purple spots typically bloom on slender spikes in late spring to early summer, but infrequently appear on houseplants. Small flowers are somewhat attractive but ornamentally insignificant.

Varieties and cultivars of this species are distinguished from the species by leaf patterns and leaf coloration.

Genus name honors Bartolomeo Maranti (1500-1571), Venetian physician and botanist.

Specific epithet from Greek leuko meaning white and neura meaning string in reference to its white leaf veins.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Watch for spider mites and mealybugs. Root rot may occur in poorly drained soil conditions. Leaf spot may occur.

Garden Uses

Excellent indoor foliage plant for pots or hanging baskets. In tropical areas, it forms an attractive ground cover for shady areas.