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Problems With a Prayer Plant

The leaves of the Maranta leuconeura fold closed at night like praying hands, thus its common name the "prayer plant." Gardeners generally raise it as a houseplant, and the Texas A&M University calls it one of the most striking plants for the indoor gardener. Depending on the specific cultivar, the plant can reach up to 2 feet in height and produces white flowers set against variegated foliage. Keep the plant healthy and problem-free for years of enjoyment.

Excessive Sunlight

The prayer plant thrives in light shade. Excessive sunlight can make its variegated colors fade, according to Texas A&M, or burn the plant, causing yellowing on the edges of its leaves. Move the plant out of direct sunlight if you notice such symptoms. Sunlight is especially a problem in south-facing windows and all windows in the summer.


Iron deficiency, technically known as chlorosis, can affect prayer plants grown in potting soil with the improper pH levels, according to the University of Florida. Soils with a pH higher than 6.0 may decrease the amount of iron that's available for the prayer plant's roots to absorb, causing stunted growth, wilting and poor colors. Garden stores and nurseries often sell soil testing kits, and an application of sulfur or aluminum sulfate can lower the pH if needed. The specific amounts of pH-adjusting amendments varies according to the potting soil type and volume, and the amount that the pH needs adjusting. Contact the nearest cooperative extension office (Resources) for specific guidance.

Root Rot

Prayer plants need moist soil to grow, but overwatering can lead to root rot, one of the more common problems for this species, according to the University of Florida. After applying water, allow the top 2 to 3 inches of potting soil to dry out before watering it again.

Poor Soil Quality

The prayer plant's colors may fade and its growth may slow once it depletes the nutrients in its potting soil. Remedy this with any standard fertilizer labeled for use on houseplants. Texas A&M suggests applying fertilizer every three weeks during the months of May through September. During this time, the plant grows most vigorously and has a higher nutrient uptake.

Low Humidity

Prayer plants grown in dry air, common indoors especially if the home is heated or cooled, may exhibit wilting or shriveling of the foliage. The plant does best in high humidity. Set a container of water next to the prayer plant's pot to raise the humidity in the immediate vicinity.

Leaf Spot

The leaf spot disease, caused by the Drechslera setariae fungus, appears on prayer plants whose foliage has remained wet for extended periods of time. Symptoms include tiny dark spots on the leaves that, if left untreated, lead to foliage loss. Water the plant at its base to avoid getting the foliage wet. Severe cases of the disease may be treated with a houseplant fungicide spray, such as a fixed copper spray.

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