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Prayer Plant Varieties

Prayer plants (maranta species) are so named for the fact that their leaves often fold up at night, like hands folded in prayer. These tropical foliage plants are popular with indoor home gardeners for their colorful, variegated leaves. Prayer plants are hardy and can live indoors for years with proper culture. There are dozens of varieties of maranta, according to Union County College, but M. erythrophylla and kerchoveana are by far the most popular. The rest are rather rare and hard to find.

"Tricolor" (M. leuconerura "Erythrophylla")

As the name implies, this variety of the prayer plant features striking, three-toned leaves. The foliage is deep green, with brilliant scarlet veins and patches of light cream or yellow variegation.

"Rabbit's Tracks" (M. leuconerura "Kerchoviana")

The "Rabbit's Tracks" variety of maranta is desirable for the unique pattern on the leaves. The broad, light-green leaves are marked down the center with patches of dark green reminiscent of a rabbit's footprints.

"Silver Feather" (M. leuconeura "Leuconerura")

This variety of maranta is rare, but showy, according to the University of Florida. This prayer plant features leaves that have a light gray center, with a dark green border. Radiating from the center are silvery veins.

"Bicolor" (M. leuconerua "Bicolor")

Maranta bicolor is another rare variety. This plant has dark green upper leaves, with the undersides being a rich purple color. The leaves are variegated with lighter green splotches.

Care For A Prayer Plant

Like a child with hands folded in bedtime prayer, the prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura) closes its colorfully variegated leaves when darkness falls. A granulated, slow-release formula feeds continuously without burning the roots. For every 10 square feet of soil, broadcast 5 tablespoons of the granules evenly in a circle around the plant and water them lightly into the surface. Every prayer plant needs a humid environment with consistently moist soil, but overwatering encourages root rot. Once during the summer, take an indoor plant outside and shower it thoroughly with a hose until water drains from the bottom of the container to leach the planting medium of root-burning fertilizer salts. Multiple plants may begin trailing over the edges of a shared pot. To thin a dense garden plant, cut back its excessive or declining shoots. Pruning indoor or outdoor prayer plants is acceptable at any time of year, and they respond with healthy new growth. Other than water-related root rot, disease rarely bothers prayer plants, though spider mites, mealybugs and scale insects may infest those growing indoors. Pinhead-sized spider mites spin fine webs on the plants and cause dry, brown or yellow leaf spots.

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