Fans of Prayer Plants know that they are one of the easier houseplants to propagate, and it’s always fun and rewarding to create a new plant that you can add to your collection or share with friends. Prayer Plants can be picky about their care, but once you find the right balance, they grow quickly – and propagating them is super simple.
Prayer Plants (Maranta leuconeura) are most often propagated using stem cuttings or division. It is also possible (but difficult) to start them from seed. Stem cuttings can be propagated in water or soil, as long as your cutting includes a node for the new roots to grow from. Division is also a straightforward process, where the roots are separated into sections, and each one is repotted into its own container.
Recently my Prayer Plant has really taken off. With longer days and warm, humid weather, a Prayer Plant can grow several inches and new leaves in a short period of time. Since I’m not ready to move it to a bigger pot just yet, now is an excellent chance to propagate my overgrown plant to create a new Prayer Plant. If you’re in a similar situation, read through the sections below to see which propagation method interests you most!
What is Propagation?
Before getting into the different propagation methods, let’s define what exactly we mean when using that term. Propagation is breeding a new plant from an old one-also called a “parent plant.” Plants can reproduce naturally, or humans can intervene to propagate them. Plant reproduction can be sexual or asexual. Sexual propagation requires two parent plants to create offspring that contain both of their genetic material, while asexual reproduction only requires one parent plant.
Plants reproduce in all sorts of ways in nature, but when it comes to houseplants, the most common methods of plant propagation are division, layering, and cuttings. Prayer Plants and most other houseplants can be propagated asexually, using one of the methods below.
The Five Methods of Propagating Prayer Plants
The first three of these methods take advantage of the fact that Prayer Plants grow with nodes on their stems. Nodes are the part of a plant that contains the tissue needed to generate new growth. On many other plants, nodes can only create stems, branches, or flowers. But on Prayer Plants, they can also grow roots. This type of root is called an adventitious root because it generates from non-root tissues on a plant.
To get a sense of how adventitious roots would benefit a plant, imagine a Prayer Plant growing on the tropical forest floor. As a stem gets longer, it will become heavy enough to rest on the ground. Wherever a node is touching the soil, there is potential for the plant to put down roots. This vining growth allows the plant to continually spread and access more resources.
We can take advantage of how Prayer Plants naturally spread to propagate them in our homes. Since each stem potentially has lots of nodes, there are multiple opportunities for growth. Remember that a Prayer Plant’s whole structure has evolved to make it as successful as possible in its native environment, so understanding that allows us to better care for the plant and also to propagate it.
Several of the propagation methods listed below involve taking cuttings from your existing plant. If you need some direction on how to identify nodes and take cuttings from a Prayer Plant, this article covers the topic in detail: Taking the Best Cuttings for Propagating Prayer Plants.
The propagation methods are listed in order of least to most difficult.
Propagating Stem Cuttings in Water
Water propagation is by far the most popular method of propagating Prayer Plants, as well as many other vining houseplants. Personally, I really like the look of a clear glass jar or vase with rooted cuttings in it. You can use almost any type of container, as long as it holds water.
The method is simply to take your prepared cutting and place it in water. The stem cutting should include a node, which will be completely immersed in water. Ideally, it also has a leaf or two that can capture sunlight for the plant to convert to energy.
Rainwater or distilled water works best for water propagation. If you only have tap water available, try letting it sit out overnight to evaporate some of the chlorine. This also ensures that the water is room temperature when I am ready to use it.
Provide your cuttings with fresh water every few days. By changing out the water frequently, you will ensure the roots get enough oxygen and prevent the growth of unsightly (but harmless) algae in your container.
In most cases, roots will appear within 2-3 weeks of the cuttings being placed in water. It will be a faster process if you are propagating during the growing season (spring or summer).
Your Prayer Plant cuttings will be ready to move to soil when their roots are at least a few inches long. You don’t have to rush this process since a Prayer Plant can do just fine in only water for months at a time. But to really get the cutting to thrive, you will eventually need to transplant it to potting soil.
Choose a small container with drainage to plant your cuttings in. You can use a standard all-purpose potting mix for Prayer Plant cuttings, ensuring that it drains well but isn’t too dry or chunky. Be sure the roots are buried completely and water thoroughly.
If you like, you can put cuttings into a terrarium or cover them with a plastic bag to increase humidity during this time. This is especially useful in dry climates. You will know that your cuttings are fully established when you see new foliage growth. This may take a while as the water roots are replaced by soil roots.
Prayer Plants’ potting soil should never be allowed to dry out completely, but that is especially true for new plants. Monitor them closely to be sure the soil doesn’t dry out past the top inch or so.
If you need guidance on containers and potting soil (including how to mix your own!) for Prayer Plants, you can learn everything you need to know in this article: What Soil and Pots are Best for Prayer Plants?
Propagating Stem Cuttings in Soil
Soil propagation is similar to water propagation, but it bypasses the water rooting step. The advantage of soil propagation over water propagation is that it simplifies the process. The main disadvantage is that it takes longer for the cutting to root in the soil, plus you can’t see what’s happening with the roots.
Start with your prepared container. I usually use a small plastic nursery pot, but most any pot will do. Fill it with moistened potting soil almost to the top, and then use a pencil or chopstick to make a hole in the soil. Then, take your prepared cutting, dip it in rooting hormone, and plant it in the hole so that the node is completely buried but the leaves do not touch the soil. Repeat with as many cuttings as you have.
After planting your cuttings, add more potting mix to the pot if needed and then water thoroughly. Give the cuttings plenty of humidity and warm temperatures while they establish themselves.
You will know that the cuttings have rooted if you see new growth. If you don’t want to wait that long, you can also give the cuttings a gentle tug after a few weeks. If there is resistance, that means some roots are anchoring the cutting in the potting soil.
Growing Prayer Plants by Layering
Layering is a process very similar to soil propagation, except that the stem to be propagated is not immediately cut off from the parent plant. Instead, it is rooted while still attached. Then, once roots have emerged from the stem, you separate the two plants.
If you have struggled with cuttings dying in the past, this method may be a good choice. Leaving the propagating stem attached to the original plant allows it to continue accessing resources from the parent plant while the new roots are developing, so the chances of successful propagation are higher.
To propagate a Prayer Plant by layering, prepare your container with moist potting mix. Place the pot next to your original plant (in its usual location – it will be difficult to move the containers once this process has started) and drape the stem so a node is resting on top of the soil in the new container.
If the node doesn’t quite rest on the soil, you can gently hold it in place with greening pins or a paperclip. It isn’t necessary to bury the node; as long as it is in contact with the soil, the roots should be triggered to emerge.
Once roots have developed and are firmly anchored in the soil, cut the stem from the original plant in two. You now have your second, already-rooted Prayer Plant!
Another type of layering, called air layering, is more often used for difficult-to-propagate plants with tough, woody stems. In this case, instead of placing the node on potting soil, a plastic bag full of a rooting medium (usually sphagnum moss) is wrapped around the node. Sometimes a cut will be made next to the stem to stimulate root growth.
Air layering should work just fine with Prayer Plants, but for most people, it is unnecessarily complicated compared to the other propagation methods on this list.
Dividing a Large Prayer Plant into Two or More Plants
Dividing a Maranta leuconeura into two (or more!) plants via root division is a less common but still simple way to propagate. This is an excellent method to choose for a Prayer Plant that has outgrown its pot. It is best to do this in spring or summer, at the same time that you would usually repot your plants.
Start by preparing two containers for your divided Prayer Plants. I usually try to divide the plant into two equal-sized portions, but you could choose a big one and a small one, or whatever suits the containers and space you have for them.
After removing the root ball from the pot, gently work the roots apart into sections. They can get quite tangled up, so have patience during this process. If they are really difficult to separate, you can snip them apart with your sterilized garden scissors. Try to keep them intact if possible, though. Remove as much of the old potting soil from the roots as you can without damaging them.
A little-known fact about Prayer Plants is that they produce rhizomes along with their normal root system. If you discover these while you are dividing your plant, don’t be alarmed – it’s perfectly normal and healthy. In fact, a close relative of the Prayer Plant produces an edible tuber called arrowroot, and they’re all members of the ginger family.
While dividing the Prayer Plant, it is a good idea to inspect the roots for any signs of rot or fungus. The roots should be firm and yellow/white. If you see soggy, dark, or slimy roots, just cut them off before potting.
After the plants are separated, pot them into your prepared containers and water thoroughly. Give them warm, humid conditions as they settle in. Since there is already an established and healthy root system, divided plants usually do not require too much extra attention. However, if the roots were tangled and you had to cut them apart, that can cause the plant to become stressed.
Growing Prayer Plants from Seed
Is it possible to propagate Prayer Plants from seed? Theoretically, yes. They produce flowers, so they must also have the capacity to reproduce through seeds. But it is difficult to get seeds from a Maranta houseplant.
You could try to purchase Maranta seeds online, but, as always, be cautious about purchasing seeds from an unfamiliar or unverified seller. Prayer Plant seeds are rarely available, so some unscrupulous person could take advantage of this demand to sell fake seeds.
In my research, I haven’t been able to find evidence of a houseplant owner successfully growing a Prayer Plant from seed. There are much easier ways to propagate this plant, so the only reason to use seed propagation is as an experiment.
To harvest seeds, you need access to a blooming Prayer Plant. Blooms are rare but not unheard of when Prayer Plants are grown indoors. Marantas are self-pollinators, meaning that you don’t need to have more than one of them to produce seeds. Prayer Plant blooms are small and insignificant because of their asexual reproduction – the plants don’t need to attract birds and insects to assist with pollination.
After the flower is finished blooming, it will dry up and shrivel. Since the seeds are tiny, place a piece of paper under the bloom to catch them. It should be easier to see them on a white background.
Start the harvested seeds in a seedling starter tray covered with plastic to keep humidity in. They will need consistent moisture and warm temperatures. Once the seedlings are a few inches tall, gradually harden them off by removing the plastic covering for longer and longer periods.
The Best Time of Year for Propagation
Regardless of which method you use to propagate Prayer Plants, the best time of year to do it is in the spring. Plants are just starting to “wake up” at this time, after a season of rest and slow growth. Propagating plants in spring allows them to maximize growth and recovery during their most productive seasons of spring and summer.
Since Prayer Plants do not have a true dormancy period like some other plants, it is still possible to propagate them at other times of the year. Just be aware that it may take longer or have a higher chance of failure if you propagate in fall or winter.
Pick Your Favorite Method and Get Started
Now that you’ve seen all the many possible ways to propagate Prayer Plants, it is time to make your choice and jump in! If you’re new to propagating plants, I would recommend you experiment with water propagation first.
Remember that not all cuttings will propagate, and even experienced plant owners have an unsuccessful attempt sometimes. Don’t let it discourage you, since every time you propagate is also a learning experience.
And speaking of learning, once you know how to propagate Prayer Plants, you also know how to propagate other types of vining plants! Aside from seed propagation, these methods can be used for Monstera species, Philodendrons, Scindapsus, and many others. Now that you know how to identify a node, take a cutting, and propagate it, I bet you’ll be looking around for which other houseplants you can propagate!