Prayer Plants (Maranta leuconerura) are prized for their striking leaves, which feature bold patterns and colors, and for their habit of changing position throughout the day in response to light levels. However, they’re also known as demanding, high-maintenance plants, especially when it comes to water.
How do you know when your Prayer Plant needs more water? The main signs are soil that’s dry to the touch, and leaves that are drooping, curling or turning brown. Some other problems like pests and overwatering can cause the same symptoms, so it’s essential to check the moisture level of your soil to see if that’s the issue.
Some plants can die completely without showing a single sign that anything is wrong, but that’s not the case with Prayer Plants. They express their displeasure in their leaves – by wilting, curling, or changing color. If you want to keep your Prayer Plant looking beautiful and full, pay attention to what your plant is trying to tell you and keep the soil moist but not soggy.
How Much Water Do Prayer Plants Need?
Prayer Plants overall need more water than many other plants, even other tropical plants. The frequency of watering will depend on factors including pot size, season, and environmental conditions. Prayer Plants should not be allowed to dry thoroughly between waterings. Instead, only the top 1″-1.5″ or so of the potting soil should feel dry to the touch.
Each time you water your Prayer Plant, you should give it enough water to thoroughly moisten the soil. For a larger pot, it is a good idea to water in at least a couple of locations around the pot to make sure that water soaks into most or all of the soil. If you always water in one spot, it can leave the other side dry and also cause the potting mix to become compacted in that area over time.
For everything else you need to know about your Maranta leuconerura’s water and humidity needs, this article goes in-depth on those topics: Watering Prayer Plants: Giving The Right Water, Humidity and Moisture.
Note on Using a
I highly recommend investing in a moisture meter that can test how wet your soil is, especially if you are a beginner or have high-maintenance houseplants like Marantas. This device is inexpensive, easy to use, and doesn’t require any batteries or charging – it operates using only sensors in its probes.
To use a
In the section below, I will go through some ways to identify when your Prayer Plant is getting thirsty, but using a
Sign 1: Dry Soil
This may seem obvious, but dry soil is a reliable indicator that your Prayer Plant needs water. How will you know if your soil is dry? Well, you can use your moisture meter or finger to test it. Don’t rely on appearances, since the top layer can look dry, but the soil can be very moist right underneath. For Prayer Plants, the top 1″-1.5″ should be allowed to dry between waterings.
You can also determine dry soil by checking the weight of your pot. This method requires you to be somewhat aware of what the normal weight for your individual plant is, but it generally only takes a couple of times to figure that out.
If you find that your soil gets dry very quickly and you have to water every day or two, it might be time to move your Prayer Plant to a larger pot. Overcrowded roots without much soil will drain too quickly before the roots have a chance to absorb any water.
Soil can also dry out quickly because of higher temperatures, drafts, and a lack of humidity in the air. If something in the environment is causing your soil to get dry right away, you should try to remedy the circumstance if possible. Since Prayer Plants generally dislike changes in their environment, try to minimize them or make the change gradually if possible.
Sign 2: Drooping Leaves
Be careful with this one because many issues can cause drooping leaves on a Prayer Plant. Also, remember that this plant’s leaves move up and down throughout the day, so the change in appearance may be totally natural.
Wilting leaves are more likely to result from too much water than too little, but you should be able to determine the issue by checking the soil. Overwatered Marantas have drooping leaves, limp stems, and pale or yellowing leaves. Underwatered Marantas, on the other hand, may show only a generally slumped appearance as the first sign that the plant is thirsty.
Sign 3: Curling Leaves
The first sign of a too-dry Maranta is drooping or wilted leaves, and if you haven’t noticed and provided a drink, the leaves will start to curl in on themselves. This curling starts on the outer edges of leaves, especially those farthest from the base of the plant.
If you catch it at this point, you can probably still salvage those curling leaves, if they haven’t started to turn brown or crispy. After a thorough watering, curled leaves should flatten back out within 1-2 days.
If the Prayer Plant continues to dry out, though, the leaves will eventually curl in completely (making a tube shape) and then shrivel back toward the stem.
Sign 4: Brown, Crispy Leaves
If the tips of your Marantas leaves are browning and crispy, that can be a sign that the roots are getting too dry. Dried-out leaf tips are more commonly a symptom of humidity that is too low, though, so don’t make an assumption before you’ve checked all the possible causes.
A leaf that is brown beyond just the tip is most likely due to soil that is too dry, but it could also be some kind of pest. Check the leaves (especially the backside) to see if there are other signs of pest damage. If you suspect pests, this article can help you identify what might be attacking your Prayer Plant.
Also, be aware that brown leaves can result from overwatering as well as underwatering. Verify what’s happening with your finger or your
To prevent leaves from becoming brown and crispy, you need to make sure you have the right balance of watering and humidity. I have a post that covers both watering and humidity for Prayer Plants, read that here.
Putting It All Together
Prayer Plants have thin, delicate leaves that don’t hold much moisture, so they can get damaged easily when the plant is dehydrated. Unlike some other houseplants that perk right back up after drying out a bit too much, Maranta leuconeura doesn’t recover easily if it is underwatered.
If you have forgotten about your Prayer Plant for a while and suddenly find that it is dry and crispy, don’t panic. First, check the soil and water only if it feels dry. Next, prune out any damaged leaves with a sterilized cutting tool, since individual Maranta leaves do not recover when they’ve been damaged. Finally, check for pests to narrow down the cause of the issue to dehydration.
Although they may lose some leaves, Prayer Plants are usually able to put out new growth quickly once their needs have been met. Even a plant pruned down to almost nothing can recover, so don’t give up hope if you accidentally let your Prayer Plant dry up. While their leaves are delicate and prone to damage, their roots are surprisingly resilient and can still be saved.