Prayer Plants (Maranta leuconeura) are gorgeous and popular houseplants that grow quickly during the spring and summer months. With that growth comes the inevitable need to periodically move the plant to a larger container. When it comes time to repot your Prayer Plant, you find yourself with several decisions to be made: what pot should I use? When should I repot? Is my soil okay?
What soils and pots work best for Prayer Plants? Marantas do well in a balanced all-purpose potting mix that retains some moisture but isn’t too dense or heavy. The best container for Prayer Plants is shallow, with ample drainage, so the roots don’t sit in water. You can choose any material for your container, but you may need to adjust your watering practices depending on which type of pot you choose.
Although they may be picky about some other aspects of their care, Prayer Plants are not too demanding when it comes to the type of pot and potting soil you use. But understanding some of their requirements can help you make the best choice to keep your Prayer Plant thriving after being repotted.
The Most Important Factor For Prayer Plants: Drainage
I’m putting this right at the beginning to draw your attention: your Prayer Plants need proper drainage! That means well-draining soil and a container with at least one drainage hole (and preferably more).
Why is drainage so important? Don’t Marantas like for their roots to stay moist? While it is true that Prayer Plants prefer for their roots not to dry out, they also can’t be kept too wet. Potting soil that stays too wet for too long can cause fungal or bacterial infections and root rot.
Root rot is insidious because you most likely will not notice the symptoms right away. By the time it shows up as damage to the foliage, your plant may have suffered significant damage under the soil. And while it’s possible to save a Prayer Plant from root rot, here at the Healthy Houseplant, we believe that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
What Soil Is Best for Marantas?
Prayer Plants grow well in regular all-purpose potting mixes. I have used both soil-free and soil-based potting mediums for my Prayer Plants, and they are fine in either type. The most important thing to be careful of is the drainage level and texture of your potting mix.
Prayer Plants prefer consistently moist soil, compared to many other tropical plants that need to dry out completely between waterings. Even so, Prayer Plants need to have good drainage. A chunky mix (for example, one intended for succulents) that contains a lot of perlite or orchid bark might allow the roots to dry out too quickly. The potting mix you choose for Prayer Plants should be fluffy, not dense, but still retain moisture between waterings.
There are some commercial potting mixes out there that claim to have superior “moisture-control.” The mechanism behind it is water-absorbent hydrogels that hold on to water more than the absorbent materials in the potting mix. However, it’s unclear whether the roots can easily access that stored moisture. While I’m in favor of using technology to help my plants grow as well as they can, I believe this option is a gimmick to be avoided.
Our Recommendations for Store Bought Soil
Store-bought soil is fine for Prayer Plants. I am a fan of this potting mix for my Prayer Plants and most other tropical plants. It has a light texture that drains well and is amended with bat guano, worm casting, and aged forest matter to provide nutrients. That means I don’t need to add any fertilizer.
Another great option that I’ve used in the past is this Organic Potting Mix. I like this potting soil because it’s organic, rich, and moist. All the plants I’ve put in this potting mix are growing beautifully.
Both of these types of potting soil are high-quality and definitely keep my Prayer Plants happy, but I plan to make my own potting mix when I run out of my FoxFarm soil. Making your own potting mix is not only cheaper in the long run, but you can choose exactly what goes in and select organic and sustainable options for all of the ingredients.
DIY Suggestions for Prayer Plant Soil
If you are interested in making your own potting soil, the process is simple. Once you have the components for the mix, you can make as much or as little as you need for the task at hand, and adjust it to the needs of whatever plant you’re planning to repot.
Find my basic recipe for a regular potting mix suitable for Prayer Plants below. Then scroll down to read more about each ingredient.
Coco coir or peat moss is the base of the recipe. These ingredients dictate the moisture level in the mix. As such, you may want to adjust the amount depending on the climate where you live. If it is cool and damp much of the year, use a little less so the potting mix can dry out. If it’s hot and dry, you can increase the ratio of peat moss or coco coir to the other ingredients.
Peat moss (also called sphagnum peat moss or just sphagnum moss) comes from peat bogs, where the moss grows in huge sheets across the top of the bog before finally sinking to the bottom, which forms dense layers. To harvest peat moss, it’s necessary to drain the bog.
Since it grows slowly and is disruptive to harvest, sphagnum peat moss is not my preferred medium to use in potting mixes. Of course, I know that my use as a single person is minuscule compared to the peat used in commercial agriculture applications, but I still like to do my part (especially when there’s a great alternative).
Coco coir, on the other hand, is made from the fibers of coconut shells. It is far more ecologically friendly than peat moss since coco coir is basically a waste product from coconut processing. Coconuts are also much faster and easier to grow than moss, making them more sustainable to produce long-term.
Compost or garden soil provides the nutrient base from organic materials. In nature, various organic debris in the Prayer Plant’s environment would constantly be breaking down and infusing nutrients into the ground around its roots. Since those materials are not naturally available to an indoor container plant, this element of the potting mix is a vital supplement to the plant’s health.
Compost is composed of organic matter that has fully broken down, yielding a nutrient-rich substance that nourishes plants. Many people make their own compost if they have the space and time, but you can also purchase compost mixes. Chicken manure, green waste, and earthworm castings are often found as primary compost ingredients.
Perlite or sand is intended to provide aeration and drainage within your potting mix. These materials do not absorb moisture, so water runs around them and makes space for air to flow. Sand is the more ecologically sustainable option of the two, but it is heavier than perlite. Rice hulls can also be used in conjunction or in place of these ingredients to increase drainage.
Aeration around the roots is essential because it allows the required space for oxygen and nutrients to be accessed by the roots. Too much soil compacted around the roots doesn’t allow for the air to circulate, so it is vital to incorporate one of these materials into your mix.
There is no special technique for mixing potting soil. Just put all the ingredients into a container and stir them together until they are well incorporated. You may want to consider wearing a mask when mixing in perlite as it has a tendency to kick up dust into the air. Any leftover potting mix can be stored in a sealed container to be used later.
What Containers Work Best for Prayer Plants?
Prayer Plants look great in hanging baskets or in traditional pots. Since they start to trail over the sides of the pot as they get bigger, a Prayer Plant is probably not the best choice if you want your decoration on your pot to be very visible.
Prayer Plant roots are shallow, meaning they tend to spread out, growing close to the soil’s surface as opposed to tunneling deep into the ground. For that reason, a wide and shallow container is better suited to Maranta leuconeura than a tall, deep one.
How to Choose the Right Size Pot
It is a common mistake to move a Prayer Plant to a much bigger pot, assuming that it will grow well with plenty of room for the roots to spread out. Unfortunately, the situation is usually the exact opposite. A large pot contains a lot of potting mix, which then ends up retaining more moisture. You want a good balance of roots to soil so it doesn’t stay too wet.
When moving up to a larger pot, choose the next size up. Most standard pots are sized in 2″ diameter increments, so if your Prayer Plant is in a 4″ pot now, the next size up would be 6″. If the new pot is a different shape than the original one, be sure to account for the total volume of the inside of the container and not just the diameter.
Is One Pot Material Better Than Another?
In my experience, it doesn’t matter what type of material is used for a Prayer Plant’s pots, provided the size, shape, and drainage are correct.
Some people caution against using terracotta or other unglazed clay pots with Marantas. This is because these materials are porous and actually wick moisture away from the soil. If you choose to go this route, just be sure to keep a close eye on your moisture levels and remember that you will need to add water more frequently as Prayer Plants don’t like to dry out completely.
If you’re just starting out with growing Maranta leuconeura, an easy option would be to use a plastic nursery pot inside a decorative cachepot. This setup allows you to switch out pots without needing to actually move your plant, and you’ll be able to easily gauge if your plant is becoming root bound and needs to be transplanted again.
How and When to Repot Your Prayer Plant
Repot your Prayer Plant if it shows signs of being rootbound, such as roots coming out of the soil or drainage hole, slow growth, and drying out quickly after watering. Marantas need to be moved to a larger pot every 2-3 years, depending on how quickly your particular Prayer Plant grows.
Some people may choose to repot their Maranta soon after bringing it home from the garden center, but I recommend leaving it in the nursery pot until the plant has had time to adjust to its new environment. Prayer Plants can be sensitive to changes and may wilt or lose some leaves after being moved.
If you’ve determined that you do need to repot your Prayer Plant, aim to do so in the spring. That way, the plant has a whole growing season to settle into its new environment and make the best use of the additional nutrients it gets from the refreshed potting soil. Avoid repotting Prayer Plants in the winter.
Repotting Marantas is simple and follows the same process as repotting most other houseplants. The only caution is to ensure that everything is at the same temperature to avoid unnecessary shock to your plant. For example, if you store your potting soil in a cold garage or basement, let it warm up to room temperature before using it on your Prayer Plant. They dislike temperature extremes.
For the full details on repotting Prayer Plants, including step-by-step instructions, head over to this article: When, How and Why to Transplant or Repot Your Prayer Plant.
Although Maranta leuconeura isn’t the easiest houseplant to keep happy, luckily, it isn’t too picky about potting soil and containers. For potting medium, a rich but light all-purpose indoor potting mix works well. Or you can mix your own from the ingredients you choose. The mix should drain well but not dry out too quickly.
For containers, you want to move up by just one size when repotting to avoid retaining too much moisture in an oversized pot. The material is less important as Prayer Plants can do well in any type of container. There should be one or more drainage holes, and it is better if the shape is wide and squat.
If you take care when choosing your pot and soil, there is nothing tricky about repotting Prayer Plants in particular. And once you’ve moved it to its new home, your Prayer Plant will have plenty of room and nutrients to grow as big and beautiful as possible!