Prayer Plants are consistently popular with indoor gardeners because of their beautiful foliage. These plants (scientific name Maranta leuconeura) are available in several distinct color variations and patterns. Given the right conditions, Prayer Plants can grow quickly and will need to be moved to a larger container to accommodate their larger size.
Repotting Prayer Plants is a similar process to repotting most other houseplants. It is best to move them to a container that is just one size larger and preferably shallow instead of deep. They do well in a typical all-purpose potting mix. Prayer Plants generally need to be repotted every 2-3 years.
Caring for Prayer Plants can be tricky, and I usually recommend that you not make any unnecessary changes if your plant seems to be doing well. But naturally, with time, your Prayer Plant will outgrow its container and need to be moved to a larger home. Repotting gives the roots more room to spread out and provides your plant with necessary nutrients from the potting soil.
Signs It’s Time to Repot Your Maranta
Prayer Plants can grow quickly if you provide them with the ideal environment. Although you can usually expect to repot your Prayer Plant every 2-3 years, be sure you confirm that it’s necessary according to the signs below. Each plant is individual, so don’t just follow the calendar.
Top Heavy: Does your Prayer Plant look top-heavy? If the plant has a lot of growth emerging from a small pot, that could be a signal for you to consider repotting. Lightweight pots might even fall over with the weight of multiple Prayer Plant stems. But appearances can be deceptive, so it’s a good idea to check for other signs.
Watering More Often: If you find yourself watering more often than before, that can be a sign that your Prayer Plant has outgrown its container. As more roots grow and take up space in the pot, the amount of available soil decreases. Since the potting mix absorbs and holds moisture, it stands to reason that less potting soil will dry out more quickly.
Soil Won’t Retain Moisture: When you water, you may also notice that the water runs right through and out from the drainage holes faster than it used to. Again, this is related to the proportion of roots to potting soil in the pot and degraded soil quality over time.
Roots Coiling In On Themselves: If you can do it easily, you might want to remove the plant from the pot to check what’s going on with the roots. If you see a lot of soil with just a few visible roots, you can wait for a while. If you see mainly roots and they’re coiled around in the shape of the pot, it is time to repot.
Roots Poking Out Through the Drainage Hole: Another undeniable sign that your Prayer Plant needs repotting is when roots start to emerge from the drainage holes. This indicates that the pot is full of roots, so they are expanding into whatever space they can find.
Be aware that Prayer Plants have a shallow root system compared with many other houseplants, so the root growth may be concentrated in the top of the pot. Depending on how deep your pot is, roots may never make their way out of the drainage holes. It’s a good idea to look for multiple clues when deciding if you want to repot.
Slow Growth: Finally, a rootbound Prayer Plant will probably slow or stop growing altogether. It may develop yellow and dying lower leaves.
If your Prayer Plant is under any other stress, such as that from pests or fungal infection, it is better to treat that before repotting. Ideally, the plant will be healthy at the time you transplant it.
Repotting a Prayer Plant can be a scary proposition since this plant doesn’t react well to environmental changes. There are plenty of horror stories out there about a Prayer Plant that wilts and dies immediately after being moved to a new pot. But if you do your research ahead of time and choose the right potting soil and container, you can minimize the chances of your plant reacting poorly.
Do Prayer Plants Like To Be Rootbound?
Prayer Plants will survive when they are rootbound, but they will not thrive. Ultimately, they will need the space to extend their roots and the nutrients from refreshed soil. Rootbound plants also tend to dry out more quickly, which is bad for Prayer Plants.
The Best Time of Year for Transplanting or Repotting Prayer Plants
As with most houseplants, the best time of year to move Prayer Plants is in the spring. Being placed in new potting soil gives plants a boost of energy that can be put to good use throughout the growing season. If you accidentally waited too long, you can repot during the summer months as well.
Avoid repotting Prayer Plants in the autumn and winter. Changing their home at this time is hard on them because they don’t have as much energy to devote to growing new roots before the cold weather sets in.
How to Choose the Best Container for Your Prayer Plant
When thinking about containers, you’ll want to consider the size, shape, and material that suits your Prayer Plant best. It may seem counterintuitive, but putting a Prayer Plant in a really large pot can damage or even kill it due to overwatering. You should pot up your plants into a container that is just one size larger. Plant pots are generally sized in 2″ increments, so you would move from a 4″ to a 6″ diameter pot, for example.
Some people prefer not to move to a larger-sized container when repotting a Prayer Plant. That might be because they want to keep the plant from getting larger or because they like the appearance of the current pot. In that case, remove as much of the old soil as you can, trim back a bit of the roots, and pot the plant back into the original container with new potting mix.
Since Prayer Plants have shallow root systems, a wide and short pot suits them better than a tall and deep one. If you are trying to move your Prayer Plant to a deeper pot because you prefer the way it looks, you could put a layer of gravel or wood chips in the bottom to accommodate the plant’s needs.
General wisdom says that plastic or glazed ceramic pots are best for Prayer Plants because those materials do not absorb water. Prayer Plants tend to like consistently moist potting mix and should not dry completely between waterings. Using a non-absorbent pot ensures that all the water you provide goes into the potting mix itself to be used by the roots.
That said, I successfully grow my Prayer Plants in regular terracotta pots. I make sure that the pot itself is also thoroughly moistened, which seems to keep the water content in the potting mix consistent for longer.
A Quick Note on Drainage
Sufficient drainage is an absolute must when you choose your container. Without drainage holes in the pot, there is a real risk of overwatering every time you water your Prayer Plant. A decorative pot without drainage holes should only be used as a cachepot that you set the less-attractive plastic nursery pot inside.
What Soil Is Best For Prayer Plants?
Prayer Plants are not especially particular about the type of soil, but they have a few requirements. Since these plants like to stay consistently moist, you should stay away from mixes that are especially free-draining and sandy. They would not do well in a cactus mix, for example.
At the same time, a very dense or moisture-retaining potting soil could keep the roots too moist and lead to root rot. Go for a middle-of-the-road option like this all-purpose potting mix.
If you prefer to make your own potting mixes, this one works well for Prayer Plants:
Read more about choosing soil and containers for your Prayer Plant here: What Soil and Pots are Best for Prayer Plants?
Step By Step Instructions to Repot a Prayer Plant
The first step to move your Prayer Plant to a new pot is to use the information above to evaluate if it is necessary. Once you’re confident it’s time to transplant, go ahead and choose the container and prepare the potting mix you want to use.
If you have determined that it is time to repot your Prayer Plant, water the plant a day or two before you plan to repot. This will make it easier to get your plant out of the pot. I prefer to water the day before, so the potting soil is moist but not wet when I move it. Keeping the roots moist during the process also helps avoid damage.
Add a layer of potting mix to the bottom of your new pot. I also like to put something over the drainage holes, so the soil doesn’t come out. I prefer to use these mesh screens made specifically for this purpose, but some people use a coffee filter or cheesecloth.
Gently remove the root ball from the pot. Usually, rootbound plants can be removed easily, but you may need to carefully wiggle them to loosen roots attached to the pot. If the roots are wound together tightly from being rootbound, you can tease a few of them apart before placing the plant in its new pot.
I also remove any clumps of old potting soil that are clinging to the roots. Usually, this older potting mix is dense and depleted of nutrients, so there’s no reason to move it into the new pot if you can remove it quickly. But you don’t need to go overboard with this. The roots don’t need to be totally clean, and there won’t be any damage from some older potting soil being in the new pot.
Now is a good time to evaluate the roots and make sure they are healthy. Roots should be light-colored and firm to the touch. Brown, black, and soggy roots can be pruned away using sterilized garden shears.
You might see something among your Prayer Plant’s roots that look like a bulb or ball. These are totally natural tubers that act as storage organs for the plant. In fact, relatives of the Prayer Plant are grown to harvest their edible tubers. If you have ever heard of Arrowroot powder, that’s made from another Maranta species’ roots.
After checking over and treating the roots, place the root ball into the center of the new pot, on top of the layer of potting mix you already put into it. The top of the root ball should sit about even with the top of the pot, or slightly below, so the plant isn’t sitting too deep inside the pot.
With your plant in place, fill in potting mix around the sides of the root ball. It can be difficult to avoid getting potting soil on your plant’s leaves during this process since Prayer Plant leaves are large and close together, but do your best. A soft brush or a damp cloth can be helpful to clean the leaves off afterward. It is better not to wash the leaves with water since that can leave water spots behind or cause a fungal infection.
Once the pot is filled with soil, water thoroughly. Add more potting mix if needed since it may condense when it gets wet. Now set your Prayer Plant back in its usual location and keep an eye on it for the next few weeks as it readjusts to its new home.
How to Care For Your New Transplant
There shouldn’t be too much special care needed after you transplant your Prayer Plant, and it is best to return it to similar or even better conditions (temperature, location, etc.) than it had before you repotted it. Be sure to give the plant plenty of water and humidity after repotting. You could place it in a terrarium or add a humidifier nearby to increase humidity temporarily as the plant adjusts.
A Note on Transplant Shock
Prayer Plants can be susceptible to a condition called transplant shock. As the name implies, transplant shock is a swift and dramatic change in the plant’s health immediately following repotting.
Transplant shock occurs because the roots get damaged during the process of repotting. The plant will then redirect its energy away from the foliage to repairing the roots. Prayer Plant roots are fine and delicate, so they are more likely to show some reaction to repotting.
Avoid transplant shock by:
- Only going up one container size
- Taking care not to damage the roots
- Minimizing the amount of time the root ball is out of the soil
- Keeping roots moist throughout the process
- Repotting in mild temperatures and ensuring the new potting mix is the same temperature as the old
Symptoms of transplant shock show up in the leaves, which can turn yellow, wilt, and/or curl up. Most or all of the plant will be affected simultaneously. Although you might ultimately lose a few leaves to transplant shock, the best treatment is just to wait and give it time to recover.
Maranta leuconeura does not need frequent repotting, so be sure to review the list of signs to confirm that the plant actually needs a bigger pot. With this plant, it is best to make only one change at a time. Prayer Plants can be susceptible to shock, so be cautious and prepare for repotting ahead of time.
As long as you repot your Prayer Plant using an appropriate container, potting mix, and techniques, it should recover quickly. Then your plant will have even more room to grow and flourish, and you won’t need to replant it again for two to three years.