Maranta - Plant of the Month
Maranta are a plant native to the tropics of south America, but are a favourite amongst many because of their beautiful foliage and hardiness as a house plant. They are more commonly known as the prayer plant because at night the leaves draw together, much like two hands in prayer, lying flat again during the daylight hours. You will find the leaves move around a lot during the daytime to ensure they are getting the best light possible, so be careful not to mistake this for drooping and overwater the plant!
As they are naturally found growing on the rainforest floor, Maranta don’t require too much sunlight. Whilst they can tolerate a shadier spot, their ideal is bright but indirect light - just be careful not to place them where direct light will hit the leaves as this will cause them to crisp and burn. Certain varieties have a dark coloured underside to the foliage (usually purple) and are better adapted to absorbing lower light levels, therefore the best to have in a shady spot (Maranta leuconeura is one such variety).
Maranta prefer a warm and humid environment, but will tolerate the drop in temperature over winter by going dormant (similar to a hibernating animal). As long as you water them sparingly over the cooler months, they will survive the drop. Ideally they prefer temperatures between 15 and 20 degrees but will tolerate warmer conditions too, providing they have enough humidity. Dry air (from central heating, fans etc…) will cause the foliage to brown and crisp around the edges so regular misting, grouping tropical plants together, or sitting them on a dish of stones and water are all methods that will help to increase humidity and keep the Maranta thriving.
Being a lower-story plant of the forest floor means they like to be kept fairly damp over the spring and summer months - we advise watering once the top inch of soil has dried out. However, as an easy going house plant they can withstand fairly erratic watering and are ideal for those of us who can be prone to over or underwatering. Over the winter make sure to reduce how often you water, especially when temperatures drop below 15 degrees, as it takes the soil longer to dry out which may increase the chance of root rot.
You’ll find your Maranta will grow to approximately 30cm in height before they fan out sideways and eventually start to trail. The effect of their stunning foliage cascading downwards is quite a sight and makes for a stunning addition to any collection. This, along with their hardiness and the fact they tend to be disease free, makes them a great beginner plant.
They can be prone to common pests such as spider mite and mealybugs so keep an eye out and begin treating your plant if any of the tell-tale signs start to show (little red dots or a white fluff).
Maranta can be propagated in a few different ways – by division, by cutting, or by seed. We find the easiest methods to be by cutting first and division second (depending on how well established your plant is).
To take a stem cutting, cut a leaf just below a node and close to the main stem. Place the cut end into water and wait for roots to grow to approx. one to two inches long. Once formed, plant the rooted cutting into a multipurpose compost mixed with perlite and place into a spot with bright but indirect light. Continue to look after your plant as you would the parent plant.
To propagate by division, take your plant out of its pot and separate the roots until you have two plants. Repot as above and watch them grow!