Prayer plants (Maranta leuconeura), also known as red marantas, are beginner-friendly houseplants that have become wildly popular among houseplant enthusiasts. But while these tropical beauties are mostly prized for their colorful, patterned foliage, with proper care, marantas can produce flowers too.
Prayer plant flowers are charming little blooms that can add color to your houseplant collection, but not all maranta keepers want their plants to flower. Whether or not prayer plants are allowed to bloom is a matter of personal taste, but it can have its pros and cons.
If you’d like to learn more about prayer plants, how to get your plants to flower, or how to prevent it, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to grow prayer plants successfully and help you to decide whether or not you’d like to let your prayer plants bloom.
A Bit About Prayer Plants
Prayer plants are native to the tropical forests of Brazil, where they live as low growing plants, sprawling across the forest floor. But while these plants are known for their brightly colored and patterned leaves that come in shades of green, white and red, prayer plant leaves have another very interesting characteristic: they move.
Prayer plants’ leaves shift throughout the day, turning upwards, as if in prayer, in the evening. This intriguing movement is a method of water conservation, as it can slow moisture evaporation rates down and directs water droplets that gather on plant leaves back down to the plant’s roots.
But, though prayer plants are mostly prized for their unique leaves, under the right growing conditions, they will flower too. And, while some claim that prayer plants rarely flower, that’s just not the case. Marantas actually bloom more frequently than most people think and those flowers are good signs that prayer plants are happy.
Maranta flowers are quite small in size and come in white or shades of purple, depending on the variety of maranta. Blooms appear at the end of long, slender spikes, which can give plants a bit more height. Interestingly, like snapdragon and orchid flowers, maranta blooms are bilaterally symmetrical, meaning that each side of the flower is identical if it was cut right down the center.
Flowers usually appear when plants are actively growing, in spring and summer. And, while individual flowers are usually short-lived and may only last a few days, once in bloom, marantas can flower for several months at a time. Although small, flowers are fragrant and smell slightly sweet.
From their striking leaves to petite flowers, it’s no wonder why prayer plants’ popularity has skyrocketed in recent years. A favorite plant among many houseplant keepers, marantas make excellent tabletop plants, but their trailing growth habit lends itself well to hanging baskets too. And, for pet parents, prayer plants make excellent choices as they are non-toxic, pet-friendly plants.
Why Do Prayer Plants Flower?
In nature, prayer plants flower in order to get pollinated, grow seeds and reproduce. This occurs when environmental conditions are just right to support new prayer plant growth.
When kept as houseplants, maranta flowers are less common, but they aren’t exactly rare. When indoor prayer plants flower, it’s a sign of a happy and healthy plant. It means that growing conditions are ideal and you don’t need to adjust anything.
Not all marantas will flower indoors, so if your prayer plant isn’t blooming, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your plant isn’t happy. However, it may suggest that you should reexamine your plant’s growing conditions, to see if there’s anything you can improve.
Should You Let Your Prayer Plant Bloom?
Whether or not you allow your maranta to flower is totally up to you. However, there are certain reasons why you may or may not want to encourage flowering.
As pretty as marantas are on their own, they become even prettier when they flower. Prayer plant’s large, colorful leaves make a fine contrast against their petite flowers and the combination can be a delight in your collection.
However, if you keep prayer plants specifically for their foliage, you may want to consider discouraging flowering. While flowering won’t harm your maranta in any way, it can affect plant growth. This is because, when your plant blooms, it redirects some of its energy towards flowering and away from growing leaves. This can result in fewer leaves and some established leaf growth dying back.
If you prefer leaves over flowers and you’d like to keep your plant from blooming, just pinch back any new flower spikes as they appear. For sanitary reasons, just be sure to wash your hands before doing so or use a pair of clean kitchen shears. Over time, your plant will stop producing flowers and will grow more leaves instead.
On the other hand, if you decide to allow your prayer plant to flower, it can still be a good idea to pinch off old flowers after they begin to fade. Spent blooms often shed on the ground and can create a bit of a mess. Removing old blooms can also encourage your plant to flower more and will keep your plant looking a bit tidier.
How to Help Your Maranta Flower
Prayer plants flower when their growing conditions are just right, so if you’d like to encourage your plant to bloom, you’ll want to do your best to recreate its natural growing environment.
In nature, marantas are tropical plants that grow on rainforest floors. This information can help you adjust your lighting, watering and other elements of plant care so they are just right for your prayer plant.
As low-dwelling plants on the forest floor, prayer plants like light, but not too much of it. Prayer plants can tolerate lower light conditions; however, ideally they should be kept in bright, indirect light. Too much direct light can be hard on delicate leaves, causing issues like leaf scorching or fading leaf colors.
However, prayer plants will rarely flower in low light situations. So, if your goal is to get your plant to flower, you’ll need to find an appropriate balance between too much and too little light. Often times, placing your plant in a south-facing window is best, but you may need to filter light a bit with a sheer curtain or similar fabric if it gets too bright.
Soil and Repotting
Prayer plants prefer rich, well-draining soil. While most standard potting mixes will do, amending your soil with a bit of organic compost or worm castings can give your prayer plants that little extra nutrient boost needed to promote flowering. However, as too much compost can cause drainage issues, never add more that 25% compost to your potting mix.
Prayer plants grow rather fast, so they may need to be repotted every year or two. Try to repot your plants in springtime and select pots that are only one to two sizes larger than your current pot. Signs that your plant may benefit from repotting include lack of flowering, poorly draining soil and stunted growth or if your plant is visibly rootbound.
As tropical plants, marantas like a good bit of moisture and should be provided with consistently moist, but not soggy, soil. For best results, you’ll want to water your plant about once a week during the growing season, but watering should be reduced some during winter as growth slows.
To prevent common issues like root rot, ensure that your pot and substrate drain well. If you’re unsure if it’s time to water or not, insert your finger gently in your plant’s soil. If the top 1 to 2” feels dry to the touch, it’s time to water.
Additionally, if you really want your maranta to flower, you can also try watering your plant with rain water or bottled water. Although this isn’t necessary, it can promote flower growth, as tap water often contains chemicals, like chlorine or fluoride, which can stress plants, causing issues like browning leaf tips or leaf spotting from mineral deposits.
Prayer plants can grow quite quickly, so they should be provided with a regular application of fertilizer during the growing season. A well-balanced or nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer is generally a good choice; however, to promote more flowering, you may want to look for a fertilizer with a higher phosphorous content.
In general, fertilizer should be applied approximately every 2 weeks, spring through fall, and often liquid fertilizers work best. That said, you’ll want to be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions as different products have different concentrations.
If your prayer plant seems to be growing slowly, it’s a good sign that your plant could use a dose of fertilizer. On the other hand, brown spots on plant leaves or yellowing leaves can indicate too much fertilizer. If this occurs, stop fertilizing for awhile and try flushing your plant’s soil with water.
Temperature and Humidity
To imitate marantas’ natural environment, try to provide your plants with consistently warm temperatures – a range of between 60 and 80° F is usually best. Although slightly cooler temperatures can be tolerated for brief periods of time, avoid placing your maranta in drafty areas or near a cold window in wintertime, as leaf damage can occur.
As prayer plants are pretty easy to care for, they generally can tolerate normal household humidity levels, although higher humidity is preferable and will encourage flowering. For best results, try to keep humidity levels around 60%. Adding a pebble tray or small humidifier to your plant set up can help boost humidity and is particularly useful in winter when heating units can cause indoor air to get even drier.
Pests and Diseases
Anything that stresses out your plant can reduce its chances of flowering, and one of the greatest stressors of all can be pests and diseases. While marantas are not quite as pest-prone as some other houseplant varieties, they still can be susceptible to common issues like root rot, spider mites, mealybugs and aphids.
To keep your plant in tiptop shape, check your prayer plant over every once in awhile for signs of pests. Check under plant leaves, taking note of any issues like yellowing or browning leaves, stippling to leaves, sticky residue or visible webbing (not attributed to spiders).
If you do see signs of pests, treat your maranta with an organic insecticidal soap spray, or other appropriate treatment, and your plant should recover.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions about prayer plant flowers:
Do flowering prayer plants produce seeds?
Like other flowering plants, prayer plants do produce seeds after they flower. Seeds are tiny, but they can be collected and planted to grow lots of new baby prayer plants.
However, raising prayer plants from seed can take awhile and is not the most efficient method. Instead, if your goal is to grow more prayer plants, try out propagating instead. Marantas grow readily from stem cuttings and can be easily propagated in both soil or water.
For water propagation, simply ensure that your plant cutting has at least one growth node and keep the bottom of the cutting well submerged in clean water until roots form. Once roots are approximately 2” long, replant your cutting in soil and tend as usual.
For soil propagation, adding a bit of rooting hormone to the base of your cutting can help encourage roots to develop. Then, plant your cutting in premoistened soil, keep your plant well-watered and try covering both cutting and pot with a Ziploc bag to trap in humidity. In a few weeks your cutting should begin to sprout roots and you’ll have a new baby prayer plant!
I’ve followed the care instructions above, but my prayer plant is still not flowering. What do I do?
Not all prayer plants will flower when kept indoors, so there is no need to worry. It may just be that your plant doesn’t want to flower.
Also, it can help to keep in mind that prayer plants do need to reach maturity to flower, so your plant may simply be too young. If they do flower, it tends to be older prayer plants that produce lots of flowers, while younger specimens may just grow a flower stalk or two.
Prayer plants are gorgeous and easy to care for plants, so it’s no wonder why they have become so popular in the houseplant industry. Their colorful and unique foliage makes these plants a delight all on their own but, when they flower, it can add that much more color to your houseplant collection.
However, even if you don’t want maranta flowers, if your plant decides to bloom, it’s always a very good sign. Flowering marantas are happy marantas and it means that you are providing the ideal conditions your plant needs to thrive. In the end, it’s really a matter of personal preference whether or not you choose to allow your plants to flower. Your prayer plant will grow just fine either way.