Marantas are beautiful house plants, grown for their bold and striking foliage. The oval, variegated leaves are intricately patterned in a range of colours and patterns that look like an artist’s brushstrokes. The undersides of the leaves are often dark red.
Marantas are nicknamed prayer plants – they close up their leaves at night, like hands in prayer, before opening them up again at dawn. This daily movement is known as nyctinasty and is fascinating to witness.
Marantas are closely related to calatheas, also often referred to as prayer plants. The leaves of calatheas do not close up at night, however. Marantas have a more sprawling growth habit than calatheas – in the wild, they spread across the forest floor – so they make good hanging or shelf plants.
Marantas hail from the forest floor of tropical rainforests, which gives plenty of clues as to their care – they cope well in low light levels but need plenty of humidity in order to thrive.
How to grow maranta
Marantas need specific care in order to thrive. They need a consistently warm spot and bright but indirect light – keep them out of direct sunshine. Keep the soil moist from spring to autumn, and provide some humidity by misting the leaves daily or standing on a tray of moist pebbles. They need to be watered with filtered or distilled water, or rainwater – not tap water.
More on growing maranta:
Marantas: jump links
- Where to grow maranta
- How to care for maranta
- How to propagate maranta
- Maranta problem-solving
- Where to buy maranta
- Types of maranta to grow
Where to grow maranta
Marantas do best in bright, indirect light but will tolerate a bit of shade. Avoid direct sunlight, as this will scorch the leaves, and keep away from draughts. Provide a minimum temperature of 15°C and avoid rooms with regular temperature fluctuations.
How to plant maranta
Plant in soil-based compost. Repot in spring if rootbound, into a slightly larger pot. Marantas have shallow roots, so choose a pot that is more wide than deep.
Caring for maranta
Keep the soil moist (but not soaking wet) at all times from spring to autumn – little but often is ideal. Use tepid distilled water, filtered water or rainwater as marantas are sensitive to the chemicals in tap water. Make sure any excess water has drained away. Water less in winter, keeping the soil just moist. Marantas do best in a humid environment, so mist the leaves daily with tepid water or stand on a pebble tray that’s topped up with water. Feed every couple of months with a balanced fertiliser. Wipe the leaves occasionally to remove dust.
How to propagate a maranta
The best way to propagate a maranta is by dividing it. When you repot it in spring, gently pull apart the rootball with your fingers – you should find that a clump at the side comes away naturally. Check that each clump has a part of the root system. Repot both plants into fresh compost, in pots a little larger than the new rootballs. If a clump doesn’t come away naturally, you can cut through the rootball with a clean, sharp knife.
Marantas can also be propagated from stem cuttings. Using a sharp knife or secateurs, remove a stem from the main plant, ensuring that it includes a node. Allow the wound to dry for a few hours, then put the cutting into a small pot of compost or in water and wait for roots to develop, which can take a few weeks.
Growing maranta: problem solving
Leaves that are curling inwards are a sign underwatering, but will soon uncurl once you’ve watered it. Ensure excess water drains away afterwards.
Yellowing or wilting leaves could also be caused by overwatering. Marantas suffer when sitting in soggy compost as it causes the roots to rot (you may notice that the base of the plant is blackened). Allow the compost to dry out before watering again, and let any excess water drain away.
Brown patches could be caused by sunburn. Move your plant out of direct sunlight.
Faded leaves mean that the plant is getting too much light – move to a shadier spot.
Brown spots on the leaves are caused by leaf spot. Don’t splash the leaves when you water and avoid using tap water.
Brown edges on the leaves or brown tips can be caused by dry air – so boost humidity around the plant, either by misting or by standing on a tray of damp pebbles. You may have also overfed your plant, or watered it with hard water.
Red spider mite can affect marantas. The leaves and stems of the plant will be covered in fine webbing and the upper surface of the leaf becomes mottled. If you look carefully, using a magnifying glass, you will see mites and eggs on the undersides of the leaves. Improve air circulation boost humidity. Alternatively, use sprays containing, fatty acids or plant oils.
Advice on buying maranta
- Make sure you can give your maranta the perfect growing conditions before you buy
- Bear in mind that specialist nurseries may have a bigger selection of cultivars, but that large online retailers and garden centres may offer discounts and free postage
- Buy healthy plants with lush foliage, with no signs of damage or pests
Where to buy maranta online
Maranta varieties to grow
- Maranta leuconeura var. erythroneura (may also be sold as Maranta ‘Fascinator’ – known as the herringbone plant, with yelow-green splotches along the midrib and bright red veins.
- Maranta leuconeura var. kerchoveana – known as rabbit’s foot – the foliage is bright green with darker green patches on either side of the central vein, said to look like a rabbit’s paw. The leaf undersides silvery green.