You might not know these guys by name, but you’d have definitely seen them on your socials. Often called the ‘Prayer Plant’ Family, they’re known for their ornate, colourful and patterned leaves and often (but not always) their ability to move their leaves from horizontal to vertical as the day moves into the evening. They also thrive in medium-to-low light, making them ideal houseplants.
That being said, we often get asked about Marantaceae care - why are the leaves turning brown at the tips? or how come the colour is fading on the leaves? Hopefully this post helps. Read on!
These plants are typically understory plants, native to moist forests in the Americas, Africa and Asia. In the wild they grow on the forest floor under large trees. There is a huge variance in their leaf shape, size and colour - even with in each genus - which is why they are so highly prized and cultivated for the home. This range of colours and patterns is whats called ‘cryptic colouration’. It might look unique and fantastic in isolation, but in the wild it helps to break up how a potential predator sees forest floor and disrupts their ability to focus on one plant. The fact that the ‘move’ with the going down of the sun is just another reason these plants are so wonderful. I don't necessarily see the 'prayer' motion (apparently it looks like hands clasping (?)) but this is where they get their 'Prayer Plant' title from
While this movement is related to the plant’s experience of sunlight, no one is 100% sure why the plants need to lift their leaves into a vertical position as night comes. It has been suggested that it might be a defence mechanism to hide itself from herbivores, as the purple underside of the leaves could help hide the plant in the shadows, but really we have no idea. As far as we’re concerned, it’s a wonderful experience to look over at your Maranta leuconeura or Calathea medallion in the evening and the leaves have shifted upwards.
But you’ve still got to look after them! And thankfully, of the three most popular genera (Maranta, Calathea and Stromanthe), the care they require is fairly similar. Here are our top tips for keeping your Marantaceas looking, well, tip-top:
- Keep them out of really bright rooms - they are used to shaded environment and placing them in a bright room can bleach or fade the colours
- Don’t let them dry out completely between drinks.
- Try not to water them with hard (high mineral) water. If you can, use filtered or rain water. This can help to prevent leaf burn on the edges of the leaves.
- They're prone to fungal infection and pests like mealy bug and spider mite. To help prevent this, spray weekly with a Neem Oil and wipe the leaves down.
The hardest thing about this family is that they love to be kept humid around the foliage. This can be especially tricky over winter as the heaters turn on and the air dries out. If your plant is looking brown on the tips or starting to curl, this can be a sign that the humidity is too low. Simply watering more won’t help either as the leaves are drying out faster than the plant can get water to them.
If this is happening to your plant, there are a couple of things you can do to help:
- Buy a humidifier - they’re great and you’ll definitely see a change in you plants.
- Create the humidity yourself by building a makeshift terrarium around you plants. This can be done easily using a couple of bamboo stakes and a plastic bag put loosely over the top. Just make sure you water you plant well and give the leaves a good mist before you cover. Sure, it might not look the best but its cheap and effective, and means come springtime your plants will be looking A+.
- Place your plants together! All plants respire and putting them together will mean they can create their own humidity and feed off that. This might not work with one or two plants, but if you’re a #crazyplantperson you’ve probably got more than a few plants to cluster.
Hope this helps!