Growing Prayer Plants

3 things cause brown leaf tips

By: Sandy Feather 2010
Penn State Extension

Q. I have a prayer plant that gets brown at the tips of the leaves. Is there anything I can do to prevent this? My prayer plants seem beautiful and healthy otherwise.

A. There are three main reasons for your prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura) to develop brown tips on the leaves -- uneven watering, dry air and fluoride toxicity. Prayer plants prefer an evenly moist soil. If you allow it to dry out too much between waterings, the tips of the leaves will turn brown. If you are unsure of how often to water, stick a finger into the potting mix. If it feels moist to the touch, hold off until the soil's top inch or two feels dry. Try never to allow it to dry out to the point of wilting.

Humid Environment

Prayer plants prefer a humid environment and frequently develop brown tips on the leaves when the air is too dry. Now that it is winter and your furnace is running, the problem of dry air is even worse. There are a number of ways to increase the humidity around plants. The easiest is to simply move them into a naturally humid room such as a bathroom or laundry area. As long as those rooms can provide bright indirect light, your prayer plant should thrive there.


Other Options

If that is not an option, you can place the pot on a tray of pebbles that you keep filled with water to increase humidity. The trick is to keep the level of water low enough so the pot is not sitting in the water or else the plant could succumb to root rot.

If you have other plants, group them together with the prayer plant. As plants lose moisture through their leaves (transpiration), it creates an area of higher humidity around the grouping. As a last resort, mist the leaves every other day. If you keep the leaves too wet, they will develop spots.

Flouride Sensitivity

Prayer plants can be sensitive to the fluoride added to municipal water systems to reduce tooth decay. It is good practice to allow tap water to sit in an open container overnight before using it on houseplants. This allows chlorine and fluoride from the treatment process to evaporate. Other common houseplants that are sensitive to fluoride include spider plants (Chlorophytum spp.) and peace lilies (Spathiphyllum spp.).


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