You are here:

House Plants/Prayer plant problems


Prayer plant roots 1
Prayer plant roots 1  

Prayer plant roots 2
Prayer plant roots 2  
I have a prayer plant that has not been doing well since it was repotted in November. Tried a number of different things to help it without success--moving location, different exposures, humidity tray, no humidity tray. Nothing makes a difference. It looks wilted and yellow and dry. It has stopped folding its leaves at night and they droop all the time. When I mist it, or use the humidifier, it becomes more limp and droopy. I have already lost several sections of the plant. I've had this plant for many yrs & it's always been healthy until the repotting in November. Tried to repot it again a couple weeks ago hoping this would help. When I took it out of the pot it had weird looking, egg shaped nodules all over the roots. My husband repotted it the last 2 times before that (in Nov & in the spring prior) & he says the nodules were there both times. He assumed that's the way prayer plant roots are. I'm wondering if that is a normal situation with prayer plant roots or if that could be what is causing its problems. I also found a worm in the soil as well as little round yellowish things all through the soil that look like they are fluid filled. We always use bagged potting soil so I have no idea how the worms etc could have gotten in there. The plant has not been outdoors since the repotting in November.


Never, I repeat never repot any houseplant in the fall. Even though they are tropical plants and you keep them indoors the days get shorter, the plants stop growing until March when the days start getting longer again and the plants go through a dormant period. This plant only needs repotted every 3-4 years. It actually grows better somewhat rootbound.

The nodules on the roots are normal. Spider plants and asparagus ferns also have nodules like that. They come from areas that are very dry in the winter months and those nodules store water to help the plant survive the long dry winter. When you water the plant heavily some of the  roots begin rotting and fungus gnats lay eggs in the soil so their babies canfeed on those rotting roots. The way to kill the worms in the soil is to wait until it is dry and water it with a 50/50 mix of rubbing alcohol and water. The alcohol will kill the worms on contact. You may need to repeat that twice.

I have had this plant go totally dormant during the winter and appear dead but I left it sit in a corner of my overcrowded sunroom and gave it a tiny bit of water occasionally. In the  spring I suddenly noticed that it had sent out several new sprouts from the roots. During the summer water it once every 2 weeks with a half strength dose of Miracle Grow or one of the other water soluable fertilizers.

Below are some General instructions from a plant care website.
Prayer Plant
Botanical Name: Maranta leuconeura

Prayer Plant earned its name because of the way its leaves fold together at night, like hands closed in prayer. Its leaves unfold in the morning light, sometimes making a rustling sound. Cool, huh?
prayer plant, maranta leuconeura
Showy, oval-shaped leaves have a spectacular light-and-dark-green feathered pattern with red veins, and are often red underneath. Its leaves grow to about 5 in (12 cm) long.

Prayer plants rarely bloom indoors, but sometimes grow tiny, white tubular flowers on long stems. The flowers are insignificant, anyway. It's the magnificent leaves that are really the attraction.

You can expect your plant to take a "rest" in winter and growth will slow down. Water lightly during this time and stop fertilizing, but maintain humidity. You can expect a flush of colorful, new leaves to appear in spring and summer.

Pruning tip: Your plant will benefit from occasional pruning, which helps to give it a nice shape and promote new growth. Fall is the best time to cut it back. Use sharp pruners to cut away some of the older leaves.

Give it good care and it will live for many years. This tropical plant prefers a warm, humid environment and well-aerated soil. To prevent the soil from becoming too compact, repot it every spring. Do not pack the soil tightly around the roots -- keep it loose. You can choose a shallow pot for your prayer plant. Its shallow root system doesn't need much room.

Clean Leaves

Gently wipe leaves with a soft, dry cloth to keep them dust-free.

Watch for spider mites. Dry indoor air in the winter months encourages these pests to invade house plants, another reason to keep the humidity up. You'll first notice webbing between stems and on the undersides of leaves.

Prayer Plant Care Tips
prayer plant, maranta leuconeura
Origin: Brazil

Height: Up to 12 inches (30 cm)

Light: Prayer plants will tolerate low light levels, but grow best with bright light. Some direct sun can be tolerated.

Water: Keep soil evenly moist spring through summer, slightly drier in winter. Never allow the plant to sit with water in the drain tray.

Humidity: Requires moist air. Brown leaf tips are a sign that the air is too dry. Try to maintain at least 50% relative humidity year-round. It's a good idea to use a humidity tray or a room humidifier.

Temperature: Average to warm (65-80F/18-27C) year-round

Soil: Peat-rich potting mix.

Fertilizer: Feed with a liquid fertilizer diluted by half every 2 weeks spring through fall.

Propagation: In spring, take 4-inch (10 cm) stem cuttings with 3-4 leaves attached. Root them in moist potting mix. When your plant gets too big, you can easily divide it in half by pulling apart its shallow roots.

Good luck with your plant. Write again if you have more questions.


House Plants

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Darlene K. Kittle


I have been an Advanced Master Gardener for 24 years and I raise around 300 houseplants and bonsai trees a year including tropicals, succulents, and cacti. I have also been a professional plant care person for businesses in the Fort Wayne, IN area and currently professionally care for bonsai trees for my customers.


I am also studying the Japanese art of bonsai with tropical plants and is President of the Fort Wayne, IN Bonsai Club.

Fort Wayne, iN Master Gardeners. President of the Fort Wayne Bonsai Club. Allen County Master Gardeners

I am not a hortculturist. I am a Purdue University Advanced Master Gardener for 24 years. I have studied plants on a personal level by growing hundreds of plants annually for the last 35 years. I have also studied under several nationally known American Bonsai experts.

©2016 All rights reserved.