While looking for a houseplant you might have come across prayer plants. But which should it be? Maranta vs Calathea!
The term ‘prayer plant’ is used broadly to refer to the Marantaceae or arrowroot family, which both Calatheas and Marantas are a part of.
The term was used to refer to the ‘Nyctinasty’ process, which is the process of the plant closing up its leaves/foliage during the night and lowering/unfolding them during the day. This has become the primary criteria in the Maranta vs Calathea battle.
Other than some Calatheas incapable of doing this process, “prayer” happens due to a piece in the plants’ stem where it controls the circulation of water and is affected by the humidities and light around the plant.
Prayer plants, in general, are known to be some of the most popular home-friendly plants. They aren’t toxic to your pets, and they don’t need a lot of sunlight. They like low to medium light. And overall, they prefer humid weather.
So, now that we know for sure that they belong to the same family are they the same plant? No, they’re not. In this article, we’ll be highlighting the similarities, differences and offer the best tips and advice to help you take care of your Marantas and Calatheas.
Marantas are a species of flower plants from the Marantaceae family. They are commonly found in tropical areas like South America and the West Indies. It was named after an Italian physician and botanist from the 16th century named Bartolomeo Maranta.
There are currently around 50 known species of Maranta. The leaves are flat by day and then fold up by night which is why they’re known as prayer-plants. Their flowers are considerably small.
They are known to grow horizontally given the appropriate weather and potting arrangements. The center of their leaves is usually lighter green as well as the undersides.
Some of the most popular Marantas are:
- ‘Marantha Amagris’
- Kim (Maranta leuconeura)
- ‘Kerchoveana’ (Maranta leuconeura)
- ‘Kerchoveana Minima’ (Maranta bicolor)
- ‘Erythroneura’ (Maranta leuconeura)
- ‘‘Fascinator’ (Maranta leuconeura)
Calatheas are a species of flowers also belonging to the Marantaceae family. They are commonly called prayer-plants like Marantas and some relatives in the same family; however, not all Calatheas “pray.”
There are around 200 species of flowers that used to belong under ‘Calatheas’ but are now in a new species called Goeppertia. The confirmed Calathea species are around 60.
As their relatives of the arrowroot family, they also grow in humid and tropical weather, which makes them commonly found in tropical Americas.
Calatheas are common house-grown plants due to their decorative foliage and beautiful colors. They have purple on the underside of their leaves, which adds to their aesthetic.
They are known to grow upright and tend to be bushier with larger leaves.
Some of the most popular Calatheas are :
- ‘Round-Leaf Calathea’ ( Calathea orbifolia)
- ‘Rattlesnake Plant’ (Calathea lancifolia)
- ‘Furry Feather’ (Calathea rufibarba)
- ‘Corona’ (Calathea roseopicta)
Some similarities between both plants are that they both require low lighting and high humidity. Too much of anything is always bad, which is why prayer-plants, in general, are found to be somewhat picky sometimes. So, until the owner knows the exact amounts that suit their plant, it is stick to basics then divert.
Both plants are prone to all kinds of insect pests like mealybugs and spider mites. Prayer plants require a more horizontal pot rather than deep pots to provide comfort for their roots.
Both plants are known for their gorgeous leaves. However, Calatheas are known to have more complex patterns and detail that would appear surreal! While Mantra leaves are more oval and have prominent veins, Calathea leaves are more colorful, patterned, and usually have bolder colors like purple on the underside of their leaves.
Though both don’t require a lot of watering, Calatheas are known to sometimes need a bit more water than Marantas. They both prefer their soil to be moist, not soggy, so be careful not to overwater them.
All prayer-plants are picky about their water, so make sure it is filtered or without any chemicals like fluoride, which could result in burning the foliage and root rotting.
The best options for watering these picky plants are using distilled water or leaving tap water out overnight and not using it immediately.
If your plant’s leaves start curling up and become crunchy at the edges, chances are it’s thirsty and needs you to stick to a better watering schedule.
Given the “praying,” it’s no question that lighting is super important to the plants. Though, in general, both prefer low lighting, their tolerance to light is something you still need to explore since they prefer indirect light.
Some signs to help you understand if your plant is getting too much light or too little light is whether its leaves are curling up and unfurling at the right times.
Leaves that don’t curl up might imply that the plant is getting too much light which could result in burned edges. If the plants get too much direct sunlight, the color of their leaves might start fading.
Make sure not to overwork your plant. By nature, these plants tolerate harsh conditions, so growing is something they do best.
If you want to increase the growth spurt of the plant, you can fertilize it using liquid fertilizer during the warmer months of the year. For the best growth results, fertilize your plant once every two weeks during early spring.
It isn’t recommended that you fertilize the plant during winter so you can give it a break. Sometimes prayer-plants will go dormant for the winter, so they won’t need as many nutrients.
Like all plants, make sure your pots are appropriate to the size of your prayer-plants. There should be drainage holes to ensure that any excess water leaves the soil.
Since Marantas grow in vines and are not stem-based, some owners even use hanging pots to allow the Marantas to grow horizontally.
Putting your finger and removing the plant to check the root ball should indicate how well the roots are growing. If the roots are too dense, then it’s most likely time for a bigger pot.
You should re-pot the plants every two to three years to maintain stable growth.
Seeds and blooms are quite rare in prayer-plants which makes it hard to find and collect viable seeds to regrow. Instead, the preferred method of growth is propagation and stem cutting.
Finding and cutting the nodes on the prayer plant to propagate is easy and saves the original plant from overcrowding if it has too many leaves growing.
Though both plants are known to be tropical and prefer humidity, the Marantas are known to have the ability to endure colder weather better than Calatheas.
A Calathea might droop and struggle if the temperature drops under 60 degrees F / 16 C.
Many plant owners advise prayer plant keepers to buy a humidifier or keep misting the leaves to ensure enough humidity is in the air for the plant.
Though Marantras are commonly found in the wild and are considerably tolerant, Calathea only blooms in the wild. Most Calathea types rarely bloom indoors.
There are certain calathea species that bloom, but overall the vast diversity of the plants’ leaves compensates for the lack of flowers.
If you are eager to get your prayer plant to bloom, make sure you provide it with all the essentials we’ve mentioned earlier, most importantly, humidity and a good fertilizing regimen.
Keep in mind that though the bloom can last for months, the flowers have a short life span and will wilt, fall then be replaced by a new flower.
Sunlight is important for the prayer plant to appropriately grow and know when to curl up and when to unfold.
Make sure you place your plant in an area with medium to low lighting and that it isn’t exposed to any harsh sun rays.
Due to the importance of water quality for prayer-plants, some chemicals will result in yellow spots appearing on your prayer plant’s leaves. Be sure to use distilled or filtered water.
The other common reason is a fungus, in which case don’t worry it will go away with any household fungicide.
This is an indication that you may be overwatering your prayer plant and even resulting in potential root rot, which means there isn’t water getting to your plant’s leaves and stem.
Repot the plant and make sure to gently remove the soil and any decaying roots, then make the adjustments to its watering schedule so that the soil is only damp and not drowning all the time.
Though it might seem like a lot, prayer-plants don’t really want anything else after you’ve found the right combinations of humidity, light, and water. So instead of worrying about the details of maranta vs calathea, focus on providing the right combination of growth elements for your prayer plant.