Why Your Prayer Plant Isn’t Growing New Leaves

Prayer plants are famous for their unique leaves that fold upwards at night. They’re also priced for their exquisite leaf markings, making them perfect indoor foliage plants. That’s why the absence of new leaves in prayer plants can be alarming for any gardener.

Your prayer plant isn’t growing new leaves due to insufficient sunlight or poor soil nutrients. Moreover, prayer plants typically grow new leaves actively in the summer and slow down or stop during the cold months, so it’s natural for your plant to stop growing leaves in the fall or winter.

In the rest of the article, I will discuss in more detail why your prayer plant isn’t growing new leaves. I’ll also share what you can do to encourage them to grow thicker foliage. Read on to learn more about how to achieve that bushy look you want to see from your prayer plants! 

Reasons Why Prayer Plants Aren’t Growing New Leaves

Like most plants, prayer plants (Maranta leuconeura) won’t produce new and healthy shoots if some of their basic growth requirements are not met. Here are some issues that can result in the absence of new leaves in prayer plants:

Inadequate Sunlight

Prayer plants need warm days and adequate sunlight to grow new leaves. Most Maranta species thrive in partial shade or 4-6 hours of bright, indirect sunlight.

Growing your prayer plant in full shade during spring and summer will cause them to become leggy in search of a good light source to facilitate photosynthetic activities. As they become leggy, they won’t have enough energy to form new leaves, thus limiting or preventing new growth.

If you want to learn how to fix a prayer plant that’s growing sideways, you can read my article about it here: How to Fix a Prayer Plant That’s Growing Sideways

Low Nutrient Levels

Soil nutrients are essential for any plant’s overall health. Some plants need more of a particular nutrient than others. For instance, foliage plants like prayer plants require more nitrogen for lusher and healthier leaves.

Low nitrogen levels in the plant can significantly reduce the number of new leaves formed and affect the plant’s other metabolic functions.

Other supporting nutrients, such as magnesium, that facilitate the transport of nitrogen from the roots to the shoots are also necessary. Shortage or lack of these nutrients can compromise your plant’s growth and development.

Therefore, it’s necessary to ensure that your soil has sufficient nutrients to meet your plant’s growth requirements.

In addition, soil pH can affect how well your plant’s roots can absorb certain nutrients, so it is something worth considering when trying to resolve why your prayer plants aren’t growing new leaves.

Most prayer plants prefer pH levels between 5.5 and 6.0. Such levels are ideal for optimum magnesium absorption. Alkaline soils can prevent your plant’s roots from taking in magnesium from the soil.

Insufficient Water

Water is necessary to deliver nutrients to the different parts of the plant. If your prayer plant doesn’t get sufficient water from the soil or the air to transport nutrients, it can negatively affect the plant’s growth, resulting in stunted growth and fewer leaves.

The existing leaves may dry up and fall off the plant prematurely. In addition, the plant may struggle to produce new leaves if it can’t transport enough nitrogen from the soil to the shoots.

Insufficient Space for the Roots To Grow

Plants’ stems and leaves typically spread as much as the roots and maintain a balanced root-to-shoot ratio. This trait ensures that the plant roots can provide sufficient moisture and nutrients for the shoots aboveground.

Prayer plants tend to spread wide, requiring a large pot to accommodate growth. So if your plant is growing in a pot that restricts the root size, you may have difficulty seeing new leaves on your plant until the issue has been resolved.

Low Temperatures and Shorter Days

Prayer plants are naturally evergreen plants in their native habitat or tropical regions. However, after being introduced as a houseplant in the US, these tropical plants exhibited reduced activities during cold months, often likened to dormancy or hibernation.

When temperatures drop below 70 °F (21.1 °C), prayer plants take it as a sign to reduce activities. As a result, the plants will stop forming new leaves to preserve their energy.

Moreover, shorter exposure to sunlight is another environmental signal for plants to enter dormancy gradually.

So if your prayer plants aren’t growing new leaves in the fall or winter, that shouldn’t be a cause for concern. As the temperatures warm and the amount of sunlight increases in the spring, your plant will perk up and start producing new and healthy leaves.

How To Encourage Your Prayer Plant To Grow New Leaves

If your prayer plants aren’t growing new leaves, you don’t have to worry, as they can bounce back and produce new healthy leaves after addressing the underlying issues.

Here are some tips to ensure your prayer plant grows new leaves next spring or summer: 

Grow Your Prayer Plant Next to a Bright Window

Prayer plants grown in USDA Zones below 11 are best grown as a houseplant to protect them from the fluctuating temperatures between day and night. Even indoors, they still need adequate sunlight to ensure the leaves stay vibrant during the day.

Choose a bright eastern window or a lightly curtained western window for your potted prayer plants. The gentle morning sun is perfect for prayer plants. However, the scorching afternoon sun can burn their leaves. That’s why you need light white curtains for protection.

It may be best to avoid the southern window as it typically receives the most amount of sunlight during the day in North American homes and gardens. Although prayer plants love sunlight, too much can damage their beautiful foliage.

Feed Your Prayer Plant a Nitrogen-Rich Fertilizer

Prayer plants are not heavy feeders but can benefit from an occasional nutrient boost with a nitrogen-rich liquid fertilizer. You can use half-strength fertilizers to avoid burns.

If you’re looking for an excellent fertilizer for your prayer plants, you can try the Aquatic Arts Indoor Plant Food (available on Amazon.com). This product is easy to use and has a 3-1-2 NPK ratio, ideal for foliage plants like Maranta species.

In spring and throughout the growing season, you can feed your prayer plants with liquid fertilizer about once a month. It will give them a boost to replace worn-out leaves with younger and more vibrant ones.

Also, monitor your soil pH to ensure that your plant can absorb all the soil nutrients it needs.

Water Your Prayer Plant Adequately During the Growing Season

Like most plants, prayer plants prefer consistently damp soil with good aeration, water retention, and drainage properties. As long as you meet these conditions, you can easily create a suitable watering schedule for your plant.

Water your plant regularly and adequately to ensure they remain hydrated and encourage shoot growth, including leaf production. Avoid overwatering your plant to prevent fungal infections.

Re-Pot Your Prayer Plant When the Roots Get Too Big

As your prayer plant grows, you might unknowingly neglect the root growth occurring under the soil, resulting in your plant becoming root-bound. When this happens, your plant will manifest several symptoms, such as stunted growth and failure to produce new leaves.

Prayer plants are naturally perennials, so it’s understandable for some gardeners to leave their plants’ soil unbothered for a few years. However, prayer plants need repotting every one to two years to prevent the roots from being bound.

When repotting your prayer plant, remove visibly damaged roots and prune drying or weaker leaves. It can help reduce the amount of work the roots need to do to feed the shoots.

Choose a larger pot that can accommodate the size of the grown root ball and ensure that the roots appear healthy before repotting. That way, you’ll have better chances of seeing new leaf growth the following year.

Prune Worn-Out or Damaged Leaves

Instead of maintaining old and damaged leaves, you can encourage your prayer plant to grow new and healthy ones with occasional pruning. Use sterile pruning shears, and cut the leaves from the stem just above a node.

Final Thoughts

Prayer plants are highly valued due to their stunning foliage. So if your plant doesn’t produce new leaves, it can be pretty alarming.

The condition can be due to any of the following:

  • Insufficient sunlight
  • Poor nutrient levels
  • Poor watering practices
  • Insufficient space for the roots in the pot
  • Low temperatures and dark conditions

The solutions are pretty straightforward. Ensure that plant has the following growing conditions:

  • 4-6 hours of indirect sunlight
  • Adequate soil nutrients
  • pH levels between 5.5 and 6.0
  • Regular watering routine
  • Enough space for the roots to spread in the pot

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of TheGrowingLeaf.com, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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