6 Reasons Why a Prayer Plant Looks Leggy

Prayer plants naturally tend to spread but can be trained to grow upright and bushy with proper pruning and growing techniques. Under the right care, plenty of leaves grow from the stems during the growing season. However, certain conditions can cause your prayer plant to look leggy and with fewer leaves.

A prayer plant looks leggy when it isn’t getting enough sunlight due to wrong positioning or failure to relocate it during darker months. Environmental changes can also cause your plant to suddenly become leggy. Another possible reason is overfertilizing with nitrogen during the growing season.

Although insufficient sunlight is the primary reason your prayer plant looks leggy, several associated issues contribute to your plant’s failure to get the right amount of light they need. I’ll discuss these issues in more detail and provide tips on how to overcome them. Read on!

1. Your Prayer Plant Is Not Getting Enough Sunlight

This plant variety needs bright but indirect sunlight to grow its best. Too much sun will scorch their beautiful foliage, but too little can result in numerous problems, such as fewer leaves and legginess. 

Therefore, finding and providing the right amount of sunlight is crucial for your prayer plant’s optimum health. But it can be quite tricky and requires much time and patience to figure out.

Various regions in the US have different light intensities and durations of daylight hours. That’s why it’s important to understand how the light conditions in your area can affect your houseplants.

A good rule of thumb is to provide your prayer plant with 6-8 hours of bright, indirect light. The light intensity in your area may be too bright or too dim for prayer plants, and they will show you their displeasure through the appearance of their leaves.

Finding the best condition if you’ve just started growing a prayer plant can take some time and trial and error. What works for other gardeners might not always work for you because of varied home conditions.

But once you get used to it and understand your plant’s needs better, it’ll be easier to tell when and how to make adjustments to get those fascinating leaves to grow bushier and less leggy. 

For instance, you can employ the following methods to adjust the light intensity your prayer plant receives:

  • Place light curtains on glass doors or windows during extremely sunny and bright days.
  • Rotate your prayer plant pot at a 90° angle daily to ensure all leaves receive enough sunlight. Otherwise, the part that receives less light will become leggy or wilt.
  • Move your prayer plant outdoors (in a shady area of the garden) on mild days when daytime and nighttime temperatures are between 65 and 70°F (18.3 and 21.1°C).
  • Switch on grow lights next to your prayer plant for 6-8 hours during the day when it’s too cold to take it outdoors but too dark indoors.

You can also find more tips in my other article: How to Fix a Prayer Plant That’s Growing Sideways

2. Your Prayer Plant Is in the Wrong Place

Some new gardeners get prayer plants from gardening stores and buy cuttings, hoping to grow the same beauty in their homes. However, they get disappointed when the plant doesn’t grow as beautifully as the mother plant in the store.

I’ve experienced this a few times and found that one of the primary reasons houseplants become leggy or grow less attractively is when you put them in the wrong place in your home. The proper placement of houseplants matters more than you think.

Some issues that occur with wrong placement include humidity problems and poor light conditions. This is because finding a location with the appropriate balance between a prayer plant’s humidity and light needs is pretty challenging.

A kitchen or a bathroom is often highly recommended for houseplants that require relatively higher humidity levels of 50-60%. However, depending on the design or location of these rooms, the plant might not get enough air circulation or sunlight.

Although prayer plants can tolerate partial shade to low-light conditions, they still need adequate sunlight to support photosynthesis and other metabolic activities.

Moreover, a prayer plant’s beauty is wasted in the bathroom or kitchen. This plant is ideally placed in rooms where you and your guests can enjoy its lovely foliage. So proper planning is necessary when deciding how to set up your indoor garden.

3. You Didn’t Move Your Prayer Plant to a Sunnier Location

Some years are colder and darker than others, with long winters and shorter daylight hours. Although your prayer plant used to get by comfortably even without moving to a different spot all year round, this may not always be the case.

If you noticed that your prayer plant suddenly became leggy when it wasn’t like that in the previous years, chances are your plant is asking to be moved to a sunnier location. Failure to do so will encourage the plant to continue growing its stems in search of light.

If there aren’t suitable locations in your home to move your prayer plant to in case of colder and darker days, you can set up grow lights to provide the plant with adequate light.

If you would like to explore your options on how to give indoor plants enough light to grow, check out my article: How To Give Indoor Plants Enough Light To Grow

4. New Structures Are Blocking the Sunlight

If you have been keeping a careful watch and making proper adjustments to meet the needs of your prayer plant every season, seeing your plant suddenly becoming leggy despite your efforts can be stressful.

In addition to changes in environmental conditions, you must also pay attention to the possibility of new structures being built around your plant. These new structures may be within your home, outside, or in the neighborhood.

For instance, a new high-rise building or multi-story house in your neighborhood can suddenly block your naturally bright east-facing window. As a result, your prayer plant can become leggy in search of a better light source.

While new buildings are beyond your control, you can adjust the conditions in your home. This is another situation where having grow lights can be a lifesaver for your houseplants.

5. You Fed Your Prayer Plant Too Much Nitrogen

Prayer plants are evergreen plants in their natural tropical environment. On the other hand, when grown as a houseplant in colder regions, they tend to become less active during cold months, resembling a dormancy period. 

This occurs if you can’t maintain a suitable temperature for them in winter. It shouldn’t be a cause for alarm when you notice your prayer plant slowing down its growth and even halting leaf formation during autumn and winter.

During this time, you can stop fertilizing your prayer plant and reduce the watering frequency. When the temperatures become warmer during the spring, you can start fertilizing your prayer plant again.

You can use a balanced fertilizer and avoid those with higher nitrogen. This will prevent growth spurts that result in legginess.

I recommend Miracle-Gro Indoor Plant Food (available on Amazon.com). This product contains a balanced NPK ratio of 1-1-1. Its liquid form makes it easy to apply directly into the soil. You can also dilute it in water for a safe weekly application.

6. You Didn’t Prune the Leggy Stems Properly

Addressing the issues with light and nutrients is essential to help your prayer plant thrive. However, you also need to remove the existing leggy stems. Otherwise, they will just continue to grow longer.

You should prune your prayer plant 2-3 times a year so that it can develop a fuller appearance. Ideally, you should prune your plant in the fall to remove leggy stems before the plant becomes dormant in the winter.

For prevention, consider pruning your prayer plant in the early spring. Pruning just before the growing season can encourage a more compact growth of new leaves. Maintaining a sound pruning schedule for your prayer plants can prevent future issues with legginess.

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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