Skip to Content

Prayer Plant Leaves Curling & Browning? Top 5 Reasons Why

Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links.

Like many plant problems, curling prayer plant leaves and browning can be caused by a number of different reasons, and this post contains 5 different reasons that will help you determine exactly what’s going on.

These tips apply to any plants that are part of the Marantaceae family whether it is the red prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura) or even Calathea plants. Here are 5 top reasons why your prayer plant leaves can curl.

prayer-plant-leaf-curling

5 REASONS FOR PRAYER PLANT LEAVES CURLING

CAUSE #1: SOIL TOO DRY

Potting soil that has gone completely dry is detrimental to prayer plants and probably the most common reason for curling.

Not only will it cause curling, but it can also cause brown tips on your foliage as well. This is the quickest way to kill your prayer plant if you are negligent with watering. This is not a plant that tolerates neglect well!

Prayer plants like a consistently moist potting mix so try and avoid letting them go completely dry. They detest dry conditions of any sort.

A good rule of thumb is to wait until the top inch or so is dry before watering again. If your plant has gone completely dry, make sure that you give your plant a thorough soaking and allow all excess water to drain away.

If your potting mix has gone really dry, you may have to water your plant several times in a row in order to recondition the soil to accept water again. Make sure to use enough water and keep streaming it through until your potting mix is thoroughly moistened again.

If you are watering and the water seems to go straight through the drainage holes very quickly, then you know you’ll need to work at rewetting your soil. Use warm water and run it through several times. Or you can bottom water your plant for a while until the potting mix is thoroughly moistened once again.

Always avoid using cold water as this can shock your plant.

prayer-plant-leaf-curl
Photo credit: David J. Stang, CC BY-SA 4.0

CAUSE #2. SOIL TOO WET

Ironically, having soil that is too wet can also cause your prayer plant leaves to curl as well. Good drainage is a must and having a drainage hole is always recommended.

Pay special attention when you water your plant, even if you have drainage holes. Never allow your plant to sit in water for extended periods of time. Always discard excess water that happens to collect either in your plant’s saucer or inside your cachepot or decorative pot.

It’s easy to become lazy sometimes and allow this to happen! Overly wet soil can also cause fungus gnats to proliferate.

If your plant is sitting in water or stays too wet for too long, root rot can easily set in. If the roots have rotted, your plant has no way to take in water to supply to the leaves, and ironically this has the same effect as “underwatering” your plant.

prayer-plant-leaf-curl
Photo credit: João Medeiros, CC BY 2.0

CAUSE #3. POOR WATER QUALITY

Prayer plants can be sensitive to water quality, particularly if you are using tap water. There are a lot of additives found in tap water (various chlorine compounds, fluoride, minerals) that can accumulate in your soil and cause curling and also browning.

If you use a water softening system in your home, many of these replace the calcium and magnesium ions with sodium ions. Sodium is toxic to plants and can cause both browning and curling of your leaves and eventual death over time.

Rain water is best for prayer plants, but you can also use filtered water, RO water or even distilled water.

prayer-plant-leaf-curl
Photo credit: Patrice78500, CC BY-SA 3.0

CAUSE #4. TEMPERATURE EXTREMES

Being native to the jungles of Brazil, prayer plants like it warm and they enjoy a consistently stable environment in your home.

Avoid situating your plant in front of a cooling or heating vent, and avoid drafty windows.

prayer-plant-leaf-curling
Photo credit: David J. Stang, CC BY-SA 4.0

CAUSE #5. LOW HUMIDITY

These plants are tropical plants from the jungles of Brazil, so it is no wonder that they they will protest in our stale, dry indoor air.

Try and create a more humid environment indoors if at all possible, especially if you run forced air heat like I do in the winter months.

To increase your humidity level, you have a few options. You can use a humidity tray or make a pebble tray where you can add water and set your plant on top. Water will evaporate and create a more humid microclimate for your plant.

Or you can purchase a humidifier.

Since I have a lot of plants, running a humidifier is the most efficient and practical method for me.

Creating a more humid environment will also help deter spider mites since they tend to proliferate in dry air.

Put that spray bottle down though. Misting does nothing to increase the humidity of your air, contrary to popular practice. It can even contribute to fungal disease if you overdo it, especially if your air circulation is poor.

Looking to purchase a special prayer plant? One of my favorite and most convenient one-stop-shops to buy practically any plant is Etsy. Check out the prayer plant selection (link to Etsy) today!

SOME ADDITIONAL PRAYER PLANT CARE TIPS

  • Keep in mind that all plants in the Marantaceae family will “pray” and their leaves fold up at night time, and then relax them back down during the day. This is not to be confused as being a problem! This response to light is called photonastic movement and prayer plants and Oxalis triangularis are great examples of this phenomenon.
  • Prayer plants thrive in bright indirect light, so avoid any intense sunlight, especially mid-day direct sun. Too much direct sunlight can cause curling leaves (especially since it will accelerate the rate at which your soil dries out). A couple hours of morning sun or late afternoon sun is safe enough though indoors, especially in the winter months.
  • Situate your plant right in front of a northern window (if you’re in the northern hemisphere) or a southern window (if you’re in the southern hemisphere). These will provide enough light (all indirect) for your plant to thrive. An Eastern facing window with morning sun is also great since morning sun is gentler. If you have super sunny windows, use a sheer curtain to diffuse the sun.

If you keep your plant too far from a window in a dark spot, this will increase the time it takes for your soil to dry out, and can potentially lead to root rot and leaf curl, especially if you have your plant in a pot that is too large and poorly draining soil. Not to mention, it will slow down your plant’s growth rate.

prayer-plant-leaf-curling

Are you having any issues with your prayer plants? Comment below. I’d love to hear!

Please do me a favor and share this post to social media because it will help me spread the Ohio Tropics houseplant care tips to the masses! Also, check out my shop on Amazon for all your houseplant care needs:

OHIO TROPICS PLANT CARE STOREFRONT

Marsha

Tuesday 20th of September 2022

I have had my prayer plant for years, repotted last year, it has been growing and flourishing, all of a sudden a few leaves turned yellow and the tops were still growing ,leaves began to curl and looks terrible, need to save it but how?

Raffaele

Wednesday 21st of September 2022

Did anything change lately? Is it super root bound? Any change in light, watering, fertilization, etc?

Maddy

Monday 22nd of August 2022

I've had a gorgeous prayer plant for two years now. It's been in the same spot this whole time and has been super happy with tons of new growth. This summer it's suddenly struggling, and over half of the plant has died off. One section will wilt and eventually shrivel up and go brown. I've been watering as normal. Any thoughts?

Raffaele

Tuesday 23rd of August 2022

Hi Maddy! Has your plant gotten really pot bound? If you've kept a strict watering schedule, and your plant has grown a lot (which is sounds like it has), it may be a little constricted in its pot and it may be time for a bigger pot perhaps. Are you finding that when it's time to water that the potting mix is drier than it used to be?

JJ

Sunday 24th of July 2022

My Calathea Peacock looks healthy. I wonder about some of the leaves pointing down. They are not limp or curling or discolored, they just lay vertically and show only the "top" side of the leaf out. I don't think it used to do this, but I did recently move it nearer to the north facing window. It used to be 6 feet away but it stopped folding up at night, so I put it near the window sill, on a pebble tray, and I mist it. It's been hot the past week. Is it too much heat? Or is it just fine for some leaves to point down? Thank you for all your wonderful advice. I love your book and your blog!

Raffaele

Monday 25th of July 2022

Glad you are enjoying my book and blog :-). If there is excessive heat, it could be a cause for sure.

Kaitlyn

Thursday 21st of July 2022

My prayer plant was doing well and lately not so much. A leaf or two is yellowing. My soil also has large cracks in it. There seems to be little to no new leaves growing

Raffaele

Thursday 21st of July 2022

Did the soil dry out excessively? They definitely don't like this. Aim to keep the potting mix pretty evenly moist.

Ping

Wednesday 29th of June 2022

My prayer plant was doing really great until recently.

Some of the leaves curled and the plant stopped “praying” in the evening.

I have done all of the recommendations above (i.e., water regularly with filtered water; make sure no water accumulation; use humidifier; and provide light but no direct sun light). Still no improvement after 2 weeks.

Also I don’t see any new growths.

Any suggestions?

Thank you! Ping

Ping

Wednesday 29th of June 2022

@Raffaele, Thanks for your reply. The curling and stop praying happened kind of suddenly. There were no sudden environmental changes. I live in California. I can send you a photo if it will help. Ping

Raffaele

Wednesday 29th of June 2022

Did it dry out or experience some stress in some way (cold weather, etc)?