Meet the houseplant: Maranta leuconeura ‘Fascinator’

Or Prayer plant

This stunning plant has one of the most intricate leaf patterns I’ve seen: red stripes diagonally laid out spiralling off from the central vein, against a backdrop of dark green and light green. Its delicate looks belie a pretty robust constitution, as it’s happy enough to grow and look great without much care or attention and in quite shaded positions.

It’s often called a prayer plant, be a

Light: The ideal scenario is bright indirect light — close to a North or East facing window, for example — but I’ve found it can cope with quite a lot more shade than this, though it will grow a little more slowly. Don’t leave it in direct sunlight, as this could scorch the leaves. If you find the leaf colour is starting to fade, this is also probably a sign that it’s in light that is too bright.

Water: Water regularly, but allow the top couple of inches of compost to dry out between waterings. In Spring and Summer months, about once a week or once a fortnight is usually a good bet. Reduce in winter, though do check the compost isn’t drying out too quickly because of central heating.

It won’t enjoy sitting in water, and if its roots are wet for too long, the leaves will start to turn yellow and drop off. If this happens, slip it out of its pot and check how damp the compost is at the bottom. Reduce watering until it has dried out a bit — ideally you want the compost at bottom of the pot to be feeling slightly damp and the top pretty bone dry when you’re about to water it each time.

Crispy or curling leaves, can be a sign that your maranta has been underwatered, so if this happens and the compost seems dry, give it a good soak, but make sure all the water has drained out of the bottom of the pot afterwards.

This is plant that would definitely appreciate being given rain water, rather than water from a tap. If this seems like too much hassle, try to let water sit for 24 hours before being used, or use the water from a kettle that has been previously boiled (cooled first, of course!)

Humidity: Maranta can tolerate the dry air inside our houses better than a lot of plants, but it would appreciate a little boost in humidity now an again. You can spray its leaves with a mister (ideally not using hard tap water), stand it on a gravel tray which it topped up with water, place it close to other plants (as they transpire they increase the humidity next to the leaves) or just give it a holiday to the bathroom for a week or two…

Feeding: An occasional feed in the growing season (March – September) will help it grow to its full potential. A diluted general houseplant feed given fortnightly or once a month should do the trick. Make sure to follow the directions on the bottle as too much feed can scorch the roots.

Repotting: Maranta will be happy in its pot for a while and you’re unlikely to need to repot it more than every two or three years. If the roots have started to completely fill the pot, or if you’ve had the plant a while and it suddenly starts looking unhealthy without any change to its care, then it’s probably time to move it on. Choose a pot only slightly larger than the one it is in. Use a general houseplant compost and repot in the Spring. The compost will likely have some nutrients added to it, so you won’t need to fertilise for the first few months.

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