How to propagate a prayer plant | Multiply a Calathea!

If your prayer plant (genus Calathea) is getting a bit big or if you’d like to expand your collection, you might be wondering how to propagate a prayer plant. Although this plant can’t be propagated from cuttings like many other houseplants, multiplying it is still pretty easy.

Keep reading for everything you need to know about how to propagate a prayer plant and caring for your new Calathea afterwards.

How to propagate a prayer plant

If you’d like to propagate a prayer plant, division is the way to go. These are clumping plants, after all, and if you look closely at a mature Calathea you’ll notice that it almost always actually consists of multiple clumps of leaves.

Because it’s difficult to identify where one leaf cluster ends and another one starts, it helps to take your prayer plant out of its container in order to propagate it. Here’s how you obtain an offset to re-plant:

  • Remove your Calathea from its pot and carefully shake the excess soil off the roots.
  • In many cases, different clumps will already come loose and separate at this point.
  • You can also carefully separate them yourself. Untangle the roots with care, but don’t worry if you have to cut a few. Do make sure you use disinfected scissors or shears.
  • Each clump should have some roots of its own. It doesn’t need to have many leaves (even just one is enough), but the more, the better.

Congratulations, that’s all that’s needed to separate a prayer plant for propagation! Now, you’ll have to choose whether you’d like to propagate in water or soil.

Did you know? Unfortunately, it’s just not possible to propagate a prayer plant from cuttings. This is because of the fact that it doesn’t have stems, and leaf clusters don’t contain the necessary cells for root growth.

Calathea lancifolia, also known as the rattlesnake plant | How to propagate a prayer plant

When to propagate a prayer plant

As with other houseplants, the best time to propagate a prayer plant is during spring. This is when the growing season is ramping up and your new plants will have the energy to bounce back after being separated, which admittedly is a bit of a traumatic event for them.

Probably the best moment to separate your Calathea is if you were going to repot it anyway. Taking some clumps out and thinning out the mother plant is a great way to avoid her getting too large. If you don’t want to keep the new plants, you can always give them away or even sell them.

Propagating leaf clusters means you can keep the mother plant in the same planter and don’t have to keep upgrading to larger ones! Just make sure to provide some fresh soil to give your original Calathea a boost.

Potted up propagations of Calathea orbifolia, a popular houseplant | How to propagate a prayer plant
As long as it forms a clump of its own, even a single leaf is enough, although more is better.

Prayer plant propagation in water

Once you’ve separated your Calathea and have obtained one or multiple clumps to propagate, it’s time to choose whether you’d like to grow your new plant in water or soil.

With clumping plants like Calathea (or Alocasia, for example), water propagation is not the most popular option. This is because generally, each leaf cluster you separate from the mother plant will already have its own root system. It can keep growing almost uninterrupted and doesn’t need to be carefully rooted in water.

So should you refrain from propagating a prayer plant in water? Of course not! Even if an offset already has its own root system, it can live in a nice vase just fine. Just make sure you change the water weekly and add a drop of fertilizer now and then. This way, the plant should be able to grow in water pretty much indefinitely.

Did you know? Calatheas are also known as prayer plants because their leaves move throughout the day. According to research, both leaf elevation and the level of leaf folding varies.

Herbert & Larsen, 1985.

Prayer plant propagation in soil

You can easily pot up each of your new Calathea plants in planters of their own. Just make sure you use a suitable soil type and always go for a container with a drainage hole to prevent standing water from causing root rot!

The best soil mixture for prayer plants is something that lets excess water drain easily but does stay moist. To achieve this, you can mix potting soil with an element that increases drainage (perlite, orchid bark) as well as an element that retains moisture (sphagnum moss, coco coir). Calathea enthusiasts have noted that premade African violet soil works well for this genus.

Pop each offset that you separated from the mother plant in its own pot and lightly moisten the soil. Place the plant in a location with bright, indirect light and good air moisture levels.

Your new Calathea might initially focus on getting its root system in order and seem to be inactive, but it should usually quickly resume putting out new leaves.

Tip: Don’t worry if your brand new prayer plant looks a bit limp after potting it up. Although prayer plant cuttings taken by division already have their own root system, they still don’t like being ripped apart and potted up, so they need some time to recover.

Rattlesnake plant (Calathea lancifolia), a popular houseplant.

How to propagate a prayer plant from seed

If you’ve found a shop that sells Calathea seeds, you might be wondering if you can also propagate a prayer plant from seed. Sure, it can be done at home, although it’s a project that requires some patience.

Before starting, make sure that the prayer plant seeds you found are actually legit. Pretty much all sellers on Amazon or AliExpress unfortunately sell fake seeds, so don’t fall for these scams! You’re better off trying to find a specialized website or hobbyist group.

If you did manage to obtain some Calathea seeds, here’s how you can grow them into brand new prayer plants for your collection:

  • Use a seedling tray or some standard plastic nursery pots filled with a well-draining soil medium like peat or potting soil mixed with coarse sand.
  • Push the seeds into the soil until they’re just covered and place the pots in a nice, bright and warm location with high air humidity. Keep the medium lightly moist.
  • It helps to cover the pots with plastic wrap or use the plastic dome that came with your seedling tray. This helps keep the humidity in. Remove the cover once the seeds have sprouted, which can take a few weeks.
  • If all goes well, you can repot the seedlings once they’ve reached an inch or two (around 5cm) in height.
Juvenile Calathea roseopicta (rose painted prayer plant, a common houseplant.
Calathea roseopicta, the rose painted prayer plant.

Caring for Calathea

Prayer plants are very popular houseplants due to their amazing foliage and, in some species, their flowers. Unfortunately, though, they’re rainforest plants that don’t always thrive in our dry homes.

So how do you make sure your brand new Calatheas do well? We already discussed potting and soil above, but here are some other care requirements to keep in mind.

  • Light. Because prayer plants are part of the rainforest understory, they’re not used to scorching direct sun. That doesn’t mean they can be grown in the dark, though: they like nice and bright, indirect light.
  • Water. Rainforests are pretty humid places, but that doesn’t mean your prayer plant’s soil should be soaked at all times. Keep the soil lightly moist, watering when the first inch or so has dried out. Reduce waterings during winter when the plant isn’t actively growing.
  • Humidity. Again, rainforests are humid, which means Calathea loves high air humidity and won’t do well without it. This is where things go south for many houseplant enthusiasts with this species: our homes can be pretty dry. Consider grouping plants together, running a humidifier or even growing your prayer plant in a terrarium.
  • Fertilizer. These are not heavy feeders, but if your prayer plant is growing well, you can use a diluted general houseplant fertilizer once every few weeks. Stop fertilizing during the winter months.
  • Problems. As mentioned earlier, your new prayer plants might sulk for a bit after being separated from the mother plant. Other common issues include root rot due to overwatering, lack of humidity and bugs like spider mites. You can learn more in the article about problems with Calathea.

Tip: If you’d still like to learn more about how to care for your prayer plant, head over to the full guide to caring for Calathea.


If you have any more questions about how to propagate a prayer plant or if you want to share your own experience with the amazing genus Calathea, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

Sources

Herbert, T. J., & Larsen, P. B. (1985). Leaf movement in Calathea lutea (Marantaceae). Oecologia67(2), 238-243.

Marijke Puts
About Marijke Puts
Marijke Puts has Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Science and is from The Netherlands. She has a certified master gardener and loves everything about houseplants and gardening.

7 thoughts on “How to propagate a prayer plant | Multiply a Calathea!”

  1. My Calethea was doing so well and all of a sudden the leafs started curling. I thought I had overwatered but just found today that a whole clump of leafs broke off. Can I rescue them or not? And how? I put them in filtered water I hate to lose this plant It has taken me years to finally know how to care for it and now this. Help.

    Reply
    • Calatheas are absolutely considered part of the prayer plants along with other common members of the Marantaceae family like Maranta, Ctenanthe and Stromanthe 🙂 They ‘pray’ just like these other species.

      Reply
  2. Hi, very helpful article! I divided my Calathea Zebrina recently to give the individual clusters and plants more space to grow; I re-planted them all together in the same pot with some fresh soil but more spaced out. Unfortunately, the morning after, my dear Zebrina looked everything but happy (almost all leaves were hanging down). Is my beautiful calathea doomed or do they usually recover?

    Reply
  3. I want to divide my calathea to get rid of a lot of dying, yellowing leaves. It looks like the center of the plant that I initially bought a few months ago did not fair well, but there is a lot of new growth that I would like to keep. After dividing and keeping the new growth, can I simply repot all of those divisions together again in the same pot? I’m not interested in having multiple.

    Reply

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