Why Do Prayer Plants Pray?

Have you ever wondered what plant movements’ look like and how the way some of them do? Do you want to know why they move at all? If so, you must be fascinated by praying plants since they are the most popular moving plants.

Why Do Prayer Plants Pray?

As you can imagine, the praying of praying plants is not religious at all. They pray due to certain biological functions of the plant. There are a few very interesting things about the Marantaceae family that have earned it the praying plant synonym.

These plants are called prayer plants because they follow a systematic movement that looks like they’re praying. Their long and droopy leaves turn upward before the dark in the appearance of evening vespers.

They open their leaves and lay them flat during the day. This is probably done to catch the light.

However, when it is about to get dark, they either move them upwards or curl themselves inwards. This upward or inward movement looks like they are praying.

All praying plants, however, have different degrees of movement. While some plants move upwards aggressively and obviously, others make very slight to no movement at all. The best way to monitor or register your praying plant’s movements is by making a time-lapse of it.

You must wonder that if plant movements are possible, why are they exclusive to some? Why do not all plants do it? This is because not all plants require the same kind of external protection.

Every plant has different ways of protecting themselves from external threats or fungus. Nyctinastic movement is the praying plants’ way to do so.

Since the natural habitat of praying plants in rainforests, they have developed this specific way of protection. In their natural cycle and natural habitat, praying plants open up and spread their leaves during the day. This is done to soak as much sunlight as possible.

However, while they spread their leaves in a rainforest, they also get wet due to the rain that falls onto them. Once the leaves have soaked enough sunlight, they have no purpose of keeping their leaves open to catch more rain. This is why they close themselves to gain protection from the harsh climatic conditions.

It is crucial for these plants not to get too much rain into them. This is because plants, in general, and especially tropical plants, do not like getting wet. The combination of warmth and moisture is detrimental to their growth since they facilitate bacterial and fungal growth.

By closing their leaves at night, praying plants to ensure that rain does not enter and destroy them. It is a crucial survival mechanism that is not exclusive to praying plants but is rare in other plant species.

What Are Prayer Plants?

Prayer plants are also called praying hands. Do not get confused; we will explain why shortly.

These plants belong to a group of a plant family called Marantaceae. Praying plants include species such as Maranta Leuconeura, Somanthe, Ctenanthe, and Calathea.

These plants are typical to the tropical regions of the Western hemisphere. They are also placed as houseplants in temperate regions. These plants are low-growing, flowering, and vegetative with rhizomes. They are evergreen perennial.

Some varieties of praying plants have emerald green shades along the midrib. This color slowly changes to moss green as they advance in age. They have geometrical patterns on them that are in contrasting shades of green.

Ornamental varieties of praying plants such as the Maranta Leuconeura develop an astounding red venation. The underside of such ornamental plants could be purple-green or gray-green. Flowers that are borne of prayer plants are usually white or pale purple. They grow in the form of small spikes. However, houseplant variants hardly ever bloom or vegetate.

How Do Praying Plants Move to Pray?

A question that comes to mind when we think of praying plant movements is, how do they move at all? Plants do not have tendons and muscles that could aid such movements, then how do they manage to move?

While it is true that plants do not have muscles and tendons, they do have other plant structures that help them move. But before we understand how this happens, let us understand what this phenomenon of nocturnal movement even is.

When plants like praying plants move in response to darkness, their movements are called sleeping movements. A better name for this, however, is the Nyctinastic movement. These movements are natural to the plants and are performed daily.

Nyctinastic movement is independent of growth, which means that it is permanent to the plant’s life. It is a circadian rhythm that adheres to the 24-hour clock. While this Nyctinastic movement cycle makes it look like a Maranta plant is praying, it is only a protection mechanism.

How Do Nyctinastic Movements Occur?

As mentioned earlier, plants do not have the human organs and agents that could help them move. They do, however, have plant agents and organs that aid in the Nyctinastic movement. The reason why pants can move is because of a motor organ called Pulvinus.

This motor organ is situated at the base of leaflets and leaves. If you look closely at a praying plant, you will be able to locate them easily in the form of swelling around the base of a leaf.

Plant movements are possible because of the pulvinus cells that swell and shrink. This swelling and shrinking occur in response to turgor pressure developed in the leaves in accordance with the circadian rhythm of a plant’s day.

This swelling and shrinking are responsible for the visible movement of praying plants’ leaves. This movement is called praying to pray plants.

Where is the Best Place to Put a Praying Plant?

Praying plants generally require extensive care. They need proper light, humidity, and watering to stay healthy. They need a rainforest-like environment to survive. Praying plants do well with bright to medium indirect light. If the plants do not get enough light, they will not bother to pray at all.

Praying plants also require a warm and humid environment due to its rainforest origin. They require 100% humidity, which can be tricky to provide in a house. However, using a humidifier can help raise the humidity in your home. I recommend the Levoit humidifier (Amazon link).


Prayer plants are a unique creation of nature. They are beautiful, intelligent, and have fascinating prayer movements. Sleeping movements in plants is fairly uncommon, which makes praying plants stand out.

Keeping them in houses can be difficult because of their strict necessities. However, if you want to, there are some ways in which you can take care of them. With proper moisture, light, soil, and watering, you will be able to see a praying plant pray every night.