By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao

Every year, people curate a series of lucky or trendy items based on different beliefs. With no way of knowing what’s in store for us, hoping for a little luck by going with trends may just make things a little easier to bear since it may serve as a guide on what we can do to face the days ahead. 

For 2021, the prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura) or Calathea takes the scene. 

Named after Bartolomeo Maranta, an Italian physician and botanist of the sixteenth century, the prayer plant species have some of the most strikingly beautiful, and decorative leaves in the plant kingdom. A well-grown prayer plant should have full, six-inch-long leaves that rise from a short center stem and drapes down.

The prayer plants, also known as Calathea, is the plant to have this 2021.

Prayer plants are also common houseplants, so why is this the plant of the year this 2021?

According to Manila Bulletin’s resident horticulture enthusiast who we call JM, a characteristic of the prayer plant is that it folds its leaves upwards during the night as if it was praying or mimicking the action of raising hands to receive blessings from above. 

The most common species of prayer plants that are cultivated today are the Maranta tricolor (M. leuconeuraerythrophylla). It features bold, red veins along with the gradient green hues of its leaves. 

In feng shui, the ancient art and science that originated from China some 3,000 years ago, and Chinese culture, the color red symbolizes luck and happiness. 

How to care for the prayer plant 

Prayer plants are fairly low-growing, spreading plants that are excellent for grouped displays since these don’t reach a height of over eight inches. They thrive best under bright, indirect light and when provided with warm, moist, gentle circulation, and plenty of fertilizer–much like in a greenhouse. 

A prayer plant prefers normal household temperatures. Lower temperatures can damage their leaves. It also prefers a very humid environment and acidic soil so it’s ideal to use a peat-based potting mix with a pH of 5.5 to 6.0. General-purpose houseplant potting soil can also be used, provided that it is well-draining.

During its growing stage, water frequently and don’t allow the potting soil to dry out since these plants are very susceptible to drought. But also do not let the plant get soggy to avoid fungal problems. Reduce watering in the colder months. 

With proper care, prayer plants can live for a long time and may become that lucky charm that homeowners might need to give them a bit of sunshine during their cloudy days. And with what we experienced in 2020, asking for blessings from the heavens and taking extra precautions to get some good luck may not be a bad idea.

Photos courtesy of JM.