One of the many prayer plants that are prized for their foliage pattern is the Fishbone Prayer Plant. Learn all about Ctenanthe burle-marxii care, how to provide the best environment for this plant and make it thrive.
The Ctenanthe burle-marxii gets its common name, The Fishbone Plant, from the alternating patterns of dark green strokes along its midrib resembling the fishes’ skeletal pattern. This plant’s leaves are oval, and light green originating from the plant’s base and are arranged like fans. With correct conditions, the leaves’ pattern becomes more vibrant, and the underside sports a maroon to burgundy shade.
Named after the plant enthusiast Sr. Roberto Burle Marx, who first cultivated the plant among his extensive collection of Brazillian plant species.
Like all other members of the prayer plant family under the Marantaceae classification, this plant moves its leaves depending on the presence of light. That is, the leaves of the Fishbone plant reveal its ornately adorned leaves during the day and point upwards at night.
As with many prayer plants, there is a bit of confusion when it comes to naming these. Some were reclasified in the past, some are just mistaken for other plants. So you will probably see stores selling these under the names like Maranta Amabilis, Calathea Amabilis, Stromanthe Amabilis – but this plant is not either a type of calathea or a variety of stromanthe. Ctenanthe is its own group within the prayer plant family.
How To Care For Ctenanthe burle-marxii – Fishbone Prayer Plant
- Bringing the plant home
- Light conditions
- Humidity and temperature
- Toxicity Information
- Pests and other common issues
Plant name: Ctenanthe burle-marxii
Common names: Fishbone prayer plant, Never never plant. Ctenanthe burle-marxii amabilis, Ctenanthe amabilis
You can spot it sold under the names: calathea burle-marxii, maranta burle-marxii, calathea amabilis, stromanthe amabilis, maranta amabilis…
Native to: Rainforests of Brazil
Lighting: Bright, indirect light
Care: Do not place under direct sun. Maintain a damp soil. Maintain relatively high humidity to prevent crisping tips.
Common problems: Leaf spot, root rot, yellowing leaves due to lack of light, scorched or burnt tips due to lack of humidity mineral and salt buildup from water.
Toxicity: Generally safe for humans and pets.
Bringing Ctenanthe burle-marxii Home
It’s time to welcome your new plant into your home. You, sadly, won’t be throwing a party for it with other plants as any new plant should be quarantined. Keep your newcomer away from other plants for 2 weeks or so.
As you bring it home, also make sure you inspect it for any signs of disease and pests. Keep on checking every couple of days as your plant is quarantined. You don’t want any pests or viruses spreading on to your other plants. Some plant owners also opt for treating all their new plants with insecticides to get rid of any hidden pests. This is totally up to you.
You can prune away any dead foliage.
Keep in mind, changing environment is stressful for your plant, ant the plant does need time to get used to new conditions. You might see the plant not be as perky as you want in the first few weeks. Don’t panic and give it time.
How much light does Ctenanthe burle-marxii need?
The wonderful pattern on the foliage will fade a little if it doesn’t get enough light. This plant will love bright indirect light. Morning sun and mild late afternoon sun are OK. Keeping your plant relatively near a window is optimal as the light intensity drops drastically with even small distances from the windows.
Members of the prayer plant family are sensitive to too much light too. Direct sunlight will scorch the leaves, and the soil will dry out faster too.
If you want to place your plant near a window that gets noon and strong afternoon sun, make sure the light is filtered. Either through curtains to soften the light from the sun or other means.
How often should you water Ctenanthe Amabilis?
Ctenanthe burle-marxii care is similar to caring for calathea plants, they both can be fussy and a good watering routine is especially important.
Members of the prayer plant family are most often victims of being loved to death by overwatering. Because these plants need consistently moist media, some owners tend to water them every day. Overwatering can cause the leaves to turn yellow and go limp, whereas underwatering will also turn the leaves yellow but eventually dry up.
Remember that the roots of the Ctenanthe burle-marxii are thin and fragile. These attributes make them very susceptible to root rot. Give your plant good watering when the top half-inch (finger to the first knuckle) of its media has become dry.
Do not allow the entire media to go dry as your plant will not like it and it will tell you so in the most elaborate way possible. The leaves will drop or even curl up.
Ctenanthe burle-marxii are also notorious for being picky when it comes to the water you use. Hard and chlorinated water negatively affects the leaves of your Fishbone plant. This will show as crispy tips on the leaves of your plant or along the edges. Although this can also be caused by low humidity, highly chlorinated and water with high mineral content will burn your plant’s leaves. We suggest using filtered water, rainwater, or even distilled water.
How Much Humidity Does it Need? And What is Ideal Temperature?
Correct watering and high humidity will keep your Fishbone plant from getting crispy and brown leaves. Some leaf damage can still occur even if everything is alright. It’s just the way these plants are.
Because this genus originally comes from Brazil’s rainforests, it is accustomed to living in high humidity areas. Aside from the fact that the floors of rainforests are consistently moist, the abundance of flora and canopies preserve the humidity around the plant.
We recommend levels not lower than 50% to keep your plant happy. It may be able to tolerate 40% but will eventually show signs of distress.
The Fishbone plant requires warmer temperatures to thrive well. It is very sensitive to cold winds and may die from frost if you leave it outside during winter. It is a bit more hardy than many other prayer plants, it will tolerate temperatures as low as 55°F / 12°C but absolutely prefers higher temperatures. Awerage warm room temperature is best.
Keep your plant away from cold drafts and maintain high humidity. If your home is in an area with low humidity, it may be a good idea to purchase a humidifier. This is the most convenient technique to satisfy the humidity requirement of your Fishbone plant. You can also practice regular misting with moderation on each leaf. Although misting helps increase the humidity around your plant for a short period of time, too much may cause deposits of water droplets which may lead to fungal diseases.
You can also mimic the conditions of a rainforest by placing your plants close to each other.
Read: how to increase humidity for your houseplants
Cleaning and Pruning
The Fishbone prayer plant is generous when it comes to giving new leaves. Pruning old leaves from your plant will encourage new growth.
Despite this, pruning is not necessary unless you want to tame the growth of your plant. Cut the overgrowing leaves using clean shears. The stems of the Fishbone plant are very fibrous. This means that you should never be tempted to pull out the stem on your own or cut it by breaking it. You may accidentally pull out the plant from its roots.
You can remove dust from leaves by using a damp soft cloth. Using a mixture of dish soap mixed with water (a drop in a large quantity of water) can also be used, but we recommend trying the solution on one leaf first before cleaning the whole plant. Different soaps have different ingredients, and your Ctenanthe burle-marxii might not like them all.
How Often Should You Fertilize Ctenanthe burle-marxii and Which Fertilizer to Use?
The Fishbone prayer plant does not require heavy fertilization. In fact, they can grow pretty well without it.
When fertilizing your plant, practice caution. Too much fertilizer will cause a buildup of salts in the soil and may lead to burnt leaf tips on your plant. Use half the strength of the recommended fertilizer dosage for your plant during the growing season and none during winter. Depending on the fertilizer you choose you can fertilize monthly or every couple of months – follow the instructions on the label.
When using liquid fertilizer, remember to properly water your plant based on its moisture level to reduce the excess salts inside the soil.
Any general foliage houseplant fertilizer will do, you can also use aquarium water for fertilizing your plant.
Repotting propagating your Fishbone.
Repotting your Fishbone prayer plant will replenish the nutrient supply for your plant and give it more room to grow. This will help the plant grow larger and produce more leaves. You are looking at reporting the plant every 2-3 years as it will likely outgrow its current pot.
When repotting, chose a shallow and wide, rather than a tall one. Since the roots aren’t deep, a deep pot can issues for your plant. A wider pot will also accommodate the horizontal growth of your Fishbone prayer plant.
The type of pot you will be using will also determine the frequency of watering. Ceramic and plastic pots tend to retain moisture longer than clay or terra cotta pots which are porous enough to release moisture from the soil.
What soil to use as potting mix?
To keep adequate moisture on the soil of your Fishbone plant, the right mixture soil should be used. The media must be fast draining, it must also be able to retain a good amount of moisture without being waterlogged.
Almost all garden stores sell potting soil for tropical plants which meets that criteria.
If you are making your own, you can use regular garden soil and add perlite and orchid bark (or similar), making it more suitable for your plant. Those will help aerate the soil to allow room for the roots to grow and allow for faster draining of excess water. Also, add peat or more to the soil to help retain moisture. The perfect balance of these materials will make your plant happier.
How to Propagate Fishbone Prayer Plant
The Ctenanthe burle-marxii grows in a fan-like arrangement in one cluster. This allows it to grow horizontally throughout its pot or bed of soil. Your repotting time is the best time for you to decide whether to propagate your Fishbone prayer plant.
Propagation of the Ctenanthe plants is done through division and is usually done in the growing season. Carefully untangle the roots of your plant to separate the plants. Choose a cluster with at least 3 to 4 leaves.
If your plant has not grown new sets of clusters and you are aiming to cut from the main plant, use a clean pair of scissors or knife to cut through your Fishbone plant.
After division, your plant will need time to stabilize. Do not be alarmed if the plant looks a bit sad. Provide the necessary conditions as mentioned in this article to speed up the establishing process.
Refrain from repotting and propagating during winter as this will run the risk of killing your plants as the conditions in your home are probably not ideal (lower temperature, humidity and light).
To speed up recovery, you can do a mini-ICU set-up for your plant by covering it with an ample size of plastic that has been lightly misted. This will give you plant its higher humidity.
Is the Ctenanthe burle-marxii Amabilis safe for cats, dogs, or humans?
Is it Toxic?
Prayer plants are considered non-toxic to humans, cats, and dogs. (ASPCA lists prayer plants as non-toxic)
Be advised, though, ingesting any plant in larger quantities, even if non-toxic, can cause problems.
* There have been no negative health issues reported with Peperomia rotundifolia. Keep in mind toxicity information on plants can change. This is something that is best talked about with your veterinarian. Even with non-toxic plants, nibbling plants should be avoided, and keeping plants away from pets, especially if they like to eat them, is best.
Pests and other problems associated with the Fishbone prayer plant.
This plant is generally a hardy one so you won’t likely have any issues with it.
As far as pests go, spider mites are one of the more common ones.
Fungal diseases top the list of problems your Fishbone prayer plant has. It is more common than insect infestations.
Most fungal diseases your plant is susceptible to are fungal leaf spot and root rot. Both are caused by excessive moisture in the leaves and roots, respectively. The most common source of leaf spot is over misting and watering the foliage of the plant especially when this is done at night. When too much moisture gets stuck on the leaves or the base of the stems, they start to develop soft spots that turn yellow and eventually become brown and kill the entire leaf.
Leaf spot is a tricky disease to treat. Fungal pathogens can spread when misted. Applying fungicide through a spray may cause transfer of spores to other leaves. Practice caution by isolating your infected Fishbone prayer plant from the rest of its plant friends during treatment.
Remove the infected leaves and treat the whole plant with the recommended fungicide while ensuring that you cover all corners of the plant. This includes the underside of the leaves and the stems. Other fungal diseases that may present themselves are botrytis which results from the leaves being too close to moist soil and powdery mildew which look like white ash on top of plants that cause yellowing and eventually browning.
Treat your plants with fungicide every 10 days until signs of infection have been controlled. Do not be hesitant to cut infected leaves. This can further spread the disease.