Calatheas are wonderful plants known not only for their beauty and sometimes dramatic character but also for their peculiar movement of the leaves. These plants close up the leaves at night, but is Calathea a prayer plant just like the maranta plant? Learn why the answer to this question is both a yes and a no.
If you have a calathea plant in your home and manage to keep it happy, you already noticed these plants are moving their leaves during the day and night cycle. They drop their leaves during the day and close them up at night. Some types of calathea do this more drastically than others, but all calatheas move their leaves.
Is Calathea a Prayer Plant?
The name “prayer plant” came to be due to these plants’ foliage’s specific movement during the night and day cycle. The leaves raise and close up at night, assuming a position that some say resembles the praying hands. When you hear people describing this movement, it is commonly described as the plant praying. During the day, the leaves drop down. The movement is usually quiet and subtle. However, sometimes you can even hear the leaves moving as they rub each other and even see the plant wave.
Fun fact to add: maranta leuconeura kerchoveana is also nicknamed the Ten Commandments plant due to the 10 dark spots present on most leaves. This plays nicely with the prayer plant name.
The Prayer Plant Nickname
Prayer plant is actually not a scientific name for any specific plant group. It’s a common name, or better a common nickname, given to plants in the Marantaceae family. Calathea plants are members of that family.
The family consists of maranta plants, calathea plants, goeppertia, stromanthe, and ctenanthe. All of these plants move their leaves during the night and day cycle, some more drastically than others. As all of these plants “pray,” they often get a nickname “prayer plant,” no matter which of these groups they come from.
So is calathea a prayer plant? As prayer plant is not a scientific name, yes, they calathea plants be called prayer plants, and many people will call them that. They are also commonly sold under this name in some stores.
However, plants from the maranta group (maranta leuconeura Kerchoveana, maranta tricolor…) are considered true “prayer-plants,” and when you read about “prayer-plants,” the maranta group is usually the plant the name refers to. The movement of the leaves in this group is also most noticeable.
Note: calatheas are often mislabelled as maranta when sold as well.
It should be mentioned, when the calathea plant isn’t getting the care it needs, or the conditions aren’t optimal, the leaves can actually stop moving. If you notice your calathea stopped closing at night, you should find out what has caused this and fix it for the plant to thrive.
Read: why isn’t calathea closing at night
Are Calatheas and Prayer Plants the Same?
Does it even matter? Yes and no. As previously mentioned, as the name prayer plant isn’t a scientific name, it can be used loosely and for all plants in the Marantaceae family.
The care for all plants in the prayer plant family is similar, calathea care usually being a bit more demanding than caring for maranta. Calatheas will struggle faster if conditions are off, while maranta is a bit more forgiving and easier to grow.
So while yes, calatheas are prayer plants, they are not the same plants as prayer plants from the maranta group. They are also not the same as, Stromanthe and ctenanthe plants. Though these two groups are more similar to calathea as far as care goes.
Quite a bit of Calathea plants have also been reclassified as goeppertia, so you will notice them sold under that name, too, although not as commonly. The plants that have been reclassified still have the name calathea used as a synonym.
What is the difference?
There are some distinct differences between calathea and maranta plants, especially when it comes to propagation. While you can propagate prayer plants (maranta) in many different ways, including cuttings, this isn’t an option for the calathea plant. For plant hobbyists, propagation can only be done by division at the root level.
Calatheas are generally fussier, so if you ask about care tips for prayer plants when talking about calathea, don’t get discouraged if people tell you prayer plants are easy. They might have the maranta plant in mind, which is generally a lot easier to grow than any calathea plant.
Another wonderful difference is also that the calathea group has much more diversity. The group has many more members than the maranta group (and stromanthe and ctenanthe). They are wonderful plants to collect.
On a fun note: some calathea plants would deserve the prayer plant name due to their fussiness and dramatic character, more than because of the leaves moving. A prayer might be needed to keep the plant happy and thriving. We are just joking here, though. Or are we?
Now that you don’t need to ask yourself whether calathea is a prayer plant anymore, you might wonder what makes the leaves move? We do know part of the reason for this movement. However, some of it remains a mystery. These plants truly are marvelous, aren’t they?