My Prayer Plant Has Yellow Leaves | Causes & How To Fix

The Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura) is a popular ornamental houseplant grown for its multi-colored foliage. This plant gets its colloquial name from the fact that its leaves fold up at night — the folded leaves resemble hands clasped in prayer — a phenomenon known as the Nyctinasty movement. 

Since the leaves are such a big part of the Prayer Plant’s appeal, foliar discoloration is a particularly heartbreaking discovery. It’s also understandable that you’d want to reverse this damage as quickly as possible.

There could be a number of reasons that your prayer plant has yellow leaves, most of which have to do with its environment. As a result, there is no cure-all solution to this problem. Instead, we’ll need to delve a bit deeper into the specific needs of this plant to diagnose and treat unsightly yellow leaves.

Why Are The Leaves Of My Prayer Plant Turning Yellow?

Yellow foliage is often the earliest sign that something is wrong with our houseplants. This discoloration can be caused by environmental damage, incorrect watering practices, pest damage, disease, nutrient deficiencies, and more. 

That’s a long list of potential causes. And it’s particularly overwhelming when you’re eager to reverse the damage to your Prayer Plant and return it to good health.

It’s also important to note that yellow leaves can be a perfectly normal part of the Prayer Plant’s life cycle. Leaves turn yellow as they die off from old age or physical damage. If only the oldest leaves of your Prayer Plant are occasionally turning yellow, there’s probably nothing to worry about.

Leaves Yellow And Curling

Not to be mistaken with the Prayer Plant’s natural habit of folding up at night, curling leaves are commonly seen alongside yellow discoloration. Moisture is the most likely culprit of this particular set of symptoms.

As you may or may not know from experience, houseplants often appear thirsty when the real issue is too much water. Overwatering manifests as leaves that droop or curl up. If the problem persists, the leaves will also turn pale green or yellow.

Excess water causes this damage because it blocks the plant’s roots from taking up oxygen. So, the plant essentially drowns in its own soil.

Keep in mind that overwatering isn’t always the result of how often or how much you irrigate your Prayer Plant. Actually, I find that poor drainage is more often to blame. 

Leaves Turning Yellow And Brown

If your Prayer Plant’s leaves are forming brown spots shortly after turning yellow, then too little water may be at fault. The leaves will also feel dry and crispy to the touch. Or as you can see in the image below this plant exhibits yellow leaves with brown tips or edges. This is a sure sign of underwatering and your plant drying out.

More frequent watering is often enough to return foliage to its proper color. However, this discoloration can also occur when the air around your Prayer Plant is too dry. In extreme cases, adding more water to the soil alone won’t be enough.

Another common stressor that turns Prayer Plant foliage yellow and brown is excess sunlight. This plant is quite susceptible to sunburn — it thrives in moderate- and low-light environments. 

Prayer Plant Leaves Turning Brown And Curling

Prayer Plant Has Yellow Leaves

Curling foliage that is browner than yellow typically points to environmental damage. In this case, your Prayer Plant is probably suffering from fertilizer burn, poor water quality, or cold trauma.

Fertilizer burn occurs when liquid fertilizer or granules come into contact with the plant’s foliage. It can also happen when a plant receives too much of a given nutrient in too short of a time.

Prayer Plants respond poorly to chemicals found in tap water (most notably, fluoride). Experiment by watering your plants with filtered, room temperature water and monitor for improvements.

Prayer Plants that are kept outdoors during the warmer part of the year should be moved inside well before the risk of frost. Plants exclusively kept indoors should be placed away from drafty windows and air conditioners.

New Leaves Yellow

prayer plant yellow leaf

If your Prayer Plant is putting out brand new leaves with a sickly yellow tinge, it’s almost certainly lacking iron manganese.

Over time, an iron deficiency (chlorosis) will start to turn older leaves yellow too. Check your soil pH to make sure it is around 5.5-6.0, if it is out, then amend the soil and you may find the plant can better absorb the nutrient already in the soil.

Having the correct soil pH will also mean your fertilizer will be fully accessible to the plant and this should correct the problem and new growth will be green and healthy.

Causes Of Prayer Plant Yellow Leaves And How To Fix

Diagnosing unusual yellow leaves on a Prayer Plant requires looking at the plant’s environment and maintenance up to this point. If you’re lucky, you may find the root cause is as simple as a poorly chosen location or non-draining container. The more symptoms you can identify, the easier it is to narrow down the true source of yellowing leaves.

Overwater Or Underwatering

prayer plant yellow leaves.

Prayer Plants are infamous for their fickle nature in terms of watering and drainage. These plants are very susceptible to root rot yet prefer soil that is consistently moist. That balance is a difficult thing for even the most experienced gardener to manage.

When watering your Prayer Plant, you should saturate the soil until water flows out of the drainage holes in the container bottom. I like to leave my houseplants sitting in a sink or tub for a while after watering to allow any and all excess water to drain out.

Do not keep your Prayer Plant’s container in a water-filled saucer. While you can use a saucer to protect the surface below your Prayer Plant, it should never have water inside. If it fills after watering the plant itself, empty the saucer immediately.

If you notice that your Prayer Plant requires constant watering, its container might be at fault. Containers that are too small will drain very fast and leave the roots parched. Be sure to have a pot that is about 2 inches wider than the plant’s root mass. This will give you 1-inch of soil on either side of the roots. This ‘spare’ soil will hold moisture and allow healthy root growth.

How Often Should You Water Prayer Plant?

Water your Prayer Plant as soon as the top 1 to 1 ½ inch of soil is dry to the touch. Depending on the environment, this can happen within a few days or take up to 2 weeks depending on the environmental conditions. Warmer or dryer rooms will cause the soil to dry out must faster than cooler humid areas of your home.

Although all of the information above might make you nervous about watering your Prayer Plant too often, these plants are not able to survive in dry soil for long.

Too Much Direct Sunlight

Too much sunlight can scorch your Prayer Plant’s foliage and dry out the soil. Avoid placing this plant on a South-facing windowsill or sunny patio. Remember these plants are really growing amongst the dappled light of an overhead canopy in their natural habitat.

Prayer Plants will tolerate but don’t love extremely low light. Ideally, your plant should get around 6 hours of bright but indirect light. Sufficient light is needed for the plant’s leaves to fully open during the day.

If keeping your Prayer Plant outdoors or in a space like a sunroom, provide filtered light by placing it underneath a larger plant or behind a set of half-open blinds. Prayer Plants are also good candidates for indoor grow lights.

Low Humidity

Prayer Plants like to be warm and humid. On average, Prayer Plants need at least 50 to 60% humidity and temperatures above 60°F. Humidity is the hardest requirement to meet in the typical home environment.

There are several ways to increase the humidity around your plant. Some gardeners rely on a powered plant humidifier or pebble tray placed near their Prayer Plant. This will ensure that you are able to replicate the Prayer Plants’ natural humid habitat.

As a last resort, you can place a Prayer Plant in an indoor greenhouse with a humidity source. This is a great (temporary) solution for homes that get extremely dry in the winter.

Do Prayer Plants Like To Be Misted?

Some gardeners swear by misting their humidity-loving plants. Indeed, routine misting can boost humidity on and around the plant. The flip side is that it can also deter dust and some common foliage pests.

On the other hand, allowing Prayer Plant leaves to stay consistently moist can put them at risk of fungal infection. Increasing the humidity of the air around the plant doesn’t carry the same risk. I would recommend misting every few days but allowing the moisture on the foliage to dry between applications.

Over-Fertilizing

Prayer Plants require a balanced, dissolvable fertilizer to thrive. Prevent overfertilization by diluting your chosen water-soluble formula by half before each application.

If your Prayer Plant is turning yellow because of overfertilization, it may not be because of too much fertilizer overall. Rather, it could be because you’re applying too much of a specific nutrient.

Soil tests are often reserved for garden beds and landscapes. However, you can also test the nutritional balance of your potted plants. 

Alternatively, start fresh by flushing the existing soil with clean water or repotting in fresh soil altogether.

When Should I Fertilize Prayer Plant?

Fertilize Prayer Plants every 2 weeks during the summer growing season. Drop down to feeding every month during winter dormancy. 

Soil Conditions

Drainage is crucial — it’s the most important part of soil selection for Prayer Plants. The exact type of soil doesn’t really matter as long as it drains well. A commonly recommended soil mixture is 2 parts peat moss, 1-part loamy soil, and 1-part perlite or coarse sand.

Prayer Plants need slightly acidic soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6. This is the typical pH of potting soil, so pH issues are pretty rare in potted Prayer Plants.

Note that Prayer Plants tend to do best in wide and shallow containers. This reduces the risk of compaction and root rot, which Prayer Plants are quite prone to. 

Any pot housing a Prayer Plant must have drainage holes. Clean rocks can be added to the bottom of the container to improve drainage and prevent blockages.

What Nutrient Deficiency Causes Yellow Leaves?

Despite the intricacies of plant nutrition, yellow foliage is almost always caused by an iron deficiency.

Iron deficiencies typically happen for one of two reasons. The first (and most obvious) is a lack of iron in the soil. The second is that something else in the soil — e.g., pH level, phosphorus, excess water — is preventing the plant’s roots from absorbing available iron.

Iron deficiencies can be solved by applying a chelated iron supplement or addressing known soil imbalances (such as lowering the soil pH).

Prayer Plant Yellow Leaves After Propagation

Taking cuttings or dividing a Prayer Plant can stress it, causing natural yellowing and leaf dieback. While you should strive to propagate your plant with as little trauma as possible, don’t panic if it looks less than perfect immediately after propagation.

Otherwise, most yellow leaves that appear after propagating a Prayer Plant are caused by one of the issues covered above. 

If you opt to root a Prayer Plant cutting in water, there’s a chance that the leaves are turning yellow because of moisture. Keep a close eye on cuttings started this way and transplant them to the soil as soon as a substantial root system develops. Small cuttings are also more sensitive to light than their fully formed counterparts.

Prayer Plant Yellow Leaves After Re-Potting

Yellow foliage following repotting is perfectly normal. It often takes a week or so for even the healthiest plants to adapt to their new containers.

Fill the new container with the same potting mixture used in the previous one. Place your Prayer back in it the same spot but if you do need to change its location then pay special attention to replicating the original lighting conditions. 

Transplanting shortly before your Prayer Plant exits dormancy will minimize stress.

Excessively yellow or drooping leaves can also be a sign that the plant’s roots were over-exposed during repotting. The goal should be to transition your Prayer Plant seamlessly from one pot to another. Do not leave the roots exposed to the air for any longer than necessary.

Pruning Prayer Plant

Pruning is a normal part of Prayer Plant maintenance. Always use a clean, sharp utensil when cutting stems.

Pruning is a great way to tailor the size and shape of your Prayer Plant. It is also an effective way to remove damaged or aging foliage from the plant. It’s best to prune Prayer Plants in spring or fall.

Removing Yellow Leaves from Prayer Plant

Removing yellow leaves from your Prayer Plant may help the plant divert energy to healthier foliage. However, there’s nothing wrong with cutting or pinching unsightly leaves just to improve the plant’s appearance.

Leaves can be easily pinched off by hand as they start to die back. If you notice resistance when trying to remove an old or damaged leaf, I recommend reaching for a pair of snippers to prevent further trauma.

Pruning Prayer Plant Yellow Leaves

Yellow or otherwise damaged leaves should be the first to go when routinely pruning a Prayer Plant. Remember, these leaves are not photosynthesizing properly and aren’t likely to benefit the plant going forward.

If an entire segment is turning yellow, it’s best to remove the whole section rather than try to preserve any remaining healthy leaves.

Feel free to trim away discolored foliage at any time of the year. Always cut above the nearest healthy node. This is the point from which new growth will emerge.

Final Thoughts On Prayer Plant Yellow Leaves

Yellowing leaves are your Prayer Plant’s way of telling you something is wrong. Ignore this sign, and you might find your botanical friend is not long for this world. But there are very few cases of yellow foliage that can’t be treated quickly and easily at home.

In my experience, however, diagnosing the cause of yellow leaves is harder than treating the problem itself. My advice is to take your time with a diagnosis, observe your plant closely for a few days and investigate the options based on the recommendations made in this article.

That way, you can be sure you’re providing your Prayer Plant with the best care and it can be as good as new in no time.

FAQs Prayer Plant Has Yellow Leaves