Prayer plants are popular houseplants that are relatively easy to grow and care for. Their strikingly beautiful foliage also attracts plant enthusiasts and makes them great for indoor decor. Their leaves come in a variety of color combinations, so you can own multiple prayer plants without your collection looking repetitive.
When a prayer plant is receiving the correct cultural care, it will grow well and fast, and this means you will need to repot it every two to three years. The most common reason prayer plants need repotting is when they outgrow their old pots or if there is a problem with the roots that need to be addressed, especially if the pot or the soil are contributing to this problem.
The procedure for repotting prayer plants is very similar to that for most other plants, in that you need to replace the old pot with one that is a size larger. Opt for wider, rather than deeper, when choosing a new pot for your prayer plant. These plants do just fine in regular potting soil, as long as it drains well.
In this article, we will discuss the signs that indicate your prayer plant needs repotting, the reasons it might need to be repotted, as well as how to repot it correctly.
If you are considering repotting your prayer plant, keep reading to learn more about the process.
How can you tell if a prayer plant needs to be repotted?
Prayer plants typically need to be repotted every two to three years, but this is not an absolute rule, because it will also depend on the plant’s growing conditions. In this section, we will discuss the tell-tale signs that a plant owner should look out for if they suspect their prayer plant needs repotting.
The plant needs to be watered more often than usual
One of the first signs that your plant needs repotting is when you need to water it more often than normal. This can be because the plant has significantly outgrown its container and its roots have taken up more space in the pot than the soil. Because so much of the soil has become displaced, there is less soil left to retain water. This means that when you water the plant, the water will simply flow out of the bottom of the pot without remaining long enough to hydrate the roots. Needless to say, what is left of the soil will dry out very quickly and the plant is at risk of underwatering and dehydration.
The plant looks too big for the pot
If the plant’s leaves and foliage have grown to the point that, when you look straight down at the plant, the pot can no longer be seen and is dwarfed by the top-heavy growth, this means the plant is much too big for the pot. If you let the plant grow too thick at the top, the small pot may not be able to hold the plant upright and may even tip over because of the imbalance.
Roots are growing out of the pot or around themselves
The most telling sign that your plant needs to be repotted is when it is rootbound. To confirm this, you will need to remove the plant from the pot. Do this by laying the plant on its side and gently pulling it out of the pot.
If the plant is not rootbound, there will be more soil than roots in the pot, which means you can return the plant to the pot knowing that it will be several more months before it becomes rootbound.
A rootbound plant’s roots will start growing around themselves. The entire root mass will come out of the pot as one, and the root mass will have taken the shape of the pot. This means that the roots have very little space left to grow into, and have resorted to growing in one direction, essentially coiling around themselves. This is a serious problem that needs remedying immediately.
Another sign that the plant is rootbound and there is no space in the pot for new roots is when the roots start growing out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Out of desperation, the roots will simply shoot right out of the holes because they literally have nowhere else to go. If the pot is very deep, the roots may not grow out of the holes, but that does not necessarily mean the roots are not overcrowded; sometimes the roots will be visible above the soil because there is no space left in the upper half of the pot.
The plant’s growth is stunted
Lastly, the prayer plant’s growth will become noticeably slower than normal and may even stop altogether. This is accompanied by yellowing leaves and drooping foliage.
This is due to the displaced soil and the inability of the remaining soil to retain water in the pot for long enough to properly hydrate the plant. This will all take a toll on the plant’s health and you will need to resolve the problem or risk letting your plant die.
Remember that prayer plants can tolerate being rootbound for a certain amount of time, but as we said, they will not grow well and will deteriorate over time. The plant may not die immediately, but make sure you fix the problem before it becomes serious.
When is the best time to repot a prayer plant?
As with most houseplants, it is advisable to repot your prayer plant at the start of spring, which is the beginning of the plant’s growing period. Because repotting is such a stressful process for the plant, it needs to be actively growing to recover as well as possible after being repotted. You can still repot it during the summer, which is also part of the growth period, but it is best done in the spring.
Refrain from repotting the plant during the fall or winter because it is less active in these seasons so recovery can be very slow. The cold weather and reduced sunlight also provide much less energy and the plant will have a harder time dealing with the process.
Make sure the plant is completely healthy before you repot it, or as close to healthy as you can get it. Again, repotting is stressful and traumatic, and the better shape the plant is in, the better it will handle the process.
The best soil for your prayer plant
Prayer plants are not too discerning when it comes to soil type. What is most important is that the soil drains excess water so that only the appropriate amount is retained. These plants like soil that is moist but not soggy.
Avoid soil that is too dense and compact, because this will retain too much water and can lead to overwatering and root rot. Soil that is too loose, on the other hand, will not retain enough water and the plant may end up thirsty and dehydrated.
Often, a regular potting mix is good enough for the plant, but you can easily make your own soil mix if you want to. Just combine two parts peat moss or coco coir, to one part sand or perlite, to one part regular potting soil. This combination has just the right ratio of drainage capability to water-retaining properties.
The best container for your prayer plant
Choosing the pot or container that best suits your prayer plant may seem like an easy decision, but there are several factors you must consider. These are the material the pot is made from, the shape of the container, and its size.
Do not use a pot that is too big for your plant, because a bigger pot means you will need more soil to fill it. More soil means more water is retained every time you water the plant, and more water means the plant is at greater risk of overwatering and even root rot. Therefore, although it feels like you are saving money by buying a larger pot that the plant will take years to grow into, you are actually risking the plant’s health by doing so.
The best size for the plant is one size larger than the previous pot. One size up typically means that the pot is two inches bigger in diameter than the old pot.
If you want to reuse the old pot and do not mind keeping the plant the same size, it is perfectly fine to do so, but you will have to remove some of the soil in the pot and trim a portion of the roots so that they have more room to grow despite being in the same size pot. Use a sterilized knife or scissors to trim the roots to avoid possible contamination.
When it comes to the shape of the pot, the prayer plant’s roots tend to grow quite shallow, so they do better in pots that are wide and shallow, rather than deep. If the only pot you have is deeper than you would like, you can always place wood chips or gravel at the bottom before adding any soil.
The material of the pot is not that much of an issue; the plant will grow fine in terracotta, ceramic or plastic pots. These plants like their soil to be consistently moist, and plastic and ceramic pots allow the soil to retain moisture for longer between waterings.
It is important that there are drainage holes at the bottom of the pot because this is where the excess water will flow out if you accidentally give the plant more water than it needs.
How to repot prayer plants
If you are sure that your prayer plant needs repotting, you can go ahead with the process as long as it is spring or summer and the plant is relatively healthy.
Prepare the new pot, the fresh potting mix, and some water.
The night before you plan to repot the plant, water the soil generously so that it is well-hydrated. This will also help loosen the plant from the old pot and make it easier for you to slide it out without damaging the roots too much.
The following day, lay the plant’s pot on one side and gently pull the plant until the entire root ball slides out. If the plant does not come out easily, you can loosen the sides of the soil by running an old knife around the edges. If the plant still will not budge, you might have to break the pot to free the plant.
Remove as much of the old soil as you can from the root mass to expose the roots. Inspect the roots closely and remove any rotten or dried-out roots using a sterilized knife or scissors. Removing damaged roots is important because they might rot and cause more problems for the plant.
Place some of the potting mixes in the pot, to about a third of the way up, and then position the plant in the middle of the pot. Holding the plant upright in the middle of the pot, fill the gaps around the roots with more potting mix until all the roots are covered. Try not to get any soil on the plant’s leaves. This may be difficult, but you can always brush the soil off later if necessary. Do not wash the soil off with water, because moisture on the leaves can encourage the growth of undesirable fungi.
After repotting, water the soil thoroughly until excess water flows out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. If the soil shrinks when you water the plant, you can add more potting mix.
Place the plant in a spot where it can get bright, indirect light and keep an eye on any changes that may happen within the next few days or weeks. Remember not to let the soil dry out completely; water the plant when the top inch of soil is dry to the touch.
Prayer plants typically need to be repotted every two to three years. One of the most obvious signs that your plant needs repotting is when it appears to have literally outgrown its pot. This is when the plant’s leaves and foliage are dwarfing the pot. Other signs include water draining too quickly, the soil drying out faster than normal, roots growing out of the drainage holes, and the roots starting to grow around themselves due to lack of space in the pot.
Repot the prayer plant by removing it gently from its old pot and trimming off any dead or rotten roots so that only healthy roots remain. Place the plant in a new pot that is one size larger than the old one, and fill it with fresh soil that is neither too well-draining nor too dense.
Water the plant immediately after repotting and place it where it can get bright, indirect light. Water it when the top inch of soil is dry to the touch.
Image: istockphoto.com / Firn