is native to Brazil. Similar to the Calathea, Ctenanthe
is mainly grown for its beautiful foliage. These plants are sometimes
known by the name 'Phrynium'. Below is a list of species
that are grown here.
burle-marxii is a small, compact plant that grows to a
height of about 30 cm. The elliptical leaves are largely silver-grey
and green stripes radiate from the mid rib all the way to
kummeriana grows as a clump up to about 60 cm. On the upper
side, lancoate green leaves have a distinctive white mid rib with
rather feint white stripes that radiate from it and the undersides
lubbersiana grows up to about 45 cm and its elliptical
leaves have random zones of green and yellow. On the underside,
the leaves are pale green.
oppenheimiana, also called the 'Never Never Plant', adopts
a branching habit and grows up to 2 m. Leaves are lance-shaped
and on the upper side, they are dark green and banded with
silver, while the underside is maroon. The cultivar 'Tricolor'
has leaves that are variegated with white, green and silver.
setosa will grow up to 90 cm high and has narrow, lanceoate
green leaves, which are patterned with silver bands that radiate
from the mid rib. The leaves are maroon on the reverse.
can be regarded as the "true" prayer plant as it exhibits the most
conspicuous habit of folding up its leaves in response to low light
intensity, compared to all other prayer plants described in this
article. If you refer to any houseplant book for the prayer plant,
you get Maranta. "Maranta" is derived from the name of the
Venetian physician and botanist, Bartolomea Maranti.
are the ones commonly grown as houseplants. They are low-growing
plants that adopt a prostrating habit and are indigenous to Brazil.
The stems of Maranta leuconeura are not swollen at the nodes
and the roots are not tuberous, unlike those of Maranta arundinacea.
cultivar 'Variegata' is more commonly grown and is characterized
by its white and green variegated leaves. Maranta arundinacea
adopt an upright growing habit and can reach a height of about
1 m. The non-variegated version of Maranta arundinacea,
otherwise commonly known as 'Arrowroot', has starch-storing
rhizomes and is native to the West Indies.
leuconeura `Erythroneura', commonly referred as the red-vein
maranta, or red nerve plant, has a bright red midrib and lateral
veins, a feathered, light green-yellow central zone and a
green-black outer background. The flowers are violet.
leuconeura `Kerchoviana' (also known as `Massangeana')
is known by several common names like 'Rabbit's Foot' and
"Rabbit's Track', because the elliptical, velveteen gray-green
leaves have two rows of red-brown patches, which darken with
age, that are parallel to the mid rib. White flowers may be
as the 'Silver Feather Maranta' or 'Black Maranta', Maranta leuconeura
`Leuconeura' has a distinctive fishbone pattern on the top side
of its leaves, which extends from the mid rib and outwards from
a green central zone to an almost black outer background.
sanguinea and its
sanguinea, originating from tropical South America, is
the common Stromanthe species grown as a houseplant
here. It has large, lanceoate leaves, which are dark green
and glossy. Leaves have a whitish mid rib on the upper surface
and are maroon on the underside. Plants can grow up to a height
of 1.5 m.
very attractive cultivars of Stromanthe sanguinea -
'Multicolour', 'Horticolor', 'Triostar' and 'Stripestar' -
are popular houseplants. 'Horticolor' and 'Multicolour' have
random splashes of red, green and white on its leaves. These
two cultivars have more white and green leaf areas as compared
to 'Triostar', which has more red areas. 'Stripestar' on the
other hand, has green leaves with a white mid rib.
daniellii, native to the tropical rainforests of West
Africa, is the only species in this genus. Similar to some
large-leafed Calatheas, the leaves of this plant have traditionally
been used to wrap food. The plant can grow up to 2.5 m tall
and closely resembles Calathea, of which the uninitiated
can be easily confused.
Singapore, Thaumatococcus daniellii can be found planted
en masse in gardens, inside a large planter box or in a row to serve
as a garden hedge or to conceal a boring wall. Interestingly, Thaumatococcus
daniellii is better known for its use as a sweetener in its
native country and hence its local name of 'Miracle Fruit'.
plant bears attractive purplish pink flowers that are held
on simple or forked spikes found close to the ground. The
pyramid-shaped fruits are bright-red when ripe and within
each fruit are seeds that are covered by a thin layer of translucent,
sweet-tasting aril. The black hard seeds look like stones
translucent flesh of the fruit contains the protein, thaumatin,
which is purportedly said to be several hundred times sweeter than
table sugar! Thaumatin has already been approved as a food additive
and alternative sweetener in the European Union as well as in many
OF PRAYER PLANTS
plants are easy to grow as outdoor plants as long as they are grown
in a cool and shady corner in the garden. The plants need to be
given ample water just enough to keep their feet moist but not soggy.
Hence, drainage is important.
gardeners will find them difficult to please. Most of the problems
encountered by apartment gardeners can be attributed to those arising
from less than ideal growing conditions such as the lack of humidity
and excessive wind, often encountered in the high-rise growing environment.
plants should be grown in spot that is away from direct sunlight,
otherwise, the plants may suffer from sun scorch/burn. Sunburnt
plants will show symptoms of irregularly bleached areas on the affected
leaves. Overly hot conditions can also cause the leaves to roll
regarded as shade plants, prayer plants should not be grown in deep
shade. They do better in positions where they can get a little filtered
sunlight and this is especially crucial for the cultivation of outdoor
flowering Calathea species as this aids flower production.
same guideline applies to prayer plants grown as houseplants. Sufficient
light in the form of filtered sunlight is required for prayer plants
to keep their vibrant coloration.
gardeners usually do not face the problem of insufficient humidity.
Apartment gardeners should attempt to keep the relative humidity
on the high side of around 70% if they are to grow these demanding
plants successfully at home.
to grow the plant in a position that is exposed to the open environment
to take advantage of the exteriors' humidity. Remember that increased
air temperature in an enclosed room will lower the environment's
humidity. When grown in an environment of low humidity for prolonged
periods, the leaves may roll up and become prime spots for spider
plants should not be exposed to excessive wind as it will cause
'wind burn' where desiccation of the plant takes place. Plants respond
by rolling up their leaves to indicate their displeasure and to
reduce further moisture loss.
general, prayer plants like to be grown in a free-draining mix.
Prayer plants also prefer a moisture retentive mix that is high
in organic matter. Prayer plants in the garden appreciate the addition
of organic compost to the soil. This helps to keep their roots cool
in our hot climate.
gardeners must take note that they like to be pot-bound and hence
try not to over-pot in too big a container. But do watch out for
the symptoms of lack of water in pot-bound plants as less potting
media translates into less moisture being retained.
regularly to ensure the soil remains moist but not soggy. The plants
may benefit from slight drying out before the next watering. However,
it is important to not to allow the soil to become overly dry for
prolonged periods. Like in the case of excessive dessication, thirsty
plants will roll up their leaves. Do not allow water to remain for
prolonged periods on the leaves so as to minimize the incidence
of fungal spots.
a regular basis, feed plants with a slow release balanced fertiliser
or one that promotes leaf growth (higher nitrogen (N) ratio) at
a rate and amount recommended by the manufacturer. Water-soluble
fertiliser may also be used monthly but must be more diluted.
plants are sensitive to salt accumulation at the root zone. Flush
the root zone with water regularly to reduce accumulation of unabsorbed
fertiliser salts. Excessive salt accumulation will result in the
burning of leaf margins.
flowers fade, some growers cut the entire shoot down to ground level,
a method that is commonly practised in Heliconia. When left
untouched, the shoot will slowly die away.
plants are most easily propagated via division of big clumps. Each
division preferably should have several plants to ensure stronger
growth. Propagation using a single rhizome will have a low success
rate as it may be too weak to support robust, new growth. Mist the
division often and it keep out of direct sunlight to minimise water
that affect prayer plants grown outdoors include grasshoppers and
caterpillars which ravage their leaves and make them unsightly.
These have to manually caught and killed.
can also infest the leaf axils, the undersides of leaves and the
roots, for both indoor and outdoor situations. Spider mites will
appear on the undersides of leaves when the air is too dry, as a
peppery veneer scattered with minute webbing. Small scale insects
which appear as golden brown grains on the leaves may also attack
weaker plants. These sucking pests produce secretions which not
only attract ants, but promote the growth of unsightly sooty mould.
The mould can be wiped off with a damp cloth or treated with fungicide.
insecticides as directed by the manufacturer. Root mealybugs can
be eradicated by drenching the potting mix with insecticides like
F. & George A. Elbert. 1989. Foliage plants for decorating indoors:
plants, design, maintenance for homes, offices, and interior gardens.
Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.
Web-based Resources (assessed on 10 June 2006):
R.T., Chase A.R. & Osborne L.S. Calathea Production Guide. CFREC-A
Foliage Plant Research Note RH-91-9. http://mrec.ifas.ufl.edu/foliage/folnotes/calathea.htm
R.T., Chase A.R. & Osborne L.S. Maranta Production Guide. CFREC-A
Foliage Plant Research Note RH-91-22. http://mrec.ifas.ufl.edu/foliage/folnotes/maranta.htm
- Flower and Plant Bank. http://www.flowercouncil.org/int/plantscope/default.asp
Group Co., Ltd. http://www.plant-group.com
Culture Singapore would like to express our gratitude to National
Parks Board (NParks) and Ryan Su for allowing us to use the pictures
of Ctenanthe and flowering Calathea, respectively, in this