Prayer plants get their name from their leaf blades that fold upwards longitudinally at night. People say that the leaves look like praying hands at evening prayers. During the day the leaf blades lie flat. They are popular houseplants because of their colorful foliage.
Prayer plants have the Latin name Maranta leuconeura. They have broad oval, shiny leaves with two tones of green. There are spots or markings on either side of the leaf midrib which may be light green, dark green, brown, or dark grey. Some varieties have red midribs and leaf veins.
The undersides of the leaves are white, pale green, red, or maroon. The undersurface is visible as the leaf folds up, adding to the plant’s attraction.
Prayer plants that grow outside produce white flowers. They seldom produce flowers when growing indoors.
Related: 11 Prayer Plant Benefits
These are some plants that look similar to prayer plants.
- Rattlesnake plant
- Pinstripe plant
- Stromanthe thalia ‘Triostar’
- Peacock plant
- Rose-painted calathea
- Copper Leaf
1. Rattlesnake Plant
The rattlesnake plant (Goeppertia insignis) is also sometimes called the rattlesnake master plant. It belongs to the same plant family classification as the prayer plant. It is a herbaceous perennial that grows indigenously in tropical forests. Rattlesnake plants usually grow to three feet tall.
Rattlesnake plants have evergreen elongated leaves shaped like a lance. They have characteristic markings which are said to resemble a rattlesnake. The leaves are pale green and edged with dark green.
The midrib is highlighted by a different shade of green. The leaf veins are visible in an alternating pattern along the midrib. Each leaf vein is outlined by a rough splotch which varies in size. The splotches alternate with one large splotch and one small one, giving the impression that leaflets are growing on the leaf.
Rattlesnake leaves have a burgundy underside, similar to prayer plants. This is seen when the plant raises its leaf blades at night. It has undulating margins. Rattlesnake plants produce medium-sized white flowers.
2. Pinstripe Plant
The pinstripe plant (Goeppertia ornata) is another plant in the same family as Maranta leuconeura, the prayer plant. Like others in this family, the pinstripe plant is an evergreen herbaceous perennial that grows in tropical forests under the tree canopy. It has large leaves essential for collecting as much light as possible.
Pinstripe plants have thick leathery egg-shaped leaves with smooth margins. The leaves are dark green with a prominent midrib. Thin white, pink, or yellow pinstripes run from the midrib to the leaf edge. Some of the stripes may be clearly defined, and on other cultivars, the stripes may be wispy brush strokes.
This beautiful plant has a deep purple underside which is seen when the plant folds at night. New leaves emerge rolled up, showing their underside. This produces an attractive effect of new purple leaves mixed among the older foliage.
Pinstripe plants grow two to three feet tall and are grown indoors as houseplants or outside if the climate permits. Pinstripe plants originate in Colombia and Venezuela and need the same heat and humidity found in their native environments.
3. Stromanthe thalia ‘Triostar’
Triostar is a cultivar of the Stromanthe thalia species, which is native to the Brazilian rainforests. They are also part of the same family as prayer plants but are from a different genus. Triostar is bigger than prayer plants growing three to five feet in height.
Like prayer plants, Triostar plants have broad elongated oval leaves with smooth margins. The leaves are densely packed around the stem, giving the impression of a mass of foliage. The shiny leaves are dark green with irregular patterns of light green, white, cream, and pale pink.
The underside of Triostar leaves is deep maroon or hot pink. The new leaves emerge furled, so the maroon or pink underside is displayed. The combination of the upper leaf surfaces with the underside makes this plant an attractive and greatly desirable plant for indoor pots.
Triostar leaves can be extremely large. It is not uncommon to find leaves twenty inches long and six inches wide. They produce flowers in spring or summer that grow in pink and white clusters. The flowers attract bees and hummingbirds and are advantageous in a wildlife garden.
They propagate by underground rhizomes, allowing them to spread easily and create new plants.
4. Peacock Plant
The peacock plant (Goeppertia makoyana) is also sometimes called the Calathea peacock plant. The peacock plant is a herbaceous perennial that, like others of this family, is popular as house plants and can also be grown outdoors if the climate is appropriate.
The peacock plant leaves are similar to prayer plants. They are broad, roughly oval leaves with smooth margins. A clearly visible midrib serves as the anchor for the elaborate patterns found on the leaf.
The leaves may be described as variegated, but this seems like a tame adjective for the elaborate markings. The leaf has a pale green, cream, or white background.
The midrib is green and alternating leaf-shaped blotches occur along the leaf veins. Like the rattlesnake plant, the blotches are large and small and look like leaflets. In between the blotches, there are fine dark green lines that radiate from the midrib to the leaf margin.
The underside of the peacock plant leaf has a similar pattern in purple and cream. The striking-colored undersides are visible when this leaf folds up its leaf lamina at night. New leaves emerge with their underside coloring on display. This exuberance of colors leads to the common name of peacock plants.
Peacock plant leaves are textured by varying levels in the surface of the leaf that coincide with the color variations. The lighter parts of the plant may be translucent against the light. They are sometimes called cathedral window plants. Peacock plant leaves are much thinner than prayer plant leaves.
Peacock plants grow to four feet in height, making them larger than prayer plants.
5. Rose-Painted Calathea
Rose-painted calatheas (Goeppertia roseopicta) are another plant from the same family as prayer plants. They grow indigenously in Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, and Brazil. They are smaller than prayer plants, growing between twelve and eighteen inches tall.
It has broad dark green or blackish leaves that are oval to almost round with a slightly undulating margin. Lighter green non-uniform stripes run from the midrib to the leaf margin, forming V-shapes.
The midrib is dark pink. A pink feathery marking mirrors the leaf shape from the base to the tip. It occurs three-quarters of the distance from the midrib to the leaf margin, ensuring there is a green leaf margin.
Some varieties have pale green centers with a ‘leaf’ shape created by the pink colors with a dark green leaf margin. This gives the impression of a smaller leaf transposed onto the surface of a larger leaf. The underside surfaces are dark purple or red.
6. Copper Leaf
Copper leaf (Acalypha wilkesiana) is also sometimes called Jacob’s Coat or Cooperleaf. It is a rapidly growing herbaceous shrub that is indigenous to Fiji and surrounding areas. Copper leaf plants grow to nine or ten feet high and spread about six feet.
The leaves are large – four to eight inches long. They are serrated and have a crinkled appearance. They have mottled colors, including shades of green, yellow, orange, copper, crimson, purple, pink, and white.
Copper leaf plants produce non-descript flowers. The male flowers have long stalks, and the females have short stalks.
Copper leaf plants have high water needs. They can be grown indoors or outdoors if they receive sufficient water.