I have a prayer plant that is about 6 years old; I have repotted it several times and each time it gets bigger and bigger. Now it is to the point that I can hardly move the pot, it is so big, and it is root-bound again. Although I love that it has done so well I really don’t know what to do with it. What can I do with it without killing it? Can I divide it or cut it back without damaging it?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hi, Sandy: It sounds like your prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura) is very happy! If given the right environment they can be very long-lived plants. Native to Brazil, these tropicals prefer to grow in a warm, humid environment with low to medium light exposure. So, you have a couple of options in terms of keeping your plant to a manageable size. First, you can simply divide it; this is best done in the spring, so hopefully it is fine where it is for now and then when spring arrives you can remove the plant from the container and literally divide the root ball in half. You do not have to be super gentle about it, and depending on how root-bound it is you may find it easier to use a pair of gardening scissors or even a fork to separate the roots. After it has been separated, repot it into a smaller container more suitable for its size and spread the roots out so they do not grow in a circular pattern. Make sure to use a good quality potting soil when you replant it. Water and feed as you normally do. Another option is to root prune your plant. This sounds drastic but it actually revitalizes your plant and allows you to keep it in the same container without losing any of the foliage. Again, this is better done in the spring so if you choose this option remove the plant from its container and lay it on its side, use a pair of pruners or gardening scissors, and start cutting back the roots a couple of inches all around the root ball including the bottom. After you have finished, use your hands to spread the roots out so they do not grow in a circular pattern and replant it into the same container. Again, make sure to use a good quality potting soil. For now you can cut back on your watering as well as your fertilizing and think about what would be the best option for your prayer plant next spring.