|Propagation:||From seeds, division|
|Watering:||Keep soil moist|
|Fertilization:||Monthly during growing season|
|Soil:||Well drained but retentive|
|Humidity:||High to medium humidity (>40%).|
|See more Ctenanthe|
Ctenanthe burle-marxii is a striking plant in the 'Prayer Plant', or Marantaceae family. Prayer plants are more sensitive to a home environment than many commercially available houseplants, requiring moderate to high humidity and a constant level of moisture or leaves will quickly begin to brown and become unattractive. Ctenanthe burle-marxii is native to Brazil.
Ctenanthe is derived from the Greek 'ktenos' meaning "comb" and 'anthera' menaing "anther".
Burle-marxii is named in honour of Brazilian architect Roberto Burle Marx, whose patterned abstract public spaces resemble the leaf markings on this plant.
C. burle-marxii is a part of the Marantaceae or 'prayer plant' family. Plants in this family have richly adorned leaves with distinctive and unique markings. The genus is called 'prayer plants' because plants in the genus Maranta fold up their leaves and seem to be in prayer at night or in periods of darkness, and unfurl and follow the sun during the day. This is an example of photonasty, a 'nastic movement' in response to external changes in environment.
C. burle-marxii has green fuzzy lanceolate leaves with purple undersides.
The flowers of C. burle-marxii live up to the genus's scientific name of 'comb flower'. The bristly flower spike is interesting but it's extremely unlikely the plant will flower indoors.
Plants in the genus Ctenanthe require more specialist care than most houseplants, but by following a few specific rules you should be able to give your plant the best possible chance at a healthy life.
Give your prayer plant bright, indirect light. A north or east facing window (in the northern hemisphere) or pulled back from a south or west facing window would be perfect. C. burle-marxii is not a low light plant, but the specialist structures in the leaf (such as the purple undersides of the leaves which are thought to increase photosynthesis by back- scattering light back into the green top of the leaves) are adapted to the dappled, bright but shaded understories of tropical forests and jungles.
C. burle-marxii isn't adapted to the salts, fluorides and heavy minerals present in tap water. As these salts build up in the substrate and then in the roots and leaves of the plant, the tips of the leaves will begin to brown and die. To avoid this happening water with distilled or rain water, or periodically 'flush' the soil of the plant (see brown leaf tips in the issues section below). Never allow the soil to dry through completely as this will trigger a quick decline and never allow the plant to sit in standing water. Water thoroughly when the top surface of the soil starts to visibly dry.
C. burle-marxii is a tropical plant and requires moderate to warm temperatures and moderate to high relative humidity levels to do well. Over winter when this plant enters a natural semi-dormancy ensure that you do not leave this plant in an unheated room, and plants in the Ctenanthe genus do well when clustered together with other plants, close to a humidifier or in a bathroom where conditions are more moist.
Yellowing leaves are a sign of too much water. Ensure the pot has good drainage and allow the surface of the soil to start to dry between watering. Older leaves will naturally yellow, brown and die eventually.
If the soil is staying moist for more than two weeks between watering, or the soil feels soggy or very wet after a week then consider repotting the plant into a smaller container: the roots staying waterlogged for too long will eventually lead to root rot and a quick decline in the plant's health. When repotting use a well drained mix.
Leaves curl when the plant needs more water. This is likely a case of underwatering, but if leaves are curling even though you are keeping the plant moist it is possible that the roots are rotting. Take the plant out of its pot and inspect the roots, they should be white.
Brown leaf tips
Brown leaf tips are a sign of mineral and salts buildup in the plant's substrate. With plants in the Marantaceae family it is important to water with distilled, filtered or rain water wherever possible as they lack the biological pathways to use and dispose of these minerals. Alternatively to watering regularly with distilled water you can occasionally 'flush' the soil. To do this, use distilled water and water the plant heavily three or four times, allowing the water to drain through the pot. As the distilled water flows through the soil the salts and minerals will dissolve into the water and will flush out of the bottom of the plant.
Brown leaf margins
Browning at the margins of the leaves is more typically due to underwatering than salt buildup. Ensure the substrate never dries fully and you water at the point where the top of the soil begins to visually look dry.