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A plant that prays

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Maranta adds colour to gardens

The Maranta (or Prayer Plant) is cultivated for its colourful, oblong leaves that spread during the day and become straight in the evening, hence the name, Prayer Plant.

It belongs to the family Marantaceae. Three small varieties of this are popular as house plants. The smallest of the three, Maranta Leuconera, as elliptic leaves, four inches long and two-and-a-half inches wide in soft green. The midrib and the lateral veins in white give a herring bone effect. The portion between the lateral veins is dark green. The second variety, Maranat Kerchoveana, is slightly larger. It has tender leaves, emerald green in colour with red blotches between the lateral veins which turn maroon with age. Maranta Erythrophylla or tricolour is the largest of the three with six inches long leaves, dark crimson lateral veins and dark green blotches between the mid rib. The remaining part is yellowish green.

Maranta produces small white flowers, single or in pairs, in loose racemes. These plants can be grown in hanging baskets or trained upon moss sticks. Leaves should be regularly sprayed.

The plants should never be exposed to direct sunlight. They should be grown in loam based compost. Water moderately and apply balanced liquid fertiliser on a monthly basis. Propagation is done by division of basal cuttings. Maranta looks best during the Christmas season and is therefore called the ‘Christmas gift’.

CHITRA RADHAKRISHNAN

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