Why and How Calatheas Move and Pray

Why and How Calatheas Move and Pray? 10 Useful Things

Calatheas is distinguished by the fact that its leaves shift position during the day and night. The mystery of the swaying calathea leaves has captivated people all across the world.

People have long questioned what causes this type of motion, and different ideas and scientific experiments have been done in an attempt to throw light on the matter.

Calatheas – Prayer Plants

The Calathea, like the Maranta and other members of the Arrowroots family, has earned the nickname “prayer plant.”

The “prayer” leaves of these plants point skyward at night, but fold down during the day. This isn’t a minor adjustment.

Why and How Calatheas Move and Pray

The change is like night and day ;). It is also possible to open and close the leaves.

To put it simply, the moving of calathea leaves is normal for these plants. Some Calathea species move more clearly than others.

If you listen intently, you can hear the leaves rustling against each other, suggesting the presence of wind.

Although it may appear strange at first, this is really rather sweet!

However, only a healthy plant growing in perfect conditions will swing its leaves, so give your Calathea the greatest care possible at all times.

Why do Calathea Leaves Move?

The term for this form of leaf movement is nyctinasty. Every plant’s ever-changing leaves work together to achieve a same goal: to absorb as much light as possible.

Calathea leaves fall to the ground and lay flat during the day to optimize their exposure to sunshine. This implies that the green side of the leaf will face the light.

The rustling of the leaves throughout the day is simply explained. Nighttime activity is taking place, albeit the reasons for this are unknown.

The joints are the real locations of the activity. The majority of the movement in these plants originates from the region directly underneath the leaf, where the leaf and stem join.

But what is it about the dark that causes the leaves to close? The question’s response is controversial. Plants have a wide range of perplexing nyctinasty.

Although several explanations have been presented to explain this movement throughout the years, no substantial evidence has been found to support any of them.

By reading one of the more recent studies, you may learn which topics are still being studied and which have been abandoned.

Calathea Leaves not Raising

If your plant does not demonstrate leaf movement, something is likely amiss with its care or environment.

A loss of one or two leaves is typically not cause for concern. On the contrary, if the entire plant is “stuck,” you should look into why.

When Do Calathea Leaves Move?

The leaves of a Calathea are continually shifting position, rising and lowering only a hair as the light changes.

Yet it is at nightfall that they undergo the transformation for which they are most well-known.

When night falls, the leaves of a Calathea close inward and upward, sometimes seeming nearly vertical. It transforms from a sprawling shrub to a cluster of feathery fans.

This exposes the pink hues on the leaf undersides of many species, which are often obscured by sunlight.

The scientific term for this is termed nyctinasty, but many people who keep houseplants refer to it as praying since it seems like the plant is folding up its “hands” to pray before night.

The more well-known relative of the Calathea, Maranta leuconeura, is also known by its common name: the Prayer Plant.

Plants like the calathea and the prayer plant are members of the Marantaceae family.

For convenience, we often refer to all of these plants collectively as “Prayer Plants” because of their nyctinastic tendencies.

You may read our article on the topic to learn more about the distinctions between Calatheas and genuine Prayer Plants.

The exact time your Calathea begins to droop is determined by the length of day and night (or of artificial lighting in the room where it lives).

The leaves of these plants normally begin to close for the day 20 to 30 minutes after the first rays of morning light touch them, and then open again as the day begins to fade in the afternoon.

How Do Calathea Leaves Move?

Calatheas, like other Marantaceae, has a pulvinus, which is a particularly specialized organ.

Because they are essentially a tube made up of cells with incredibly thin walls, they may dramatically expand or compress.

Pulvini live near the base of Calathea leaves and might be difficult to spot.

When the plant is laden with water, look for a slight thickening of the stem just below the leaf to identify whether or not it is a pulvinus.

Unlike many other plants, nyctinasty does not face the sun.

Phototropism refers to a plant’s capacity to control its growth in a certain direction dependent on the intensity of light reaching its leaves.

Because the shaded side of a stem grows faster, it will bend toward the light.

The nyctinacy of a Calathea varies with light brightness but not with light direction.

Despite the presence of pulvini in the plant’s stems, they do nothing to orient the plant toward the light. Understandable, given that Calatheas do not flourish in full light.

Why Do Calathea Leaves Move?

Your Calathea’s leaves may be swinging, but it is not due to a lack of sunshine. Botanists still differ on this subject.

While it’s obvious that a Calathea’s existence is dependent on its leaves spreading during the day to maximize surface area exposed to light, it’s less evident how the leaves folding back up at night benefits the plant.

Why and How Calatheas Move and Pray

There are several possibilities circulating about, but none have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

  • Temperature regulation. Plants may lower the amount of exposed surface area and, in principle, lose less heat during the night by compressing their leaves.
  • Moisture control. Water vapor and rainfall may travel more readily down into the roots when the foliage is vertical or almost vertical, rather than gathering on the surface of the leaves. This may help this famously thirsty plant get a little more water, but it may also reduce the risk of fungal illnesses caused by pools of standing water on the leaves.
  • Protection from insects. Leaf-eating bugs may find it more difficult to hide from predators if the leaves are pointed straight up rather than splayed out in a bushy, concealing mat. Calatheas may be assisting their adversaries by decreasing the number of hiding places available while nocturnal hunters are active.

For the time being, the actual function of a Calathea’s nighttime movement remains unknown. But it’s fun to think about, and who knows?

A credible response might help to develop botanical science.

Do All Calatheas Close at Night?


At least one Calathea species does not have the capacity to close its leaves at night.

It’s a hardwired process in plants that helps them conserve energy in low-light settings, such as the evening or gloomy days.

Calathea leaves will close at night and reopen in the morning on healthy plants. When a plant is unwell or stressed, it may be unable to shut its leaves in reaction to light.

If your Calathea does not close for the night, something is seriously wrong. It’s conceivable that your plant is stressed, in which case it will require some TLC to go back to normal.

Why Is My Calathea Not Closing at Night?

If your Calathea isn’t closing at night, several things might be wrong.

Your Calathea’s failure to close at night is most likely due to an excess of light. However, either overwatering or underwatering might cause the problem.

Other factors include pest infestation, dry air, excessive heat or cold, damage, wear and tear, and plain old age.

I’ll go through these explanations in further detail below.

Exposed to Too Much Light (Most Common)

If the plant is exposed to too much light, the leaves may no longer shut at night due to the disturbance of the plant’s natural photoperiod.

If your plant shows indications of sunburn or heat stress, move it to a cooler, shadier location.

If you are unable to relocate your plant to a more gloomy location, you may minimize the amount of sunlight hitting it by using a translucent drape.

A natural photoperiod may be maintained by placing grow lights next to the plant.

Overwatering Issue

If your Calathea isn’t shutting down for the night, it’s most likely due to improper watering procedures.

If you overwater your Calathea, the xylem tissue, which transports water from the roots to the leaves for photosynthesis, may be harmed.

If your plant receives too much water, the soil may get moist, and the leaves may not be able to close completely.


Underwatering Issue

Underwatering might be the reason of your Calathea not closing at night.

If a plant doesn’t get enough water, its leaves may droop, curl, and wilt in attempt to conserve moisture. The withering reaction is a protective reaction.

A good rule of thumb is to give your plant a thorough wash once a week to keep the soil wet but not waterlogged.

Because slower growth is predicted owing to the cooler temperatures of winter, you may need to water your plant less frequently.

Pest Infestation

Plants need to be able to cover their leaves at night, but flies and other pests can make this difficult.

When a plant becomes plagued with insects such as aphids, mealybugs, or spider mites, it may suffer deformities and other problems that prevent it from closing its leaves.

If you find your Calathea isn’t closing at night and suspect an infestation, give it a thorough once-over.

Spraying insecticidal soap on existing insects and their eggs can kill them before they reproduce, avoiding new infestations.

Low Humidity

Calatheas cannot close its leaves at night unless the air is sufficiently humid.

Plants may not be able to take in enough water through their stomata to trigger the mechanism that leads them to shut under dry conditions.

Keep an eye on humidity levels during low humidity or A/C use, and use a plant humidifier if required.

A moisture meter may help you determine the relative humidity in your home so that you can water plants appropriately.

Temperature Stress

Temperature stress is one of the most common reasons for a Calathea not closing its leaves at night.

If the temperature is too high for the pores on the bottom of your plant to close, it will lose water through evaporation.

Calathea plants grow in temperatures ranging from 65 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (15.56 to 32.22 degrees Celsius).

Even under perfect conditions, if the temperature is too high or too low, the plant will be unable to close its leaves for the night.

Keep this in mind while transplanting your plant, and give it additional TLC if your location has a sudden cold or hot spell.

To maintain your plant at the proper temperature, keep it away from any sources of heat, such as appliances or direct sunlight, and use a fan to circulate the air if required.

Damage to the Part That Makes Movement Possible


Assume you inadvertently crush or shatter this important plant component. You can forget to close it or leave it open during the day.

Keep a watch on your plant for any symptoms of damage and take corrective measures if you find any.

Leaf Aging

The fading and curling of a leaf’s edges indicate its advanced age. As the leaves age, they lose flexibility and droop.
Why and How Calatheas Move and Pray

Calathea plants lose their ability to close at night as they mature. This is natural and to be expected as the plant nears the end of its life cycle.

An aged plant’s leaves may become photosensitive, die, and fall off.

Simply snip off the troublesome leaves with sharp scissors to keep your Calathea looking nice and tidy.

Remove any yellowing or browning leaves from a plant so that the plant may concentrate its efforts on generating new growth.

Simply defined, it promotes nutrient absorption, which maintains the plant healthy and vigorous.

Transplant Shock

Your Calathea may just require a few days to recuperate after being repotted. When moving roots from one container to another, they are strained.

During its rehabilitation, the plant may lack the resources to dedicate to nyctinasty, such as water and energy.

The good news is that there is nothing you can do but wait.

Your Calathea’s life depends on it adjusting to its new environment and re-establishing vigorous root development.

It should do so on its own if you put it in proper soil and keep it warm and wet.

It is critical to pay special attention to the plant’s humidity requirements during this time.

Spider Mites

These pests are particularly drawn to the delicious fluids generated by the stems immediately below the leaves, which is just where your Calathea wants water to raise and drop its leaves.

If your plant is infested with spider mites, it probably doesn’t mind if you forget to pray for it every now and again.

Calatheas will perish if they are not treated for mites. If you believe this is the source of your plant’s troubles, quarantine it immediately.

Keep it in a separate room from other houseplants to prevent the little animals from spreading.

The next step is to examine the plant’s leaves for signs of damage.

A spider mite infestation is commonly identified by clusters of little white spots on the leaves (especially the undersides).

Wispy webbing, stretched between the plant’s stems and leaves, may also be apparent.

The mites themselves may be difficult to see with the naked eye. You may tap your plant while holding a piece of paper underneath the leaf.

If a lot of microscopic particles, such as pepper on the page, fall onto the paper, insects become a problem.

Wash the foliage with a strong spray of water from a hose or tap to get rid of spider mites.

Once it has dried, spray it down with a solution of mild liquid soap (approximately one teaspoon of soap per liter of water, properly mixed).

Spray this all on your Calathea, being careful to go into every crack. Wait around 10 minutes before rinsing it off.

This treatment will most likely need to be performed several times until all of the mites have been removed.

Neem oil is a powerful natural insecticide that may be used in moderation.

A solution of one-third teaspoon liquid soap, one teaspoon neem oil, and one liter water may be beneficial. Mix it again and continue to do so every few minutes while spraying.

What Does a Praying Calathea Look Like?

Some people see individual leaves curling inward or pairs of leaves pulling together like praying hands when they hear the common name “Prayer Plant.”

A Calathea does not act like that at night. The leaves will turn upward, pointing at the ceiling, but they will not collide with one another.

A healthy Calathea will also not have leaves that curl at the edges on a frequent basis. In plant life, this is a sign of dehydration.

We’ll go over how UV light, hot air, dry air, and submersion may all play a part in more detail below.

Excess minerals in the water or soil of a plant can also cause the leaves to curl.

Reduce the quantity of fertilizer you feed your Calathea and replace normal tap water with distilled water.

Other Plants That Move at Night

Calathea is only one of numerous nyctinastic plants.

Several legumes have the nyctinastic characteristic.

Plants that do this include Papilionid beans and other climbing vines, which fold their leaves as light levels fall, allowing them to absorb more carbon dioxide.

Why and How Calatheas Move and Pray

The flowers are also nyctinastic:

  • Oxalis triangularis (False Shamrock)
  • Daisy
  • California poppy
  • Lotus
  • Rose-of-Sharon
  • Magnolia
  • Morning glory


A Calathea’s prayer routine is incredible to witness. If you take care of your plant, you could get to see this amazing phenomena for yourself.

Our hope is that this post has helped you understand more about your tropical beauty’s needs and how to care for it.


Why are my Calathea’s leaves drooping?

When a plant’s leaves droop or wilt, it’s usually because it’s thirsty.

However, because its leaves rise and fall with the light, you should check the moisture level of the soil before giving your Calathea a drink, should you misinterpret the plant’s natural habit for thirst.

The edges of my plant’s leaves are turning yellow and brown. What can I do?

This issue is frequently caused by inconsistent irrigation. The yellowing and browning of Calathea are signs of both overwatering and underwatering.

Examine the instructions carefully to see whether any changes need be made to your existing treatment technique.

The best results may be obtained by just inspecting the soil more frequently to build a rhythm with your plant.

Why is my Calathea losing the saturation in its leaves?

This is most likely due to overexposure to sunlight. Despite the fact that calathea thrives in bright light, direct sunlight will bleach and eventually burn the leaves.

How often should I fertilize my plant?

From spring through fall, fertilizing houseplants once every three months is typically regarded best maintenance.

Apply an organic houseplant fertilizer once a month, diluting it as indicated.

Because Greenery NYC uses organic potting mix and delayed release fertilizer, your plant will not require fertilizer for at least the first six months after you receive it.

How often does my plant need to be repotted?

It is advised that you repot your smaller plants every 12 to 18 months.

Most of the time, a potting container an inch or two larger in diameter than the plant’s final size is preferable.

Choosing a pot that is significantly larger than the previous one may cause the plant’s roots to rot.

If you wish to retain your plant at its current size, repot it into the same container with new soil and do some moderate root and leaf trimming.

While the plant is actively developing, repotting should be done in the spring or summer.

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