The Never Never Plant known by its botanical name as Ctenanthe setosa is an evergreen foliage plant with beautifully variegated leaves that can be grown as ground cover outdoors or as a highly ornamental plant indoors.
Also known as the Prayer Plant because of how the leaves close at night to resemble praying hands, the Ctenanthe setosa is native to the rainforests of southeast Brazil.
If you can create a hospitable environment for this plant, it will reward you with beautifully variegated leaves. To grow this plant successfully indoors, follow my Ctenanthe setosa plant care recommendations below.
Size & Growth
Since we’re talking about a plant that grows as ground cover, its height isn’t as notable as its spread.
The Never Never plant can spread to about 7 feet, while its height is only a mere 12-18 inches, of which the leaves alone can reach 16 inches in length.
Ultimately, the spread and height of your Ctenanthe setosa will depend on the size of the pot you’re going to grow it in.
Indoors, the plant is known to have a compact growth pattern, not requiring any intensive pruning or maintenance.
Another reason why this plant makes a good houseplant is because it doesn’t need direct light exposure.
Since the Never Never plant grows under the canopy of Brazilian rainforests, it only ever gets filtered light or indirect light.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to keep your Prayer plant in a location with bright light, but not direct light. Indirect light works best for the Prayer plant.
Do make sure that it gets bright light though, otherwise, with too little light, there’s a risk of the foliage losing its variegation.
Before I get into the watering regimen that’s best for the Never Never plant, I’ll first mention a few things about the quality of the water you should be using.
Generally, you’ll need to avoid tap water, especially if your tap water is fluoridated or chlorinated. If you’re using a filter that filters out these chemicals, you can go ahead and use filtered tap water.
You can even allow tap water to sit overnight to help it aerate and allow chlorine to evaporate. Without these, there’s a risk that your Prayer plant will develop brown leaf tips.
As for the watering schedule, the rules are straightforward — don’t overwater and allow the topsoil to dry before you water your plant thoroughly.
Therefore, for best results, check the moisture level of the soil. If the top layer is dry, water until you see water coming out of the drain holes.
While the Ctenanthe setosa isn’t picky about the quality of its substrate, you want to get a potting mix that’s well-draining to help counter any overwatering issues and prevent water sitting at the roots of the plant.
You can get any mix that’s formulated for tropical plants, or create your own mix with peat, perlite, sand or bark.
Temperature & Humidity
The Prayer plant enjoys temperatures in the range of 55 °F- 85 °F, making it easy for it to adapt to indoor temperatures.
It does not tolerate temperatures below 55 °F, so it’s out of the question to leave this plant outdoors during cold, frosty winters.
Even indoors, winters can spell trouble for your Ctenanthe setosa if you leave the plant in a cold window or in an area with cold drafts and temperature fluctuations.
As a rainforest plant, the Never Never plant enjoys high humidity, which can become a problem indoors, especially in winter when the heating is on.
You can raise humidity levels with a humidity tray or a humidifier. Misting the plant can also help but do it sparingly so you don’t cause fungal or other leaf diseases.
An established Ctenanthe plant will benefit from regular fertilizing with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted at half strength.
Apply the fertilizer monthly during the growing stage and skip fertilizing during the winter months.
There’s no point in applying a strong dose of the fertilizer or applying the fertilizer more often than monthly. The plant won’t need that many nutrients and all you’re going to achieve is fertilizer burn.
Potting & Repotting
The size of the pot will determine the spread and height of your Prayer plant, but that doesn’t mean you should get a huge pot.
A pot that’s too large can create other problems like root rot, because the potting mix can take too long to dry out.
As for potting recommendations, repot the Never Never plant as needed. When the plant gets too big for its pot, switch to a bigger one, that’s one or two sizes larger than the current one.
A terracotta pot, if fitted with drainage holes, can be a highly decorative choice for a pot, especially if unglazed on the inside.
The porous structure of the pot will help absorb excess moisture from the potting mix, reducing the changes of root rot issues.
How to Propagate?
If you schedule repotting to early spring (and it’s best if you do), you can also use the opportunity to propagate the Ctenanthe setosa.
You can easily propagate the Prayer plant by dividing its roots and transferring the division to a different pot.
Wait around 6 weeks for the roots and the plant to become established and you can resume your normal Never Never plant caring routine.
Whether you live in an area with forgiving winters and temperatures above 55 °F, and you’re planning on using the Prayer plant as ground cover, or you’re looking for a houseplant, this foliage plant is a real gem.
If you understand its requirements, especially when it comes to humidity, light exposure and watering, you’ll have an easy time growing it.
Just make sure you’re not overwatering or depriving the plant of adequate light, or it will do poorly and lose its variegation.
Protect it from cold and direct sunshine. Use a well-draining potting mix and don’t overfertilize. With these in mind, your Ctenanthe setosa will thrive indoors or out.