Family: Marantaceae

This genus from tropical America comprises about 30 species of perennial, evergreen, clump-forming plants, grown mostly for their decorative leaves, though some species are also very striking when in bloom. They make very attractive house plants. Arrowroot comes from the thick, starchy rhizome of M. arundinacea.


M. anundinacea, arrowroot, grows up to 2 m (6 ft) high, with green, tapering leaves and white flowers. Cultivar 'Variegata' has leaves marked dark green, light green and yellow.

M. bicolor, to 40 cm (16 in), has oval-shaped, olive green leaves with brown spots, a lighter, central stripe on top and light purple below. The white flowers are marked with purple and the tubers are borne at the base.

M. leuconeura, prayer plant, grows to 30 cm (12 in). The satiny, deep green, silver-veined foliage is purple on the underside. The white flowers of this species are spotted with purple. Var. erythroneura has very dark green leaves, dark red on the undersides, with bright red veins and midribs and a light green, zigzag central band. Var. kerchoveana has light green leaves which are blueish gray on the undersides, boldly marked with brown, but eventually turning green.


Outside tropical climates, marantas need to be grown in a warm greenhouse or conservatory or in a warm room in the home. Use a soil-based or soilless potting compost, and, as the plants have only shallow root systems, grow them in half-depth pots or pans. They need good light (but shade from direct sun) and a humid atmosphere throughout the year. They should be mist sprayed daily in the growing period. Propagate in spring, either by division or from basal cuttings rooted in a heated propagating case.


Tropical only.

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Manihot      Marattia