How to Grow and Care for Ctenanthe (Never Never Plant)

Front closeup view of Never never plant (Ctenanthe spp.)

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

Never never plant (Ctenanthe spp.) is a tropical plant known for its oblong or lance-shaped leaves marked with stripes, spots, or splashes of color. Native to the jungles of Brazil, never never plants are relatively easy to care for as houseplants in the right conditions.

Like other plants in the family Marantaceae, or prayer plant family, never never plants fold up their leaves at night as if in prayer. This phenomenon is known as nyctinasty.

Common Name Never never plant, bamburanta
Botanical Name Ctenanthe spp.
Family  Marantaceae
Plant Type  Evergreen, Perennial
Mature Size 2-3 ft. tall, 3-4 ft. wide 
Sun Exposure  Partial
Soil Type Moist, Well-drained
Soil pH Neutral, Acidic
Bloom Time Rarely flowers
Flower Color White, yellow (insignificant)
Hardiness Zones  11-12 (USDA)
Native Area  South America (Brazil)

Never Never Plant Care

Never never plants aren't the most low-maintenance houseplants, but they'll thrive with basic care and the right conditions. They prefer indirect light, high humidity, and moist, rich soil with good drainage.

Front view of a Never never plant (Ctenanthe spp.)

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

Closeup of striations on a Never never plant (Ctenanthe spp.)

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

Foliage of the Never never plant (Ctenanthe spp.) from above

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

never never plant (ctenanthe) with long oval leaves

Johanna Svennberg/Getty


Like other prayer plants, never never plants grow best with medium to bright indirect light. Put them in a north-facing window or an east-facing window that gets weaker morning light. Never never plants can also grow well several feet from a south-facing or west-facing window that gets stronger sunlight. Keep them out of direct sun, which can burn the leaves and harm the plant.


Plant your never never plant in a loose, well-drained soil that's rich in organic matter to hold moisture and nutrients. Soggy soil can cause yellowing leaves or even root rot. Standard potting mix can work well if it's loose enough to promote drainage. You can also make your own potting mix by combining equal parts peat moss or coconut coir, potting mix, and perlite.


Instead of watering on a set schedule, check your never never plant's soil moisture regularly to determine the best time to water. A good indication is that the top inch or so of the soil feels dry. Let the water flow out of the holes in the bottom of the plant, and check drip trays and saucers to make sure the plant isn't sitting in water. You may need to water less frequently in winter.

Temperature and Humidity

Never never plants prefer conditions similar to their tropical native habitat. Temperatures below 60 degrees will damage the plant, as will cold drafts from doors, windows, or air conditioning vents. They prefer humidity above 60%, so it might be worth setting up a humidifier to keep this plant happy if you have the space. Dry air can make never never plants more susceptible to pests like spider mites.


Feed your never never plant with a balanced houseplant fertilizer diluted to half strength once per month in the spring and summer, and you can stop fertilizing in fall and winter. Note that your plant putting out new growth is a sign to begin fertilizing, even if spring hasn't sprung quite yet.

Types of Never Never Plant

There are more than a dozen species of never never plant, but only some of those are grown as houseplants. The types of never never plants include:

  • 'Grey Star'Ctenanthe setosa : This never never plant is known for its striking foliage. Its silver-colored leaves with grayish-green veining grow on deep red stems.
  • Ctenanthe burle-marxii: Sometimes called fishbone prayer plant, this never never plant bears a striking resemblance to some calathea species. Its oblong leaves are pale green with curved, brushstroke-like markings of dark green.
  • Ctenanthe oppenheimiana: The 'Tricolor' cultivar is the most common of this species of never never plant. It's known for its white, green, and pink variegation on its long, pointed leaves.
  • Ctenanthe lubbersiana: Also called Ctenanthe 'Golden Mosaic', this never never plant has wide oblong leaves marked with irregular stripes of bright yellowish green over dark green.


Never never plant doesn't typically need pruning. The occasional dead or dying leaf is normal and can be trimmed away at the base of the petiole to keep the plant looking healthy.

Propagating Never Never Plant

Never never plant is easy to propagate by division or stem cuttings. Both methods are best done in the spring when the plant's growth is the most vigorous. Here's how to propagate never never plant.

Propagating Never Never Plant By Division

Division is a great method for turning a large, mature never never plant into multiple smaller plants. You'll need plant pots, fresh potting mix, a clean knife or pruning shears, and gardening gloves.

  1. Gently tip the mother plant from its pot. Look for individual clumps with root and leaf growth.
  2. Carefully pull away intact clumps, ensuring that each clump has roots and at least a few leaves. If necessary, make a vertical cut through the root ball to separate clumps.
  3. Fill plant pots halfway with potting mix. Plant intact clumps and fill in with more mix, making sure the soil line is at the same level on the new plant as it was on the original plant. Save any leaves without developed roots to propagate in water.
  4. Water the divisions well and keep them in a warm place with bright, indirect light. Keep the soil moist and avoid fertilizing for a few weeks after dividing. When you see new growth, the divisions have established.

Propagating Never Never Plant Using Stem Cuttings

If your plant isn't large enough to divide, you can still grow new specimens by taking stem cuttings and propagating them in soil. You'll need a small plant pot, fresh potting mix, a clean knife or pruners, a clear plastic bag, and optional rooting hormone.

  1. Choose a healthy stem on the mother plant with several leaves. Take a six-inch cutting, making the cut just below a leaf node. Remove the lower leaves.
  2. Fill a plant pot with soil and moisten it with water. Use your finger or a pencil to poke a hole a few inches into the soil.
  3. Dip the cut end of the cutting in rooting hormone powder. Plant the cutting in the hole, ensuring that the node is below the soil line. Gently pat the soil down around the stem to keep it in place.
  4. Put the cutting in a warm place with bright, indirect light and keep the soil evenly moist. Poke a few holes in the plastic bag for ventilation and tent it over the cutting to create a humid microclimate. New growth is a sign that the cutting has rooted.

Potting and Repotting Never Never Plant

A never never plant benefits from being a bit potbound. You can wait to repot it after three or four years or when the roots begin crowding out the soil in the pot. Use fresh potting mix and go up only one pot size, or take the opportunity to divide a healthy, mature plant while repotting. Use a glazed ceramic or plastic pot with drainage holes for never never plant. Terra cotta or unglazed ceramic will wick away much-needed soil moisture.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases 

Keep an eye out for common houseplant pests like mealybugs and spider mites. Check the underside of your plant's leaves and keep an eye out for yellowing leaves, which can indicate an infestation. Overly wet, soggy soil can invite plant diseases like root rot, powdery mildew, botrytis, and leaf spot. Let the top of the soil dry out between waterings to minimize the risk.

Common Problems With Never Never Plant

Never never plant isn't the most beginner-friendly houseplant, but you can help it thrive with basic care and the right growing conditions. Watch for these signs of common problems and act quickly to keep your plant looking healthy and beautiful.

Curling Leaves

Curling leaves on a never never plant can indicate that the plant isn't getting enough water or that it's receiving too much sunlight. Check the soil moisture and placement in your space, then adjust accordingly.

Leaves Turning Yellow

A few different issues can make your never never plant's leaves turn yellow. Overly wet soil and root rot are common causes, as the plant is sensitive to overwatering. If overwatering isn't the issue, yellow leaves may be caused by a lack of fertilizer. Try feeding the plant if it's been repotted relatively recently, or repot it if it's been more than two years since you gave it fresh soil. Trim away any yellow leaves.

Plant Leaves Falling Off

Leaf drop in never never plant is most often caused by a lack of water. A dehydrated plant will get crispy and let go of its leaves in severe cases. Revive the plant gradually by giving it small amounts of water each day for a few days rather than a deep watering all at once, which can shock and kill the plant.

  • Can never never plant grow indoors?

    Yes, never never plant is easy to keep as a houseplant with the proper conditions.

  • What is the difference between never never plant and calathea?

    Never never plants and calatheas both belong to the prayer plant family (Marantaceae). Species may have similarly shaped leaves, striped or variegated markings, and care. Never never plants fold up their leaves at night the same way calatheas and marantas do.

  • Which plants are similar to never never plant?

    Along with calatheas, marantas and stromanthes are also in the prayer plant family with never never plants. The cultivar Ctenanthe 'Tricolor' looks very similar to another popular houseplant, Stromanthe 'Triostar'.