Recently, I posted a video about a plant rescue of Calathea makoyana or ‘Peacock Plant’. During the project I visited my favorite nursery only to find an identical plant, in perfect condition, labeled as Ctenanthe.

What did I buy? It’s common for a plant from the hardware store to be mislabeled, but when I searched online, I found that my ‘Peacock Plant’ was actually a ‘Never-Never’ plant. I’ve been duped!

I know the Marantaceae family has similar traits, but I have yet to meet Ctenanthe and want to know more. Let’s take a dive:

Calathea, Maranta and Ctenanthe:

These three plants belong to the Marantaceae family also known as the Arrowroot family. Arrowroot comes from the starch found in the plants edible rhizome.


The Maranta genus is native to Central and South America and is commonly called the ‘Prayer Plant’. Maranta gets it’s ‘Prayer Plant’ name because of the process called nyctinasty. During the day the leaves are open and as the sun sets leaves fold up as if it were “praying”. The most common species with nyctinasty or praying attribute is M. leuconeura.

Maranta stays closer to the ground and grows in outward clumps. Recommended outdoor use as ground cover.


Known for interesting foliage and beautiful bright flowers, Calathea is a very popular houseplant. They are also commonly known as ‘Prayer Plant’, but this is not true. The ‘Prayer Plant’ designation is just for the Maranta so buyer beware. Calathea’s leaves are pleated and ovate or oval shaped and sometimes lance-shaped like the ‘Rattle Snake’ plant.


Common name ‘Never-Never’ plant is best known for the species C. lubbersiana This plant has ovate-shaped leaves, striped with bright yellow. Other common species of this plant are Ctenanthe burle-marxii and Ctenanthe oppenheimiana featuring lance-shaped leaves. They grow straight up on stalks with their leaves perching on top fanning out like an umbrella.

Nyctinasty vs. Photonasty:

Photonasty: a nastic movement associated with changes in light intensity. (response to changes in light)

Nyctinasty: a nastic movement associated with diurnal changes of temperature or light intensity. (movements at night or in dark)

Nastic: the opening and closing of some flowers

Diurnal: opens during the day and closes at night