Want a Thriving Zebra Plant? Here’s How to Take Care of It

The care of a zebra plant is relatively easy as long as you provide right conditions. There are some important things to keep in mind when caring for your new zebra plant cuttings.

Aphelandra squarrosa, commonly referred to as the zebra plant, is a tropical plant native to parts of Brazil. This plant is known for its dark green foliage and contrasting veins that resemble the patterns of a zebra. Given the right conditions, it can grow up to six feet tall outdoors and two feet indoors. Even though the zebra plant has a reputation for being one of the hardest-to-please houseplants, it is still among the best to have. It just needs a little bit of your attention to thrive.

So, how do you take care of a zebra plant? This plant generally thrives in bright, indirect light but can tolerate a few hours of direct morning sunlight. Only water your zebra plant when more than 25% of the topsoil is completely dry. Water thoroughly and empty the saucer of any excess water to avoid causing root rot. The plant prefers a relatively high humidity of between 60-70%. Its leaves tend to turn brown if the humidity is too low. Fertilize your plant during its active growing season using a good quality liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength every two weeks.

This blog post discusses everything you need to know about taking care of a zebra plant. Read on to learn more.

Zebra Plant: Key Characteristics

The zebra plant is a member of the Acanthaceae family and is native to Brazil. It has ovate-oblong leaves, usually dark green with contrasting veins, forming a distinctive zebra pattern.

The plant’s flowers, which bloom in spring or summer, can be yellow, orange, or red and measure around two inches in width.

Zebra plant on a white pot.
The zebra plant has a reputation for being one of the hardest-to-please houseplants.

Although this plant can easily attain a height of six feet in its natural habitat, most gardeners usually treat it with a growth suppressant limiting its height to just two feet.

Some of the common types of zebra plant include Dania, which has the typical white-veined and dark green leaves, apollo, which features white stripes than Dania and red apollo, which adds a gold mix to its stems and leaves. Some of its leaves may be stained red on the underside.

Zebra Plant Care: Important Tips

To take good care of your zebra plant, it is essential to know what kind of conditions this tropical plant needs. Here are a few tips for taking care of your zebra plant:

Light

This plant prefers bright, indirect light. However, it can tolerate a few hours of direct morning sunlight.

During summer, position your zebra plant in a location that receives plenty of indirect sunlight to encourage budding, which happens in autumn.

The zebra plant requires average night temperatures of about 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit and light levels of between 650-700 footcandles. These conditions must be maintained for at least 12 weeks consecutively for the flowers to form.

One of the best ways to ensure your zebra plant receives plenty of sunlight is to place it on a south-facing windowsill with a transparent sheer curtain between it and the windowpane to help diffuse the glare.

Zebra plant exposed to sunlight.
It can tolerate a few hours of direct morning sunlight.

If you don’t have a south-facing window, consider positioning it on an east-facing windowsill, where it receives plenty of direct sunlight during the morning hours.

The mild rays of the morning sunlight are usually considered a direct equivalent to bright, indirect light.

Reduce the amount of light exposure during winter as the plant slides into dormancy. During this time, your zebra plant will be okay with around 450-500 footcandles of light every day.

Just make sure you don’t leave it in total darkness since it can be catastrophic in the long run.

Watering

The zebra plant prefers to be kept relatively moist but not waterlogged. You should only water it when more than 25% of the topsoil feels dry.

Water thoroughly, ensuring water sips in from the base and not from the leaves. This plays a critical role in preventing leaf spot disease caused by too much moisture on the leaves.

And remember to empty any excess water that has collected in the saucer to avoid causing root rot.

The best time to water your zebra plant is in the morning. This gives your plant enough time for the leaves to dry before evening.

The evaporation rate is also low in the morning, which ensures your plant has enough time to absorb the water before it evaporates.

Avoid watering in the afternoon by all means. If you cannot water in the morning, consider watering in the evening.

Furthermore, avoid watering your zebra plant with cold water since it can shock its root system. The water you use should be at room temperature or slightly warmer.

Fertilizer

Feed your zebra plant every month during spring and summer using a balanced houseplant fertilizer at half-strength dilution. During fall and winter, fertilize it sparingly.

To encourage more flowering, consider supplementing your fertilizer with a 10-20-10 general-purpose plant food every month. Be sure to follow package instructions for the best results.

Consider using liquid fertilizer since it is highly convenient. You will basically be killing two birds with one stone; watering and fertilizing simultaneously. It is also a precaution since it is challenging to use fertilizer sticks and control the dosage.

In some cases, using fertilizer sticks or spikes may lead to overfertilizing your zebra plant, which can cause severe damage to the root system. Adding fertilizer to water helps you make it dilute or stronger to your liking.

Humidity

This plant prefers a relatively high humidity of between 60-70%. Its leaves tend to turn brown if the humidity is too low.

Zebra plant in a pot outdoors.
This plant prefers a relatively high humidity of between 60-70%.

You can increase the humidity around your zebra plant by misting its leaves or placing it in a humidity tray filled with pebbles and water. Make sure the water doesn’t touch the base of your plant.

You can also purchase a humidifier to create an optimal environment for your zebra plant and other houseplants. This is especially helpful if you live in a dry climate or use central heating during winter.

Pruning

Pruning your zebra plant is not only important for its aesthetic appeal, but it also helps preserve its natural shape and encourages new growth.

Zebra plant in a pot with a pruner beside.
Pruning your zebra plant is not only important for its aesthetic appeal.

Prune your zebra plant by pinching back spent blooms and trimming off yellow or brown foliage with scissors. Ensure you use sharp scissors to avoid tearing the leaves.

Be sure to discard the cut stems and leaves in the trash as they can harbor bacteria and pests which can spread to your healthy plants.

Repotting

Your zebra plant should be repotted every two years or when you observe overcrowding in its pot. The best time for this is during spring since it coincides with the end of dormancy and the beginning of the growing season.

When choosing a pot for your zebra plant, make sure it is one size larger than its current pot. This will give it adequate space to grow and thrive.

Also, ensure it has several drainage holes to allow excess water escape quickly and prevent root rot.

Use fresh potting soil and a mixture of perlite or sand for optimal drainage. Avoid watering your plant for a few days after repotting since it is already in wet soil.

Finally, consider moving your zebra plant outdoors during summer months to ensure it gets adequate sunlight and fresh air.

Bring it back indoors when temperatures start to drop. This will boost your plant’s energy and encourage growth and flowering.

Pests and Diseases

Unfortunately, zebra plant is highly prone to pests and diseases. Common pests include aphids, mealybugs, scale insects, whiteflies, spider mites and fungus gnats. The most common diseases include root rot and powdery mildew.

To deal with these problems, always inspect your plant before purchasing it to ensure there are no pests or signs of disease.

Also, practice proper hygiene and always discard dead leaves, roots or stems from your plants.

Keep an eye out for signs of pest infestation, such as yellowed leaves, sticky deposits on foliage or black spots on petioles.

Treat pests with insecticidal soap, neem oil or horticultural oils and treat diseases with a fungicide to keep your plant healthy.

Propagation

Zebra plants can be propagated by either stem cuttings or division.

For stem cuttings, take a few cuttings of about 3 inches in length from your zebra plant and remove any leaves from the lower portion.

Zebra plant in a white pot.
Place the container in a warm and humid environment.

Dip them into rooting hormone and insert them into a moist potting mix that contains perlite or sand for better drainage. Place the container in a warm and humid environment.

For division, gently dig up your plant and separate the crown from its roots. Plant each section in its own pot filled with fresh potting mix.

Water well and keep them in a bright place but away from direct sunlight until they are established.

Summary

The zebra plant is a truly unique and beautiful addition to any houseplant collection. With its distinctive foliage, bright colors and relatively low maintenance needs, you don’t have to be an expert gardener to get the most out of this amazing plant.

The key to taking care of a zebra plant is providing it with moderate light, water, and humidity, complemented with occasional fertilization.

The more you pay close attention to the environmental factors and keep an eye on possible pests or diseases, the more healthy your zebra plant will be.

Last update on 2024-02-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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