The zebra plant, also known as Calathea zebrina is a lush foliage plant that sports large ovate leaves at the very tips of long stalks. The velvety patterned leaves with bright hues of green are marked with stripes that resemble the stripes on a zebra.
The leaves feature purple undersides, which are usually not visible due to the horizontal growth of the leaves. However, one can see the lovely hue when some leaves grow upright or curve to some extent.
Speaking of caring for your zebra plant, it’s essential to note that it calls for a good deal of care and attention. However, the plant can survive indoors and look amazingly bright, healthy and strong when you follow the right care regime.
Here’s your complete guide to caring for your Calathea zebrina that also takes you through some common problems of the plant, the right method to propagate them, as well as a few other related questions.
- 1 Zebra Plant Plant Care Basics
- 3 Propagation of the Calathea zebrina
- 4 Calathea zebrina Plant Pruning
- 5 Common Problems Demonstrated by Calathea zebrina
- 5.1 Why are my Calathea zebrina leaves drooping?
- 5.2 Why is my Calathea dying?
- 5.3 Why do the leaves on my Calathea zebrina turn yellow?
- 5.4 What causes curled leaves on my Calathea zebrina?
- 5.5 What causes limp stems on my Calathea zebrina?
- 5.6 What does it mean when the leaves of my Calathea zebrina are pointing up?
- 5.7 What causes the leaves to look faded or washed out?
- 5.8 What causes the zebra plant to develop a gray mold?
- 5.9 What if the zebra plant is infected by pests?
- 6 Related Questions
Zebra Plant Plant Care Basics
Zebra plants require a peat-based potting mix. It’s best to use a mix that is 2 parts peat and 1 part perlite. Zebra plants like rich, well-drained soil that holds moisture.
The simplest option is to use an African violet potting mix, or you can make your own blend of one part garden soil, one part sand or perlite, and two parts peat moss or coir.
Whether it’s excess of darkness or direct sunlight, Calathea zebrina calls for protection from both. What works wonders for a healthy zebra plant is a spot with nice bright, indirect sunlight.
A great option is to place the plant somewhere where it’s treated with filtered bright light, preferably, through a curtain. The plant does well when placed in a north-facing window, while you must make sure to shield the plant from direct rays of the sun if going for some other setting.
Direct sunlight is fatal for the plant as it burns the leaves and makes it lose its bright hues.
When the plant is in the growing season, it will call for loads of water. A moisture-loving plant, Calathea zebrina needs wet soil to thrive. But at the same time, you must make sure that the plant doesn’t sit in deep water.
Also, reduce watering during the winter season when the growth slows down or takes a complete halt. Between each watering session during winters, make sure you allow the soil to turn slightly dry.
Avoid cold or hard water for watering your zebra plant, instead go for tepid rain or distilled water. Calathea zebrina needs to stay moist all the time, but not completely wet. So, keep the soil of your zebra plant pot moist yet draining well.
Zebra plants thrive best at average room temperatures that range from 65 degrees Fahrenheit to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. However, don’t place the plant in temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Another thing to make sure is to protect your Calathea zebrina from sudden temperature drops and cold drafts. Also, protect your plant from drying and overheating by keeping it away from heating vents.
One of the most important aspects of caring for your zebra plant is humidity. In fact, most people go wrong when it comes to maintaining the right levels of humidity around their zebra plants.
Calathea zebrina calls for high humidity, and to make sure the plant gets that, you can try misting and keep the soil adequately moist. If that doesn’t work, you may provide the plant more moisture by using a humidity tray or an electronic humidifier.
It’s also recommended to place your Calathea zebrina in close proximity to other plants.
Feed your zebra plant with a standard liquid houseplant fertilizer. However, make sure you fertilize the plant only during the growing season once every two weeks, going for a half-strength mixture of fertilizer. Avoid using fertilizers during the winter season.
It’s almost effortless to grow new plants from leaf cuttings or the small new growths. Place the tiny growths or leaf cuttings in potting soil, keeping them moist until the development of roots. A period of 4-6 weeks is enough to develop roots.
Calathea zebrina has quite a fast growth rate, especially if you use a good soil mix and feed the plant every week. Although the zebra plant grows quickly, it doesn’t grow and spread out on the pots.
In fact, this plant usually only grows up to an average of 2 feet in height, and then take a halt. Zebra plant yields long stalks that grow up to 3 inches in height. The fact that it forms small clumps makes the plant leaves grow at the very top of the stalks.
You can re-pot your healthy zebra plants semi-annually or annually during the summer and spring season while going for new potting soil. To generate more plants, you can divide them and replant them by division.
Although the young plants may not seem to be as lush and dense as the mother plant, the right care will make them get bright foliage over time. The fact that Calathea zebrina grows quickly is the reason behind the same.
Propagation of the Calathea zebrina
The best time to go for the repotting, pruning and propagating of your zebra plant is the beginning of the growth cycle. Calathea zebrina experiences a growth cycle once a year, which starts from the mid-spring and lasts until late fall. Propagating during this time yields luscious and healthy new plants.
Use a good quality peat-based potting mix when you are repotting your zebra plant. What works wonders is one part perlite and two parts peat, no matter if you are potting a young plant or a mature calathea. While the plant is in the initial stages of its life, you may need to re-pot it more often. However, you can transfer it to a larger planter once a year when it reaches maturity.
If you are propagating large Calathea zebrina, it can easily be done by the division method. All the leaves of a zebra plant emerge from one central rootstock, wherein a clump of the roots forms and spreads out from the center over time.
First of all, divide the zebra plant in half very gently. You can go for smaller pieces if your plant seems to be quite large, further potting each of those small sections into a new pot. Make sure the individual sections have some of the original roots intact.
Cover the new zebra plants and the pots with plastic in order to keep the divisions warm, shady and moist.
In about a month, new growths will start showing, and that’s when you can remove the plastic to allow the plants to grow normally.
Calathea zebrina Plant Pruning
Just like most plants, the leaves of a zebra plant that are damaged or diseased should be trimmed off regularly. After every few days, make sure you dust your Calathea zebrina lightly, going for a thorough cleaning of the leaves if needed.
Avoid using any kind of leaf shining products, instead simply clean them using a damp and soft cloth or a damp paper towel. Once a while, give your zebra plant a lukewarm shower, further drying the leaves using a soft cloth.
Common Problems Demonstrated by Calathea zebrina
If you are planning to adorn the house with a zebra plant or have already got them, you might come across certain common problems when it comes to your plant’s health. B
elow are the answers to a few common questions that may come to your mind while caring for your precious plant.
Why are my Calathea zebrina leaves drooping?
Drooping Calathea zebrina leaves is a sign of too cold temperatures or exposure to draughts. If the air turns too dry, the leaves may droop, calling for increasing the humidity.
A point to remember is that such damage cannot be reversed if the problem persists for long. So, if you see drooping leaves, move the plant to a warmer spot immediately or keep it distant from the cold draught.
Why is my Calathea dying?
If one or more of the ideal care conditions is not met, your Calathea zebrina may gradually degrade and show symptoms like falling leaves, burnt texture, dull or discolored leaves, limp stems, or rotten roots.
Make sure you provide the right care to your plant if you show any of these signs, immediately adapting the remedy that suits the respective problem faced by your zebra plant.
Why do the leaves on my Calathea zebrina turn yellow?
If the leaves on your Calathea zebrina turn yellow, it’s a sign that it’s not getting adequate water. Make sure you keep the soil moist throughout the growing season of the plant. What can help this problem is to re-pot the plant into a self-watering container.
What causes curled leaves on my Calathea zebrina?
Underwatering is the main cause of curled leaves on Calathea zebrina. The soil of a zebra plant must remain moist for most of the time, especially in the growing season.
The only time the leaves are at no risk of curling up is the winter season when the plant has stopped undergoing growth. Letting the soil dry out at other times will result in such symptoms and curling up of the leaves.
In case your plant exhibits such signs, inspect the soil and water the plant if the soil is dry. Maintaining a regular watering schedule is essential for a healthy zebra plant.
What causes limp stems on my Calathea zebrina?
When your zebra plant gets excessive water during the winter season or when the temperature is too low, it may lead to limp stems or even stem rotting in the worst cases.
What does it mean when the leaves of my Calathea zebrina are pointing up?
When the leaves of your Calathea zebrina point upwards, you really don’t need to worry. Zebra plant closes its leaves at night which makes them point up while opening them again during the morning.
This is why it is also known as ‘living plant’. The opening and closing of the leaves happens because of a tiny joint between the stem and leaf. Light moves the joint, thereby causing the leaf to open and close – at times along with a rustling sound.
This process is actually a part of the circadian rhythm of plants, which occurs due to changes in water pressure in the nodes at the base of the leaves. Such movements allow zebra plants to make the most of every single ray of light.
What causes the leaves to look faded or washed out?
Faded leaves or poor coloration can happen due to improper lighting, whether too little or too much light. Usually, exposure to the direct sun is the cause of loss of pattern and color. All you need to do is to make appropriate corrections to the lighting conditions so that your plant is exposed to indirect, bright sunlight.
What causes the zebra plant to develop a gray mold?
In case, the atmosphere goes overboard in terms of the humidity levels, the plant may develop spots of grat mold. A mold attach is generally, a result of a highly muggy surrounding.
The solution is to trim back the portion of the leaves that are affected by mold while providing gentle ventilation. Avoid putting direct breeze on the plant, instead going for a small fan placed on a low-height near the plant to create a balanced circulation for the whole space.
What if the zebra plant is infected by pests?
Although there isn’t any serious disease or pest-related problems that occur in zebra plant, you might be required to regularly check for spider mites, scale, aphids, and mealybugs, as well as make sure there aren’t any leaf spots.
If the plant has got spider mites, make sure you treat it with a good quality insecticidal soap and keep the humidity levels favorable for the plant. In the case of scale, treat the plant with neem oil.
Is Calathea zebrina toxic to cats?
Fortunately, Calathea zebrina is totally non-toxic to cats and other pets, as stated under the toxic plant database issued by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Although the plant is not classified as poisonous to pets, zebra plant saps cal lead to skin irritation in some people who have got sensitive skin or certain allergies.
Is the bathroom a good spot for my Calathea zebrina?
Warm and shaded spots are the best when it comes to placing Calathea, and that’s why they are generally grown in conservatories and greenhouses. But the bathroom is a humid space that makes it just right for placing Calathea zebrina as long as you keep the plant in enough light and moisture.
Can you buy Calathea zebrina at Bunnings?
Yes! Bunnings has got loads of Calathea zebrina in size variations that suit your requirements just right. You can either go for a 130mm zebra plant or a 170mm one if you want to begin with a larger plant.
Where else can you buy Calathea zebrina?
You can buy zebra plants from places that sell tropical foliage plants. If you aren’t able to find them around, you can always purchase them online. Amazon and Etsy are two popular options to buy zebra plants from. Simply find out a green beauty that you like and order them for doorstep delivery.
Can you grow Calathea zebrina outside?
Although, it’s mostly placed indoors, whether Calathea zebrina will grow outside or not largely depends on the climatic conditions as it’s a tropical plant. You can grow it outside if the climate around your house is warm and humid, specifically in the USDA plant hardiness zone of 11-12.
Although Calathea zebrina is not a very easy-to-keep houseplant, the kind of beauty that it flaunts makes it all totally worth it. However, the plant surely isn’t meant for those who prefer going for a low-maintenance plant.
It’s amazing how a zebra plant can thrive indoors for several years, which also implies that you can’t place them on small window shelves for very long.
But the plant looks undoubtedly gorgeous when it grows tall and when one looks down at them from above. Just a little careful treatment and your Calathea zebrina will yield lovely leaves and turn into a glorious houseplant.
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.