Zebra Plant, scientifically known as Aphelandra squarrosa, possibly got its name from its zebra-like foliage. It is a sub-tropical plant native to Brazil and has large leaves with striking white stripes that resemble the skin of a Zebra.
Due to their striking look, Zebra Plants are popularly grown indoors, growing up to two feet tall. Grown in ideal conditions, these plants can produce bracts of bright yellow flowers that can grow up to many inches in length and survive for around six weeks.
Facts About Zebra Plant
Although Zebra Plants look beautiful, it can be quite a feat to coax these plants to bloom properly. As we said, it can grow around 2 feet when grown indoors, but if you plant it outside, its height can reach up to 6 feet.
That being said, if you are planning to grow this plant indoors, there are a few tips and tricks you would need to follow.
But, before we delve into those tips, let us explore some basic facts of this plant breed.
|Common Name||Zebra Plant|
|Botanical Name||Aphelandra squarrosa|
|Size||Up to 2 feet in a container
Around 6 feet when grown outdoors
|Bloom Time||Late summer and throughout the fall|
|Max. Height||6 feet (when grown outdoors)|
|Common Pests||Mealybugs, fungus gnats, and whiteflies|
|Toxic To||Potentially toxic to cats and dogs|
Different Types of Zebra Plant
It is interesting to note that there are overall 21 types of Zebra Plants available, each with a unique style and appearance. But when it comes to growing them indoors, two of the most popular variants include Calathea zebrina and Aphelandra squarrosa.
That being said, Calathea zebrina (one of the calathea plant types) is an entirely different plant from Aphelandra squarrosa. The latter is only a type of Calatha plant that shares the name as zebra plants.
You can choose these two or any of the 21 variants of Zebra Plants to grow inside your home as a part of modern decor.
Growing Zebra Plant at Home
Zebra Plants are exotic and jeweled plants that are loved because of the way they appear. They make unique indoor, porch, and patio plants. Growing these plants in taller pots is most suitable as they grow upright.
Although Zebra Plants are among the most popular in-house plants, growing them may require extra coax. They need to be provided with the right amount of light, warmth, water, and nutrients to grow and bloom.
Aphelandra squarrosa grows best in multi-purpose or peat-based potting soil. The pH level of the soil should range from neutral to acidic (5.6-6.0). You can also opt to mix a portion of the soil to enhance its ability to drain water.
In addition, if you aim to grow a blooming Zebra Plant, you must feed it with fertilizers every one to two weeks, in the spring and summer months (its growing season).
Sunlight is a crucial factor when it comes to growing indoor Zebra Plants. In outdoor (natural) settings, these plants grow under the canopy of trees where they’re exposed to bright partial sunlight. So, when you plan to grow them indoors, try to keep them away from direct sunlight.
Although these plants can stand direct morning sunlight for a couple of hours, try to avoid keeping them in that condition for long, especially during the afternoons. Also, for Zebra Plants, complete darkness is not tolerable, as a lack of sunlight can prevent them from blooming.
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If you understand the amount of sunlight needed for these plants, it will be easier for you to choose the right location to place them.
It is best to keep your Zebra Plant in a place that receives sufficient bright indirect sunlight. So, you may keep your plant in a sheltered location or under a thick tree canopy.
You can place your plant in the greenhouse as well.
Another crucial aspect of growing Aphelandra squarrosa indoors is watering it sufficiently to keep the soil moist, avoiding saturation.
You do not want to waterlog but keeping the soil dry is also something you should avoid. Too much dry soil will make the zebra leaves curl in. So, keep a check to keep the soil consistently
moist throughout the growing season.
However, during the winter months, you can allow the soil to dry out moderately in between watering sessions.
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Tips for Caring Zebra Plant
Aphelandra squarrosa is a sensitive plant majorly cultivated for its brilliantly colored flowers and gorgeous green leaves.
However, like any sub-tropical evergreen plant, growing Zebra Plants indoors may be challenging, especially if you stay in a colder region. So, let us discuss everything step by step on how to tend and manage your Zebra Plant if planted indoors.
We have already mentioned that this plant requires bright but partial sunlight daily. So, the ideal temperature to keep your Zebra Plant in is around 60- 80 degrees Fahrenheit. That being said, you should check that the temperature must not drop beyond 55 degrees Fahrenheit, or else the plant’s foliage may get damaged.
Next comes the humidity level.
Zebra Plants love humidity so much that they are often considered humidity attracter! Thus, the environment in which they are kept must have a humidity level between 60- 70%. Therefore, avoid keeping this plant near any vent or heater.
Nonetheless, if you live in a dry region lacking a humid climate, you can use a humidifier for your plant. Other areas to keep your plant can include the kitchen and bathroom, where water is consistently used.
You can also mist its leaves manually if they lack water but make sure not to create any waterlogging in the soil.
Zebra Plants can enhance their growth if they get proper food, which includes fertilizers. We say so because this plant’s blooming capacity highly depends on how much nutrition it is getting.
Thus, during the growing seasons, like spring and early summer, you can prefer to fertilize your plant every 1- 2 weeks. It is best to use water-soluble quick-release fertilizer for your plant and avoid using them during the winter months.
One note of caution here is that always fertilize your plant after dampening the soil, and never on dry soil.
Aphelandra squarrose’s trimming requirement is low and essential. The only pruning this plant will need is snipping off dead or dying blooms. Keeping the dead flowers for long may cause the bottom foliage to wilt and fall off, leaving behind only stems and leaves at the tip.
You can just trim the stems and leaves down to a pair of leaves to the plant’s bottom whenever the blooms die. This will help it bushier during the spring.
Propagating a Zebra Plant during the springtime is ideal and thorough cutting. You can do it by cutting stems from your plant and spreading them in your garden or other containers.
- Using a sharp and sterile knife, cut the 2- to 3-inch-long sections from the sides of the shoots.
- After removing the stem, dust the openings with a rooting hormone to encourage successful propagation.
- Insert the rooting hormone-covered ends in a container or pot filled with moist soil. You can prepare the soil by mixing peat moss and perlite.
- To boost the growth of the roots, you can keep the pot or container on a heating mat.
- Remember to place the container in an area that receives around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Make sure to provide lots of humidity for the new shoots to grow strong roots. A covered terrarium could be an ideal location.
You can keep your Zebra Plant happy by re-potting it annually during the springtime. Once propagated, when your plant grows in size and has an established root system, you can re-pot it.
When re-potting, you can opt for either plastic or ceramic pot with one to two drainage holes. Also, it is necessary to make sure that the new pot is at least one to two inches larger than the one it was initially growing in.
Common Zebra Plant Pests
Although Zebra Plants look ornamental, they are prone to pest infestations. Some common bugs that may cause issues for these plants include mites, scale, thrips, aphids, mealybugs, and whitefly.
So, keeping a check on your plant could help you eliminate any chance of pest infestation. But in case your plant is already affected, you can use insecticidal soaps (for aphids and thrips), rubbing alcohol dipped cotton swabs (for mealybugs), horticultural oil (for whitefly), etc.
Since these plants are primarily kept in humid climates, they tend to grow diseases from time to time, especially fungal ones.
Some common diseases you may encounter with your indoor Zebra Plant include:
- Phytophthora stem rot
- Botrytis blight
- Corynespora and myrothecium leaf spots
- Pythium root rot
Of all these diseases, Phytophthora stem rot has no cure. So, the only thing you can do is prevent it from occurring by making sure that the soil in the pot is well-drained and there is no waterlogging around the base of the plant.
Since fungal infections and diseases occur primarily due to wet and humid climates, avoid consistent soggy soil. Instead, keep the soil moist but not overly wet.
How to get Zebra Plant to Bloom?
The next challenge you are most likely to face while growing and caring for your indoor Zebra Plant is getting it to bloom. But it is not an impossible task. All you would need to do is follow a few tips, and voila! Your loving Aphelandra squarrosa will start producing bright yellow flowers.
You can start by keeping the plant’s foliage alive throughout the winter months. Move your pot to a cooler location in the winter months and transfer it back to a warmer area at the start of spring. Make sure to keep your plant in a shaded region that receives bright sunlight. The intensity of the sunlight will spur your plant to produce flowers.
The next thing to do is to cut the dead flowers as soon as possible. It will help your plant to maintain good health and encourage it to bloom again in the fall.
Another crucial thing to take care of is fertilizing your Zebra Plant every one to two weeks, in spring and early summer.
With a balanced proportion of light, fertilizers, and humidity, your indoor Aphelandra squarrose should bloom efficiently.
Possible Issues related to Growing Zebra Plant
Being sensitive, Zebra Plants are bound to face issues while growing. However, most issues related to these plants are associated with their leaves. So, keeping a close check on them is crucial to avoid any severe problems.
- Leaf curling or Crinkling
One of the most common problems with Zebra Plants is the curling of their leaves due to too much exposure to sunlight. If your plant is getting too much direct sunlight, chances are high you will notice its leaves getting curled or crinkled. Move it to a cooler and shader located to let it recover.
- Leaf Browning
Leaf browning is most commonly caused either due to too much light or too much dose of fertilizer. But, other than these reasons, insufficient watering can also cause your plant to go brown. So, move your plant to a shader area, cut down on the amount of fertilizer, and water it sufficiently to let it grow healthier.
- Leaves falling off
Overwatering or underwatering can cause the leaves of your Zebra Plant to fall off. Therefore, make sure that your plant is receiving a balanced amount of water regularly. Also, check if the humidity level is sufficient, as dehydration may also lead to the plant wilting.
Ans. Yes, you can keep your Zebra Plant inside your bedroom, as it is an air cleanser houseplant. However, you must ensure that it gets proper humidity level all the time.
Ans. Zebra Plants make excellent indoor plants. They can be grown inside, under shades, but require good care to survive and flourish. These plants are sensitive and need a good amount of bright sunlight, humidity, moist soil, and fertilizer to grow.
Ans. One of the main reasons your plant is not blooming is that you are not fertilizing it sufficiently and giving it the right amount of bright (indirect) sunlight.
Ans. With the right care and proper condition, Zebra Plants can live for up to a decade.
Ans. Your Zebra Plant may be receiving less sunshine, which is making it go leggy.
To wrap it up, we can say that growing Zebra Plant indoors is not rocket science. However, that should not allow you to overlook the essential tips and tricks while growing them. These plants are ornamental, and if taken proper care of, can flourish richly.
The mesmerizing large green leaves and bright yellow flowers are worth all your efforts to grow and care for this plant.