Did you know that zebras are actually black with white stripes? The same rings true for their plant doppelganger, Haworthiopsis fasciata. Adorably nicknamed ‘little zebra’ this succulent is covered in white stripes. That funky pattern, plus a distinctive shape, makes the little zebra a unique addition to any garden.
The Haworthiopsis fasciata zebra plant is in the same family as aloe vera, and it shows. It features green, triangular leaves that are stacked in a little bush. A typical succulent, little zebra plant stores water and nutrients in its leaves that enables it to survive long periods of drought. Even when grown outside its homeland of Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, this plant is very low-maintenance.
H. fasciata is an excellent plant for those new to succulent gardening. It behaves very typically for a succulent, so learning to care for it will prepare you for trickier plants, and it’s non-toxic. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to add little zebra to your green thumb repertoire!
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Quick Care Guide
|Common Name||Little zebra, zebra plant, succulent Haworthia|
|Scientific Name||Haworthiopsis fasciata; formerly Haworthia fasciata var fasciata|
|Height & Spread||7 inches high and wide|
|Light||Bright indirect light|
|Water||Soak and dry|
|Pests & Diseases||Mealybugs, spider mites, root rot|
All About Haworthiopsis Fasciata
Our knowledge about plants and how they’re related to each other is always expanding. So, plant species are often moved into different genuses as taxonomists learn more about them. This is the case with our little zebra plants. They used to be classified as Haworthia fasciata but were moved to the Haworthiopsis genus. Along for the ride came Haworthiopsis attenuata, little zebra’s near-identical twin (also from the genus Haworthia).
H. attenuata is nicknamed Haworthia zebra and is often confused with our little zebra plant. They both have striped, pointed, dark green leaves and the same growth habits. However, little zebra is smooth on the inside of the leaves, while Haworthia zebra has more white bumps there.
Little zebra is actually quite rare in cultivation and usually mislabelled. So, if it turns out you actually have a Haworthia zebra, head over to our article on Haworthiopsis attenuata (Haworthia attenuata). However, these Haworthia succulents are very similar and will benefit from the same general Haworthia care.
As we mentioned, the little zebra plant has sharply pointed leaves that are lined with bumpy “zebra stripes”, formally called white tubercles. The decorative, banded leaves grow out from the center in classic succulent fashion but curve inwards a bit more. The whole plant usually doesn’t reach more than 7 inches high, making it perfect for an indoor windowsill garden. When the plant blossoms, it sends up a solitary, thin stem that’s topped with tubular, white flowers.
The Haworthiopsis fasciata zebra plant grows in clumps. Spiked offsets will grow nestled under the parent plant until they develop their own root system. These are slow-growing succulent babies, but they do make propagation easier.
When grown outside as annuals, Haworthiopsis fasciata succulents will grow steadily from spring to fall. It’s growth will slow down in the winter when the temperature drops (it may even go dormant). When the weather warms up again, your little zebra plant may produce flowers in the summer or fall. This is also the ideal time to transplant, prune, or propagate since the succulent is actively growing again.
Haworthiopsis fasciata is native to South Africa, so it’s no surprise that it likes to be hot and dry. In the US, it will grow outside in zones 10-11. You can still grow this succulent plant in colder areas, but it’ll have to be kept inside (I’m currently growing one on my windowsill in zone 3!).
Zebra Plant Care
As long as you properly set up your zebra haworthia for the growing season, it’ll happily grow for you. Here’s what you need for successful zebra succulent plant care.
Sun and Temperature
Like most succulents, Haworthiopsis fasciata likes lots of bright, indirect sunlight. It’ll thrive in a south-facing window that gets at least 6 hours of direct light a day. However, little zebra plants also appreciate some light shade in the heat of the afternoon. The leaves may change color in bright, direct sunlight. This is technically a sign of stress but does little to harm the plant. In fact, many gardeners expose their succulents to too much sun in order to bring out the coloring.
As a desert plant, zebra cactus is not cold-hardy. The lowest temperature it can handle is around 30°F, but frost damage can happen at 45°F. Conversely, Haworthiopsis fasciata succulents handle heat well but need some protective shade in temperatures over 85°F.
Water and Humidity
If you’ve grown succulents, you know the drill with watering. We’re following the “soak and dry” technique. First, soak your succulent’s potting soil by watering it thoroughly. Then, wait until the soil has completely dried out, wait a few more days, and then soak it again. Depending on the temperature, you may only be watering every 2-4 weeks. If you’re in doubt about whether your succulent needs water, don’t water it.
Like most plants, little zebra likes to be dry above ground. Too much humidity is an invitation to leaf rot and fungal growth. So, be sure to place your succulent somewhere with good air circulation and low humidity.
Since they naturally grow in acidic sands, Zebra plants require a well-draining soil mix. Ideally, you should use a premade succulent and cactus mix, which usually has the perfect amount of drainage. You can also mix your own, adding sand, perlite, or vermiculite to regular potting mix.
Water should seep through the mix somewhat quickly and not pool on the surface. You can use an alternative growing medium, like coconut coir, but you’ll have to wait longer between waterings. Remember that while the growing medium needs to hold some moisture, it also needs to be dry for short periods of time.
H. fasciata plants prefer a neutral or slightly acidic soil pH (6.6 is perfect). They should manage just fine in poor soils as long as they get a good dose of fertilizer every now and then. You should also ensure that the container you use has excellent drainage holes.
Fertilizing Haworthia fasciata
For optimal growth, feed your Haworthiopsis fasicata zebra plant with a balanced liquid fertilizer every 2-3 months during the summer. Don’t worry about feeding it in the winter, as zebra plants’ growth will naturally slow down when the temperatures drop.
Since it grows in neatly-packed rosettes, the Haworthiopsis fasciata zebra plant isn’t usually pruned. The only times you should prune it is if the leaves are diseased or dying. The older leaves at the bottom of the rosette will naturally die off. You can remove them by simply plucking them off the stem. The same can be done for diseased leaves.
Propagation from a Mother Plant
Haworthiopsis fasciata is propagated just like most other succulents: leaf cuttings or offsets. Offsets are the easiest method, so we’ll start with them.
As mentioned earlier, a mature Haworthiopsis will produce baby plants called offsets or pups. These babies are attached to the mother plant, receiving nutrients while they grow their own roots. When the roots are visible, you can speed up the process by cutting the offsets from the mother plant and replanting them in their own small pots.
Leaf cuttings take longer to produce new plants, but they’re fascinating to watch! Start by removing an entire leaf from a mature plant. The leaf must be healthy and at least an inch long. Place the leaf somewhere dry for a few days so the cut end can callus over. To kickstart its growth, you can dip the cut end in rooting hormone. Then, set it on top of some well-draining soil and mist it with water.
Keep the surface continually moist and you’ll soon see tiny roots sprouting from the callused end. In time, a miniature rosette will grow from the cutting. As it turns into a mature plant, the original leaf will die and fall off.
Troubleshooting Zebra Plants
The wonderful thing about succulents is they aren’t too fussy. Plus, the things they’re particular about are fairly easy to identify and fix.
If they don’t get enough sunlight, succulents can become etiolated (stretched out). When this happens to Haworthiopsis fasciata plants, they appear tall and skinny instead of short and spiky. Unfortunately, once a fasciata plant is etiolated, it can’t shrink back down. But, it’s very easy to “perform surgery” on your succulent.
Using a sharp, clean knife, cut off the stem an inch below where the leaves begin to space out. Remove all the leaves from that bottom inch, leaving you with a spiky rosette on a stem. Give the cutting a few days to dry out, and then stick it upright into some well-draining potting mix. The stem will grow roots from where the leaves were removed, reestablishing a short, compact succulent.
If your zebra fasciata plant starts to get brown and crispy at the tips, it’s likely too hot and underwatered. Give it a good watering and place it in some light shade during the hottest part of the day. If caught early enough, the damage may be reversible.
On the flip side of things, overwatering succulents quickly turns them mushy. If left untreated, the roots, stem, and leaves will begin to rot. If you see this happening, immediately stop watering until the plant recovers. You should also check that the growing medium is draining well and transplant into a better mix if needed.
Mealybugs are a pain to Haworthiopsis fasciata, Haworthiopsis attenuata (aka, Haworthia attenuata or Haworthiopsis attenuate), and any other similar succulent species. These pests suck out the plant’s juices, leaving it discolored and withered. If not properly dealt with, mealybugs can kill your succulent zebra plant and spread to its neighboring plants. They also secrete a honeydew that attracts ants (yuck!).
You can handle mealybugs with insecticidal soap or a mycoinsecticide. If you have a lot of succulents outdoors, you may want to stock ladybugs or lacewings in your garden. They’ll take care of the mealybugs and most other succulent pests.
If you thought mealybugs were gross, take a look at spider mites. These tiny, imitation spiders also feed on leaf juice but leave behind ultra-fine webs. You can treat them with horticultural oils or insecticidal soap as well as the predatory insects mentioned. To prevent spider mite and mealybug infestations, keep the leaves and soil surface clear from debris and remove dead plant matter.
Thanks to their fleshy roots, succulents are very susceptible to root rot. Root rot starts with too much moisture in the soil, usually from overwatering. The roots get waterlogged and become vulnerable to mold, oomycetes, and fungi lying in wait in the soil. You may be encountering Fusarium, Pythium, or Phytophthora species, among others. Prevent any sort of rot by avoiding excess water and keeping the soil well-drained.
You can try to combat such diseases with a good fungicide, though you may end up just removing the diseased portions. If you do manage to salvage some of the plant, transplant it into new soil with better drainage and watch it closely for more symptoms. Destroy any diseased plant matter, and do not compost it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do you take care of Haworthia fasciata?
A: For the most part, you take care of it by not taking care of it. Water your zebra haworthia very sparingly and leave it in semi-direct sunlight (too much sunlight can harm it). Keep it away from cool air as it is not cold hardy.
Q: How long do Haworthia fasciata live?
A: Thanks to its slow-growing nature, the haworthiopsis fasciata zebra plant can live to around 50 years old.
Q: How big can a Haworthia fasciata get?
A: This is a small plant that usually doesn’t pass 7 inches in height.
Q: Does Haworthia fasciata need sunlight?
A: Absolutely! Give your zebra cactus at least 6 hours of indirect light each day. Too much direct sunlight can burn the leaves, so provide some light shade in hot weather.
Q: Is Haworthia hard to take care of?
A: Not at all! Zebra haworthia is a very low-maintenance succulent. As long as you provide the right potting soil, ensure there’s enough natural light, and water sparingly, you shouldn’t have any problems keeping your zebra plant happy.
Q: How often should you water Haworthia?
A: Whether it’s grown indoors or out, you should only water H. fasciata when the soil is completely dried out. This usually amounts to every 2-4 weeks.
Q: Does a Haworthia flower?
A: Yes, but very demurely. Most species of this genus produce spindly stems topped with tubular, white flowers. Haworthia flowers usually appear from early summer to fall.
Q: Is Zebra succulent rare?
A: If we’re talking about H. fasciata, then yes. Most zebra plants you’ll see outside of South Africa are actually Haworthiopsis attenuate, even if they’re labeled as fasciatas.
Q: Are Haworthia toxic to dogs?
A: Nope! Zebra fasciata plants are non-toxic to most animals. So you can keep your pets and small children safe while also being the proud owner of this beautiful species.