How to Plant, Grow and Care For Zebra Haworthia
The adorable Zebra Plant is a must-have for succulent lovers and a great plant for beginners to grow indoors or out. In this guide, we’ll look at all aspects of rare Haworthiopsis fasciata care, from planting to propagating.
With a common name as cute as Zebra Plant, it’s hard not to love the adorable and compact zebra haworthia, Haworthiopsis fasciata. This succulent is known for its spiky leaves and characteristic white stripes that give the plant its exotic look.
Haworthiopsis fasciata is considered quite rare, and similar species are often labeled incorrectly. But if you manage to get your hands on one, they are not at all difficult to care for, despite what their rarity may make you believe.
You’ll find everything you need to know in this guide to give your zebra plant the best possible care and perhaps even propagate more of them to expand your collection.
Zebra Haworthia Plant Overview
Plant Type Succulent
Species Haworthiopsis fasciata
Native Area South Africa
Exposure: Full to partial sun
Watering Requirements Low
Pests and Diseases Spider mites, mealybug
Soil Type Succulent mix
Hardiness Zones 9–11
What Is It?
If you’ve been gardening for a long time, you may recognize this adorable succulent by the name Haworthia fasciata. That’s because it was previously part of the Haworthia genus until differences in leaf structure necessitated the creation of a new genus Haworthiopsis in 2013.
Luckily the change is relatively easy to follow (Haworthiopsis roughly means ‘similar in appearance to Haworthia’).
These plants are often confused with aloe vera, thanks to their textured leaves and similar rosette shape. Some members of the Haworthia genus were even labeled aloes by the famous taxonomist and founder of binomial nomenclature, Carl Linnaeus. But these special plants are not actually aloes, and most refer to this particular species simply as zebra plants.
Haworthiopsis fasciata is quite rare in cultivation and can be tricky to find. The species is often mixed up with the far more common Haworthiopsis attenuata, one of the most widely grown Haworthiopsis species worldwide. If you’re unsure whether you’ve encountered a rare Haworthia fasciata or Haworthiopsis attenuata, there are a few ways to tell them apart.
Haworthia fasciata vs Haworthiopsis attenuata
Haworthiopsis fasciata and Haworthiopsis attenuata have a similar rosette shape and small white bumps on the outer leaves, making it difficult to tell the difference between them. But if you look closer, you’ll notice Haworthiopsis attenuata has bumps on the inside of the leaves, while Haworthiopsis fasciata is smooth.
The shape of the overall plant is also slightly different. Haworthiopsis attenuata has elongated leaves that stretch outwards, while Haworthiopsis fasciata leaves are slightly shorter and more compact. But if both species are two different sizes or grow in different environments, the effects on shape can make them tricky to distinguish.
Although it’s always good to know exactly what plant you’re dealing with, it’s not the end of the world if you mix up these two species. They originate from the same native area and have similar needs, so both should be relatively happy either way.
Haworthiopsis fasciata is found in South Africa, particularly in the Eastern Cape Province. They appreciate the gritty acidic soils of the area, as well as the dry climate. These compact and cute plants grow among many other succulent species in this arid region – particularly aloes.
Zebra Haworthia has a sharp and rigid structure, hence their association with aloes. They have narrow, pointed leaves that grow outward in a rosette shape, keeping them compact. Each leaf features white striped growths (technically known as tubercles) that give them their classic common name.
Haworthiopsis fasciata spreads in clumps, producing small offsets at the base that produce roots and become mature plants of their own. They also look great as individual containers or combined with other species with similar needs to create a structural and desert-like succulent garden.
As these plants come from hot climates and cannot handle excessively cold temperatures, many gardeners grow them indoors to protect them from frost over the fall and winter months.
They are easy plants to grow indoors as long as their needs are met, especially regarding sunlight. If you don’t have the perfect spot for succulent plants (which can be rare indoors), I prefer to keep them outdoors and move them inside only when temperatures are too low for the plants to handle.
If you’ve purchased a zebra haworthia from your local nursery and are happy to keep it in the container it came in for a while, you won’t need to worry about planting soon. These plants remain compact and don’t require repotting often unless you want to propagate from offsets.
However, if you want to plant your zebra haworthia in a more decorative container or plant them outside in USDA zones 10 and above, there are a few important steps to follow. I like to combine these structural plants in larger containers with softer succulents to balance the look, but they look just as good on their own.
Choose a Well-Drained Container
The first step is choosing the right container. Succulents are known for their sensitivity to overwatering and cannot handle containers without drainage. I’ve tried to cheat the system many times by adding pebbles, layering, and watering carefully, but if you want to keep your zebra plant alive for more than a couple of months, drainage holes are essential.
Fill with Gritty Soil
The next consideration is soil. These plants love gritty soil with a slightly acidic pH. Look for specialized succulent and cactus potting mix or amend the soil in your beds with additional sand and compost to create the right conditions.
When ready to plant, remove the zebra plant from its container and gently tease the roots. If you have sensitive skin, you may want to wear gloves for this part as the ends can be sharp. Make a small hole with your hands or a trowel and plant, gently compacting the soil to settle the shallow roots in place.
How to Grow
Zebra plants are incredibly tough. I typically tell gardeners, especially those new to growing succulents, that they will grow far better when neglected than when fussed over. If you place them in the right environment and don’t forget to water them occasionally, they can mostly be left alone.
Sunlight is essential for succulent plants, including Haworthiopsis fasciata. They are accustomed to a full day of direct sunlight, meaning they need at least six hours of direct sun exposure.
This is usually easy to find outdoors but can be tricky when growing them as houseplants. You’ll need a bright south-facing window that gets direct sun for most of the day. Without the right sunlight, the leaves will stretch and look diminished, ruining their compact shape and negatively impacting health. They tolerate lower light levels better than some fussy succulents, but generally, more sunlight is better than less.
They may struggle during the hottest part of the day in intense sunlight (especially right in front of windows). If so, shield the pot behind a sheer curtain for a couple of hours to provide some relief. The same goes for outdoors. Choose an area with some protection from the afternoon sun if it is particularly harsh.
These succulents are not demanding when it comes to watering. They will only need additional moisture every couple of weeks, depending on the size of the container and the growing season. Smaller containers can be watered every two weeks, with larger containers taking a little longer to dry out completely.
What these plants absolutely cannot handle is overwatering. Like other succulents, zebra Haworthia prefers the soil to remain dry and quickly develop root rot when too much moisture is present in the soil. If you water when the soil is still moist or plant in a container without drainage holes, the plant will eventually begin to rot.
Because they are drought tolerant and sensitive to overwatering, the general rule is – if you aren’t sure whether to water, wait a few days and test the soil again. It should be completely dry before you consider watering.
When you do water, ensure you saturate the soil completely until the excess runs through the drainage holes. If the water does not reach the lower levels of the soil, the roots will remain shallow rather than reaching downwards where the remaining moisture lies.
This species requires sandy or gritty soil that drains quickly and doesn’t hold onto too much moisture.
When planting in containers, look for a specialized succulent and cacti potting mix from your local nursery or online. These mixtures contain the right ratios to drain excess water while giving the roots enough moisture to stay healthy.
I prefer to make my own succulent mixes using equal parts high-quality potting soil and sand. You can also add perlite for additional drainage if needed.
When planting outdoors in beds, your soil should be sandy and slightly acidic. Add water to the soil before planting to test how quickly it drains, and amend with sand if there are areas where the water tends to pool. They don’t require nutrient-rich soils to grow well but benefit from a boost of fertilizer if the soil is lower quality.
Temperature and Humidity
Originating from warm climates, Haworthiopsis fasciata doesn’t handle the cold well (but these cold-hardy succulents do). Zebra plants fare better than some other sensitive houseplants but generally shouldn’t be left in temperatures below 40F to avoid permanent damage.
If you’re growing in containers outdoors for the full-sun benefits, you must bring your pots indoors during temperature dips to protect the plants. Alternatively, if you live in a USDA zone higher than 9, you can keep them outdoors year-round.
Regarding humidity, these plants prefer dry air that matches their native habitats. Your tropical houseplants may love extra humidity, but for zebra haworthia, these conditions quickly lead to disease and rot that may kill the plant. Improving airflow and correctly watering can limit disease risk, but they will still grow better in lower-humidity areas.
Zebra plants are not heavy feeders and tolerate poor-quality soils well. They need a little boost once or twice yearly to keep them looking their best. Apply a balanced fertilizer in summer according to package instructions and leave them to rest for the remainder of the year.
If your plant appears to be struggling due to nutrient deficiencies, you can apply another dose every three months or repot, replacing the soil completely.
As they form and spread in clumps, zebra plants are wonderfully easy to propagate from offsets.
In the right conditions, the parent plant will continually produce tiny versions of the main plant that can be separated to grow independently. If your plant has one or more of these offsets large enough to split off, you can propagate them in four easy steps.
Remove the Plant From Its Container
First, gently remove it from the existing container to get a closer look at the base of the plant. If it gets stuck, squeeze the sides of the pot or run a knife along the edge to release the roots. Pull gently to avoid damaging any of the leaves.
Once it’s completely removed, tease the roots and remove some of the old soil. This will give you a better look at where each offset attaches to the parent plant.
Separate the Offsets
Identify the offsets that are a few inches tall and have their own roots. These can root independently without depending on the main plant for moisture and nutrients. To remove them, you can pull them off or use a sharp and disinfected knife to cut them off. If there are any small offsets without roots, it’s best to leave them on the plant to develop a little more before you remove them.
Leave to Callous
After you’ve removed one or multiple offsets, you can plant them immediately into new containers. But for the best chances of success, it’s better to have a little patience (even though it’s hard) and wait a few days before potting. This extra time will allow the cut end to heal and seal before being exposed to moisture, limiting the chances of rotting.
Simply leave them out on a piece of newspaper for a day or two before planting. Alternatively, you can plant them in a dry potting mix and wait a couple of days before watering for the same effect.
Replant Each Division
When your offsets are ready, the only thing left to do is replant them. Grab a recycled container for each one and fill it with succulent potting mix. Make a hole in the center and plant the offsets, pressing down gently to stop them from falling over. Water lightly and move the pot to a bright spot to settle in.
Zebra plants remain relatively compact throughout their lives and grow quite slowly. They don’t require repotting often unless the offsets overflow from the container or they need a soil refresh. This typically happens every two or three years, depending on your plant’s performance.
Follow the same steps as you would when propagating from offsets. You can tackle two tasks in one and give the main plant more space to grow in its new container. Make sure that the pot you select is the same size or one size up if it needs extra room.
If you leave your zebra plant to grow happily on its own, you shouldn’t encounter too many growth problems. But, if you provide the wrong care or environment, you may encounter some common issues.
Brown Leaf Tips
If the spiked ends of the leaves start to turn brown and dry up, you’re likely underwatering. This issue could also result from excessive sunlight exposure or high temperatures, leading to a lack of moisture in the leaves that dries out the ends. While they won’t return to normal again, adjusting your watering routine will stop any new leaves from drying out.
In high sunlight areas, you may notice the leaves of your zebra plant changing color or taking on a reddish hue, much like other succulents such as Crassula ovata (Jade Plant).
This is technically a sign of stress, but it won’t harm the plant much if the change is subtle. For severe changes, move the plant to a new spot to limit potential permanent damage.
If sunlight is the most likely cause, look out for other signs of stress that may impact the leaves.
Mushy and discolored leaves are a sure sign of overwatering. This may be caused by a lack of drainage in the soil or container. Excess moisture will cause the roots and leaves to rot and become soft, unable to draw up more moisture or transport nutrients around the plant.
Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to save once rot has spread through the plant’s root system. You can either salvage what you can or attempt to propagate from leaves. Replace any leftover soil completely, trimming the affected roots to stop the fungi from spreading.
Succulents are susceptible to pests like many other houseplants, particularly spider mites and mealybugs. You may not notice them at first, but you will eventually see signs of damage, such as discoloration and shriveling, along with the signs the pests themselves leave behind.
Tackle pests with insecticidal soap, applying follow-up treatments until the problem is gone. Isolate the plants while they are being treated to stop the problem from spreading to any precious plants nearby.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Zebra Plants Grow Outside?
Zebra plants grow best outside, as long as they are kept in the right climate. If you live in a USDA zone lower than 10 (or 9 at a push), it’s best to keep these plants indoors.
What is the Best Way to Propagate Zebra Plant?
Zebra plants are easy to propagate from offsets. Remove the plant from its container, snap off any offsets with roots large enough to grow on their own, and replant into new containers filled with succulent potting mix.
Are Zebra Plants Toxic to Pets?
Although their spiky form may make them look dangerous, zebra plants are considered non-toxic to cats and dogs.
Why is my Zebra Plant Drooping?
Drooping could be a sign of severe underwatering, but it is more commonly the result of overwatering and mushy leaves. Trim the affected areas and replant into fresh soil to try and save the plant.
Now that you know all there is to know about caring for this incredible succulent, the next step is to start growing one! Whether you are bringing one home that was recently propagated, or are purchasing directly from a plant store, your Zebra plant will bring you many years of happiness if properly cared for.