The zebra plant is a finicky houseplant that is growth both for its striped foliage and beautiful golden flowers.
In this guide, you'll learn exactly how to care for, troubleshoot, and propagate this wonderful houseplant.
Zebra Plant Overview
|Common Name(s)||Zebra plant|
|Scientific Name||Aphelandra squarrosa|
|Height||Up to 6 feet|
|Light||Bright, indirect light|
|Water||Often, never let dry out.|
|Soil||Well-drained potting mixture with a high peat moss content.|
|Fertilizer||Slow release, pelleted fertilizer at the beginning of the growing season, or half stregth through summer.|
|Pests||Aphids, spider mites|
Zebra plants have dark green, glossy leaves that are ovate with pointy tips. The white variegated veins create contrast, making it a striking plant to grow indoors.
When it blooms, the flowers are yellowish-gold and grow in bracts clustered on a spide that can reach up to 4" long.
Zebra Plant Care
Aphelandra squarrosa is one of the more difficult houseplants to care for, but that's not to say it's impossible! It just requires a little more love than ivy, pothos, or other low-maintenance plants.
Zebra plants thrive when given bright, indirect light. While it can tolerate a bit of shade, it won't flower as often or as long if it's not given enough light. Because the flowers are so beautiful, make sure to give your zebra plant the best chance to develop them!
Zebra plants are very picky when it comes to water. They are more sensitive than most plants to over or under watering.
Water your plant when the soil has just started to dry out. For best results, use filtered water that is slightly above room temperature and be sure not to over water.
Zebra plants prefer a higher humidity than most other houseplants at around 60-70%. There are two good ways to increase humidity for your plant:
- Mist the leaves often
- Place the pot in a tray half-filled with water
Zebra plants like rich soil that retains water, but drains well. An African violet mix is a good choice. The pots should have holes in the bottom for adequate drainage.
To make your own potting soil mixture, use:
- 1 part coarse sand or perlite
- 1 part garden soil
- 2 parts humus or peat.
During the growing seasons (spring and summer), your zebra plant needs to be fed every 1-2 weeks. Use a high quality, water-soluble plant food.
The best time to re-pot zebra plants is once a year in the spring. Use a pot that's only 1" larger than the current pot to avoid giving it too much space.
If your zebra plant is flowering, keep an eye out for dying flowers and remove them. You can also prune the stem and leaves back once the entire bract begins to die. This prevents your zebra plant from stretching out too much and promotes bushier growth next spring.
Zebra plant propagation is pretty simple and can be done via air layering or stem cuttings.
The cuttings should be placed in a mixture of perlite and moist peat, then covered in plastic to retain moisture. Put the pot in an area that gets indirect sunlight.
When taking cuttings, make sure they are at least 4-6" long and kept in an area that is at least 70-80°F.
Is the Zebra Plant Toxic?
While not listed on the poisonous plant list, the sap from a zebra plant may cause skin irritation to some people.
It's listed as toxic to cats and dogs, but it isn't fatal. Regardless, you shouldn't place your zebra plant in an area that cats and dogs can easily access, just in case.
Zebra plants are pretty resistant to most pests due to the fact that they like high humidity and many pests don't thrive in that environment. You shouldn't run into issues with spider mites, for example.
However, your plant can be hit with scale, aphids, or whiteflies though. The best course of action is to wipe them off with a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol, then spray your leaves with water, then treat with a systemic insecticide.
Because zebra plants love high humidity, you can run into many fungal issues. Try your best to avoid letting water sit on the leaves of your zebra plant for too long or you'll run into leaf spot fungus.
You can also over water your zebra plant and create ideal conditions for root rot, which will cause soggy roots and yellowing or drooping leaves. Water less and re-pot into fresh soil if you run into this problem.
Q. How can I coax my zebra plant into blooming?
A. Zebra plants normally don't bloom often, but can be coaxed into blooming by prolonging their exposure to light during the day. Remove the flower spikes after the flower has died to promote further growth.
Q. My zebra plant has brown edges on the leaves, like they are burned a bit. What is happening?
A. The two most likely causes of brown leaf tips on your zebra plant are too much sun and over-fertilizing. Remember, they light bright but indirect light, not full sun. If you are giving them the right amount of light, you can try dialing back how often you fertilize.