Cultivating and Caring for Calathea Zebrina (Zebra Plant): A Complete Guide

Calathea Zebrina is known for its distinctively striped leaves, which gives it the name zebra plant. The zebra plant’s leaves are similar to those of its cousin, the prayer plant. They are bright green and have dark green stripes. Both plants fold or raise their leaves at nights, not just because they are similar in color. Calathea Zebrina can grow up to 3 feet tall with leaves up to 2 feet long.

Common NameZebra plant
Botanical NameCalathea zebrina
Family Marantaceae
Plant TypePerennial
Mature Size3 ft. tall, 2-3 ft. wide
Sun ExposurePartial
Soil type Loamy and Moist, but Well Drained
Soil pHAcidic, neutral
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Purple and White
Hardiness Zones 10-11 in the USA
Native Area South America
Calathea Zebrina Care
The main requirements for growing Zebra plants are:

When potting up this plant, choose a loamy soil that drains well.
Place the plant where it will receive bright indirect light.
When the soil in the top two to three inches begins to dry, water regularly.
If growth is not stunted, you can skip fertilizer.
Close-up of calathea zebrina leafs showing striations
The Spruce by Adrienne Legault
A new leaf of the calathea Zebrina unfolds.
A calathea bloom is shown in close-up.
Close-up of calathea zebrina leaves and stripes patterns
Light
Calathea Zebrina is a native of South America. It grows in the shade of trees and tropical plants. This is why you should not place the plant in direct sun, as it can burn its leaves. If you keep it outdoors, make sure that the plant receives some sunlight. Ideally, this should be filtered or dappled by nearby plants.

If you are growing zebra plants indoors, select a location near a window that gets plenty of sunlight, but avoid placing it in direct sun. It is better to place a zebra plants on a shelf or table than on a sunny window sill.

Soil
Calathea zebrina requires loamy, moist, well-draining soil. It is important to strike a balance between moisture and drainage, as heavy and wet soils can lead to rot and soggy roots. A soil that drains quickly will not give this plant enough moisture. Use a mixture of perlite, peat, and potting soil for the best results.

Water
Zebra plants need to be watered regularly for best results. The amount of water you need to apply depends on how fast the soil dries. The amount of water you need will vary depending on the time of year, the climate and humidity level.

These plants require watering once a month during the summer and less often during the winter. Feeling the soil is a good way to determine if your plant requires water. It is time to water your plant if the top inch or so of soil begins to dry.

Temperature and Humidity
It is important to maintain the health of these plants by maintaining ideal humidity levels. It is important that the humidity level be at least 50 percent, and ideally 60 percent. This is not difficult to achieve when kept outside in a tropical climate. (USDA zones 10 to 11, USDA growing zones). You may need to use an air humidifier for indoor calathea-zebrina. You can also place the plant on pebbles, and mist or water it several times per week.

Zebra plants, like other Calathea species, require warm temperatures in order to flourish. They thrive between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Never keep them below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fertilizer
Zebra plants don’t require much fertilizer. Too much fertilizer will burn the plant. You can fertilize a plant that is slow to grow or looks weak with a well-balanced, light formula, diluted by a quarter during the growing period.

Calathea Zebrina propagation
Calathea zebrina can be propagated by division. When your plant is large enough to have separate rosettes at the base, it’s time to divide. A pot with drainage holes and well-draining dirt are required, as is a pair of sharp snips or knife. Follow these instructions:

Fill your second pot with moist soil that drains well.
Remove your zebra plants from their pots and gently shake off any excess dirt.
Divide the leaves into separate rosettes. When needed, use a knife or snips for cutting through the root system.
Water the plants and plant each division in a separate pot. Place them in a place that has high humidity and bright indirect light.


Calathea Zebrina Potting and Repotting
In pots, zebra plants do very well. You will only have to repot these slow-growing plants once every 2 years. When the roots start to grow out of the drainage hole, you know it’s time to repot. Choose a pot that is about two inches bigger than the previous one when repotting. Choose a container that has drainage holes to give this plant a well-drained soil.

Repotting is easy. Simply tip the plant over on its side, and then slide it out. Fill the space left in the old container with a mixture of perlite, peat and new potting soil. Make sure you bury the roots at the same depth as they were in the previous pot.

Calathea zebrina: Common problems
Zebra plants can be healthy and hardy tropical houseplants when given the correct conditions. If conditions are incorrect, you could experience growing issues. We’ll look at some of the most common problems.

Brown, Curling Leaf Tips
This is an indication of too little humidity or water. To stay healthy, zebra plants need high humidity. You can increase humidity if the leaves start to curl or turn brown by using a humidifier, placing the pot in a tray with water and pebbles or misting them regularly.

Water the plant until the soil has been completely moistened. Let excess water drain. You can trim the brown edges with sterile scissors if you prefer.

Mushy, drooping stems
Overwatering is evident if your zebra plants’ leaves begin to droop or if the stems become soft and mushy. This can lead to root rot if allowed to continue. To allow water to drain, you will need to switch to a lighter soil mixture. You can save your plant by cutting away any black or soggy areas that show signs of rot.

The FAQ
How fast does Calathea zebrina grow?
Calathea Zebrina grows slowly, so it won’t quickly outgrow its pot or take up too much space on your dresser. This plant will only require repotting every two to three years.

Do I need to mist Calathea zebrina every day?
It depends on the humidity level in your home. Daily misting is a good option if your home has a high humidity level. You should be careful about how much water is sitting on the leaves. It is better to mist less frequently and place the plant next to a humidifier. You may only have to mist your plants once a week if you maintain a balanced humidity level in your home.

Calathea Zebrina is it difficult to grow?
Calathea Zebrina is sensitive to temperature and humidity, as well as overwatering and underwatering. Once the balance is achieved, however, these plants can make beautiful houseplants.


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