Zebra plant care begins by understanding a little about the background of this popular plant.
Commonly known as the zebra plant, Aphelandra squarrosa is a species of plant from the family Acanthaceae that originates from Brazil.
It’s an admired houseplant thanks to its striking appearance- big foliage and showy flowers.
Its pointed and large leaves have a vibrant emerald green color and bright silver veins which make them look as if they have stripes. It usually reaches a height of 1 to 2 feet.
These stripes are where the common name comes from- they’re reminiscent of those on zebras.
Although often short-lived, the several months or years you’ll have this plant; it will be a really wonderful addition to your home or office. One type of zebra plant known as Laurentii is listed by a NASA study as plant with air-filtering properties.
But, don’t worry about this short lifespan- you can easily grow new plants through propagation and thus, always have this beauty around.
The plant’s flowers that grow in late summer or autumn have golden flower bracts which can last up to 6 weeks. The plant wants light and brightness, but never too much direct sun exposure.
Even though it can really bring a lot of freshness and jungle-like atmosphere where it’s placed, it’s a bit challenging for indoor growth and for beginners in gardening because it wants high moisture, warmth, and food to stay happy.
However, it’s a great indoor plant for people with pets like cats or dogs- the zebra plant is non-toxic to them.
It’s also non-toxic for humans; however, it may cause irritation in some individuals with allergies or sensitive skin.
Good to know:
Even though it doesn’t bloom often, if you want to encourage it to show flowers, prolong their daily light exposure in the blooming season.
Zebra Plant Care Tips
Light is a very important factor for your zebra plant, especially if your plan is to see it flourish. Place it in a bright and warm area where it will get sufficient light, yet not get burned by it.
The plant is able to tolerate some shade; however, this means it won’t flower often or long. Too much direct sun exposure can damage the leaves, so avoid it.
Since it’s a tropical plant, it loves high temperatures- the ideal range is between 65 and 80 degrees F.
Never leave it in areas where the temperature drops below 55 degrees F. because this will damage the foliage!
Water & Humidity
This plant is sensitive to both under- and over-watering. So, the soil has to be moist in the growing season, but not soaking in water.
In the colder months, leave the soil to dry a bit before you water it. In these months, aim for a barely-moist soil.
Water your zebra plant with filtered or rain water. Avoid placing it near a vent or a radiator as it loves humidity- it wants it high, somewhere between 60 and 70 percent.
To optimize the humidity, it’s good to place a tray with water and pebbles underneath and add water regularly.
In case this doesn’t work, you can use a humidifier to ensure the plant gets enough damp and cool air.
Your zebra plant wants to grow in a rich soil which drains well, yet can retain water. An African violet potting mix will also do great.
If you want your own potting soil mix, a good one is a: 1 part coarse sand or perlite to 1 part garden soil and 2 parts peat moss.
The pH of the soil should be kept between 5.6 and 6.0 so that it can thrive. Make sure it doesn’t go too acidic- you can measure this with a pH meter.
Feeding is one of the staples of a healthy zebra plant. They need and want a lot of food to grow.
In the growing season, add fertilizer every one or two weeks. Choose a water-soluble and quick-release one. Make sure you use it diluted according to the instructions.
In the winter months, feeding isn’t necessary.
Zebra plants can grow healthy even when the pot seems small- most types grow and flower in a 5 to 6 inch pot.
So, you needn’t repot it every year. When you do decide to transplant it, do it in springtime before the plant comes out of its dormancy.
Choose a pot that’s only an inch larger than the current. Take out the plant and eliminate as much old soil from the roots- be careful not to damage it.
Set it finely in the new fresh soil and water it.
When it comes to propagation, with zebra plants, it’s pretty straightforward. You can do it through stem cuts or air layering.
If you choose cuttings (4 to 6 inches in length), you need to put them in a mixture of perlite and moist peat and cover them with a plastic foil well.
Keep them in a warm, 70 to 80 degrees F. area, but not directly exposed to the sun.
If you decide to air layer, choose a healthy stem and take out the centre leaves. Then, make a cut around halfway into the stem.
Put a toothpick into the opening to ensure it stays like that and coat the section with a rooting hormone.
And, wrap moistened sphagnum moss around the spot and wrap it in a plastic foil.
Tie the ends to ensure moisture doesn’t escape. In 30 to 45 days, you’ll begin noticing the roots in the moss.
This is when you can cut the stem and repot it.
Best Zebra Plant Species
Twisted Sister or Sansevieria trifasciata
This dwarf variety has twisted leaves with horizontal strips and yellow edges.
It can grow up to 14 inches. The foliage twists as it emerges from the base, similar to a bird’s nest effect.
Cylinder Snake Plant or Sansevieria cylindrica
This variety has stiff and cylindrical spear-like leaves which grow from a central crown. You can braid them or leave them growing in their quirky natural shape.
This type can grow up to several feet in length. It’s quite popular indoor house plant in the UK and Australia.
Laurentii or Sansevieria trifasciata
The variegated snake plant boasts light gray-green horizontal stripes and creamy yellow edges on its sharp, as well as deep green leaves.
Interestingly, the leaves rise rigidly out from a thick rhizome.
Other Zebra Plant Care Tips
When the flowers die off, cut them off fast. Otherwise, it may cause drooping of the lower leaves and they may even fall off.
To encourage a bushier plant in the spring, cut off the leaves and stem when the bract dies. Leave only several leaves at the base.
Struggling to see blooms from your zebra plant?-Don’t worry-this is a tricky thing for many owners.
What matters are patience and focus on the three major factors- sufficient light, fertilizer, and humidity.
Trouble Shooting- Common Issues
Problem: leaves are curling
Cause: Too much direct light.
Solution: Move the plant to an area that’s less exposed to direct sun, yet it has a lot of brightness.
Problem: wilting tips
Cause: The potting mix may be too dry or you’re under watering the soil (top and sides are okay, but the centre lacks water).
Solution: Heavy-water the plant at least once per month and ensure the soil is always moist, but not soaking in water (allow the water to flow away).
Problem: leaves are wilting and falling off, especially lower ones
Cause: The soil may be too dry or too wet.
Solution: watch the plant closely- ensure the soil is moist, but never soggy or too dry.
Or lower the feeding and dilute it more. Don’t forget to cut off the dead flower bracts right after they die.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article about Zebra plant care.
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