Calathea zebrina, also known as zebra plant, is a favorite among gardeners due to its stunning appearance. It has lush foliage and stunning ovate leaves at the end of slender stalks that are super attractive.

The smooth, velvety texture and eye-catching patterns of shades of green give it the look of the stripes of a zebra. The contrasting purple undersides of the leaves add more interest.

Calathea zebrina needs proper attention and care when it comes to growing it as a houseplant. Zebra plants love to grow indoors and will tolerate bright light and continue to grow healthy and robust with the right care.

What Is Calathea Zebrina?

Calathea zebrina or the zebra plant is from the family of Marantaceae. It is a popular indoor plant that grows tall and has specific care requirements. It is being sold as “prayer plant” at most garden stores. Sometimes, it is also called Aphelandra squarrosa.

The tropical plant is native to Brazil. It needs a warm and humid environment that helps the foliage grow into its best form.

The Appearance of Calathea Zebrina

Calathea zebrina, like the Calathea genus, has striking foliage which is its most prominent feature. The leaves are patterned and have a velvety texture. The hue of green creates an interesting contrast. Light green leaves with dark green stripes make it resemble stripes on a zebra.

On the other hand, the contrasting purple under leaves creates more value to the plant. Although the other side of the leaves is not always visible, younger upright leaves will show off the purple shade. Each leaf can grow bigger than 15 inches on a beautiful stalk that can grow up to 3.28 feet tall.

Calathea zebrina also produces purple flowers that will rarely grow indoors. Although they are not the main feature of the plant, it is pleasant to watch them bloom.

Calathea zebrina will grow well in a shaded warm spot in a greenhouse or outdoor garden. It will also love growing indoors in good light. A bright room is all it needs when it comes to its light requirement.  Let us look at some facts about the Calathea zebrina plant.

Calathea Zebrina Facts:

  • Origin:  Brazil
  • Common Name: Zebra plant
  • Scientific Name: Calathea zebrina
  • Other Names : Maranta pulchella, Phrynium bicolor, Maranta bicolor, Calathea binotii Gentil, Maranta pulchella, Phrynium bicolor, Phrynium pulchellum, Maranta zebrina, Phrynium zebrinum, Phyllodes zebrina, Endocodon zebrina, Goeppertia zebrina.
  • Calathea Zebrina Height: 3.28 feet or a little more
  • Feature: Striped foliage
  • Toxicity: Nontoxic for pets

Remember, the Calathea zebrina plant needs good care. The more you know about its need, the more rewarding your experience will be. We have compiled a detailed care guide for you to grow Calathea zebrina flawlessly.

How To Care for Calathea Zebrina: A Step-by-Step Guide

  • Soil Requirements

Calathea zebrina needs rich well-drained soil. Peat moss is the best potting mix for your zebra plants. It holds moisture and also drains water well. You can improve the drainage by mixing 2 parts of peat moss with 1 part perlite.

If you want to buy a ready-made potting mixture then you can look for African violet potting mixture. Making your mixture of soil is more rewarding. Another method you can use is to add equal parts of garden soil, perlite or sand, with peat moss or coir. Isn’t it simple?

The pot must have good drainage holes. You can drill some extra holes if needed.

  • Light Requirements

Calathea zebrina is a tropical plant and so it needs balanced light. Too much or too little light will both destroy the plant. The perfect spot for your Calathea zebrina plants is where it can get a bit of both bright and indirect light.

Look for a spot that gets filtered light, perhaps through a curtain. But keep in mind to shield the plant from direct strong light wherever you plant it. This is because direct light will scorch the leaves of Calathea zebrina plants and make the hues fade away.

  • Water Requirements

Calathea zebrina needs plenty of water in the growing season. The moisture-loving plant grows beautifully in moist soil that also drains well. It must not sit in water, or the root rot will kill it.

Slow down watering in winters and let the soil dry between watering. The soil must be well-drained, and the pot must have drainage holes. Water must be at room temperature.

Remember that cold or saline water can make your plants sick. You can use distilled water from air conditioning or even rainwater. Calathea zebrina likes moist soil, but wet soil will encourage health issues with the plant. Creating a perfect soil mixture and maintaining a watering pattern will solve the problem and help the plant thrive.

  • Temperature Requirements

Zebra plants thrive best at average room temperatures that range from 65 degrees Fahrenheit to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Consequently, avoid placing the plant in temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Another thing to be mindful of is to protect your Calathea zebrina from sudden temperature drops and cold drafts. You can protect your plant from drying and overheating by keeping it away from heating vents.

  • Humidity Requirements

One of the essential tricks to care for your Calathea zebrina is to maintain its moisture levels. Many gardeners fail at growing Calathea zebrina only because they don’t get this right.

Calathea zebrina needs high humid conditions to grow. If the plant gets that, you will see the wonderfully healthy plant in a pot.  In case you live in drier regions, here are a few things that you can do.

  • Install a humidifier
  • Use a mister to humidify the plants
  • Place a pebble tray to increase moisture
  • Group plants together for more humidity
  • Calathea Zebrina Fertilizer Requirements

Calathea zebrina will not need plenty of fertilizer. Use the standard well-balanced liquid feed to treat your plants during the growing season.  Zebra plants will enjoy weekly or bimonthly feed that has been diluted with water. Always fertilize your plants after watering them, and do not fertilize in winters.

  • How To Propagate Calathea Zebrina

Propagating Calathea zebrina is effortless. You can propagate the plant using leaf cuttings or through the baby plants that grow around the stems. The young plants are pulled gently apart and planted in new pots. Roots begin to grow in about four to six weeks. Before we share a detailed propagating guide, let us learn about its growing habits.

  • Growth

Calathea zebrina grows fast in the right kind of soil and perfect lighting conditions. For robust growth, lightly fertilize your plants weekly in the growing season. Calathea zebrina will grow fast but will not spread much in containers.

The plant can grow as tall as 3.28 feet or a little bigger, while leaves will grow as big as 15 inches or more. The stems clump together and interestingly thrive in small pots too.

 

  • Potting

Repot Calathea zebrina only when needed. It grows fast and you may have to change the pots each year. Repot your plants when the plant outgrows the container or when you want to multiply your plants. In both cases, remember the following points.

  • The plant must be well watered before repotting
  • Transplant during the growing season and never in winter
  • Water well after moving your plants
  • In case you a moving it to a bigger pot then make sure the pot is at least two inches big
  • Too much extra soil will encourage more water to stay in the pot and lead to root rot
  • Move your plants as fast as possible without disturbing the roots too much
  • Always transplant in the late afternoon or evening to reduce the shock of the plant
  • While having these basic points in mind, let us now explore the propagation methods for Calathea zebrina.

Propagation of the Calathea Zebrina

Calathea zebrina is easy to propagate. Always propagate your Calathea zebrina plants in the growing season which is between mid-spring to late fall. Propagation done during this time gives good results.

Have the following things ready before you begin repotting your plants:

  • Prepare good quality soil mix
  • Have your pot ready too
  • Have a sterilized cutter by your side
  • Get a watering can

– Propagation of the Calathea Zebrina by Division Method

Calathea zebrina propagates well by the division method. The newly formed plants at the base of the stems can be separated and replanted. Soon they grow into big plants. The roots are gently pulled apart to separate the plants. Here is a simple step-to-step guide for you to follow.

  1. Tilt the pot and tap gently to bring the root ball out from the pot without breaking it
  2. Start from smaller plants growing around the stem and gently pull them apart
  3. Next, pull the bigger shoots apart
  4. Repot each new plant into separate pots that place the soil firmly around the plant
  5. Make sure the roots do not break while separating the two plants
  6. Water quickly after transplanting

Pots can be plastic or terracotta containers with enough drainage holes. Keep the plants in warm, sheltered, and humid locations. New shoots and roots begin to grow in about a month.

– Propagation of the Calathea Zebrina Through Seeds

Calathea zebrina seeds are also used for propagation. But it is a difficult method. In case you feel motivated to try, follow these simple steps.

  1. Sow seeds in a pot filled with peat moss
  2. Lightly cover the seeds with soil
  3. Water your seeds using a gentle shower
  4. Place it in indirect light and a warm place to grow
  5. In a couple of weeks, the seeds will sprout
  6. Once they are large enough to handle, transplant them into containers

Calathea Zebrina Pruning

Calathea zebrina can be pruned when the leaves of the stalk are damaged or infected. The healthy leaves and stems should not be pruned. Clean the leaves weekly and maintain their health. This way, you won’t need to prune.

Common Calathea Zebrina Problems

Calathea zebrina comes with its set of diseases and problems that can be avoided if you know what is wrong with your plants. We have answered some most common problems that gardeners face.

– Calathea Zebrina Leaves Are Drooping

Calathea zebrina leaves begin to droop when the temperatures are too cold or the growing conditions are too dry. Dry hot air may also cause dropping leaves of Calathea zebrina. It is a sign that your plant needs more moisture.

If the problem persists, it can kill the plant.  Take action as soon as you see drooping leaves. If the temperatures are too cold then bring the plant into a warmer location. In case there is drought or hot weather, then use a humidifier, mister, or a shower to quickly treat your plant.

– Calathea Zebrina Is Dying

Calathea zebrina dies when it is ignored or placed under too much or too little light. Give it the right growing conditions by following the guide above. Use a well-drained soil mixture, filtered light, and good moisture for a robust growth

If you fail to take care of your plants then they will drop leaves, look dull, lose their hues, have weak roots, or scorched leaves. All the symptoms can kill the plant.

– Calathea Zebrina Leaves Are Turning Yellow

Calathea zebrina leaves turn yellow when they don’t get enough water. Make sure the soil is moistened in the growing season and not over-watered in winter. Use a self-watering container to help maintain the moisture. Having the right kind of potting mix also helps.

– Calathea Zebrina Leaves Are Twisting and Curling

Calathea zebrina leaf curls when the plant is underwatered.  Make sure the gap between your waterings is not long. Follow the above solution for resolving the problem.

– Calathea Zebrina Stems Are Getting Weaker

Calathea zebrina stems look weak when they are over-watered during the cold months. Excess water in the roots will make the stems weak and soft. Water only when the soil dried in winters.

If the situation worsens, then the stems are removed to save the plant as well. The plant may also die if not treated.

– The Zebra Plant Leaves Look Faded and Discolored

Zebra plant leaves lose color and appear faded when they do not get the right amount of light. Too much and too little light can decolor the foliage. Direct exposure to sunlight will make it lose its beautiful pattern.

Consider relocating the plants for improved lighting conditions.

– There Is a Gray Mold on the Calathea Zebrina Plants

When Calathea zebrina is kept in extremely high humid conditions, it may develop patches of gray mold. To resolve the problem, remove the parts of the leaves that are infected. Make sure the plants are placed where there is good ventilation.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Calathea Zebrina

Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about the zebra plants:

– What should I do when my Calathea zebrina plant is affected by pests?

Calathea zebrina is generally pest-free, but if there is a pest attack, adopt organic or natural pest control methods. You can use neem oil or insecticidal spray to treat aphid, mealybug, scale, spiders, and mite attacks.

– Is Calathea zebrina a toxic plant?

Calathea zebrina is nontoxic for pets like cats and dogs. Although it is safe for pets, the sap may irritate skin for people who have allergies.

– Can I place my Calathea zebrina plant in the bathroom?

Bathrooms may seem like an odd place to grow plants, but they can be ideal for growing Calathea zebrina. The moisture levels are high and if the lighting conditions are suitable, then go ahead!

– Can I plant Calathea zebrina in the garden?

Calathea zebrina can grow outside in the garden if you match its growing requirements to its ideal conditions. It needs filtered light, shelter from strong winds and extreme temperatures, and overwatering.

In USDA hardiness zones 11 to 12, you can easily find ideal growing conditions for your Calathea zebrina plants. Remember, the plant will still need a lot of care, and it will not be easily happy if you ignore it.

As an indoor plant, the zebra plants thrive for many years and are comparatively easy to maintain. They remain compact in pots but will expand and spread when planted in the ground.

– Can I mist my Calathea zebrina plant?

Yes, It is okay to mist the plant. However, remember not to spray directly on the leaves. Instead, mist from the bottom to avoid getting too much moisture to new leaves.

– Can I still save an overwatered Calathea zebrina plant?

There is no guarantee that you can save your plant. However, you can try moving the plant to a shadier location and remove the dead leaves. Check also for dying roots and get rid of them. Make sure that the pot provides enough air space and has proper drainage.
Stop fertilization at this point and only water when the soil feels dry to the touch. Lastly, try treating it with fungicide. If it works, you should be able to see results after a week.

Conclusion

Growing Calathea zebrina as a houseplant comes with its sets of requirements. It is a tricky plant to grow. By providing proper care, one can master the art of growing Calathea zebrina.

Here is what we have learned in this guide:

  • The Calathea zebrina plants are very attractive and are known for their stunning stripe patterns
  • The foliage is light green with dark green stripes, while the under leaves are purple
  • The leaves of Calathea zebrina grow on the slender stems
  • Calathea zebrina also produces purple flowers
  • The blooms might not appear indoors
  • As an outdoor plant, it spreads more as compared to being in a pot
  • Calathea zebrina grows well in pots and needs well-drained soil
  • Peat moss, perlite, sand, or coir can be mixed to create a perfect potting mix for Calathea zebrina
  • The pot must have enough drainage holes
  • You can grow zebra plants in terracotta or plastic pots
  • The plants are sensitive to fluctuating temperatures and overwatering
  • Underwatering also weakens the plant and eventually kills it
  • It likes indirect bright light and temperatures that do not go above 75 degrees Fahrenheit or drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Calathea zebrina watering patterns must be regular and over watering should be avoided in winters
  • Water only when it is needed in winters but frequently during the growing season
  • Calathea zebrina needs good humidity but extreme humid conditions also create problems
  • When there is low humidity, misters and humidifiers can help solve the problem
  • Calathea zebrina is propagated through diving stems of the plant and also by seeds
  • Propagate plants in spring when it is the growing season
  • Water plants before shifting the pots or diving the plants
  • It also has its sets of problems which can be identified through the symptoms
  • Leaves curling and spots can mean that the plant is underwatered
  • Leaf tips turning brown is a sign that your plant needs added humidity. You can resolve this by grouping the plants, installing a pebble tray, or using a humidifier
  • Leaves dropping could signal that the air is dry, and you need to increase the humidity
  • Weak-looking stems happen when the Calathea zebrina plant is overwatered in winter. Water only when the soil dries out in winters
  • Some pests can also attack the plant, but generally, it is pest-free
  • In case of insect invasion, use neem oil or insecticidal soap to resolve the problem before it worsens
  • Calathea zebrina can be grown outdoors but will still need a lot of care
  • Calathea zebrina or zebra plant likes a regular feed of fertilizer during the growing season
  • Do not fertilize during the winter season and also do not propagate the plants in colder months
  • Shelter plant from direct and strong blows of wind
  • The plant is nontoxic for pets but can irritate people with sensitive skin

Calathea zebrina is an attractive plant that needs proper care. It is not easy to grow, but by following the tips and tricks above, one can master the art of growing their Calathea zebrina plants.

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