Zebra Plant (Aphelandra) Care Guide

Zebra plant in nursery
A flowering Zebra Plant on display

Zebra Plant Background:

*This zebra plant care guide takes an in-depth look at the species Aphelandra squarrosa, an evergreen shrub originating from Brazil.

Native to the Brazilian Rainforests, the zebra plants have found their way into homes worldwide as a newly popular houseplant.

Although these plants can be difficult to grow, this guide aims at making Aphelandra care simple and easy.

If you find this plant interesting and don’t have one yet, consider purchasing one from a reputable seller on Amazon below:

Table Of Contents:


Temperature Requirements

Light Requirements

Water Requirements

Soil Type

Fertilizer Use


Zebra Plant Description:

As its name suggests, the zebra plant has thick white stripes that run across its broad, deep green leaves.

These plants reach up to 6 feet (183 centimeters) in height in the wild.

However, indoors their height is capped at a much more manageable 2 feet (61 centimeters) in total.

Additionally, they are moderately slow growers and will reach their maximum height in about 3 years.

This means they probably won’t need repotted like other fast growing houseplants, making maintenance easier.

Under ideal conditions, a healthy zebra plant will produce a flower spike containing a cluster of golden yellow flowers.

The flowers last for a few weeks and are a great way to spice up a room.

For more descriptive information on this species, North Carolina State University has a ton of data on their webpage here: Aphelandra squarrosa

Temperature Requirements:

Zebra plants thrive in temperatures between 60°F (16°C) to 80°F (27°C).

As a result, most indoor home temperatures are perfect for this species.

They cannot survive in temperatures that consistently dip below 55°F (13°C), as they are native to tropical environments.

Additionally, avoid keeping the plants in temperatures above 80°F (27°C) because it can quickly dry them out.

Avoid keeping them in direct sunlight to reduce the risk of sunburn on their stems and leaves.

They can be kept outdoors year-round in USDA hardiness zones of 11-12, which excludes the continental United States.

Lastly, do not leave zebra plants in drafty areas indoors. These plants are particularly fragile and are likely to wilt in sustained steams of cold or hot air.

Light Requirements:

Zebra plants do best in bright to medium indirect light over the course of the day (about 6 hours).

Avoid letting the plants sit in direct sunlight, as it will quickly dry out the plant and scorch its leaves.

Also, if the environment is too dark they may not bloom.

They may also become susceptible to rot or stunted growth if they are kept in a shady area for too long.

If you plan to use fluorescent or LED grow lights with these plants, ensure they get around 10-14 hours of light exposure each day.

Monitor plants to make sure they are far enough from the grow lights that they are not scorched but also close enough to grow.

Lastly, if growing these plants outdoors all year round (or are kept outside during the summer), make sure that they receive filtered light from under a tree canopy or covered trellis.

Zebra Plant Water Requirements:

Using the right amount of water for zebra plants is the most difficult part of caring for this plant, and it often takes a bit of trial and error to get it right.

As a general rule, the soil should be moist but never soaked.

Water zebra plants when the top of the soil has become dry to the touching, taking care to water below the leaves at the base of the plant.

(Watering from above can cause water to become trapped on the leaves, leading to rot)

Never allow the soil to fully dry out between waterings, as the lack of moisture causes the plant to quickly wilt.

For the best results, water every week or so until the soil becomes fully saturated and water runs out of the drainage holes of the pots. This indicates that the soil is completely moist.

Watering Indicators:

If you notice that the ends of your zebra plant’s leaves have turned brown and appear dry and flaky to the touch, then it may not be receiving enough water.

Try increasing watering frequency and see if this improves the plant’s health.

If the leaves of the plant turn yellow or transparent, then it is probably receiving too much water.

Reduce the amount of water given and increase the time between waterings. If symptoms continue to get worse, replace the soil in the pot.

Soil Requirements:

Zebra plants do well in slightly acidic soils, and most conventional store bought potting mixes for flowers work well.

African violet mixes or potting mixes that use a lot of peat or sphagnum moss are generally ideal.

Adding sand and vermiculite can help with drainage and ensure water doesn’t stagnate in one area for long periods of time.

Fertilizing Zebra Plants:

Zebra plants respond well to fertilizing and will develop more foliage. Fertilizing can also help the plants to flower.

Most water soluble houseplant fertilizers work well, but make sure to dilute it in water prior to using it on any plants based on the manufacturer’s instruction.

Fertilize zebra plants while watering once every two weeks during the spring and summer months (the plant’s active growing season).

Make sure to stop fertilizing in the autumn and winter months of the year in order to allow the plant to enter its dormant period. During this time the plant is still alive, but it is saving energy to begin growth in the upcoming spring.

Zebra Plant Propagation:

Zebra plants can be propagated by taking a stem cutting from the base of a plant and transplanting it into a separate pot.

In the spring as the plant enters its growing phase, use a sharp and sterile cutting tool to cut off a section of the plant that’s about 2-3 inches (5-8 cm) long.

Afterwards, dust or dip the plants in rooting hormone. This step is optional but highly recommended as it greatly improves propagation success.

Take the cuttings and plant them about an inch (2-3 cm) deep into moist soil. Keep the soil moist and sterile by covering it with plastic wrap or a container to retain water.

Also, make sure to keep to cuttings around 70°F (21°C) and protect them from wide temperature swings. A stable environment is crucial to ensuring successful propagation.

After about a month the cuttings should develop roots. This can be checked by gently pulling the cutting upward and checking for resistance. If there is resistance there are likely roots below.

New growth is also a sign of a developing root system.

After the plants have sprung roots, transfer them into pots and care for them like adult zebra plants.

For more care guides, visit our homepage at: Sun Spot Nursery

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