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Botanical name: Calathea zebrina
Synonym: Goeppertia zebrina
Common name: Zebra Calathea, Calathea Zebra Plant
Calathea zebrina or Zebra Calathea is a perennial plant whose large ovate leaves are dark-green above and reddish-purple below while the spines, veins and margins are a lime-green color.
Zebra Calathea which also goes by the botanical name Goeppertia zebrina is a member of the Marantaceae family. The species name, 'zebrina', is in reference to the zebra-like stripes appearance of the leaves.
Calathea zebrina grows in clumps to a height of about 2-3 ft. The leaves are about 1-2 ft long.
Calathea zebrina also called Goeppertia zebrina is native to the tropical forests in southeastern Brazil where it grows on the forest floors.
Calathea zebrina is closely related to the Marantas, Ctenanthe and Stromanthe which are collectively called Prayer Plants in reference to their curious characteristic of closing their leaves at night.
Are you are looking to add this beauty to your collection? Buy the spectacular Calathea zebrina (Zebra Calathea) online from Etsy.
Photo Credit: Merryhatton Garden Centre
Calathea zebrina (Goeppertia zebrina) thrives in bright, indirect light, warm and humid conditions and consistently moist, fertile, well-drained soil coupled with monthly feeding during the growing season.
Goeppertia zebrina only requires repotting when it becomes pot-bound. Pruning is necessary to keep it neat and also minimize pest and disease infestations. Keep reading for more on the growing conditions and how to achieve them.
Calathea zebrina grows best in bright, indirect light away from direct sunlight to prevent scorching of the leaves.
Position the Goeppertia zebrina away from too bright light as it will cause the leaf colour to fade.
Turn the pot every so often to ensure that the plant receives light on all sides for even growth.
Calathea Zebra Plant can also be grown under a grow light where the natural lighting is not sufficient.
Water Calathea zebrina liberally during the growing season and allow the top 1-2 in. of soil to dry out between waterings to keep the soil consistently moist.
Decrease watering in the cold season as growth is minimal at this time but do not allow the soil to dry out completely.
Use water that is at room temperature to avoid shocking this tropical plant.
The water should also be free of chlorine and flourides; like other Calathea, it is sensitive to chemicals dissolved in water which will cause brown leaf tips and edges.
Confirm that the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy as it can lead to root-rot and eventual death of the plant.
To minimize fungal infestations, avoid wetting the foliage during watering or water from the bottom instead.
Calathea zebrina prefers average warmth with a minimum of 150C and a maximum of 260C. Temperatures below this range, the plant stops growing while temperatures above this range may cause the plant to die.
Keep the Zebra Calathea away from draughts as they cause sudden changes in temperature which the plant cannot tolerate and may cause it to die.
Zebra Calathea requires high humidity (50% to 60%) inorder to thrive as a low humidity causes the plant to develop brown leaf tips and edges.
To raise humidity, set the pot on a wet pebble tray or use a cool mist humidifier.
Calathea zebrina can also grow in the bathroom and other moist areas in the home where humidity is high if there is adequate lighting.
You can also grow Goeppertia zebrina in a terrarium as a high humidity can be maintained in a terrarium.
Occasionally clean the leaves by damp-wiping with a soft cloth to get rid of dust and discourage pest and disease infestations.
Feed Calathea zebrina every 4 weeks during the growing season with a balanced, liquid fertilizer for lush growth.
Withhold feeding during the cold season as growth is minimal and feeding at this time can lead to fertilizer burn.
Once in a while, flush out accumulated chemicals (salts) from the soil by running a stream of water through the soil. Allow the stream of water to run for some time and repeat the process several times.
Repot Calathea zebrina every 2-3 years at the beginning of the growing season or when it becomes root-bound. Take care not to injure its delicate roots.
Use a pot one size larger than the current one and ensure that the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy as it can lead to root-rot and eventual death of the plant.
Water the Zebra Calathea thoroughly at least 1 day before repotting to make it easier and also hasten establishment as a well hydrated plant suffers less repotting shock and takes a shorter time to take root.
A large plant that has outgrown its current pot, can be divided into several sections and the splits used to propagate new plants.
Repotting may cause the leaves to droop but the plant will eventually recover once it has taken root; in about 3-4 weeks.
The best soil for Calathea zebrina should be rich in organic matter and free-draining to prevent it from getting soggy while providing the required nutrients. Buy quality Calathea potting medium for Zebra Calathea online from Etsy.
Pruning Calathea zebrina is easy. Remove dead and yellow foliage to maintain the plant neat and also minimize pest and disease infestations. Cut the leaves with a sharp knife or scissors at the base, where the leaf meets the stalk.
Calathea zebrina (Goeppertia zebrina) is propagated by plant division at the beginning of the growing season during repotting.
Water the Calathea zebrina thoroughly at least one day before to make it easier to divide and also hasten establishment; a well hydrated plant suffers less shock and takes a shorter time to take root.
Take out the plant from its pot and divide it into several sections. Ensure each section has adequate roots and at least 2-3 stems.
Select a 6 or 8 in. pot and ensure that the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy as it can lead to rotting.
Fill the pot with Calathea potting medium and make a hole in the center of the pot. Ensure that the hole is slightly wider than the root base of the section.
Place the section in the previously made hole and lightly firm the soil around the base while taking care not to bury it too deep; maintain the section at the same soil level it was in the previous pot.
Thoroughly water the soil until water comes out through the drainage holes. Cover the pots with clear polythene to create a greenhouse effect and maintain warm humid conditions which hasten establishment of the plants.
Place the pots in a warm, well-lit place until new growth has emerged on the sections.
Gradually remove the polythene over a period of two weeks to acclimatize the new plants.
Maintain the soil moist until the new Zebra Calathea are well established after which you can begin routine care.
Photo Credit: PlantVine
Calathea zebrina (Zebra Calathea) problems indoors include drooping leaves, loss of leaf color, brown leaf tips, curled and yellow leaves, plant death, pests and diseases among others. Keep reading for more on these problems and how to fix them.
Calathea zebrina drooping leaves are due to three possible causes. One possible cause is too dry air (low humidity).
To raise humidity, set the pot on a wet pebble tray or grow the plant in a terrarium. Read more on how to raise humidity for houseplants.
The second possible cause of drooping leaves in Calathea zebrina is incorrect watering; either overwatering (soggy soil) or underwatering.
Water the plant liberally and maintain the soil consistently moist during the growing season. Reduce watering during the cold season but do not allow the soil to dry out completely.
Make sure that the soil is free-draining and that the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy.
The third possible cause of drooping leaves in Calathea zebrina is that the plant is root-bound which means that the roots have filled the pot and there is very little soil to hold water when you water the plant.
Therefore, there is no water for the plant to take up to the leaves. The leaves loss their stiffness and they droop.
Check the bottom of the pot for roots growing through the drainage hole and repot the plant into a pot one size larger than the current one or divide it into several sections to propagate new plants.
Calathea zebrina may die due to two possible reasons. One possible reason is root-rot which is brought about by soggy soil.
Take the plant out of its pot and inspect the roots. Brown-black mushy roots indicate root-rot, trim them off and treat the healthy roots with a fungicidal solution.
Disinfect the pot or use a fresh pot to repot the plant in fresh free-draining soil.
Do not water the plant and keep it dry for some time before resuming watering. Read more on how to treat root-rot in houseplants here.
To prevent root-rot in the future, ensure that the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy.
Avoid overwatering the plant during the cold season as growth is minimal at this time therefore, the plant does not require much water.
The second possible reason why Zebra Calathea is dying is pest infestations as it is prone to mealy bugs, aphids, scale insects and spider mites.
Isolate the affected plant to prevent spread to the other houseplants and treat it appropriately for the pests. Read on how to identify and get rid of pests in houseplants.
Calathea zebrina washed out leaves are due to exposure of the plant to hot direct sunlight as it grows best in bright, indirect light away from direct sunshine.
Position the Calathea Zebra Plant to a more shaded spot or instal a light curtain to protect it from direct sunlight to prevent its eventual death.
Calathea zebrina curled and yellowing leaves are caused by incorrect watering; either overwatering (soggy soil) or underwatering.
Overwatering (soggy soil) causes the roots to die due to lack of oxygen in the soil. When the roots die they cannot take up water and therefore the leaves begin to curl, yellow and eventually die.
Underwatering implies that there is too little moisture in the soil and therefore, the plant has no water to take up to the leaves.
Thus, the leaves begin to curl, yellow and eventually die if the situation is not corrected.
Water the Zebra Calathea thoroughly and keep the soil consistently moist during the growing season.
Reduce watering in the cold season but do not allow the soil to dry out completely.
Ascertain that the soil is free-draining and that the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy.
Brown, dry leaf tips and edges in Calathea zebrina are due to four possible causes. One possible cause is dry air (too little humidity).
To increase humidity, set the pot on a wet pebble tray or grow the plant in the bathroom and other moist areas in the home where humidity is high.
The second cause of brown, dry leaf tips and edges in Calathea zebrina which is accompanied by stunted growth is infestation by spider mites due to the air being too dry (low humidity).
Remove the dead growth and raise humidity for the plant to discourage the pest infestations.
The third cause of brown, dry leaf tips and edges in Calathea zebrina is watering it with hard water. Water the plant with chlorine-free water only like rain water.
Like other Calathea, Zebra Calathea is sensitive to chlorine and other chemicals dissolved in water and it responds with brown leaf tips and edges.
The fourth cause of brown, dry leaf tips and edges in Zebra Calathea is accumulation of salts or chemicals in the soil which may have arisen from the water or fertilizers used.
Flush out accumulated chemicals (salts) from the soil regularly by running a stream of water through the soil. Allow the stream of water to run for some time and repeat the process several times.
Calathea zebrina is also prone to leaf spot disease due to the humid conditions in which it grows. The disease is indicated by brown patches surrounded by a yellow halo.
Isolate the affected plant to prevent spread to the other houseplants and treat it appropriately for the disease. Read on how to treat leaf spot disease in houseplants.
Calathea zebrina (Goeppertia zebrina) like other Calathea Plants is non-toxic to both humans and pets as indicated by ASPCA. It is safe to grow indoors.