How to Grow and Care for Calathea zebrina (Zebra Plant) Indoors

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Calathea zebrina, Zebra Plant, Goeppertia zebrina

Botanical name: Calathea zebrina
Synonym: Goeppertia zebrina
Family: Marantaceae
Common name: Zebra Calathea, Zebra Plant, Calathea Zebra

Calathea zebrina Description

Calathea zebrina or Zebra Plant 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.

Calathea zebrina 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 Size

Calathea zebrina (Goeppertia zebrina) grows in clumps to a height of about 2-3 ft. The leaves are about 1-2 ft long.

Calathea zebrina Origin

Calathea zebrina (Goeppertia zebrina) is native to the tropical forests in southeastern Brazil where it grows on the forest floors.

Calathea zebrina Related Plants

Calathea zebrina (Goeppertia 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.

Buy beautiful and healthy Calathea zebrina (Zebra Plants) from Etsy.

Calathea zebrina, Zebra Plant, Goeppertia zebrina

Photo Credit: Merryhatton Garden Centre

Calathea zebrina (Goeppertia zebrina) Care Indoors

Calathea zebrina grows best in bright, indirect light and consistently moist soil at all times. It requires a warm, humid environment inorder to thrive.

The best soil for Zebra Plant should be free-draining and rich in organic matter. Read on for more on the best growing conditions for Calathea zebrina.

Calathea zebrina Light Requirements

Calathea zebrina (Goeppertia zebrina) grows best in bright, indirect light away from direct sunlight.

If the lighting in your home is not adequate, you can use these grow bulbs to supplement it. They are easy to use as you simply need to screw them into your regular lighting fixtures.

Avoid too bright light as it will cause the leaf colour to fade. Also, keep the plant away from direct sunlight as it can cause sunburn on the beautiful leaves.

For uniform growth of the plant, turn the pot regularly to ensure that the plant receives light on all sides. Read more on understanding light for houseplants.

Watering Calathea zebrina

Water Calathea zebrina (Goeppertia zebrina) liberally and keep the soil consistently moist at all times during the growing season. Reduce watering in the cold season as growth is minimal at this time but do not allow the soil to dry out completely.

Water Zebra Plant with water that is at room temperature to avoid plant shock. The water should also be free of chlorine and flourides as Calathea Zebra like other Calathea is sensitive to chemicals dissolved in water. Dissolved chemicals will cause brown leaf tips and edges. Read more on how to water houseplants.

Ensure the pot for your Zebra Plant 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 reduce fungal infestations like leaf spot diseases, avoid wetting the foliage of your Calathea zebrina during watering or water from the bottom instead.


Temperature for Calathea zebrina

Calathea zebrina (Goeppertia zebrina) prefers average warmth with a minimum of 150C and a maximum of 260C. At temperatures below this range, the plant stops growing while temperatures above this range may cause the plant to die.

Protect your Zebra Plant from draughts as they cause sudden changes in temperature which the plant cannot tolerate and may cause it to die. Read more on understanding temperature for houseplants.

Humidity for Calathea zebrina

Zebra Plant (Goeppertia zebrina) requires high humidity (50% to 60%) inorder to thrive. Low humidity causes the plant to develop brown leaf tips and edges. Use a hygrometer to monitor the humidity for the optimum growth of your plant.

To raise humidity for your Zebra Calathea, set the pot on a wet pebble tray or use a cool mist humidifier.

Calathea zebrina can also grow in the bathroom or other moist areas in the home where humidity is high if there is adequate lighting. Read more on how to raise humidity for houseplants.

You can also grow Calathea zebrina in a terrarium as a high humidity can be maintained in a terrarium. Read more on how to make a closed terrarium for houseplants.

How to Clean Calathea zebrina

Keep the leaves of your Calathea zebrina clean by damp-wiping with a soft cloth. Read more on how to clean houseplants.

Calathea zebrina Fertilizer (Feeding)

Feed Calathea zebrina (Goeppertia zebrina) with a balanced fertilizer every 4 weeks through out the growing season.

Withhold feeding for Calathea zebrina during the cold season as growth is minimal and feeding at this time can lead to fertilizer burn. Read more on how to feed houseplants.

Regularly, 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.

Repotting Calathea zebrina

Repot Calathea zebrina (Goeppertia 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.

Before repotting, water the Calathea zebrina thoroughly at least 1 day before to make it easier and also hasten establishment. A well hydrated plant suffers less repotting shock and takes a shorter time to take root.

If the plant is large and has outgrown its current pot, divide it into several sections and use the splits to propagate new plants.

Repotting may cause the leaves to droop but the plant will eventually recover once it takes root; in about 3-4 weeks.

Calathea zebrina Soil

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 your Calathea zebrina online from Etsy.

Pruning Calathea zebrina

Pruning Calathea zebrina is easy. Remove dead and yellow foliage to maintain the plant neat and attractive. Cut the leaves with a sharp knife or scissors at the base, where the leaf meets the stalk.

Calathea zebrina (Zebra Plant) Propagation

Calathea zebrina (Goeppertia zebrina) is propagated by plant division at the beginning of the growing season during repotting. We have outlined herebelow Calathea zebrina propagation by plant division. Read on.

How to propagate Calathea zebrina by plant division

Water the Calathea zebrina thoroughly at least 1 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 Zebra 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 Calathea zebrina section.

Place the Calathea zebrina 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.

Liberally 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 Zebra plants.

Place the pots in a warm, well-lit place until new growth has emerged on the Calathea zebrina sections.

Gradually remove the polythene over a period of two weeks to acclimatize the new Zebra plants.

Maintain the soil moist until the new Calathea zebrina plants are well established after which you can begin routine care.

Calathea zebrina, Zebra Plant, Goeppertia zebrina

Photo Credit: PlantVine

Calathea zebrina (Goeppertia zebrina) Problems Indoors

Calathea zebrina (Zebra Plant) problems indoors are caused by cultural faults in lighting, humidity, watering and temperature among others. Continue reading for more on these problems, their remedies and solutions.

Calathea zebrina drooping leaves

Calathea zebrina drooping leaves are due to three possible causes. One possible cause of drooping leaves in Zebra Plant is too dry air (low humidity).

Calathea zebrina is very sensitive to low air humidity. Use a hygrometer to monitor the humidity and maintain it at 50%-60% for optimum growth of the plant.

To raise humidity for Calathea zebrina, set the pot on a wet pebble tray or use a cool mist humidifier. Read more on how to raise humidity for houseplants.

Zebra Plant can also be grown in a terrarium as a high humidity can be maintained in a terrarium. Read more on how to make a terrarium for houseplants.

The second possible cause of drooping leaves in Calathea zebrina is incorrect watering; either overwatering (soggy soil) or underwatering.

Water your Calathea zebrina liberally and maintain the soil consistently moist at all times during the growing season. Reduce watering during the cold season but do not allow the soil to dry out completely.

Also, ensure 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. This means that the roots have filled the pot and there is very little soil to hold water when you water your 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. 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 dying

Calathea zebrina may die due to two possible reasons. One possible reason why your Calathea zebrina is dying is root-rot which is brought about by soggy soil.

Take out the Zebra Plant from 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 deal with root-rot here.

To prevent root-rot in the future, ensure that the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy. Also, do not overwater your plant during the cold season as growth is minimal at this time.

The second possible reason why your Calathea zebrina is dying is pest infestations. Calathea zebrina like other Calatheas 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.

Calathea zebrina leaves appear washed out

Calathea zebrina washed out leaves are due to exposure of the plant to hot direct sunlight. Calathea zebrina grows best in bright, indirect light away from direct sunshine.

Move the 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, yellowing leaves

Calathea zebrina curled and yellowing leaves are caused by incorrect watering; either overwatering (soggy soil) or underwatering.

Overwatering (soggy soil) Zebra Plant 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 Calathea zebrina 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. Also, ensure that the soil is free-draining and that the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy. Read more on how to water houseplants.

Calathea zebrina brown, dry leaf tips and edges

Brown, dry leaf tips and edges in Calathea zebrina are due to four possible causes. One possible cause of brown, dry leaf tips and edges in Calathea zebrina is dry air (too little humidity).

Zebra Plant requires a humid environment inorder to thrive. To raise humidity for your Calathea zebrina, set the pot on a wet pebble tray or use a cool mist humidifier.

Calathea zebrina can also be grown in the bathroom or other moist areas in the home where humidity is high. Read more on how to raise humidity for houseplants.

Calathea zebrina is also ideal for a terrarium as a high humidity can be maintained in a terrarium. Read more on how to make a closed terrarium for houseplants.

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 (as outlined above) 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 your Zebra Plant with chlorine-free water only like rain water.

Like other Calathea, Calathea zebrina 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 Calathea zebrina is accumulation of salts or chemicals in the soil. These chemicals may have originated from the water used for watering or from the fertilizers used.

Regularly, 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.

Calathea zebrina pests

Calathea zebrina pests; 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.

Calathea zebrina diseases

Calathea zebrina is 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.

Is Calathea zebrina (Goeppertia zebrina) toxic?

Calathea zebrina (Goeppertia zebrina) like other Calathea Plants is non-toxic to both humans and pets. It is safe to grow indoors.

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