The zebra plant grows well indoors when given the correct care and conditions. However, it is quite a temperamental species and can easily lose it's leaves and becomes leggy - without the proper care it needs.
While the yellow or golden flower bracts that bloom for about 6 weeks are very attractive the foliage alone makes the Aphelandra squarrosa (scientific name) a great ornamental plant for displaying indoors.
The Zebra plant is a fairly popular plant which is grown for its flower bracts and dark green leaves with prominent white colored veins. So if your looking for a flowering or a foliage plant then this is a plant for either or both.
Flowers: The flowers look similar to other bract type flower heads and grow cone shaped at the tips of a stem with small flowers that grow out of the bract. The amount of flower heads produced depends on the amount of stems, which is more often than not, two - four. The flower bract will last for up to about 6 weeks and the small yellow flowers that grow from the bract last for about a week. The bract is the real attraction rather than the small flowers. A grower can expect flowers after summer.
Foliage: As mentioned above the aphelandra squarrosa displays lovely dark glossy green leaves with prominent whitish colored veins. These leaves grow to about 9 inches long and a few inches wide within the center of the leaf, and they have pointed tips.
Where to display: I thought I would mention where it may be best for you to place and display your Zebra plant because the conditions it needs are quite strict once it has flowered. The best place for them to grow well is within a conservatory or any other glass room because they usually offer more bright light and the ability to control humidity better, which is what this plant likes. However, growing in any well lit room with fairly high humidity and plenty of warmth is worth a go at growing this fussy species.
|Names:||Zebra plant (common). Aphelandra squarrosa (botanical/scientific).|
|Max Growth (approx):||Height 2ft.|
|Poisionous for pets:||Non-toxic to cats and dogs.|
|Temperature:||Temperatures from 60-75 ºF (15-23 ºC) are ideal and no lower than 55 ºF (13 ºC).|
|Light:||Bright light without direct sunlight during summer time is preferred.|
|Watering:||It's important to keep the soil moist to the touch, and not water logged or too dry. It's advisable to use luke warm soft water (not hard water).|
|Soil:||Most multi-purpose or peat based potting soil mixes are fine to use.|
|Re-Potting:||Re-pot in spring each year. Only use a pot one size bigger if the plant has become pot bound (too much).|
|Fertilizer:||Feed with a balanced fertilizer once every two weeks during spring and summer.|
|Humidity:||Zebra plants like slightly higher humidity than many other plants of 60% - 70%. You may need to raise the humidity levels in a room artificially by placing the plant in a humidity tray with pebbles or use a humidifier appliance. Low humidity levels within an artificially heated room during winter is not going make a Zebra plant very happy.|
|Propagation:||These are propagated through taking a couple of inches long stem tip cuttings and using rooting hormone to help them grow roots. The ideal room temperature is about 70 ºF (21 ºC) and fairly high humidity improves the chance of successfully propagate the cuttings. Applying heat to the bottom of the pot (using a temperature mat) can speed up the growth process.|
|Pruning||When the flowers begin to die remove them. Also prune the stem and leaves down so there is only two rows of leaves in height left – once the bract begins to die off. This can help prevent the plant getting leggy and losing leaves (which most do) whilst giving the plant an opportunity to grow the following year. Don’t forget to take your cutting for propagation now!|
It's not a strange occurrence when one of these plants does not make it to see the next spring. Seeing to all the above mentioned care instructions (i.e., light, temperature and humidity) will improve the chances of helping a Zebra plant to bloom the following year.
Leaves dropping: The cause here could be dryness of the soil, too much cold air, cold drafts, or even too much sunlight. I would advise you eliminate some of the possible causes that cannot be the cause (eg. winter -not likely to be sunlight) and adjust the conditions to correct the possible causes.
Leaf tips turning brown: The most likely cause here is low humidity. First try misting if you haven’t been and if you have no joy then try to increase the humidity as mentioned above.