The Zebra plant is from the same family (marantaceae) as the popular indoor prayer plant and has many similarities, although the Calathea zebrina grows taller and can be slightly more difficult to grow. It's sometimes named prayer plant when sold at garden stores and its common name (Zebra) is also given to the Aphelandra squarrosa.
Being a tropical plant native to Brazil the Calathea does require a warm and moist environment which encourages the foliage to thrive and look its best.
How it looks: Just like all others from the Maranta group and Calathea genus, it's grown for its striking leaves. This variety has velvety patterned ovate leaves which are light green in color with darker green stripes, like Zebra stripes. The underside of the leaves are purple and not always visible because leaves grow horizontally (although some will curve or grow more upright). It's a clump forming plant that produces long stalks (up to 1 metre tall) and the leaves (15 inches or more in length) sit at the top .
Flowering: The Zebra plant produces purple or white inconspicuous flowers which are unlikely to appear indoors. These are not the main attractive feature of this plant, even when they do bloom (still nice to see of course).
Displaying: Caltheas love a warm but shaded spot in greenhouses or conservatories, but anywhere indoors without cold drafts and enough light is suitable. A bright bathroom large enough to house the plant can be a good location, because of the higher moisture levels.
|Names:||Zebra plant (common). Calathea zebrina (botanical/scientific).|
|Max Growth (approx):||Height 1m.|
|Poisonous for pets:||Non-toxic to cats and dogs.|
|Temperature:||Average room temperatures of 65-75ºF (18-24ºC) are best, and no lower than 60ºF (15ºC). Sudden temperature drops and cold drafts should be avoided.|
|Light:||In its natural habitat the Calathea dwells in forest areas shaded by trees without direct sunlight, which is why a bright but shaded spot within a warm greenhouse or conservatory suits them very well. Anywhere else indoors just needs to be bright without direct sunlight.|
|Watering:||During the growing season water the plant thoroughly and keep the soil moist (remember this plant loves moisture). When it's winter growing slows down or stops, reduce watering and you can allow the top soil to become slightly dry between each watering. If you can - use tepid rain or distilled water and avoid cold hard water.|
|Soil:||A peat based potting mix will be required. 2 parts peat and 1 part perlite is one mixture that will be fine.|
|Fertilizer:||Feed with a balanced liquid fertilizer every two weeks from April - October.|
|Re-Potting:||You'll need to re-pot once every two years, during spring|
|Humidity:||This is one of the conditions which can be difficult to get right in many households and to maintain throughout the whole year for this plant. Misting and keeping the soil moist will help, but if you can and if your plant is showing signs that it's needed - use a humidity tray or electronic humidifier. Placing the Calathea near other plants will also improve humidity.|
|Propagation:||Propagation is done by dividing the main plant when re-potting is carried out. Provide a warm environment and enough humidity after dividing and replanting.|
Leaves curling and spots: The most likely cause here is underwatering. Check the soil for dryness and provide water - following the above instructions.
Leaf tips brown: Your plant is most likely needing more humidity because the current air quality is dry.
Leaves dropping: Again, the air could be too dry and the humidity may need to be increased.
Limp stems: Limp stems usually happens when the plant is getting too much water during the winter and the temperature is possibly too low. This can lead to the stems rotting.