Calathea Zebrina: Why You Need This Interesting Plant at Home

As a native of the tropical regions of South America, this plant grows well in warm and humid environments. When placed in this type of environment and provided with the proper care it can grow up to 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide.  This plant is more than just a space-filling piece of decor, it is exotic beauty as well.

How to Identify Zebra Plant (Calathea Zebrina)

This plant can be misidentified as a Prayer Plant (Maranta Leucoreura) or Aphelandra Zebra Plant; however, it is differentiated from these by how much larger it grows than either of them.

When identifying a Zebra Plant, look for these key identifiers:

  • Leaves that grow up to 2 feet long
  • Leaves that grow from a central rosette
  • Leaves that are bright green and contrasted with either white, yellow, or pink feathery stripes

How to Grow Zebra Plant from Seed

Calathea Zebrina

This type of plant is more commonly propagated via stem cuttings, but it is still possible to grow one from seeds. The steps for doing this are:

  1. Purchase seeds from a reputable seller (sellers who price their seeds between $1 and $2)
  2. Fill a container with a seed starting soil mix
  3. Place the seeds into the soil mix
  4. Water the soil so that it is moist but not soggy
  5. Place a plastic bag over the container to hold in moisture
  6. Set the container in a warm spot that gets plenty of bright, indirect sunlight
  7. Maintain the heat and moisture levels as the seeds germinate and grow
  8. Remove the plastic bag for a few hours every other day to give the seeds access to fresh air
  9. Transplant the plants to a permanent container once they are established

How to Propagate Zebra Plant

This plant is easy to propagate via stem cuttings.  The steps for doing this are:

  1. Use a sterile cutting utensil to cut off a stem (the stem should be at least two inches long and include a node)
  2. Remove leaves that are near the bottom of the stem
  3. Use a rooting hormone on the bottom of the stem
  4. Set the cutting into a container that has been filled with potting soil
  5. Water the soil
  6. Set a plastic bag over the plant to keep in humidity
  7. Set the plant container in a warm area that has access to bright, but indirect sunlight
  8. Remove the plastic bag for a few hours every other day to provide the cuttings with fresh air
  9. If necessary, repot the plant in a larger container once it is well established

Zebra Plant Growing Conditions

This is a temperamental plant that requires its living environment to resemble its native lands. This means it needs plenty of sunlight, humidity, and warmth.

A plant humidifier or pebble tray and a heat mat can be utilized to provide the heat and humidity this plant needs without creating an indoor environment that is uncomfortable for humans and pets.

How to Plant Zebra Plant

calathea zabra

This plant does not need to be repotted very frequently. It should only be repotted when its root system begins to outgrow its current container, which is typically every two to three years.

Even though Zebra Plant does not require frequent repotting, it can benefit from a new layer of fresh soil. If the soil level of its container has diminished, place two or three inches of new soil into the container to provide the plant with more nutrients.

When Zebra Plant does need a new container, follow these steps:

  1. Choose a plant container that is 2 inches larger in diameter than its current container
  2. Fill the plant container potting soil
  3. Create a hole in the soil for the plant to set inside
  4. Carefully remove the plant from its current container
  5. Gently dust off any excess soil from its roots
  6. Using a sterile cutting utensil, cut off any rotten roots
  7. Set the plant into the hole in the new container
  8. Spread the soil around so that the plant is secure in its new container
  9. Water the plant
  10. Set it in a warm spot with plenty of sunlight

Zebra Plant Potting & Soil

self watering planter

This plant requires soil that drains well. It can include sand to help encourage good drainage. The soil should contain one part soil with two parts peat moss and two parts perlite.

It also requires soil that has pH levels that are neutral to acidic.  It is easy to test soil pH levels using a Soil pH Meter.  To create higher levels of acidity in the soil, add bone meal, hardwood ashes, or ground eggshells to it.  For a more detailed look at how to adjust soil pH levels, read this article.

Zebra Plant should be set in plant containers that have drainage holes in their bottom. A self-watering plant container is an excellent choice since these plants suffer from overwatering.

Zebra Plant Water Requirements

This plant should only be watered when its soil has mostly dried out from its previous watering session. It should be given enough water that excess water runs through its container’s drainage holes. Also, the water should be lukewarm.

A great way to track plant-watering schedules is through a plant watering app.  This will prevent overwatering and send reminders for when the plant needs another drink.

Zebra Plant Light Requirements

This plant should be set in an area that receives plenty of bright, but indirect sunlight. It cannot handle full sun or dark places, so it may be best to use a light meter to test indoor areas to confirm that the plant is receiving adequate amounts of sunlight.

Best Zebra Plant Fertilizer

To encourage a Zebra Plant to produce flowers, it is recommended that it be fed every week or every other week during spring and early summer.

Best Zebra Plant Companion Plantings

Tropical plants look wonderful when they are clustered together in a garden space or in an indoor area. They can also benefit from the extra humidity in the air since so many plants are clustered together. The following three plants are excellent options to set next to a Zebra Plant for companionship, clustering benefits, and beautification.

Calathea Dottie

Calathea Dottie

This is a strikingly beautiful tropical plant that is a very popular houseplant.  It has gorgeous leaves that are green, glossy, and highlighted with vibrant pink streaks.  This plant’s good looks and familial standing make it perfect to use as a companion for a Zebra Plant.

Light Requirements

Calathea Dottie should be placed in an area that receives plenty of bright, indirect sunlight.

Soil Requirements

Calathea Dottie requires soil that is well-draining but still able to retain some moisture.

Water Requirements

Calathea Dottie should be watered every week or two when its soil begins to dry out.  It should not be allowed to sit in dry soil or soggy soil.


  • It is a beautiful and unique-looking plant
  • It is easy to find and purchase online


  • It is difficult to propagate
  • It requires plenty of humidity
  • It is susceptible to dehydration
  • It is susceptible to root rot

Prayer Plant

Prayer Plant

Since Zebra Plant and Maranta Leuconeura (Prayer Plant) are often mistaken for one another, why not grow them side by side? This is a great way to learn more about the differences and similarities between these plants.

Light Requirements

Prayer Plant should be placed in an area that receives plenty of bright, but indirect sunlight. It can tolerate some time in low light conditions; however, this is not its ideal environment.

Soil Requirements

Prayer Plant requires soil that is well-draining, but able to retain some moisture.

Water Requirements

Prayer Plant should be watered with lukewarm water when its top layer of soil is dry. It can also benefit from extra humidity in its environment.


  • It is easy to propagate via stem cuttings or division
  • It is easy to learn how to care for


  • It is susceptible to root rot
  • It is susceptible to infestations of spider mites, mealybugs, and aphids

Elephant’s Ear

Elephant’s Ear

This is that big, gorgeous, and very popular houseplant that hails from Southeast Asia. Its leaves are stunning and will certainly look even more so when set next to a Zebra Plant. Plus, they are quite easy to grow indoors.

Light Requirements

Elephant’s Ear should be placed in an area that is partially shady.

Soil Requirements

Elephant’s Ear requires soil that drains well but can still retain some moisture. The pH levels of the soil should also be neutral to acidic.

Water Requirements

Elephant’s Ear should only be watered when its soil is mostly dried out after its previous watering session. It should only be watered at the root level and never on its leaves since this could cause a fungal infection.


  • It is a beautiful plant
  • It has leaves that are purple-green in color
  • It is easy to care for this plant


  • It is toxic
  • It is susceptible to root rot
  • It is susceptible to fungal infections
  • It is susceptible to infestations of mealybugs, spider mites, and aphids

Zebra Plant Diseases and Common Problems

The most common problems face by Zebra Plant are:

  • Leaves that are curling
  • Leaves that are dropping
  • Leaves that have brown tips
  • Leaves that have spots
  • Stems that are limp

Zebra Plant Treatments and Maintenance

Calathea zebrina

When caring for a plant it is best to treat them quickly when they show signs of an infestation or a disease.  This will give them a chance to recover and it may prevent other, nearby plants from being infected as well.

The best care treatment for Zebra Plant is to learn how to water, feed, and plant them properly. It is also recommended that they be inspected for insect infestation and cleaned regularly.  These two preventative measures should eliminate or, at least, reduce infestations and diseases.

If, however, a Zebra Plant does show signs of an infestation or a disease, follow these steps:

Leaves that are curling

This is a sign that the plant is underwatered. It should be watered more frequently and given more water at each watering session.

Leaves that are dropping

This is a sign that the plant does not have enough humidity in its environment. Check that it is not next to an air conditioner or heat vent. Move it to an area where it can receive more moisture (bathrooms are great) or provide it with a humidifier.

Leaves that have brown tips

This is another tell-tale sign of a plant without enough humidity.

Leaves that have spots

This is another sign that the plant is underwatered. Tweak its watering regimen and watch it closely.

Stems that are limp

This is a sign that the plant is either being overwatered, is set in a place that is too cold, or both. Tweak its watering regimen and move it to a warmer area.

Where to Buy Zebra Plant Seeds Online

Since this plant is not commonly propagated via seeds, it is not easy to find seeds online. Here are some online shops that sell rare seeds:

Where to Buy Mature Zebra Plant Online

This is a popular houseplant and it can be found for sale at many different online shops. Look for a mature plant at these online shops:


Question: Is Zebra Plant Toxic?

Answer: No, this plant is not considered toxic; however, its sap can irritate the skin. It should only be handled and pruned while wearing gloves.

Question: Does Zebra Plant have Air Purifying Qualities?

Answer: Yes, this plant can rid indoor spaces of common household toxins.

Question: Can Zebra Plant be cleaned with Neem Oil?

Answer: Yes, in fact, this is a good preventative measure to keep the plant from being infested by common pests; e.g., spider mites, aphids, and mealybugs.

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