Aphelandra squarrosa, known more commonly as Zebra plant, is a leafy tropical plant originally from Brazil. Typically grown indoors, it’s loved by plant enthusiasts for its dark green leaves that are striped with white veins, as well as its colourful flowers.
When in bloom, usually late summer or early autumn, a Zebra plant bears tall golden bracts that can reach several inches and number between two to four per plant, lasting up to six weeks. Like many tropical plants, the Zebra plant can be a challenge to grow indoors, as it requires a lot of moisture, warmth, and food to thrive.
Zebra Plant Care
Native to the jungles of Brazil, the Zebra plant is a beautiful, but temperamental plant. It should be kept in an area with bright, filtered light and in soil that is consistently moist.
Zebra plants thrive in indirect light or partial shade, since they are used to growing under a canopy of trees in the tropical jungles. Direct sunlight can cause the leaves to scorch and should be avoided, but at the same time, complete shade can mean that your plant won’t bloom.
Soil And Water Needs
A Zebra plant will grow best in soil that is neutral to acidic, and a multi-purpose potting blend will work fine. These plants prefer consistently moist soil, but be careful not to over-water as this can cause the leaves to wilt. It’s recommended that you water your Zebra plant to saturation every few weeks or when the soil drying out, allowing the water to completely penetrate the soil until it runs out of your container’s drainage holes. Your water temperature should be slightly lukewarm so it mimics the variables of a tropical rainstorm.
Fertilising Your Zebra Plant
Fertiliser will greatly benefit your plants growth and its ability to flower. During its peak growth season, the Zebra plant should be fed every one to two weeks using a fertiliser that is suitable for both foliage and flowers. Once your plant has flowered and the bracts appear to be dying, prune your plant, taking care to remove the spent bract and any surrounding leaves or stems that appear wilted.
Propagating And Repotting
To propagate your Zebra plant, cut two-to three-inch-long sections of stem from side shoots of the plant, then dust the cut ends in a rooting hormone to increase your chances of successful propagation. Insert the stem ends into a pot filled with moist soil.
Because the stems need lots of humidity to grow strong roots, you can increase the moisture level by growing it in a covered terrarium or placing cellophane over the top of your pot. Root growth can take around a month, but keep a look out for new leaf growth, this is a good indication that your plant has taken root.
Any propagated Zebra plants should be repotted once the plant grows roots and reaches maturity. Beyond that, Zebra plants do not need to be repotted often, every two to three years will suffice. If you notice a decrease in soil, remove the top inch or two of mix and top with fresh potting mix or soil and this will give your plant the added dose of nutrients it requires to flourish.