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.
Zebra plants require a peat-based potting mix. It’s best to use a mix that is 2 parts peat and 1 part perlite. Zebra plants like rich, well-drained soil that holds moisture.
The simplest option is to use an African violet potting mix, or you can make your own blend of one part garden soil, one part sand or perlite, and two parts peat moss or coir.
Whether it’s excess of darkness or direct sunlight, Calathea zebrina calls for protection from both. What works wonders for a healthy zebra plant is a spot with nice bright, indirect sunlight.
A great option is to place the plant somewhere where it’s treated with filtered bright light, preferably, through a curtain. The plant does well when placed in a north-facing window, while you must make sure to shield the plant from direct rays of the sun if going for some other setting.
Direct sunlight is fatal for the plant as it burns the leaves and makes it lose its bright hues.
When the plant is in the growing season, it will call for loads of water. A moisture-loving plant, Calathea zebrina needs wet soil to thrive. But at the same time, you must make sure that the plant doesn’t sit in deep water.
Also, reduce watering during the winter season when the growth slows down or takes a complete halt. Between each watering session during winters, make sure you allow the soil to turn slightly dry.
Avoid cold or hard water for watering your zebra plant, instead go for tepid rain or distilled water. Calathea zebrina needs to stay moist all the time, but not completely wet. So, keep the soil of your zebra plant pot moist yet draining well.
Zebra plants thrive best at average room temperatures that range from 65 degrees Fahrenheit to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. However, don’t place the plant in temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Another thing to make sure is to protect your Calathea zebrina from sudden temperature drops and cold drafts. Also, protect your plant from drying and overheating by keeping it away from heating vents.
One of the most important aspects of caring for your zebra plant is humidity. In fact, most people go wrong when it comes to maintaining the right levels of humidity around their zebra plants.
Calathea zebrina calls for high humidity, and to make sure the plant gets that, you can try misting and keep the soil adequately moist. If that doesn’t work, you may provide the plant more moisture by using a humidity tray or an electronic humidifier.
It’s also recommended to place your Calathea zebrina in close proximity to other plants.
Feed your zebra plant with a standard liquid houseplant fertilizer. However, make sure you fertilize the plant only during the growing season once every two weeks, going for a half-strength mixture of fertilizer. Avoid using fertilizers during the winter season.
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