Zebra plant (Calathea zebrina) profile

Written by Maggie

Mar 03 2021

Zebra plant (Calathea zebrina) profile

The Zebra plant (scientific name: Calathea Zebrina (Sims) Lindl.) is a medium-sized perennial herb of Araceae, with a plant height of up to 1 meter. Zebra plant leaves are oblong-lanceolate, unequal, dark green with yellow-green stripes, velvet-like, back grayish green when young, lavender red when old, head, corolla violet violet or white, ovary glabrous. Zebra plant is originally from Brazil. Zebra plants like to grow in low light or semi-shade environments, but long-term indoor growth under low light, the plant is weak, leaves lose their characteristic color. But even a short exposure to the bright light in midsummer will burn the leaves. The beautiful leaves of Zebra plants are cultivated for ornamental use. Leaf color changes with the growth period.

Zebra plant picture

Zebra plant

Morphological characteristics of zebra plant

Zebra plant is a herb of medium size, plant height 0.5-1 m. Leaves are 6-20 oblong-lanceolate, 45 cm long and 16 cm wide, unequal, obtuse at the top, acuminate at the base, dark green with yellow-green streaks between, velvet-like, very beautiful, back grayish green when young, Lavender red when old, glabrous on both sides; Petiole of Zebra plant is 45 cm long. Inflorescences are ovate, about the size of goose eggs, solitary on scapes of varying lengths, bracts imbricate, broadly ovate, ca. 5 cm wide, purple inside; Bracteoles of Zebra plant are linear; Sepals are oblong, up to 2.5 cm long; Corolla is violet or white, lobes oblong-lanceolate, 1.5 cm long; Outer stamens of Zebra plant are ovate-oblong, lavender cocoon-colored, 1.7 cm long; One hard leathery is similar to the other, and the other pocket is only half long. Ovary is glabrous. 

The ecological habits of zebra plant 

Zebra plant likes half shade and high temperature wet environment conditions. From spring to autumn, the growth temperature is 15℃ to 30℃, and the overwintering temperature is 10℃ to 15℃.  In the hot summer, we are afraid of the scorching sun. We should have sufficient soft light at ordinary times, and the air is fresh and moist, not too shaded.It requires loose, fertile and good permeability cultivation substrate. 

Zebra plant distribution area

Cultivated in Taiwan and Guangdong of China, Zebra plant is originally from Brazil.

The Zebra Plant's propagation

Plant division and tissue culture were used to propagate. Zebra plants with vigorous growth can be divided once every 1-2 years. When dividing Zebra plants and changing pots, the planting should not be too deep, and all the roots can be planted in the soil, otherwise the growth of new buds will be affected. Tissue culture method is generally used for large-scale propagation.

Spring or late autumn combined with repot. Operation will be too dense plants from the pot out, the robust neat plant cluster separate, respectively potted, fully watered, put half shade conservation. But the low temperature in early spring is easy to damage the root, affecting the survival rate. Generally, it is not easy to divide plants too early, and it is more appropriate to divide Zebra plants when the temperature is stable. Each Zebra plant should have more than 3-4 small plants, and try to retain a certain amount of original soil, so as not to affect the growth and formation of the plant. When planting, the culture soil of loose leaf rot soil or peat soil plus 1/3 perlite and a small amount of sand is used.

How to grow and care for zebra plant


Basin soil with fertile, loose and good drainage leaf soil is the most appropriate. Cultivation soil, peat soil and coarse sand mix soil can be used when potted.


Potted velvet arrowroot is often used in 15-20 cm diameter pots. Growing season should give sufficient moisture and higher air humidity, often to the leaf and plant around the water spray, in order to increase air humidity, and often keep the basin soil moist. When the temperature is low in winter, the basin soil can be slightly dry.


Avoid sunshine to bask in most, short time sunshine insolation, may cause serious sunburn disease, the light is slightly stronger to be able to appear leaf to roll up namely, turn yellow, affecting Zebra plant growth. Greenhouse cultivation, spring, summer and autumn three levels should be shaded 70%-80% of the sun, winter to cover 30%-50%.10000-20000lx light intensity is the most appropriate.


During the Zebra plant growing period, liquid fertilizer should be applied every ten days, and a small amount of water should be immediately used to wash the leaves after fertilization, which produces fertilizer harm. At the end of autumn, attention should be paid to spraying 0.2-0.3% potassium dihydrogen phosphate, so as to facilitate the plant growth and improve the cold resistance in winter. When changing pots in spring every year, part or most of the old leaves can be cut off, so that they can grow new leaves again, and improve the ornamental value. 


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.


You can re-pot your healthy zebra plants semi-annually or annually during the summer and spring season while going for new potting soil. To generate more plants, you can divide them and replant them by division.

Although the young plants may not seem to be as lush and dense as the mother plant, the right care will make them get bright foliage over time. The fact that Calathea zebrina grows quickly is the reason behind the same.

Zebra plant

Disease control of zebra plant

Leaf spot and leaf blight are common hazards, with equal amount of Bordeaux spray prevention and control. Insect pest has whitefly harm, usable 25% imine thiophosphorus emulsified oil 1000 times liquid spray kills. Sometimes scale insect harm occurs, with 40% oxidized diethoate emulsion 1500 times liquid spray to kill.

Zebra plant potential problems

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.

Functions of zebra plant

Zebra plant has underground rhizome or tuber, leaves solitary, large.In addition to the open leaf sheath at the base of leaves, there is a significantly enlarged joint, called "leaf pillow", in which there are water storage cells, regulating the direction of leaves, that is, when the water is sufficient at night, the leaves stand upright, and when the water is insufficient during the day, the leaves expand, which is a characteristic of araceae plants.In addition, some arrowroot also 'sleep movement', that is, the leaf spread out during the day, the night folded, very strange. 


The leaves of Zebra plant are rich and colorful, highly ornamental, and most of them are shade plants with strong negative tolerance and strong adaptability. Zebra plant can be planted in the shade of courtyards and parks or by the roadside. In South China, more and more species have been applied in landscaping. Planting methods can be used in patches, clumps or with other plants.In northern areas, can be cultivated in the ornamental greenhouse for landscape ornamental. 

Indoor decoration

As a result of strong resistance to negative, beautiful leaf color, Zebra plant can be directly planted in hotels, shopping malls, large venues and other public places of the corner lot for permanent layout. However, in the process of cultivation and management, it is necessary to properly supplement the light and regularly spray water to the foliage to improve the air humidity. 

Potted plant leaf cutting

Because the Zebra plant type is beautiful, the leaf color is colorful, and has a strong negative tolerance, the cultivation management is simple, mostly used for indoor potted ornamental, is one of the most famous indoor leaf viewing plants in the world. Large variety of Zebra plant can be used to decorate the hall of the guesthouse, market, and a small variety can adorn the balcony of the bedroom, sitting room, bedroom, etc. In the process of cultivation and management, each place for a period of time, should be placed in the balcony, window sill where the sun is strong, enhance the light, for long-term appreciation. Due to the color of the leaves, with eye-catching markings, is a high-grade leaf cutting material, can be directly used as a Flower arrangement or as a lining material. 

Zebra plant