Stripped foliage gently moving throughout the day makes the Calathea zebrina stand out. Calatheas are tropical plants that know precisely what they like, but they are easy to grow once you understand what they need. Learn all about Calathea zebrina care and find out what this beauty needs to thrive.
The Calathea zebrina hails from tropical climates in South America and is sometimes known simply as the zebra plant. This common name is due to the alternating light and dark green strips that radiate in a symmetrical pattern from the midrib. The underside of each leaf is a deep, dreamy shade of purple. The oval leaves come to a very gentle point and emerge from a central root ball. A couple of leaves often grow from a single stem. Like all Calatheas, the leaves first appear in a tight role and gradually unfurl. New leaves may appear muted initially, and the colors will set in a week or two. Mature zebrina plants can stand one to three feet tall.
One of the features most often associated with Calatheas and Prayer Plants is the leaf movement. The leaves are lowered during the day, putting the patterned foliage on display. At night, the leaves fold up, putting the undersides of the foliage on display. This process is known as nyctinasty, and it’s believed that this movement allows the leaves to soak up as much sunlight as possible.
Calatheas belong to the Marantaceae family, and these plants are often referred to as Prayer Plants. Advancements in genetic testing resulted in many Calathea plants being reclassified into the Goeppertia genus. All this is to explain that you may see the Calathea zebrina labeled as a Prayer Plant or Goeppertia zebrina, but it’s all the same thing.
Calathea Zebrina Light Needs
Zebra plants in nature live under the tree canopy, so they receive filtered sunlight. Houseplants do best with bright, indirect sunlight. Bright light keeps the new growth coming in and maintains vibrant foliage colors. Avoid direct sunlight, which will burn the foliage. Several feet away from a sunny window is often a good spot.
How Often to Water Calathea Zebrina
Prayer plants are tropical, so they have increased water needs. Water the Calathea zebrina when the top inch of the potting mix is dry. The amount of sunlight and humidity in the immediate area impacts how quickly the soil dries out, but generally, plan to water the zebrina about once per week during the growing season and every one-and-a-half to two weeks during the dormant season. Always stick your finger in the soil to gauge the dryness to ensure it’s time to water.
Drainage is essential for all plants, so definitely use a container with drainage holes. Water the zebra plant until excess water drains through the container. Empty the cache pot or saucer of excess water. It’s often easier to clean the leaves when watering, but occasionally rinse the foliage when watering the plant.
Signs of Water Stress
Overwatered plants will develop yellow leaf tips. The yellow section will eventually die and turn brown and gradually engulf the entire leaf if the plant is continually overwatered. Soft, mushy stems that cause the leaves to droop also occur when the plant is overwatered. Curled leaves and drooping stems are signs of an underwatered plant. Water right away if you notice signs of underwatering, and the plant may bounce back.
The same symptom can often have multiple causes, so always inspect the plant to determine the issue before trying to fix the problem.
Best Soil for Goeppertia
Use a medium moisture soil that allows drainage. Medium moisture or loamy soils retain some dampness while not becoming soggy or waterlogged. Calatheas like moisture, but too much of a good thing is problematic and can cause root rot.
Temperature for Goeppertia Zebrina
Temperatures between 65° and 75° F are best for proper Calathea zebrina care. Most homes are warm enough for this tropical plant but keep it away from vents and drafts.
Calathea Zebrina Humidity Needs
Humidity is possibly the most vital part of Calathea zebrina care. These plants need extra dampness in the air, and they thrive in high humidity. Average humidity is alright, and zebra plants can live in 50% humidity. Humidity at 60% or higher is ideal and will keep the foliage lush and healthy.
Leaves become brown and crispy along the edges and may curl when the humidity is too low. Give the plant a humidifier or a pebble tray with water if you see signs of low humidity. You can also proactively monitor the humidity and take steps to increase the dampness when it naturally drops.
Pro tip: Increased humidity is good for the plant, but it increases the risk of fungus gnats and mildew. Bright, indirect sunlight helps reduce the risk of fungus and mold, so bright, indirect sunlight is all the more important for plants grown in high humidity.
Goeppertia Zebrina Fertilizer
Zebra plants are not heavy feeders, but they grow best with a nutritional boost. Feed the Calathea zebrina using a balanced fertilizer applied every two to four weeks during the growing season. Always water before applying fertilizer, or use a water-soluble product to protect the roots.
Does Calathea Zebrina Bloom?
Happy and healthy Calathea zebrina plants bloom during the spring. Tiny purple flowers bloom in a cone-shaped cluster. The flowers are not plain, but they’re also not particularly showy, and many plant owners choose to remove the flower to redirect energy into the foliage. Getting the plant to flower is a sure sign that you are doing everything right and the plant is thriving, so it’s your call whether to leave the flowers or cut them back. If you do enjoy the blooms, trim back the flower spike when the flowers fade.
Remove damage caused by inappropriate watering or low humidity. The general rule is to remove the entire leaf if more than half is damaged but only remove the damaged part if less than half is damaged.
When to Repot Calathea Zebrina
Repot your zebrina when growth slows, or roots poke through the drainage holes. The Calathea zebrina is a slow-growing plant, so plan to repot every other year. Choose a new container that measures 1 to 2 inches larger and give the plant fresh soil when repotting.
Goeppertia Zebrina Propagation
Propagate Calathea zebrina through division. A large plant will gradually expand and can be separated into multiple smaller plants. Repotting is the easiest time to divide a plant. Remove the plant from its container, shake the potting mix free, and gently separate the main plant into smaller plants. You may need to use a clean, sharp knife or shears to divide the rhizomes. Plant each new plant into a container one to two inches larger than the root ball.
Is Calathea Zebrina Pet Safe?
The Calathea zebrina is pet-safe. You can confidently bring this houseplant into your home if you have cats or dogs. Eating or chewing on the plant will harm the plant but will not jeopardize the health of your pet.
Calathea Zebrina Styling Tips
Calatheas have an upright growth habit, so the zebrina is better suited to a table or desk. Large Calathea zebrinas make wonderful floor plants or give them a plant stand to elevate them, placing the foliage within better view.
Calathea Zebrina Care Tips
Plenty of sunlight, a solid watering routine, and increased humidity are the keys to Calathea zebrina care. Once you have these basics established, your zebra plant will thrive. Learning to care for a Calathea takes a lot of trial and error, so be patient and stick with it because this beauty is worth it.