Calathea Zebrina | Calathea Zebra Plant Care Guide

Calathea Zebrina is a species famous as the Calathea Zebra plant that belongs to the family Marantaceae. The Calathea Zebra plant is an evergreen ornamental plant with distinctive dark green velvety leaves having lime green alternative stripes giving it a pattern look of Zebra. Calathea Zebrina usually grows in favorable conditions up to 1 meter with a long stalk about 30 cm long with oval-shaped leaves typically 2 feet long with a pointed end. Calathea Zebra plants have ordinary white to purple flowers which hardly appear indoors.

Calathea Zebrina | Zebra Plant

You can plant Calathea Zebrina indoors and outdoors; however, growing outdoors is slightly more challenging. Its growth will depend upon an optimum watering routine and suitable environmental conditions. Overall, Zebra Plant seeks more attention than some other Calatheas, but the size and eye-catching foliage colors make it worth growing.

  • Botanical name: Goeppertia Zebrina
  • Common name: Calathea Humilior, Calathea Tigrina, Calathea Zebra plant   
  • Origin: Brazil tropical forest Plant
  • Family Name : Marantaceae
  • Plant Height: 80cm – 1 Meter
  • Ideal temperature: 65 – 75° F
  • Hardiness zone: 10-12

Prominent Family Members: Calathea Medallion, Calathea Lancifolia, Calathea Rufibarba, Calathea Ornata, Calathea White Fusion, Calathea Louisae

How do you take care of a Calathea Zebrina?

Calathea Zebra plants love warm, humid, shaded areas, and they cannot bear sudden temperature changes as they originate from the tropical forests of Brazil. Here is a guideline to keep your Calathea Zebrina healthy and alive throughout the coming seasons.

Bringing Calathea Zebra Plant to your Home

We highly recommend to check thoroughly the newly purchased Zebra plant before putting it in your indoor plant collection. It might contain some diseases which can affect your healthy plants. Keep the new one separate for a few days and check it regularly for two weeks; if it looks okay, place them in a bright indirect sunlight area.

Zebra patterned Leaves

If you do not focus on its favorable environment, it may start drooping initially; however, with reasonable care and after getting accustomed to the new environment, the plant will start looking healthy. 

humidity and temperature

Humidity and Temperature

Zebra plants are native to Brazil, and their climate is hot and humid with stable temperatures. The plant desires to grow in the range of 65-75° F. Calathea Zebrina can tolerate ambient temperatures as low as 60°. If the temperature drops below 60° F, the leaves will droop. To initiate the plant recovery, change the room temperature to 60° F or move it to a warmer place.

Calathea Zebra plants remain healthy and fresh if kept in a humid atmosphere. The required level of humidity is 60% around the zebra plant. If you notice browning of the leaves’ edges, it means your Calathea Zebrina is not getting enough humidity.

These charming Calathea plants originally belong to tropical habitats. They need high humidity, usually averaging 50% or more to flourish. If your home doesn’t have much humidity inside, then use a room humidifier to keep the sedative plant thriving.

If you live in a less humid or dry environment, using a humidifier will help Calathea Zebrina flourish and thrive. Other DIY techniques improve the humidity level, however, those methods do not produce consistent results. Another solution for treating low humidity issues is placing the plant in a more humid area like a washroom. An occasional shower to Calathea Zebrina will boost plants’ moisture content. 

watering requirements

How often should you water Calathea Zebrina?

The essential part of Calathea care is its watering. The soil must be lightly moist but not overwatered. Excess watering will lead to soil saturation, and waterlogged conditions will appear, affecting the health of plants, and symptoms will appear as yellowing of the leaves.

Overwatering not only weakens the plant defence mechanism; additionally, the plant also becomes prone to invasion of different pathogens. People often think that the Zebra plant needs constant watering and fear the plant will wilt due to lack of watering. This ultimately results in over-watering practice.

Calathea Zebrina grows vigorously in spring and summer and requires more frequent watering. However, Zebra Plant goes dormant in winter and does not grow much, demanding reduced water input. Please ensure the topsoil layer is dry when watering Calathea Zebrina. The soil will become water-logged, if excess water remains in the soil.

I always prefer to deep water the Calathea Zebra plant, ensuring all the excess water has been drained. If you are using a drainage tray under the pot, please empty it if you notice any drainage water collected after the watering.

The Zebra plant is sensitive to the excess amount of minerals present in tap water. An excessive amount of Florine and Chlorine disbalance the required nutrients of the plant and lead to leaf browning and spotting, so tap water is not a good option if your one is high in minerals. If possible, water it with rain or filter water.

Like other Calathea plants( Crocata , Calathea Fusion White, Louisae Misto, please make sure not to feed the plant with cold water. Always use the water at room temperature. 

sunlight requirement

Does Calathea Zebrina need sunlight?

Calathea Zebrina loves to grow in a shady or partially shady area, which favors medium indirect sunlight. If exposed to direct sunlight, its leaves start fading green fresh color. On the contrary, if the plant is placed in a dark area, wilting and yellowing of the leaves will start.

If your Calathea Zebra plant leaves start transfusing inward, they are exposed to intense light. If such a situation arises, move the plant away from direct sunlight or arrange shade for your Calathea Zebrina. When grown indoors, the Zebra plant requires medium diffused light; that’s why you should select a window facing the north side. Another preferable option would be east or west-facing widows having curtains or blinds.   

maintenance and cleaning

Cleaning and Maintenance

The Zebra plant does not show dust compared to other Calathea, still it still needs occasional cleansing. If zebra plant is small, use a soft, damp cloth carefully to wipe off all the dust from the leaves. However, if the plant is tall, it will be more practical to shower it with lukewarm water.

Zebra Plants have very few requirements when it comes to pruning. You can trim off any dead or sick leaves. Trimming off sick leaves will positively affect plant growth as nutrients will be diverted towards healthy leaves. You may also carry out the pruning of the Zebra plant if it is outgrowing your space, and you need to limit the size of the plant.

The leaves on Calathea Zebrina sometimes may develop brown patches. This issue can be caused by the buildup of salts in the soil. If you have taken other care measures and do not see any problem in your care routine, you should consider flushing the soil of your Calathea plant.

Please ensure water drain holes are not blocked before starting the flushing process. For flushing, the soil, fill the pot with water and keep it under running water for two to three minutes. Let the water drain completely, as it will wash away the excessive minerals built-in soil along with it.

Top up the soil if required, and you are done with flushing. Please make sure not to water the plant until the soil starts drying.

soil requirement

Zebra Calathea Soil Requirements

Calathea habitat is to live in a tropical Brazilian plateau under the canopy of the big tree. Its moist soil comprises rich nutrients because of plant debris and fallen leaves. That’s why moist, airy, nutrient-rich soil is required for healthy growth.

Soil particles should not be compact as they will not allow water to pass freely from the soil, root rot will occur, and plant leaves will start wilting. The best soil for Calathea Zebrina is a mixture of one-part moisture-retaining potting soil, two parts perlites for drainage improvement, and two parts of peat to provide organic matter.

Zebra plants ideally like to sit in slightly acidic soil. A PH level around 6.5 is considered best for Calathea Zebrina.

Fertilizer for Calathea Zebrina

Calathea Zebrina does not require frequent fertilizing. However, in the growing season of spring and summer, we recommend fertilizing the plant every month. The monthly addition of fertilizer to the soil will boost the plant’s growth, and will surprise you by the looks of those large patterned leaves of the Zebra plant.

However, many plant parents become over-enthusiastic and feed the plant more frequently. Calathea Zebrina is not salt-tolerant, and over-fertilizing the plant will result in signs like a burn or dried leaves.

foliage color after fertilizing

Dark Green Foliage after Fertilizing

Fertilizer for Calathea Zebrina shall be rich in nitrogen and used in proper concentration. Add one portion of fertilizer with 3 portions of water or as instructed on the package. Please ensure to not fertilize the soil in fall or winter because the growth rate is slow, and over-fertilization will develop brown spots on leaves.


When should I repot Calathea Zebrina?

If your zebra plant is not growing even in the growing season, one factor will be its pot size. As plants grow, their roots grow as well and need more space. If you notice roots are coming out from the pot drain hole or emerging out from the soil, repot the plant in a bigger pot.

Typically, the Zebra plant will require repotting after two to three years. When you repot your Calathea, gently remove the plant from the pot. Carry out a close inspection of the roots system and check the roots for any signs of damage.

If you do not see any abnormality, plant the Zebra plant at the same height as it was in the previous pot. This step is essential, as too deep planting can stress plant growth. Always decide one or two sizes bigger than the first pot with a drainage hole.


Propagation of Zebra Plant

The best time to propagate Calathea Zebrina is spring or early summer and is best recommended to carry out along with the repotting process. Similar to other family members like Calatheas Orbifolia and Warscewiczii, the Zebra plant is not propagated by seeds or cuttings. The most successful method for propagation of Calathea Zebrina is by division of roots. 

Select a well-grown plant for propagation and carefully bring out the plant from the pot to propagate the Zebra plant. Divide the mother plant root system with a sharp tool or hands and plant them in new pots not deeper than before.

Place the plant in a dark and humid place until fresh growth appears on your new Zebra plant. Once you notice the new growth, put the pot back to the usual growing area.


Toxicity of Calathea Zebrina

Calathea Zebrina is not toxic to pets and humans. There is no history of harmful effects on humans or pets. This bounty can be around the house with kids and pets alike.

common problems

Common Problems and Queries

Diseases and Pests:

Calathea Zebrine doesn’t have severe diseases and pest problems; however, sometimes aphids, spider mites, and mealybugs invade the plant. You can control these pests easily by timely remedial actions. If any infestation appears on your Zebra plant, initially try to remove the infestation from the leaves manually.

If the problem persists, wipe the leaves with a solution of rubbing alcohol with water. Application of neem oil on the leaves has proved to be successful in preventing the buildup of infestation.

Root rot

Excess watering and poor drainage of water result in root rot of Calathea Zebrina. The problem is the most common one if the Zebra plant is grown in a pot with no or blocked drainage hole. The solution requires some effort, and the following actions need to be taken:

Rotting of Calathea Zebrina roots

Rotting of roots

Why do the edges of Calathea Zebrina leaves turn brown?

There are several reasons, including excess fertilizer and inadequate humidity. Don’t fertilize more than once every month during spring through summer. If you are using a typical houseplant liquid fertilizer, make sure to dilute it to one-quarter strength. Flushing of soil is recommended to wash away the minerals accumulated in the soil.

If your plant is suffering due to the lack of humidity, using a humidifier is the most simple and effective method to increase the humidity indoors.

Leaves Wilting

If you start noticing wilting, there are a few things that could be wrong with your Calathea Zebrina. It may not like the ambient temperature because of being too low. Please make sure both indoor temperatures stay between 65 – 80°F. If you are growing Zebra plants outdoors and temperatures have started to fall from 60 °F, relocate your plant to indoor warmer locations.

Another reason for leaves wilting could be dehydration. Please ensure to maintain the soil moist to solve the issue. Do not make the soil soggy by overwatering, as it can cause more complex problems.

Why is my Calathea Zebrina yellow?

Leaves yellowing is a natural phenomenon of leaves dying. However, if you see excessive yellowing of the leaves, overwatering is the main reason for the yellowing of the leaves. Always ensure the dryness of topsoil by feeling before rewatering the Calathea Zebrina. Please review your watering schedule and adjust it according to soil conditions.

Yellowing of leaves
Zebra plant yellow leaves

How big do Calathea zebrina grow?

Calathea Zebrina can reach a maximum height of 3 feet,  particularly if you use an excellent soil mix and provide the ideal climatic conditions to the plant. However, the plant can grow up to 2 feet in height in normal circumstances.

Should I mist my Calathea Zebrina?

You can sometimes mist the Calathea Zebrina leaves, which is advantageous for plants’ health and wellness. It offers the essential moisture and humidity that tropical plants love. However, overdoing it will hurt the plant instead of benefits. In case of too much mist, water particles will remain on the leaves for prolonged periods.

Water presence on leaves for a longer duration can trigger leaves fungal diseases. Especially take care not to keep your Calathea Zebrina leaves wet overnight.