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Cultivating a Healthy Zebra Plant — Quick Guide


Zebra plant with yellow flowersZebra plant with yellow flowers

The zebra plant (Aphelandra squarrosa), with its distinctive striped foliage and bright yellow flowers, is an excellent addition to any indoor garden.

However, cultivating a zebra plant can be challenging because it requires specific care conditions.

The zebra plant ranks among my favorite houseplants due to its unique appearance and the tropical ambiance it brings to indoor spaces.

Keep reading for my tips on how to cultivate a healthy zebra plant!

A Closer Look at the Zebra Plant

  • Scientific Name: Aphelandra squarrosa
  • Other Common Names: Saffron Spike, Striped Aphelandra
  • Size When Fully Grown: 1-6 feet tall and 1-5 feet wide

The zebra plant is a tropical plant native to South America. It’s a spectacle of nature, easily identifiable by its glossy, dark green leaves that boast vivid white veins resembling zebra stripes.

Leaves of Zebra plantLeaves of Zebra plant

With the proper care and conditions, Aphelandra squarrosa can produce bright yellow, spiky flowers that may last up to 6 weeks!

I recommend pruning it after the growing season (spring and summer) to manage its growth and encourage new bloom.

Zebra plants grow slowly, reaching their full size in three years, and don’t often need repotting. With proper care, it can live up to 10 years.

Despite its relatively short lifespan, I’ve found it easy to propagate using stem cuttings. Indoors, a zebra plant grows about 1-6 feet tall and 1 to 5 feet wide.

During winter, a zebra plant goes through a semi-dormant phase and requires reduced but continuous watering until new growth resumes in late winter. Just like other tropical plants, light fertilization during this time can support the plant’s return to vitality.

Creating the Ideal Environment for Zebra Plants

To ensure your zebra plant thrives, replicate its natural habitat by maintaining temperatures between 60 to 70°F and keeping humidity levels high. This creates the ideal growing conditions for the plant.

In addition to the appropriate humidity and temperature, a zebra plant requires sunlight, a watering schedule, preferred soil, and specific maintenance when grown outdoors.

WARNING: Wear gloves when handling your zebra plant, as the sap from its stems can irritate some people’s skin.

Sunlight Requirements

Zebra plant on a black pot on a windowsillZebra plant on a black pot on a windowsill

I’ve discovered that the zebra plant requires bright, indirect light to thrive. Your plant should be placed in an area where it can receive filtered sunlight.

Remember to protect the plant from too much direct sunlight, which can cause its leaves to scorch.

However, a small amount of direct sun can be beneficial. The right amount of light encourages healthy blooming.

Ideally, your zebra plant should be placed by a north-facing window or a position that receives filtered light through a sheer curtain.

When light levels are lower in winter, supplemental bright indirect light may be necessary to keep your zebra plant healthy. A humidifier can also help keep humidity levels steady.

Watering Schedule

Consistent moisture is critical to zebra plant care.

Water regularly to ensure the soil never completely dries out, but be careful not to let the plant sit in overly wet soil. To strike the right balance, allow the top inch of soil to dry out between waterings.

Zebra plant in the gardenZebra plant in the garden

Prevent root rot by ensuring the pot has drainage holes, and the plant doesn’t sit in excessive moisture. Watch for early signs of root rot on the stems.

During the growing season (spring and summer), you can water more frequently, around every 7-10 days. In winter, when growth slows, reduce watering to every 1-2 weeks.

NOTE: These plants thrive under high humidity conditions, so I recommend maintaining humidity between 60 to 70%. If you’re growing this plant indoors, place a humidifier nearby.

Preferred Soils

Zebra plants prefer a well-draining soil mix that prevents water from pooling around the roots. To achieve this, water the soil every few weeks with lukewarm water until it seeps out of the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot.

You could also incorporate materials like perlite or coarse sand to enhance soil drainage and aeration.

I also advise aiming for a slightly acidic to neutral pH, around 5.6 to 6.0, which is the sweet spot for this plant.

During their blooming period, apply balanced liquid fertilizer every couple of weeks, but only when the soil is already moist.

Opt for a fertilizer formulated for flowering houseplants if you want more blooms. You can also opt to use less fertilizer during the winter months when growth slows.

Growing It Outdoors

While zebra plants are primarily grown indoors, they can thrive outdoors in certain temperatures.

Outdoor zebra plant with yellow flowersOutdoor zebra plant with yellow flowers

A zebra plant can be a stunning addition to areas with partial shade. Just ensure you live in a region with a similar climate to the plant’s native habitat.

That means it should be:

  • Warm
  • High humidity
  • Not too much direct sunlight

A zebra plant can be grown outdoors in hardiness zones 11 and 12. However, it should be placed in a pot for easy retrieval because the plant should be brought indoors if the temperature drops below 55°F (13°C).

Outdoor zebra plants prefer more frequent watering to maintain the potting mix’s moisture, especially if you live in an area with a higher temperature.

Also, when grown outdoors, protect your plant from pests like spider mites with insecticidal soap.


Cultivating a healthy zebra plant demands attention due to its native tropical conditions.

That’s why seasonal adjustments in care are crucial for maintaining plant health.

With my tips, gardeners can enjoy the zebra plant’s lush, striking foliage and its spectacular blooms from late summer to early fall.


Other Guides from Planet Natural:

How to Grow and Care for String of Hearts Plant

How to Grow and Care for Columbine Flower

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