How to Grow a Zebra Plant

The zebra plant is a member of the family Acanthaceae. The country of origin for this plant is Brazil. It can be grown outdoors in Zones 11 and 12.

The stem of the plant is large and nearly black in color. The leaves are ovate and large. The length of the leaves can be up to 12 inches with a width of 4 inches. The leaves are a dark green color with a characteristic white or silver veining which is why it is called the zebra plant.

The plants flowers which occur during the late summer month are yellow spikes which can be up to 8 inches in height. They may last up to 6 weeks.

The height of the plant varies depending upon what variety is grown. The basic species can grow to a heieght of 4 feet but most varieties grown at home grow between 1 to 2 feet tall. The cultivars generally vary in plant size, leave size, leave veining pattern, and flower color. Louisa which is the most common variety grown has white creamy vein leaves with red tip bracts. Dania has more of a silvery white type veining with yellow to orange yellow type flowers and is more compact. Brockfield is similar to Dana in size with ivory color veining. Snow Queen has more silvery leaves with the veining covering a large portion of the leaves. The flowers are also a paler yellow.

Growing zebra plants in a garden means watering on almost a daily basis.

The plant requires indirect bright light but not direct sunlight. The plant will grow well at normal room temperature but after flowering prefers cooler temperatures around 55F. Significant time periods of temperatures below 55F may kill the plant. During the growing season, it likes a moist soil but not waterlogged. When the plant is dormant, it is best to let the soil to dry out between watering. It is also a good idea to mist the leaves frequently during the growing season. The plant should be fertilized weekly or biweekly during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer.

The best potting mix to use for the plant is one compost of 1/3 organic soil; 1/3 peat moss; and 1/3 sand. The plant should be repotted in the spring. The plant should also be prune aggressively to promote new growth before repotting. Pruning off the flower stalk after flowering is done will help promote the production of side shoots. After a few years, you should propagate the plant because older plants will quickly lose their appeal.

To propagate, take lateral shoot cutting in either later winter or early spring and plant them in a mix of 1/2 sand and 1/2 peat moss. Place a plastic bag over the cutting and place in bright but indirect light source at a temperature of around 70F. Additionally, pinching back the foliage on the cutting to 1/3 or 1/2 of their size can help prevent wilting problems which may kill the new cutting.

Lost of leaves is often cause by insufficient water during the growing season. During the cooler months, low temperature may also cause leave loss.

Browning of the leave tips is generally caused by low humidity so misting the leaves regularly is important.

Aphids, spider mites, mealybugs, and scales are the primary insect problem for zebra plants.