There are many similarities between the popular indoor prayer plant and the zebra plant, which comes from the same family (marantaceae), albeit the Calathea zebrina grows higher and can be a little trickier to manage.
When offered for sale in garden centers, it is occasionally referred to as the “prayer plant,”.
The zebra plant is a tropical understory plant endemic to eastern Brazil that may grow up to 6′ tall.
It is raised as a houseplant and normally grows to a height and width of 1-2′.
The zebra plant is advised for plant parents who appreciate spending time observing their plants’ development since it has highly precise care requirements.
Here is some more information on this plant and how to care for it.
Blooming Cycle Of A Zebra Plant
Understanding the Aphelandra zebra plant’s natural cycle is essential if you want to learn how to make it bloom.
If you’re considering buying a plant, look for one whose bracts are just starting to emerge.
Your plant will enter a semi-dormant state in the early winter.
Fortunately for those of us who live in colder areas, growth will be modest and the plant really prefers temperatures that are a bit lower than usual.
Water a little less regularly, but don’t let the soil get entirely dry.
You should water with a mild fertilizer solution every two weeks after you start to notice new growth in the late winter.
Move your plant to the brightest location possible after side branches appear and fresh flower heads can be seen. Water deeply.
The bracts, which have a yellow, orange, or red tint, are what bloom during the summer.
The beautiful bracts can last for months while the actual flowers pass away in a matter of days.
Once they start to wither, they should be taken off, and the plant should be pruned back to make way for fresh growth in the future.
Then the yearly cycle may start over.
The flowers have a similar appearance to other bract-type flower heads and form a cone-shaped flower head at the terminals of a stalk.
The number of stems, which is usually between two and four, determines how many flower heads are produced.
How To Care For A Aphelandra Squarrosa?
Here are some of the requirements that you will need to meet in order for the zebra plant to be happy and healthy.
The zebra plant loves to be placed in areas with medium light and no deep shadow.
The risk of soil mold and overwatering is greatly exacerbated when maintaining insufficient light since the soil must be kept generally moist.
Include a couple of hours of direct sunshine every day after fall arrives to help the plant get through its dormant phase, which lasts until the following spring.
Keep in mind that prolonged exposure to sunshine, especially in the spring or summer, can harm the plant.
It is essential to keep aphelandra in consistently wet soil because uneven moisture levels can lead to stunted development and unhappy plants.
During the growth season, let the top third of the compost dry out in between waterings; in the fall and winter, decrease this even further.
Your water should be somewhat warm, simulating the elements of a heavy downpour in a warmer region, but only from beneath the leaves, never from above.
A shriveled stem, little to no development, yellow leaves, and dry, crispy spots appearing on the leaf margins are signs of under-watering.
These problems are typically brought on by excessive heat or light or forgetfulness.
Keep in mind that the more watering you need to perform, the brighter the area.
A weaker or rotted stem, no new growth, lower leaves that are turning yellow, and eventually plant death are signs of overwatering.
Zebra plants grow best in moderate temperatures because of their origins; the temperature in their growing area should be at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit and should never go below 55 degrees.
Steer clear of chilly drafts and abrupt temperature swings.
The zebra plant needs humidity, thus its environment should be kept between 60 and 70 percent humidity.
If you can’t get these conditions indoors naturally, you can use a humidifier to raise the moisture levels.
Overall, make an effort to keep your plant’s temperature consistent.
Avoid extreme changes in temperature either way, and keep it away from any vents that can cause it to get excessively hot or cold.
Rich, moisture-retentive soil that drains effectively is preferred by Aphelandra squarrosa.
It is advisable to choose an African violet potting mix if you choose to utilize potting mixes.
Those include adequate water-absorbing substance to maintain the soil’s moisture.
You may create your own soil by mixing two parts peat moss, one part garden soil, and one part coarse sand or perlite.
If you choose, you can use coconut coir for peat. Leaf mold is also quite effective.
For optimum growth, your pH level should be in the somewhat acidic range (5.6-6.0).
Avoid making your soil too acidic for this plant. You keep your soil’s pH within the proper range, make sure to test it.
When it comes to the zebra plant’s capacity to blossom, fertilizer application may be quite advantageous to development.
The zebra plant should be fertilized every one to two weeks throughout its peak growth season which is usually spring and early summer with a fertilizer that is suitable for both leaves and blooms.
Remove the blossoms as they start to wither. Once the bract starts to die off, cut the stem and leaves back until there are just two rows of leaves remaining.
In addition to giving the plant a chance to thrive the next year, this can also keep it from becoming lanky and losing leaves.
Take your cuttings for propagation right away, don’t forget.
Autumn and winter are good times to propagate zebra plants.
The inflorescence internodes of zebra plants will develop adventitious buds after blooming.
You may either utilize the terminal buds or cut them straight as cuts.
Peel the top bud, which measures five to eight centimeters from the top of the plant, let it dry, then plant it immediately in a small basin.
For care, place it in a location with warm dispersed light.
Repotting should be done once the propagated Zebra plant has reached a suitable size and developed a strong root system.
The best container for repotting is one made of plastic or ceramic with at least two drainage holes around the base.
Additionally, make sure the new pot is at least 1 to 2 inches bigger than the one it was growing in.
Combine two parts milled coir or peat moss, two parts perlite or coarse sand, and one part potting soil that is rich with nutrients.
Water should be added while blending, and it should be well absorbed by the soil.
The drainage holes on the bottom of the new pot should have a paper towel or coffee filter covering them.
By doing this, you can reduce the likelihood that the soil will wash away when you water your newly planted Zebra plant.
Fill the container with dirt until it is about one-third full, then firmly press it down.
Remove the Zebra plant’s original pot with care. Gently remove roughly a third of the dirt from the plant’s root ball.
Carefully split and loosen the roots with your fingertips so that they may dangle freely from the plant’s base.
Look for any broken or dark parts in the roots. Use sterile scissors to remove any broken or dark roots that are present.
In the new container, place the plant so that its roots are just touching the dirt that has previously been poured to the bottom of the pot.
Pour the remaining substrate mixture around the roots in small, steady amounts until they are completely surrounded.
To help the dirt settle around the roots, spritz it with water using a spray bottle.
When the root ball is completely covered with soil, tamp it down and firmly hold it in place with your fingertips.
The newly planted Zebra plant needs water.
Common Aphelandra Squarrosa Issues
These plants are not immune to problems though, and if you are a new owner it is likely that you will come across them.
The frequent temperature changes caused by heaters or air conditioners might also result in dry areas or dry leaf margins.
Verify that your plant is not near any open vents or in a drafty place.
The plant is perhaps receiving too much direct sunlight or is feeling hot if the leaves are curling or crinkling.
Although it enjoys light, it could be a little too hot or intense.
The plant should be moved to a place with light that is not as direct or bright so that it can cool down.
Leaves Falling Off
If the plant’s leaves start to fall off, an overwatering or underwatering issue is probably at blame.
When this is the issue, the lowest leaf tips on the tree will start to wilt.
The leaves will start to fall off if the irrigation problem is not resolved.
The fact that the air around the plant is too dry and needs additional humidity, however, might also be an issue.
In addition, the zebra plant is vulnerable to overfertilization, which can result in leaf loss.
In the spring and summer, you should only feed your zebra plant once every two weeks using a liquid houseplant fertilizer that has been diluted to half strength.
In the fall and winter, don’t feed at all. There isn’t much feeding required for this plant.
The Zebra plant is susceptible to both overwatering and underwatering because it is a succulent.
Underwatering leads to brown leaf tips, while overwatering can cause soil to clog.
Too little watering just moistens the topsoil and leaves the root zone dry.
The topsoil’s little moisture evaporates quickly, leaving the plant without enough water to support photosynthetic activity.
Overwatering or underwatering nearly always results in yellow foliage.
But too much light can also scorch the leaves, turning them yellow. Make sure the soil is regularly moist, never waterlogged or damp.
If the soil seems dry at a depth of about one inch after sticking your finger into it, water it. Never let the soil dry out.
Zebra plants are prone to infestations of whitefly and mealybugs.
When whiteflies infest your indoor plants, they may rapidly turn into a major problem.
Whiteflies are small flying insects that eat on plants.
They are a very prevalent kind of houseplant pest and can be challenging to eradicate once they are inside, both in greenhouses and private residences.
The fluids from the leaves and flower buds of a houseplant are sucked out by whiteflies, which causes the plant’s leaves and buds to become yellow and fall off.
Both the nymph and adult stages of these plant bugs eat throughout this process.
A houseplant can suffer significant harm from heavy whitefly infestations. Whiteflies will eventually destroy the plant if neglected.
Whiteflies are often more of a problem for little or weak plants and seedlings since it would take a long time for them to destroy a huge plant.
Spraying plants lightly with water to chase away whitefly eggs and nymphs is the first line of defense.
Nymphs don’t move after the initial crawling stage, therefore if they are taken away from their food supply, they will starve to death.
Use insecticidal soap for larger interior or outdoor infestations. The adults, larvae, and eggs are covered in soap, which suffocates them.
When temps are colder, apply in the early morning or late evening. If required, repeat the application as directed.
Nearly 300 of the many insect species commonly referred to as mealybugs are located in North America.
They are tiny, oblong, sap-sucking insects that cover themselves with a powdered wax material for protection.
Mealybugs are easily recognized when they develop on the stems and leaves of plants because of this covering, which has a white, cottony look.
A constant stream of water can be used to flush out mealybugs. As needed, repeat the procedure.
This method works well for minor infestations because certain plants cannot withstand such aggressive treatment.
If this doesn’t work, you may alternatively use a cotton ball soaked in ordinary rubbing alcohol, which will kill and remove the mealybugs.
A solution that has no more than 70% isopropyl alcohol is best, and test it on a leaf before spraying the whole plant to make sure that it does not burn it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Zebra Plants Hard To Care For?
In general, zebra plants are not that hard to look after. However, the main problem that people run into is not watering the plant correctly.
The key is keeping the soil moist all throughout the growing season.
When the plant slows down in the winter, you can afford the soil to get a bit drier every now and then between waterings.
Can I Cut The Flowers Off Of A Zebra Plant?
Yes, if the bloom has started to decay or seem unsightly and has faded – you can remove it.
To cut away spent blooms, clean, sharp pruning shears should be used.
When the bracts start to degrade, which typically occurs four to six weeks after they initially emerge, they should also be removed.
If you are able to give the zebra plant enough warmth, moisture, and food, then there is no reason why it will not thrive in your home.
As mentioned earlier, the main area where the zebra plant proves difficult is getting the watering right.
You should also keep an eye out for pests such as whitefly and mealybugs as they can cause a lot of damage to your zebra plant if not caught early on.
If you liked this article, you might enjoy our post on ‘Pearls And Jade Pothos: Profile And Care Guide‘.