Growing Calathea: How To Care For Calathea Zebrina

Calathea zebrina (ka-la-THEE-uh ze-BRY-nuh) is a beautiful green plant perfect for living rooms or conservatories.

Calathea plants have about 100 species, of which the zebrina is one. It is an evergreen perennial in the Marantaceae family.

Growing Calathea ZebrinaPin

The plant needs high humidity, making it somewhat challenging to own as a novice gardener.

Native to parts of southeastern Brazil, it thrives in USDA zones 11 and 12 but otherwise is better as a houseplant. In its native habitat, it grows as a woodland understory plant.

The Calathea zebrina plants have large variegated leaves with long stalks. It is often referred to as the Zebra plant because the leaves are a rich green with zebra-like white stripes.

While the tops of the leaves are a vibrant green with white, the undersides are purple-ish. 

While challenging, the Zebra plant can be perfect for the right home environment.

Calathea zebrina is known by several common names. including:

  • Zebra Plant
  • Striped-leaved Maranta
  • Cathedral plants
  • Peacock plants
  • Rattlesnake plants
  • Prayer plants 

Quick Facts On Calathea Zebrina

  • Family: Marantaceae
  • Light: Low light
  • Temperature: 60° to 85° degrees Fahrenheit
  • Water: Water with purified lukewarm water
  • Fertilizer: Liquid fertilizer every 3 to 4 weeks
  • Propagation: Cuttings or division
  • Common Problems: Yellow leaves, fungal diseases

Calathea Zebrina Care

What Does The Zebra Plant Look Like And How Big Does It Grow?

The Zebra plant can grow to a maximum of 3′ feet. However, this happens only under ideal circumstances.

The plant is referred to as a Zebra plant because its variegated leaves look like zebra stripes.

The long leaves are a vibrant green with stripes. However, some leaves have markings like a fishbone, and others have patterns that appear like a cluster of fruit.

The patterns range in color from red, dark green, brown, and pale green.

When Does The Zebra Plant Flower? Are The Flowers Fragrant?

Calathea zebrina rarely flowers when planted as a houseplant. Instead, it produces small, inconspicuous white to purple flowers on tall stalks when it blooms.

Don’t be disappointed if your Zebra Plant never blooms because the gorgeously striped leaves give this plant its attractive appearance, not the flowers.

What Are The Lighting Needs And Temperature Requirements?

The Zebra plant is native to southeastern Brazil and needs warm temperatures and high humidity.

In the summer, the ideal temperature range is between 75° to 85° degrees Fahrenheit, while in the winter, it requires a minimum of 60° to 65° degrees Fahrenheit.

Calathea zebrina will do fine in low light if the temperature is warm enough.

If kept as a houseplant, it can be challenging to maintain the high humidity requirements, which may cause the plant to lack color and vibrancy.

As a result, many gardeners frequently mist their Zebra plants indoors to achieve the high humidity needs. 

Some gardeners place the Calathea zebrina in a humidifier-controlled environment. 

However, your Zebra Plant will thrive in a naturally humid environment, such as a bathroom or kitchen, where water is continuously utilized, and the right light conditions exist.

If kept outside, the plant fares well in zones 11 and 12.

How And When To Water And Fertilize the Zebra Plant?

Some may say the zebra plant is challenging to keep because of its temperature and humidity requirements, but it also has particular water requirements.

The Zebra plant needs plenty of water in the summer but thrives best with lukewarm purified water.

It doesn’t need nearly as much water in the winter. 

Liquid fertilizer is best for the Zebra plant. It fares best with a feeding every 3 to 4 weeks. However, it doesn’t need fertilizer in the winter.

What Is The Best Soil For Calathea Zebrina, And When Should You Transplant?

The Zebra plant does well with porous soil in a well-draining pot. Usually, porous soil contains sand, silt, or clay.

If your Zebra plant has outgrown its current pot, it’s best to repot in the spring. Then, purchase a slightly larger pot and fill it with new porous soil.

Does Calathea Zebrina Need Special Grooming Or Maintenance?

Although the Zebra plant may seem a tad challenging maintenance-wise, the plant does not need much grooming, if any at all.

Removing damaged, dead, or yellowed leaves is the only thing recommended.

How To Propagate Striped-Leaved Maranta?

The Striped-Leaved Maranta can be propagated by the following:

  • Cuttings
  • Division

For many plants, it’s best to take cuttings in the spring, but for the Peacock plant, take cuttings in late June.

Then place the cuttings in moist, porous soil with sand or silt. Ensure that the new cuttings are in a warm environment with high humidity.

Another method of propagation is via root division. Once your plant is mature enough, you can divide the rootball. 

Here’s how to do it:

  • First, remove the entire plant from the pot.
  • Next, loosen the roots and gently pull the rootball apart.
  • Then put both sections in their pots with moist, porous soil.

Striped-Leaved Maranta Pests And Diseases

Most of the issues of Striped-leaved Maranta plants are caused by the following:

  • Low temperatures
  • Lack of water (or too much)
  • Lack of humidity

For example, if your Striped-leaved Maranta has yellow leaves in the winter, it’s usually because of low soil temperature.

Some gardeners put their pots on top of radiators, so the plant gets heat from the bottom.

If the edges of your leaves are discolored or not formed properly, it’s likely that your plant hasn’t been watered enough or hasn’t been in the proper warm temperatures.

Also, if your plant’s color fades in the summer, it is probably exposed to too much light. It’s also possible to need fertilizer because of a lack of nitrogen.

The only issue that the plant has with pests is red spider mites. If your plant has yellow leaves in the summer, it’s likely a spider mite infestation.

Thankfully, treatment with miticide should do the trick.

Suggested Peacock Plant Uses

Calatheas are generally planted as part of tropical landscaping and can be grown outside in warm climates.

However, they require shade, just as they do in their natural habitat, where the vast rainforest canopy protects them.

It is typical for the Zebra plant to be outside in courtyards or parks, as long as it has the necessary shade.

However, because of the plant’s temperature and humidity requirements, most gardeners keep this plant indoors.

Therefore, it can be a houseplant planted in indoor commercial settings like shopping malls, hotels, or other large indoor settings.