Growing a healthy Calathea Zebrina (Tips and Video Guide)

Calathea Zebrina Leaves

The Calathea Zebrina stands out in my prayer plant collection due to its almost light green tones, and the dark green stripes on its large leaves. It has earned a special place on my favorite houseplant rankings, in big part due to its few caring needs. So, how do you take care of a Calathea Zebrina exactly?

To care for a Calathea Zebrina, consider the following:

  • Watering: it shows a strong preference for consistent moisture. So water it when you notice that the soil is getting dry. Avoid overwatering.
  • Light: Indirect bright light is suggested. Don’t expose your plant to direct sunlight.
  • Temperature: grow it in a temperature range between 60º F and 80º F (16º C and 27º C).

Also, make sure to fertilize your Calathea Zebrina every other week and make sure to use a well-drained soil mixture in case you want to repot it.

NameCalathea Zebrina
WateringOnce per week or if the soil is dry to touch
Temperature60º F-80º F (16ºC-27ºC)
LightIndirect bright light (avoid direct sunlight)
HumidityMedium to high levels. Around 65%-70%
PropagationBy division preferably

While these basic guidelines should help you to keep your plant growing strong, in this guide we have compiled all of the best practices to care for a Calathea Zebrinas. Keep on reading to find out more details and feel free to take notes on what you think can help you improve your plant.

Let’s get started!

Calathea Zebrina Basic Caring Guidelines

Similar to other guides related to Calatheas, we have divided the care topics  into the following categories:

  • Watering
  • Light and Placement
  • Temperature and Humidity
  • Soil and Repotting
  • Pruning, Hygiene and Pest Prevention
  • Propagation

Also, we’ve added a Frequently Asked Questions section at the end of this article. They will be helpful to understand what potential issues you could find when growing your Calathea Zebrina and how you can solve any of them.

Watering: How often should I water Calathea Zebrina?

Calathea Zebrina plants should be watered when you notice that the top layer (2 to 3 inches in depth) of its soil is getting dry. These plants show a strong preference for moist but well-drained soil at all times.

This means it is your mission to keep this golden balance of wet and drained and not let the ground dry out. Therefore, we recommend checking your plant every day and assessing if the soil is still moist or has dried out.

To determine if your Calathea Zebrina needs water, you can use the poke-a-finger method which consists of the following steps:

  • Poke your fingers into the top two or three inches of the soil, thenait a couple of seconds.
  • Take your fingers out of the soil and observe if the soil that comes out feels wet and kind of sticky. This will indicate that your plant has good moisture levels and it means you can skip watering for the day. 
  • Conversely, if the soil falls off from your fingers and you get dry grains, then you should consider watering your plant.

To water your plant, get your can filled with about 8 to 12 ounces (250 to 750 milliliters) of water and pour it evenly at the base of your plant. Try to do it evenly so all the ground gets properly wet and all the root system gets the right nutrient absorption.

Calathea Zebrina Watering

Please avoid overwatering your plant. If you notice that small pools are forming on the top layers of the soil (when watering), then stop and allow some seconds to pass and let the soil absorb the fluids. 

If you feel you messed up and you overwatered your plant, then check that your pot has proper drainage holes and watch if water starts coming out of them. If it does, this indicates that the soil is draining the excess water properly.

However, avoid overstressing your plant by changing your watering frequency and quantity too often – so we recommend you control the watering rhythm and quantity in a defined way.

It’s important to mention that while watering should not occur more than 2 times per week,  the frequency and amount will be influenced by other factors such as light exposure and room temperature, which will vary depending on where you are at.

Even seasons might impact how much you need to water your plant. For instance, during the spring and summer months, watering might be more frequent since the temperature rises.

On the flip side, when the temperature drops during fall and winter this could be reflected in a reduction of your plant watering needs. That’s why we cannot emphasize enough the importance of implementing a daily checkup routine. Checking beats schedules any day of the week.

Light and Placement: Where do you put a Calathea?

Calathea Zebrina plants need to be grown under indirect bright light. This will ensure that its foliage grows healthily and its amazing color does not fade. 

Calathea Zebrina Foliage

With this in mind, consider the following location options to place your plant:

  • In a room or office near a window that has a curtain to filter direct sunlight. Keep it a couple of inches from the window glass or border to avoid any unforeseen issues, like your plant falling down or being exposed to cold drafts.
  • Balconies work great if the plant only gets a maximum of 1 hour of direct sunlight per day.
  • Kitchens or bathrooms that have decent bright light levels. These locations have a plus since your plant can also benefit from the high humidity levels.
  • You can also keep it outdoors or in a garden, but make sure it is under a roof or other plants that can give your Calathea Zebrina some shade during the day.

Avoiding prolonged sunlight exposure is key to minimizing the risk of leaf burn. Moreover, its leaves can lose its cool neon-ish tone and get brown patches on the leaves. 

Did you know?

Also known as the Goeppertia Zebrina, the Calathea Zebrina belongs to the Marantaceae family which is native to Brazil’s tropical rainforest. Similar to other prayer plants, you will notice how the Calathea Zebrina shows its circadian rhythms by opening its leaves during the day and closing them at night.  

Temperature and Humidity: Remember it is a Tropical Plant

Calathea Zebrina plants show a strong preference for warm and humid environments. You should try to mimic their native environment conditions which are, by definition, very tropical. Regarding temperature, the sweet spot to grow your plant lies between 60º F and 80º F (16º C and 27º C). Any temperature below or above this range can harm your plant and increase the difficulty for it to grow healthily. 

Also, you will need to keep its surroundings very humid to ensure proper leaf and stem development. If you don’t live in a humid city, here are some suggested tips that might help you:

  • Place the Calathea Zebrina next to other tropical plants. With this, you will mimic the rainforest effect where a group of plants that sit together tend to increase and conserve high humidity levels.
Calathea Zebrina and other tropical plants
  • Mist around your plant with water. Use this tip if you don’t have any other tropical plants or if you would like to give some extra love to your leafy friend. Avoid spraying the leaves directly as it can drop to the soil and cause unnecessary waterlogging. Also, if the sun hits your plant this little droplet could have a magnifying glass effect that can burn its leaves.
misting my Calathea Zebrina
  • If you wish to take it to the next level, then place your plant in a humidity tray once per week. This device consists of a tray with some perlite or pebbles on its surface, and to make it work simply pour some water just enough to cover the pebble layer. Then you can place your plant on top and it will soak all the humidity that comes when the water on the pebble tray naturally evaporates.
  • Last but not least, you can buy a humidifier to consistently increase the humidity around your plant. Although this might be the most expensive option, this gadget will be very useful if winter hits hard where you live, or you notice that the air gets very dry.

Soil and Repotting

Similar to other prayer plants, the Calathea Zebrina needs to be grown in a soil mix that combines good drainage with proper nutrient absorption. You can mix standard potting soil with some peat moss and perlite.

Alternatively, where I bought my Calathea Zebrina, the store clerk suggested adding some rice husk to the mix. After some additional research, I learned that this has some benefits which accelerate the plant’s nutrient absorption and growth.

Calathea Zebrina Soil

Needless to say, avoid using soil mixtures that are very sandy or that dry too fast as they could negatively impact your plant or add some additional caring tasks to your routine.

When should I repot my Calathea Zebrina?

You can repot your Calathea Zebrina when you notice that it needs more room to expand. To do so,  you can check if the plant is root-bound or if the soil surface is crowded with many stems, which indicates that the plant needs a bigger area to grow.

To repot your Calathea Zebrina, keep in mind the following considerations:

  • When removing your plant from its original pot, do it gently and try to shake off the old soil from its roots to the best of your extent.
  • Fill with well-drained soil to about one-third of the volume from the new pot. I suggest then to dig a hole in the center.
  • Place your Calathea Zebrina in the center of the new pot. Try to keep it at a  similar depth level that it had in the previous container, since this is key to avoid drowning the stem leaves.
  • Use your hand or a plastic shovel to fill the spaces around the base of the stems.
  • Make sure that your Calathea Zebrina is firm on its new ground.
  • Water your plant evenly until all the soil layers are moist.


When repotting your plant, it might be also a great opportunity to propagate it. Different to other houseplants, Calathea Zebrinas can be only propagated by division. It is recommended to perform this only when your plant has reached maturity or is near to reaching its maximum height of 2 feet. Keep in mind the following tips when propagating your plant:

  • Remove your Calathea Zebrina from its container, lay it across on the floor, or on top a firm surface like a table. Make sure to use some plastic cover to catch any soil that might fall.
  • Identify the parts where you will make the division. You can either choose an even split or you can divide it in a small section to minimize the risk of damage in the roots. 
  • Sterilize your instruments. We strongly suggest applying some alcohol to your pruning shears (our favorite pruning tool) or a sharp knife to avoid any unwanted infections
  • Also, make sure that the new pots are filled with soil to about one-third of their volume.
  • Divide the plant as planned. Use your pruning instruments to slice the roots and ease your way into the cuttings.
  • Plant the divisions on separate pots to maximize your chances of one properly propagating.
  • Fill the spaces around the stems with soil and check that the plants are able to stand firm.
  • Pour water evenly until all the soil is wet and even. And now you wait. 


Pruning your Calathea Zebrina is only needed to remove yellow or brown leaves that could be draining energy from your plant. In case you want to, you can also control its foliage volume by pruning its highest leaves.

pruning my Calathea Zebrina

Hygiene and Pest Prevention

Although Calathea Zebrina plants have high resistance to pests, you might encounter some plant-sucking organisms like scale, mealybugs, aphids or spider mites which will definitely attack your plant. They tend to appear if there’s dust in your plant or if you let the humidity around it drop significantly.

To control any pest keep in mind the following:

  • Place your plant away in quarantine until you get rid of the pest to avoid infecting others.
  • Spray your plant with a mix of neem oil (1 oz) diluted in water (8 oz).
  • Try to increase your plant’s humidity by misting it around once per day. Humidity will decrease the rate of pest reproduction.
  • If neem oil doesn’t work, you can rub your plant with a cotton swab soaked in alcohol, but we recommend the former if you can.

Also, we suggest performing the following basic hygiene tasks to keep pests away for good: 

  • Dust your plant every week. Clean the leaves gently with a soft cloth to remove any dust or cobwebs that you spot.
  • Be sure to wipe the container external walls as well.
  • Mop regularly the floor where your Calathea Zebrina is placed.

And that’s everything you need to know in order to take care of your Goeppertia Zebrina and much more. Up next you will find the compiled answers to the most relevant questions around this amazing prayer plant.

What is the difference between Zebrina and other Calathea varieties?

If you liked the Calathea Zebrina, make sure to check the following varieties of prayer-plants:

  • Calathea Medallion: they have stunning leaves with some purplish tones that give life to any indoor environment.
  • Rattlesnake Plant or Calathea Lancifolia: it’s arrow-shaped leaves have a unique personality.
  • Calathea Orbifolia: the rounded-leaf Calathea. 
  • Calathea Ornata: it’s peculiar striped leaves are also a great addition to any houseplant collection.

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Frequently Asked Questions:

How tall do Calathea Zebrinas get?

Like other prayer plants, the Calathea Zebrina Plant can grow up to 2 feet (61 cm) in height. The leaves can get up to 12 inches (30 cm) long. 

How fast does a Calathea Zebrina grow?

The Calathea Zebrina plant is considered by many to be a fast-growing houseplant. In any case,  it is difficult to give an exact timeline in which the plant will reach its maximum height. 

Is Calathea Zebrina poisonous?

You will be happy to know that this plant is not toxic. Its popularity is on the rise due to this fact, which makes it an ideal houseplant if you have a pet, kids or babies at home.

Why are my Calathea Zebrina leaves curling up?

The most common cause for Calathea leaf curling is under-watering. Make sure to keep your plant moist as often as you can, especially if you grow your plant in warm temperatures or warmer locations.

Why are my Calathea Zebrina leaves turning brown?

The most common cause for this issue to occur is over or under-watering. We suggest checking the frequency and only water your plant if you notice that the soil is dry. 

If you have let your plant dry out, you can place it in a bathtub or container with a couple of inches of cold water. Allow your plant to sit for some hours so your plant can absorb water through its drainage hole and properly recover. Then, check that all the soil layers are moist and the soil is loose. This should help to re-establish your plant’s health.

Does Calathea Zebrina like to be root bound?

They don’t like it too much and will start showing it. So if you see them being root bound, consider repotting your plant when you notice that the plant’s ground is getting very crowded with rosettes.

Does Calathea Zebrina clean the air?

Similar to other Calatheas, the Zebrina can clean and purify the air wherever you place it.

Martin Duran

Hey y'all! My name is Martin Duran and I am from Cali, Colombia. Since 2018 I have been learning about plants and how to take care of them. Here's is my journey... “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” ― John Muir

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