How to Care for a Zebra Plant (Aphelandra Squarrosa)

I recently added a Zebra Plant to my collection. And already, this plant has brought several learnings, which is exactly what I want as a new plant enthusiast. From its blooming period to battling pests, I needed to learn a great deal about this plant to take care of it as soon as I could. That’s why I decided to share what I have learned so far, both from research and experience. 

To take care of a Zebra Plant or Aphelandra Squarrosa, keep in mind the following basics:

  • Water only when its soil is dry. Avoid overwatering and sogginess in the soil.
  • Grow it in temperatures above 60°F (15° C)
  • Aphelandra Squarrosa plants prefer indirect light. Do not expose them to direct sunlight for long periods of time

Although these basic guidelines should be enough, you might have other questions on your mind. For instance: when and how often do they bloom? Or like me, probably you want to find out what to do in case a pest appears. In this article, we cover in detail the key tips for growing a Zebra Plant and keeping it healthy for time to come.

Zebra Plant Basic Caring Guidelines

Growing a Zebra Plant requires the right combination of water, light, humidity and temperature.

Zebra Plants like its soil moist but not soggy

The key indicator to know how often and how much you should water your zebra plant is by its soil. Water only if you notice that soil is drying out. The main goal here is to keep it moist as long as you can; as this is the ideal condition to help the plant to grow healthily. 

But balance is key. On the one hand, the Zebra Plant will start stressing and dropping its leaves if you let its soil dry out completely. However, you should avoid overwatering at all costs, since it can quickly put the plant at risk of root rot. 

zebra plant blooming
My Zebra Plant

This is why it’s necessary to develop proper sensitivity and learn the right water frequency for your plant. Of course, ours are general guidelines, which will vary depending on the temperature, warmth and dryness. Therefore, we suggest that you check its soil daily to assess out how it is going and pour some water if the right signs appear.

Zebra Plants prefer indirect bright light.

As a rule of thumb: if you keep it indoors, you shouldn’t have any problem regarding light. Just make sure not to place it in a bathroom or somewhere dark, as we will discuss below, light is key to promote healthy blooming in a Zebra Plant.

On the flip side, if you keep it outdoors, be mindful of direct sunlight exposure as it can cause the leaves to scorch.

zebra plant in table

In short, keep the right balance with light exposure and your plant will do fine. A handy trick is to try to mimic its native tropical environment (South America) as much as you can. 

Talking about tropical, the Zebra Plants like an overall  very humid and warm environment.

High humidity is recommended for Zebra Plants.

Aphelandra plants need high humidity levels to thrive. Most experts agree that a 70% humidity level is the sweet spot. I personally haven’t measured the humidity at home, but I do live in a hot and humid city. Regardless of this, I like to go the extra mile with my Zebrat, so I mist its leaves with water every other day. 

If you want to do this, go ahead and spray it – they will tolerate as much misting as you can give. Just keep in mind to avoid sunlight exposure, since if there’s small levels of water on its leaves, this can create a magnifying glass effect that could potentially burn the foliage. 

zebra plant with flowers

Alternatively, I have seen online that other Zebra Plant owners use a pebble tray to increase the overall humidity around the plant. A pebble tray is a simple setup that consists of a small container with pebbles or perlite – plus enough  water to cover the pebbles and you’re good to go. Finally,  place your plant on top of the tray and the naturally evaporating water will create the right artificial humidity environment for your plant to grow.

If you live in a place where winter hits hard, you can also place your plant near a humidifier to avoid the effect  that dry air can have on your plant.

Aphelandra Plants prefer Warm Temperatures.

As mentioned before, this species shows a strong preference for warm temperatures,(keep in mind a South American Amazon for reference), plus high humidity conditions. Zebra Plants will thrive under warm temperatures, more specifically above 60° Fahrenheit or 15° Celsius. Be mindful and take extra precautions during winter as they won’t be able to stand cold drafts or frost.

And that’s it! Those make up our basic conditions for taking care of the Aphelandra Plant. Want some more? Then get ready to move to more advanced care. 

Zebra Plant Advanced Caring Guidelines

The advanced tasks related to the Zebra Plant Care include the following:

  • Soil
  • Fertilizing
  • Repotting
  • Propagation
  • Pests

What is the Best Soil Mix for Zebra Plants?

Zebra Plants will thrive with moist soil with excellent drainage properties, therefore you should seek for an organic potting mix and add a high concentration of peat moss to get the right balance between retention and drainage. Some experts recommend adding coarse sand or perlite to bulletproof your plant’s drainage properties and keep it healthy.. 

You can fertilize your plant with a water-soluble product every 3 to 4 weeks. As with most plants, avoid fertilizing it during the cold season since this period is not ideal for growth and nutrient absorption.

When should I repot my Zebra Plant?

Fortunately, you won’t need to perform this task very often since it should only be done once per year – ideally, during the spring months. Repotting is mainly recommended to foster a new blooming wave in your plant. To do so, keep in mind the following suggestions:

  • Avoid repotting your plant to a pot that is much larger than its previous pot, since they prefer that their roots are kept compact.
  • During the repotting process, make sure to remove the old soil mix from the plant’s roots, to enhance nutrient absorption from its new soil.

Zebra Plant Propagation

This plant can be propagated both through stem or tip cuttings. Just keep in mind to cut off 3 to 3.5 inches from the side shoots and place the cutting in a pot with the recommended soil mixture that we described in the previous section. Also, make sure to maintain the right water and light recommendations on the newly propagated plant to make sure it can grow healthily.


My Zebra was recently attacked by a pest not so long ago. Check it out.

zebra plant and pests

In order to protect your plant from pests or get rid of any undesirable visitors like spider mites, mealybugs, or any other plant-sucking organism the solution is the same. The only thing you need to do is to mist your plant with a solution made of water and neem oil. Some authors recommend rubbing the leaves with a wipe soaked with alcohol – however, the water and neem oil mix has worked for me just fine.

Zebra Plant Flowers and Blooming Period

Let’s move on to one, if not the most popular topic regarding Zebra Plants, their flowers. 

How do I get my Zebra Plant to bloom?

Let’s be honest and upfront, from what I’ve researched and seen, it’s quite challenging to make a Zebra Plant bloom. I bought mine while it had flowers. Now, they are gone. So recently, I’ve been testing different methods to make it bloom again. However, the different techniques you’ll need to follow vary depending on the condition where it’s at.

If you have a Zebra Plant and it hasn’t bloomed, not even for the first time, then, most experts agree that after 3 or 4 months of proper care and constant bright but indirect light, your plant should be properly stimulated to bloom.

Once it finishes the flowering period (this is where I am now), it is suggested to cut the flower bract (where the flower was) to increase the chances of a new blooming wave. Since I am in this experimental phase, I will perform the cuttings, wait for some weeks, and update this post with the results.

zebra plant flower cutting

Related Questions

Are Zebra Plants easy to care for?

Once you have the basic caring guidelines taken care of and you have a clear understanding of its  watering frequency, growing your Zebra Plant shouldn’t be very complicated. Consider checking its soil and foliage on a daily basis to make sure your plant is healthy and keep away any risk of disease or pest.

How big do Zebra Plants (Aphelandra Squarrosa) get?

They can reach up to 5 ft wide (1.5m) and 6 ft tall (1.6m) in their natural environment. When grown indoors, size will be limited and they can reach up 1 or 2 feet (0.3m – 0.6m) tall. Keep in mind that its leaves can grow to 2 inches wide (5cm) and 9 inches long (22cm). Last but not least, flowers usually grow between 6 and 9 inches tall (15cm – 22cm) and 2 to 4 inches wide (5cm-10cm). 

Are there other varieties Zebra Plants?

To sum up, there are three main varieties of Zebra Plants: Aphelandra Squarrosa, Aphelandra Aurantiaca and Aphelandra Tetragona. The A.Squarrosa is the most popular of them all and characterized by its dark-green leaves with silver or white veins and yellow flowers. The main difference with the A.Aurantiaca is that the latter has a red flower bract. Last but not least, we have A.Tetragona, which is less popular and hardly blooms. But, if you are lucky to see one boom, you will be delighted by its red flowers.

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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