Facts About The Zebra Plant
The Zebra plant gets its name from its striped or variegated dark green leaves. A native of Brazil, this is a tropical plant, and in most parts of the United States needs to be grown indoors.
A Tropical Plant But Well Suited For Growing Indoors - If you want to grow your own Zebra plants, they should do well when placed at about room temperature. The plant will tolerate night time temperatures of 55 to 60 degrees, but should not be allowed to get any colder for any length of time. The Zebra plant has basically a zero tolerance for frost. While it has been known to survive a light frost, it has also been known to do poorly if the temperature is allowed to drop below 40 degrees F. In its native habitat, the Zebra plant will usually be found growing in indirect sunlight or partial shade, so will do well indoors near a window that does not get direct sunlight. If you want your plant to bloom, you may find that giving it additional artificial light will help. When it comes to producing its orange flowers, the plant can sometimes be a bit fussy, demanding optimal conditions to do so.
The scientific name of the zebra plant is Aphelandra squarrosa. It grows as a shrub to a height of about 6 feet in its native environment and is classified as a tender perennial. If you do wish to plant it outdoors as a hedge, space the plants 4 to 6 feet apart. If you are living in any part of the country except south Florida, southern California, or the Hawaiian Islands, don't even bother about planting it outside. USDA Zones 10 and 11 are considered the only safe zones for doing so.
Don't be terribly disappointed if you can't coax your Zebra plant to bloom. It is grown mostly for its foliage, and a decent blooming period can be taken as a bonus. While very attractive as an indoor plant, be advised that parts of the Zebra plant is poisonous and touching or handling the plant without gloves can cause skin irritation, and for some people an allergic reaction. It may not be the best of plants to have around where pets or small children are apt to be about.
As the flowers are sterile and the plant does not set seed, the usual way of propagation is from herbaceous stem cuttings. The stem cuttings can either be placed in water (if you like to watch roots grow), or placed directly in potting soil, which of course will need to be kept moist. The plant likes a well drained potting soil, and will grow at its best if fertilized on a monthly basis. A half-strength solution of liquid all-purpose fertilizer will work fine. As far as pests are concerned, the zebra plant tends to attract the same pests that many other houseplants do, mealybugs, aphids, and spider mites to name the most common ones.
An established Zebra plant likes to be kept moist. The soil should not be allowed to dry out, nor should the plant be given frequent heavy watering to the point the soil becomes waterlogged. When you do water the plant, avoid pouring water directly over the leaves as the plant can be very susceptible to leaf spot caused by fungus. The zebra plant does however like to have its leaves misted, preferably on a daily basis.
Finicky, But Only A Little - While it would not be quite accurate to call the zebra plant a low maintenance plant, it really is not all that much more difficult to deal with than most houseplants. It certainly is not a plant that will thrive on neglect, so don't purchase or start one with that in mind. Just keep in a spot where a pet or a person isn't apt to handle it or nibble on it, and the zebra plant will generally behave itself, and might even surprise you with a present of beautiful orange blooms.