There are many species in the Calathea plant family, but one of the most popular is the calathea zebra plant (Calathea zebrina). Often confused with the prayer plant (Maranta leucoreura) or the similarly named zebra plant (Aphelandra squarrosa), the Calathea zebra plant grows much larger than either and can easily become the showpiece of any indoor garden.
Calathea zebra plants are natives of Brazil and their bright green leaves can be boldly striped in white, yellow or pink in a striking feather-like pattern that is sure to catch the eye. As tropicals, caring for zebra plants in the home is not as difficult as some gardeners may think. With proper zebra plant care, these plants can grow up to 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide. The leaves, which can grow to 2 feet in length, arise from a central rosette, rising straight up until a new leaf emerges. The older leaves then arc away to make room for new growth. As the plant ages, new rosettes form new leaves that add to the lush look of the plant.
Soil: As with all houseplants, zebra plant care begins with the soil. Tropical plants need soil that holds moisture but is also well draining. Without good drainage, the roots will rot. ‘Wet feet’ is probably the major cause of failure when growing zebra indoor plants. A lack of water, however, will cause leaves to curl.
Humidity: Humidity is the next problem to be conquered when growing zebras indoors. Plants should be misted several times a week.
Light: Many gardeners mistakenly believe that high heat and strong light are requirements for how to take care of a Calathea zebra houseplant. Diffused light should be enough. After you’ve been caring for zebra plants a while, you might want to experiment a bit to see how much light your plant needs to bring out the brightest color in the leaves.
Repotting: As time passes, caring for zebra plants will also include re-potting. This should be done in the spring about every two years. These plants do not like to be pot bound. If there are several rosettes at the base of the plant, now is the time to divide. Use a sharp blade to separate the rosettes and plant each in its own pot.