Calathea Zebrina: Complete Guide to Zebra Plant Care

Calathea zebrina plants are easier to take care of than most other Calathea varieties. To help you look after your Zebra plant, this article covers all its needs as well as common problems you should look out for.

The Origin of Calathea Zebrina

Before we get into how to take care of Calathea zebrina, it’s equally as important to understand the conditions the zebrina originally strives in so you can imitate them.

Zebrinas are perennial foliage plants that originate from southeastern Brazil. They typically live under the shade of dense vegetation.

Their ovate leaves are zebra-like stripped in joyous colors, hence the name zebrina. 

The 6 Wh-Questions Of Calathea Zebrina Care

The six basic needs of any calathea plant—or any other plant for that matter—come down to irrigation, humidity, the soil’s quality, need for sunlight, nutrition or fertilizer type, and the ideal temperatures for growth.

Since we’ve established that the zebrina is a tropical plant, you’ll need to tweak each of these factors to perfection in order to please it.

Here are the six wh-questions you should be asking yourself and that we’ve answered for you:

When Should I Water My Zebrina?

Depends. During warm seasons, you’d want to water it 2-3 times a week. In colder seasons, reduce that to 1-2 times. In its growing seasons (summer, spring, and fall), your calathea will need loads of water.

The borderline tip to remember is that your Calathea likes water but not so much as to sit in it. The soil should just be moist, but not drenched.

Follow the finger rule: when half a fingertip of soil, or the top half-inch of it, is dry, then that’s your sign to water it.

Calathea Zebrina close up

Remember the following:

  1. Use only distilled water or rainwater. Bottled or tap water contains minerals and chlorine that’ll harm your zebrina’s leaves. If you don’t have access to either, let tap water sit overnight to dechlorinate then use it.
  2. Overwatering your calathea will stress out your plant and cause its leaves to yellow.
  3. Check the soil regularly and note down your plant’s watering habits to develop a watering routine that’s sure to keep it alive.

When Is It Humid Enough?

With the zebrina plant, in particular, there is no such thing as enough when it comes to humidity. This plant is marked as one of the thirstiest Calatheas since it loves to stay moist.

There are four ways to achieve high humidity levels around your zebrina:

Plant Humidifier

This is the first and easiest option. Just remember to fill it with distilled and not tap water. Like we already established, tap water can seriously harm your plant.


Regularly mist the leaves, but keep in mind not to overdo it or it’ll cause fungal spots. Stick to 1-2 times a week and don’t forget the underside of the plant’s leaves.

Pebble Trays

Placing your Zebrina in a tray of pebbles and water will create a humid atmosphere as the water evaporates.

Group Your Plant With Others

Green areas have high humidity levels, so introducing other plants to your Zebrina will make it happier.

What Should the Soil Be?

The rule for tropical plants like Calatheas is that the soil must always be moist and well-drained. Drainage is important; otherwise, the roots will rot and you’ve got an irreversible problem.

So make sure that you have the right pot with drain holes to drain the soil efficiently and keep it rich. You’ll also need the right potting mix for your plant.

Zebrinas’ potting mix combines one part soil, two parts peat moss, and two parts perlite. An African violet mix is also a good alternative.

What Fertilizer Is Best For My Zebrina?

Good news! Your calathea doesn’t require a special, expensive kind of fertilizer to feed on and grow. A standard houseplant fertilizer would do just fine. But if you wish to spoil your Zebrina, use a specialized fertilizer for green-leaf plants instead.

Your Zebrina is also not picky about how often you should fertilize it. In fact, you’ll only need to do so during its growing seasons every 2-3 weeks. Avoid feeding it in winter.

Multiple Calathea Zebrinas

When Does My Zebrina Need Light?

Since it’s a tropical native, Zambrinas do well in the shade and require little light to grow. They’re better placed in dim-lit rooms that are spacious enough to accommodate them once they fully grow to a full meter.

The secret to perfecting this is to place them somewhere bright that gets enough indirect sunlight. Consider placing them near drawn blinds since the filtered sunlight won’t harm them either.

Direct sunlight will burn your plant’s leaves and cause them to brown faster. A tell-tale sign that your plant’s getting too much light is when the hues on its leaves start to fade.

What Temperatures Are Best for My Zebrina?

A tropical plant thrives in toasty temperatures. To be more precise, temperatures ranging from 65 to 75ºF (18-24ºC) will be ideal. In other words, the average room temperature is just enough.

There are three things you need to keep in mind when it comes to your indoor garden’s temperatures:

No Sudden Drops

Anything lower than 60ºF (15ºC) isn’t favored by your calathea. Winter temperatures stress its leaves out and turn them yellow.

No Cold Drafts

Keep your calathea away from windows and air vents where chilly and cold drafts will only harm it further. Where it’s kept, the place should be warm and tropical-like.

No Hot Drafts

On the other hand, placing it near a heat-conducting machine or a heating vent will dry and overheat your zebrina—two things you definitely don’t want.

Common Issues to Look Out For

Let’s say you take diligent care of your Zebrina plant, and after a while, it starts showing signs of being stressed out, what do you do then?

Not to worry, Calatheas may show stress signs often but that doesn’t mean it can’t bounce back! Just like our bodies when under stress, your plant’s warning or hinting at something. The sooner you take care of it, the quicker you can avoid it becoming a huge problem.

Here are the three common calathea zebrina problems that may happen:

Problem 1: Brown Leaf Tips or Leaves Dropping

Your ever-so-thirsty Zebrina is asking for more humidity. Check whatever humidity option you chose to crank up the humidity levels.

For a quick fix, you can mist the leaves then wait and see if the plant reacts favorably. For a closer watch on your Zebrina, consider buying a hygrometer so you can easily spot if the humidity is the problem.

Problem 2: Curling, Spotted, or Yellowing Leaves

Your plant is still thirsty, but not because of the humidity this time, but because of underwatering. That’s in most cases, of course, but sometimes this can be a sign of overwatering as well.

Again, the soil should be moist, neither wet nor dry. Check it regularly, and maybe purchase a moisture meter to help let you know if your plant needs more water or less of it.

Problem 3: Limp Stems

Noticing your zebrina’s stem limping? It’s a warning sign that they’re starting to rot and if you don’t take action soon enough, the damage will be irreversible and your zebrina will be no more.

The cause behind this problem, in most cases, is overwatering. Check your watering routine and adjust to your plant’s needs.

In other cases, however, the reason could be low temperatures or exposure to drafts. Remember that they’re tropical plants and are used to warm and toasty weather, so, move your plant somewhere warmer, away from the chilly draft.

A colorful Calathea plant

Wrapping Up

Calathea plants, regardless of their type, are picky plants. Even the low-maintenance Calathea, the zebrina, requires much attention to keep alive.

To create the perfect tropical environment for your Calathea zebrina, keep in mind the warm temperatures it likes and the high humidity levels it thrives in.

You should also use the right fertilizer for nutrition and maintain a moist, well-drained soil at all times.

Proper irrigation is extremely important when it comes to calathea zebrina plant care. Both overwatering and underwatering place great stress on your plant.

Remember to find a routine that works and stick to it!

Don’t sweat when you notice your Calathea plant looking less healthy than normal. Take it as a sign that something is wrong and act fast. Everything is reversible until it’s not.