Calathea zebrina: Zebra plant

Family: Marantaceae
Common name: Zebra plant, Prayer plant, Goeppertia zebrina

Zebra plants are garden favourites all over the world, because of their beautiful light and dark green striped foliage. The name Zebrina means ‘striped like a zebra’, and that’s one of the reasons they are popular in landscaping projects as hedge or border plants.

The plant can grow to a height of about 1 meter with long elliptical leaves that that are 30-45 cm long. Leaf stalks are about 30 cm long, inclined beautifully to form lovely rosettes of leaves.

The top surface of the leaves is bright green, with dark green stripes, and the lower surface is brownish-purple. Zebra plants can flower under the right conditions producing small, white, inconspicuous flowers. But most plants grown indoors will not flowers in their lifetime.

Zebra plants are quite sturdy and need very little attention, except for regular watering. They can tolerate poor soil and nutrition, and also fluctuations in climatic conditions.

These plants grow quickly producing large clumps filling pots very quickly. Repotting is required when the plant becomes too big for the pot, with leaves crowding in. While repotting, the roots can be split into multiple smaller clumps to produce new plants.

In the wild, Zebra plants grow under trees flourishing in the filtered sunlight. Therefore, they are good indoor plants provided there is indirect or filtered sunlight. They prefer moist environment and do well with frequent misting. The key is to not allow the soil to dry out completely.

Watering should be more frequent in summer and spring, when the plant is growing quickly. During winter and rainy season, watering can be done once in 3-4 days depending on how soon the soil dries out.

Underwatering can lead to browning of leaf edges, though this can also happen due to too much harsh sunlight. Overwatering can lead to yellowing of leaves, and limp stems. Zebra plants are resistant to pests, and do not generally need pesticides.

Propagation can be done by splitting the roots, or carefully removing small clumps and replanting them.