Calathea zebrina
Common Name: zebra plant 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Marantaceae
Native Range: Southeastern Brazil
Zone: 11 to 12
Height: 1.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Description: White to purple
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Colorful, Evergreen
Other: Winter Interest

Culture

With good humidity, consistent soil moisture, warm air temperatures, and an absence of direct sun, this tropical perennial will usually develop into an extremely attractive indoor foliage plant. Best indoor container growth typically occurs in uniformly moist, well-drained, peaty potting mixtures in room temperatures ranging from 65 to 75 degrees F. in bright shade locations. Avoid full sun, particularly in the heat of the afternoon. Tolerates some early morning sun or diffused sun. Plants need high humidity which can often be difficult to provide in winter. Consider standing a potted plant on a bed of wet pebbles, misting the foliage regularly and/or growing the plant in a humidified room. Water regularly to keep soils moist (but not wet) during the growing season. Reduce watering in winter when plant growth typically slows down. Winter hardy to USDA Zones 11-12.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Calathea zebrina, commonly known as zebra plant, is noted for its striking ornamental leaves which feature zebra-like stripes as suggested by both the specific epithet and the common name. This is a compact, rhizomatous, evergreen perennial that typically grows to 1-3’ tall in containers. It is native to tropical areas of southeastern Brazil. Leaves (to 12” long or more) rise on long petioles from basal rosettes to form a foliage clump. Leaves are velvety dark green highlighted by showy, broad, parallel chartreuse stripes or bars which extend along the veins from the mid-vein to the leaf margins in a zebra-like configuration. Leaf undersides are reddish-purple. Leaves fold together at dusk in a manner somewhat resembling praying hands, hence the sometimes used common name of prayer plant. Inconspicuous, white to purple flowers bloom in spring on upright stalks, but flowers rarely bloom on indoor plants.

Genus name comes from the Latin word calathus meaning basket in reference to the inflorescence looking like a basket of flowers.

Specific epithet is in reference to the zebra-like stripes found on plant leaves.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Watch for aphids, scale, mealybugs and spider mites. Leaf spots may appear. Plants do not thrive in low humidity where leaves may roll or turn brown. Direct sun usually causes leaf scorch.

Garden Uses

This plant is grown for its attractive foliage. Houseplant for bright areas with no direct sun. Popular landscape plant in Hawaii.