Calathea Zebrina – also known as Goeppertia Zebrina – is a beautiful evergreen perennial native to Brazil’s southeast parts. It thrives in USDA hardiness zones 11 and 12.
The leaves are deep velvet-green with broad parallel bars or stripes in a zebra-like configuration. The stripes extend alongside the veins and from the midvein to the leaf margins.
Their undersides are dark-red or purple, and the veins, spines, and margins have lime-green etching.
Calathea plants are herbaceous shrubs belonging to the Marantaceae family. Its botanical name is Calathea Zebrina, and it’s commonly known names are “zebra plant” or the “prayer plant.”
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Its unique striped leaves make it stand out and attract attention. The foliage’s zebra-like ornamental look is also where the name comes from – the Latin zebrina translates to “stripes like a zebra” in English.
The pronunciation of the botanical name of the plant is [ka-luh-thee-uh zeb-ree-nuh]. The name derives from calathus – a Latin word meaning “basket,” and the reference here is to the inflorescence, which resembles a basket of flowers.
A curious fact about this plant is that the leaves fold together at sunset and start to look like playing hands, which is also why one of the plant’s common names is the “prayer plant.”
Another interesting detail about the plant’s symbolism is that Calathea plants are symbols of new beginnings and turning over a new leaf. People often give Calathea as a gift for a new home, new job, new relationship, or the start of anything new.
The plant also has the added benefit of not being poisonous to people or pets and acting as an excellent air purifier for the home.
Calathea Zebrina Care
Size & Growth
Calathea Zebrina will usually grow to roughly 1 meter – 3 feet and 3 inches.
The leaves have an elliptical form and smooth surface and grow from basal rosettes on the stalks. They extend to anywhere from 12″ to 18″ inches in length and clump together.
Because this is a tropical plant, it’s usually grown indoors, but you can grow it in your garden if you live in the appropriate climate.
In Hawaii, where it’s warm and humid, Calathea Zebrina is a popular outdoor attraction. You’ll also be more likely to see it flower outdoors.
Its growing season spans the spring and summer months and lasts through fall.
Flowering and Fragrance
Calathea Zebrina blooms seasonally.
Indoor plants rarely produce flowers, but inconspicuous, non-fragrant flowers in various shades – from white to purple – bloom in clusters on outdoor plants.
Light & Temperature Requirements
Average room temperature – 65° to 75° degrees Fahrenheit – is suitable for this remarkable plant throughout the year. It’s the ideal temperature to maintain the best atmosphere for it and promote its growth.
Calathea Zebrina likes to be in brightly lit areas, but remember that even though it can tolerate early morning light, it doesn’t like direct sunlight, so it’s best to avoid it – particularly in the afternoons when the sun’s power is most potent. Bright indirect light is best.
Keep in mind these plants don’t like drafts and sudden temperature changes, so keep away from vents.
Watering and Feeding
Calathea Zebrina can’t tolerate drought, so make sure you keep the potting soil moist and damp (but not wet) and well-drained, especially during the summer months. Never let your plant sit in water.
Avoid watering with tap water. Calatheas are picky about their type of water and water quality.
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The sophisticated-looking shrub likes and needs humidity, so water it often during its growing months in the spring, summer, and fall, but slow down during the winter. Frequently showering or misting it with lukewarm water is a great idea.
Feeding guidelines are similar to those for watering. You can give your plant nutritional supplements (general liquid fertilizer for houseplants) every other week during the growing season. When winter comes, stop the feedings. You can resume them again once winter passes.
Soil & Transplanting
If you need to transplant your Calathea Zebrina, it’s best to do it during the spring or early summer months – the plant’s actively growing months. To prevent the spread of fungal diseases and rotting of the roots, make sure you are using a Calathea potting mix.
It would be best if you repotted your Calathea Zebrina once a year or every other year to ensure fresh soil and nutrients. You can also keep going up in pot size to let the plant grow wider. All you have to do is get a slightly larger pot every time you replant it.
Grooming and Maintenance
Calathea Zebrina is not a high-maintenance plant. As mentioned above, it loves getting water mists regularly, which significantly helps if you notice the edges of the leaves turning brown or curling.
When leaves turn brown or yellow, use sharp scissors and cut them at their base. Removing the dead or dying leaves keeps the plant healthy and encourages its continued growth.
Related: Growing Prayer Plants
How to Propagate Calathea Zebrina
When it’s time to repot your Calathea Zebrina, you can also propagate it by division to get more of these gorgeous plants.
When you get ready to replant it, all you have to do is carefully and gently divide it at its natural separation points in the roots. They are incredibly fragile, so being as gentle as possible is vital to avoid root damage.
Plant the new divisions into their pots with fresh soil and keep them moist, warm, and as humid as possible. Active growth will resume in about 2 to 4 weeks, so only provide reduced light until then.
Calathea Zebrina Pests or Diseases
Calathea Zebrina plants rarely develop serious diseases or insect problems, but they attract their own set of pests and diseases.
Most problems – like leaf spotting or root rot – occur because of inadequate humidity and over-watering. Improper lighting can cause issues as well. Direct sunlight, for example, may scorch the leaves.
You may want to watch out for spider mites, scale, and mealybugs.