How to Care for Calathea Zebrina – Tips & Plant Photos

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Gorgeous member of the marantaceae family, calathea zebrina proudly shows off it’s striped velvety leaves. This one can become a pretty tall plant and has rich foliage.

Gorgeous looks as well as being human and pet safe (non-toxic) plant, this one is one of our plant favorites, even if it can be dramatic at times.

Caring for this plant does require developing a watering and misting routine (if needed), but all in all the zebra plant is fairly easy to keep alive and pretty (as far as calatheas go).

Calathea Zebrina Photo

Quick Summary

All the relevant info at a glance. Read the whole article for more in depth information about Calathea Zebrina / Zebra Plant , caring for the plant and how to keep it happy and thriving in your home.

Plant name: Calathea Zebrina, Zebra Plant

Native to: South America

Lighting: bright indirect sunlight

Care: frequent watering, higher humidity, warm temperatures

Common Problems: curling leaves, root root, spider mites, leaf yellowing, brown leaf tips

Toxicity: Considered Non-Toxic to Humans and Pets (read more here)

How To Care For Calathea Zebrina Plant

Calathea Zebrina Care

Frequent watering, warm climate, indirect sunlight and good air humidity are required to keep this plant happy.

Bringing the Plant Home

We know you are excited to be bringing this gorgeous plant home and want to place it next to your other plants, however we do recommend you place it in quarantine for a week or two before moving it closer to other plants. This will prevent any pest or disease spread. Carefully inspect the plant for any potential damage and disease once you bring it home and during quarantine.

Your plant will need a while to adapt to the new environment, in this time you may notice some stress related issues (slight yellowing or dropping leaves). It’s no time for panic, these issues should improve when the plant gets used to its new home.

Light – Where to Place Your Plant?

Calathea zebrina, will thrive in bright places with indirect sunlight. It should not be exposed to direct sunlight as it will burn the leaves.

If you notice the patterns on the leaves starting to fade it means your zebra plant is receiving to much light.

Watering and Misting Leaves

Velvety Gorgeous Foliage of Calathea Zebrina
Calathea Zebrina Foliage

How often should you water your zebra plant?

Develop a good watering routine to keep your plant strong and healthy, most of the time this means 2-3 times per week during summer and 1-2 times per week during winter months.

The best way to determine proper watering routine is to check the soil on your plant regularly and keep a diary. The soil should be slightly moist most of the time, but not wet. Make sure you water the plant when the top inch or two of soil is dry. Be extra careful to not overwater them, as Calatheas don’t like to sit in water – this will get your plant in trouble in no time.

Not watering zebra plant enough will result in leaves curling and yellowing.

What kind of water should you use to water a zebra plant?

Rain water is great. Bottled water, obviously not ideal solution, is fine too. If you are using tap water, let it sit overnight to dechlorinate. Water heavy on minerals? Use water filter to get rid of those.


Misting helps raise the humidity of air around the plant so it’s something all calatheas really enjoy. Spray the leaves, using a spray bottle, with water regularly (don’t mist them too much, the leaves should not be left wet).

Zebra plant really, rally likes it’s misting.


Calathea Zebrina sure likes its humidity. When it comes to humidity, this one is one of the more “thirsty” calathea plants that we currently have – which is why it got it’s own humidity tray. It will do really well in a room that has a high air humidity. If the air humidity in the room isn’t high, you will need to increase humidity around this plant.

If you see brown tips on leaves, it’s time to up the humidity.

Misting the plants – spraying water with a spray bottle, is the first step that will help you with keeping this plant happy.

Making a stone humidity tray (adding a tray filled with stones under or next to the plant and adding water to the tray) is effective and attractive solution (better than misting). Air humidifier placed near the plant will work well too.

Our favorite solution to up the humidity is to increase your calathea collection or adding other humidity loving plants and place them close to each other, as the water evaporates from one plant it benefits the other.

Photo: Leaves of a zebra plant in closeup @ jaapbleijenberg

Cleaning / Plant Maintenance

Calathea Zebrina doesn’t show dust as fast as Calathea Ornata for example but it will still need cleaning once in a while.

A soft damp cloth will do the job if you are dealing with smaller plants, however Calathea zebrina can grow quite tall and has rich foliage, so cleaning it with cloth isn’t always ideal.

Rinsing the plant under running lukewarm water will take care of the problem. Carefully work your way through the leaves. After you are done, let the excess water run out from the pot.

Do you need to fertilize Calathea Zebrina plant?

Adding fertiliser during growing season is beneficial to the plant. Add a small amount of standard housplant fertilizer or specialised “green leaf plants” fertilzer (mixed with water according to instructions on the packaging) every 2-3 weeks through spring, summer and fall.


Is your zebra plant aching for more room? It’s time to repot! It’s recommended you repot your calathea couple of years, especially if you want your plant to grow bigger or if you have hopes of propagating it.

Repot the plant every 2-3 years. Gently lift the plant out of the poot and ispect the roots – if the plant is rootbound it certainly needs a bigger pot.). If you notice roots coming out of the pot holes or roots that grow above soil before your scheduled repotting, it’s time to repot now.

When repotting go up only 1 to 2 pot sizes per repotting.


Keep your plants happy with a right soil mix! Calatheas love their soil to keep in humidity but not be wet, so you need a soil that will drain well an hold moisure.

A mix of potting soil, moss, perlite and bark.

Your local plant store (or online shop) may carry a mix that is geared towards calatheas so it’s always best to check and ask.

Zebra Plant Propagation

Zebra plants can be propagated by division during repotting.


Calathea Zebrina is considered non toxic to humans, cats and dogs. (animal toxicity information ASPCA)

* There have been no negative health issues reported with Calathea zebrina. Keep in mid toxicity information on plants can change. This is something that is best talked about with your veterinarian. Even with non toxic plants, nibbling plants should be avoided and keeping plants away from pets, especially if they like to eat them, is best.

Common Calathea Ornata Problems and Pests

Dry brown tips on calathea zebrina leaves.

Your plant needs more humidity. Out of all calatheas we own, zebrina was the most “needy” when it comes to humidity and quickly developed brown tips after arriving to it’s new home. A stone humidity tray solved the problem in no time.

Leaves turning yellow or starting to curl?

This can be a sign of both overwatering and not watering enough (usually underwatering). Take closer attention to soil humidity and water accordingly.

Leaves Drooping/Wilting

Your plant isn’t getting enough water. Adjust your watering routine to correct this issue.

Root Root

Root rot can develop if you overwater your plant or let it sit in water. If you notice leaves yellowing, wilting and stunned growth, gently take the plant out of the pot and inspect the roots. Brown or black and mushy roots speak trouble.

If your calathea zebrina has root rot it will need to be repotted into fresh soil and clean pot (with roots washed and damaged roots removed).


Calathea Zebrina Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my calathea zebrina curling?

The temperature might be too low for your plant. Also not enough water.

Why is my calathea zebrina turning yellow?

It’s not getting enough water.

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