Tips for Caring Your Calathea Zebrina

Calatheas are a tricky, temperamental houseplant. While they are beautiful when healthy, they can decline abruptly when unhappy, seemingly out of nowhere. We’ve all been there – it’s not your fault!

Before doubting your skills as a plant parent, consider adopting some of these best practices for calathea zebrina care, to make sure your new plant has the best chance of not only surviving, but thriving!

The Basics of Caring for Your Calathea Zebrina

Whether you are a calathea fanatic or you’re new to the tropical plant game, this beautiful plant is sure to catch the eye of any plant lover. Calathea Zebrina, also known as the “Zebra Plant” gets its name from its gorgeous striped green foliage. 

Calathea Zebrina
Calathea Zebrina

When adding a new plant to your collection, it’s crucial to research the plant’s optimal environment so you can figure out if your home is a suitable fit for it. Some plants prefer a slightly drier environment, while others thrive in high humidity.

As you may have guessed, since the calatheas natural home is the tropics, they require a substantial amount of humidity to live their best lives.

If you are ever on the fence about how you should care for your calathea zebrina, the plant experts at the nursery or plant shop you’re buying from should be happy to answer your questions!

1. Best Lighting Tips for Your Calathea Zebrina

Calatheas, as previously stated, are tropical plants, which means they want to be in the sun. However, calathea zebrinas can tolerate more shade than other tropical plants.

It’s a general rule to keep your calathea zebrina in bright to medium indirect light throughout the day to ensure they get enough light.

calathea zebrina care
Calathea Zebrina Leaves

You should avoid putting your calathea zebrina in a place with harsh light, or else you may begin to see the leaves fade or brown (especially around the edges) Bright to medium indirect light is best for your calathea zebrina because they get exactly the right amount of sunlight to grow without becoming sunburned.

It is also important to note that while they can tolerate a bit more shade, they are still a tropical plant and therefore should not be placed in an area that is too dark, or else you may notice the plant beginning to produce leggier stems.

2. How Often You Should be Watering Your Calathea Zebrina

With any new plant, watering can be a challenging aspect to consider. You don’t want to overwater your new plant, or neglect it to the point where the leaves shrivel. Here’s how to develop a happy medium with calatheas:

Calatheas prefer damp soil, much like they do a moist climate. This implies you will need to water your calatheas more frequently than other plants, such as your succulents or cacti). Calatheas can tolerate more water than most plants, but be careful to drain any excess water, in order to avoid root rot.

This can be accomplished in a variety of different methods. We recommend drilling a hole in the bottom of your pot to allow water to drain out after each watering. Another option is placing rocks at the bottom of your pot to allow the extra water to permeate through and settle at the bottom.

If you notice that your calathea isn’t absorbing the water and instead the water appears to be floating on top of the soil, you’ve probably over-watered your plant. If this happens, simply tilt the pot sideways to allow the extra water to trickle out.

3. Don’t Skimp on Humidity! 

Calatheas, as previously stated, love their humidity. Keep this in mind before choosing any humidity-loving plant, as it may necessitate further purchases or effort on your part to keep those zebra stripes glowing.

Calatheas grow in tropical areas in the wild, thus it’s crucial to keep the habitat as close to their natural state as possible. Buying a humidifier and placing your calathea as close to it as possible is a terrific approach to maintaining a happy and healthy calathea.

This will provide consistent moisture to the air, like your calathea is accustomed to.

Misting your calathea on a daily basis is another way to keep it gleaming. Simply fill a squirt bottle with water and put the nozzle on the mist setting to moisten the air around your plants.

Placing a humidity reader in the same room as the calathea, if possible, is also a terrific way to keep track of the moisture in the air, in order to ensure that your calathea is receiving the attention it needs. For the most part, calatheas prefer to be in an area with a humidity level of 60-80%.

4. The Right Temperature for Your Calathea Zebrina

These tropical beauties prefer warmer climates than those that are cooler, as you might expect given their demand for humidity. Calatheas prefer to live in temperatures ranging from 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 20 degrees Celsius).

As a result, it’s critical to keep your indoor temperatures above 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5 degrees Celsius) at all times.

calathea zebrina care
Calathea Zebrina Care

It is also important to note that calatheas are considerably more susceptible to cold drafts and temperature changes than some of your other houseplants.

Make sure to keep an eye on your calathea zebrina over the winter months to make sure it doesn’t start to wilt.

If your calathea begins to suffer from a chill in the air, try relocating it away from the window to avoid drafts. Furthermore, if you have radiator heat, avoid placing your calathea too close to the radiator, so the leaves don’t dry or burn.

5. So, What Type of Soil Should I be Using? 

You should have a good notion now of just how picky calatheas can be when it comes to living their best lives. You should make sure you have the correct type of soil for your calathea, just as you should for watering and lighting.

Calatheas prefer moist soil, so make sure you place these plants in a soil that will hold a lot of water. Water will be able to flow more freely and keep your calathea damp if you plant it in a soil that allows it to breathe.

If the soil your calathea is planted in is too compact, it will not allow for much aeration and could even suffocate the plant by preventing water from reaching the roots. Calatheas thrive in soil that contains perlite, moss, or mulch, as these materials are permeable and let water pass freely to the roots.

If your calathea is already potted in a soil with poor water retention, you may want to consider repotting it. Otherwise, you’ll simply need to water it more frequently.

6. What Should I do if my Calathea Zebrina Starts to Decline?

Calatheas, as previously noted, are just more difficult houseplants to keep alive, at the end of the day. They’re lovely, but they’re also capable of driving you insane. They’re also one of the more expressive houseplants, so if they’re not feeling well, they’ll let you know.

Some warning indications that your calathea’s care needs to be tweaked include:

calathea zebrina care
Calathea Zebrina in Pot

These signs don’t necessarily imply your plant is doomed; you might be able to turn it around and see your calathea zebrina thrive again!

Browning or yellowing leaves are usually an indication that the environment is too dry for your plant. Crispy or fading leaves are another sign that your plant is very dry and/or is receiving too much sunlight.

If this happens, consider misting the leaves daily, using a humidifier, or moving the plant outside or in front of an open window, as long as the climate is warm and humid.

This could also mean that your plant needs to be watered more frequently, but make sure not to overdo it.

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7. Are Calathea Zebrinas Okay to Keep Around Pets? 

If you like calatheas and have a few furry friends, you’ll be happy to hear that calatheas are completely safe for pets! As a result, you won’t have to be concerned if a boisterous cat or dog ingests one of the leaves.

If you have pets, it’s always a good idea to look into the toxicity of any new plant you bring into your home, as well as the potential adverse effects if foliage is eaten.

Because certain plants are more hazardous than others, you should always double-check to make sure you’re not bringing anything into your home that could harm your pets.

Luckily, calatheas allow you to confidently put your new plant anywhere in your home without the worry of an unexpected trip to the veterinarian’s office.

8. Potential Problems and Pests You May Find With Your Calathea Zebrina

While calatheas aren’t generally pest-prone, they do, like any other houseplant, run the danger of attracting them. If you already know you have a pest outbreak on one or more of your other houseplants, quarantine them until they’re disease-free to avoid infecting your new calathea zebrina.

Pests can reach your calathea in a few ways: they may have already been present at the nursery or plant shop where you bought it, they may have hopped from another plant, or they may have entered through an open window.

Whatever the situation may be, there are thankfully options for eradicating these annoying bugs.

The most prevalent pests found on calatheas include:

  • Spider mites
  • Mealy bugs
  • Scale
  • Aphids
Calathea Zebrina Plant
Calathea Zebrina Plant

The most common of these pests is spider mites. It’s most likely spider mites if your calathea has a pest. Because spider mites are so small, you probably won’t see them, but you may be able to see their webs.

Spider mites are little red arachnids that feed by sucking the sap from plant leaves. As a result, the leaves begin to fall off and die, which could potentially kill your plant.

Drooping leaves and white flaky webbing across the leaves and stems, which may resemble dust, are the most common signs of spider mites.

If you suspect your calathea is infested with spider mites or another pest, wash and/or wipe the leaves frequently to eliminate the unwanted parasites. A garden hose or a shower head can be used for this, and you can also use neem oil, which is a natural pesticide, to cover the calathea’s leaves.

If these measures fail to yield results and your calathea continues to struggle, stronger pesticides should be able to help. Check for calathea or houseplant specific insecticides at your local nursery, plant shop, or home improvement store (such as Lowe’s or Home Depot).

If you wish, you can also give your calathea a little extra food by applying a houseplant fertilizer to it every 2-3 weeks during the growing season. This will give your plant a half-strength dose of fertilizer, which is just about perfect for calatheas. 

9. What if I Want to Propagate?

While it is not possible to propagate calatheas through leaf or stem clippings, as you can with some other houseplants, it is possible to propagate them by division. You will notice where the different plants divide, right before their roots begin.

Simply place these divisions (along with any root systems!) in soil (see soil section above) and keep the soil consistently moist until the root system is well developed. This will likely take 4-6 weeks.

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Now, Let’s Get Started With Your New Plant!

You should now have everything you need to provide your calathea zebrina with the conditions it requires to live, grow, and thrive in your house.

While calatheas are a little more difficult to care for than some other houseplants, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it! We’re convinced that with these resources, you’ll be able to give your new houseplant a happy and healthy life.

Keep an eye on our blog for additional information on houseplants and best practices for caring for them!

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