The Q&A Archives: Care Of Zebra House Plant

Question: I received a zebra house plant as a gift and it was beautiful but the leaves have slowly fallen off but it is still struggling to survive. I don't know what to do with it. I have it in a north window in a cool room, the pot does not have a drainage hole and I don't know if I am killing it with kindness or watering it to death. When I water it I give it very little. When I received it the plant was pretty, full of leaves and it had a pretty yellow flower, now it looks like a stick, but is trying to grow another leaf.

Answer: Zebra plant (Aphelandra squarrosa) is a striking plant, but it isn't easy to grow because it demands such high humidity to thrive. To increase humidity, set the pot on a shallow saucer filled with pebbles and an inch or so of water. The water evaporates around the plant. (Don't let the plant roots soak up the water.) It prefers bright to medium light, so I'd move it to another exposure rather than north, preferably east or south. The soil should be kept moderately moist at all times. Water slowly and deeply to leach salts out the bottom of the pot. Light watering allows salts to accumulate in the root zone, which can burn the plant. It prefers normal indoor temperatures.

"Houseplants for Dummies" by Larry Hodgson and NGA says that this plant is often considered a "florist plant." In other words, enjoy it while you can, then dispose of it. An alternative would be to take a stem cutting and start another plant. All plants should have good drainage, so I suggest pots with drainage holes. I hope this info helps.

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