How to look after and care for Zebra Plant.
The Plant: The Aphelandra has snazzy, well-marked leaves which give it the common name of Zebra Plant, with upright, golden flowers, a stunner! South American in origin. It can grow into a good colourful specimen some 3-4 feet tall (1.2m), with leaves of up to 12in (30cm) in length. So why do you not see them like that very often if at all? It's all to do with the care and attention that we outline on this page.
The striped foliage is responsible for the common name of Zebra Plant of course, but the flower spike can also be spectacular. These give it the less known common name of 'Saffron Spike'.
Its needs: Strong light, even a little morning sun! Good air flow around plant, but not draughts. Add plant food such as Osmocote to the sandy/compost potting mix. Enjoys warmth and humidity. Those are the basic needs arising from its natural habitat which is the edge of moist, tropical woodlands in South America. here they grow to 1.5m, many branched evergreen shrubs - a sight spectacular even when not in flower.
Water your Zebra Plant regularly from late spring through to end of summer. Feed weekly, but not too concentrated a mix. In winter reduce both food and water. Protect from winter chill - very important if grown near a window. Remove dead flower heads as soon as they fade - cutting back to a sturdy pair of leaves. This aspect of Zebra Plant Care ensures a compact well branched plant.
Watch for red spider mite and mealybugs . The latter hiding away in the leaf joints/stem crotches. Scale insects also annoy and are harder to find when on the green brown stems. They are also to be found under the leaves along the main vein.
Basically, if your plant looks just a little bit poorly, inspect for these three insect pests.
To get good softwood cuttings - the easiest way - prune back a stem or two to slightly above a pair of leaves. New shoots will soon appear, and these can be cut off when around 4-6 in long and used as softwood cuttings. Plant tip-cuttings in coarse sand.
If your Aphelandra - Zebra Plant - gets too 'leggy' then don't be afraid to cut it back to get it to shoot out lower down the stem. This is best done to a position to suit - nothing specific - in the early part of the summer.