How to care for a zebra plant – expert tips to keep these fabulous houseplants healthy

Plant pros share their advice, including essentials on watering, lighting, and pest control

yellow flower on zebra plant
(Image credit: blickwinkel / Alamy Stock Photo)

Q: A friend recently gave me a potted zebra plant, also known as Aphelandra squarrosa. I have quite a few houseplants already but have never seen one of these before. I'm not sure how to look after it – do you have any pointers?

A: Aphelandra squarrosa are lesser known than classic indoor plants such as monsteras, pothos, and fiddle leaf figs, but they are well worth adding to an interior scheme. Their common name comes from their foliage, which has striking white veining against glossy green. And if you're lucky and conditions are right, you may be treated to a yellow flower or two.

To get these tropical indoor plants to thrive, you'll need to provide the perfect growing environment. Below, houseplant experts share their advice on humidity, location, and more.

flowering zebra plant

Zebra plants are eye-catching additions to the home

(Image credit: Botanic World / Alamy Stock Photo)

3 top tips for zebra plant care

Zebra plants will brighten up any room, whether you're looking for a bedroom plant or a kitchen plant

Kiersten Rankel of plant-care app Greg says they look stunning in a variety of planters – from sleek, modern pots to boho hanging baskets. 'Their eye-catching foliage pairs beautifully with other colorful, patterned plants like calatheas or crotons, or you can let them shine solo as a statement piece,' she adds.

smiling headshot of Kiersten Rankel from Greg with a leaf
Kiersten Rankel

Kiersten Rankel is a certified Louisiana Master Naturalist and regularly volunteers with local community gardens and nonprofits to help restore critical ecosystems along the Gulf Coast. She earned her master's degree from Tulane University in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology after her undergraduate degree in Environmental Biology, also from Tulane. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking and tending to her 150+ houseplants and vegetable garden.

1. Provide enough light

potted zebra plant with yellow flower and white background

These plants need plenty of light, but avoid direct sun

(Image credit: Dorling Kindersley ltd / Alamy Stock Photo)

Kiersten says zebra plants prefer bright, indirect light. 'A spot near an east- or west-facing window is ideal, where they can soak up some gentle rays without being scorched by direct sun.

'If you notice the striping on their leaves fading, that's a sign they're craving more light,' she adds. 

Paris Lalicata from The Sill adds that you can provide a grow light if natural lighting isn't enough. We like the look of these dimmable LED lights from Amazon which can be clamped onto a table or desk.

headshot of Paris Lalicata from The Sill
Paris Lalicata

Paris has been with The Sill for almost five years and heads up Plant Education and Community. A self-taught plant expert with over 10 years of experience growing houseplants, she currently maintains an indoor garden of more than 200 plants in the northeast. Her passion is making plant care more digestible for budding plant parents and sharing the many benefits of having plants indoors.

2. Keep humidity levels up

potted flowering zebra plant in a kitchen

Naturally humid, a kitchen is a well-suited place for these plants

(Image credit: R Ann Kautzky / Alamy Stock Photo)

Kiersten notes how humidity is key for these jungle natives, so recommends placing them near a humidifier or on a pebble tray.

You could also spray them regularly with a plant mister, such as this glass one from Amazon which has a vintage look.

On the topic of H2O, Kiersten says these plants like their soil to be kept consistently moist, but not soggy. Autumn Janus of Perfect Plants Nursery underlines the dangers of overwatering: it can lead to root rot and leaf drop, she warns. 'Ensure proper drainage to prevent waterlogged soil,' she says.

Kiersten recommends watering when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. They're not fans of hard water, so if possible, use filtered or harvested rainwater to avoid any brown tips on their leaves, she adds.

Autumn Hilliard-Knapp
Autumn Janus

Autumn is a horticulture specialist and marketing professional at Perfect Plants Nursery. With four years of experience in the horticulture industry, she has developed a passion for helping people create beautiful indoor and outdoor spaces to enjoy. Her expertise in horticulture encompasses a broad range of activities, including plant care and selection, landscape design, and maintenance.

3. Watch out for pests

zebra plant leaves

Inspect the leaves carefully for interlopers

(Image credit: Raj Kamal / Photodisc / Getty Images)

According to Paris, the zebra plant is pretty easy-going, however it may be susceptible to spider mites.

Kiersten says, 'If you do spot any webbing or stippling on the leaves, give your plant a shower and treat it with an insecticidal soap.' You could try the Garden Safe ready-to-use insecticidal spray from Amazon, for instance, which has lots of great reviews.

Other houseplant pests, including mealybugs, may also make an appearance. Keep an eye out and treat them quickly if spotted.


Should you prune zebra plants?

Kiersten says pruning is a great way to keep your zebra plant looking its best. 'Feel free to snip off any yellowing or damaged leaves as needed, and pinch back leggy growth to encourage a fuller, bushier shape,' she instructs. If doing the latter, Paris says to cut at an internode (a space between two leaves), where you'd like the plant to start branching out again. 

Always use sharp and clean pruners to avoid damaging your plant. Note that the sap can cause skin irritation, so wear gardening gloves for this task.

How do you propagate zebra plants?

Kiersten says, if you're feeling adventurous, you can propagate your zebra plant by taking stem cuttings. 'Simply snip off a healthy stem, remove the lower leaves, and place it in water or moist soil until roots develop.'

Paris adds, 'Once rooted, you can either plant the cuttings back into the same container to add fullness to the existing plant, or pot separately.'

As with pruning, ensure you're wearing gloves when propagating zebra plants to protect your skin.

Top tip: You can also propagate pothos and jade plants from stem cuttings, as well as many other popular indoor plants.

Looking for more flowering houseplants to accompany your zebra plant? Easy-care peace lilies, orchids, or African violets are beautiful options. 

Holly Crossley
Contributing Editor

The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then; over the years, she's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator. Having worked for for two years, Holly now regularly writes about plants and outdoor living for Homes & Gardens.