Zebra plants (Aphelandra squarrosa) are grown for the stripped foliage that gives the plant its common name and for the bright yellow brachs it grows when it blooms. It is native to the Atlantic forest region of Brazil and can be a bit difficult to grow.
Zebra plants can grow to one to two feet tall. It will be around that width, as well. The plant will get leggy after about three years. Zebra plants are classified as tender perennials and are hardy to zones 10-11.
The zebra plant likes lots of indirect sunlight. It is primarily grown as a potted plant, so this means placing it a few feet away from a sunny window or behind a transparent curtain. The longer the light each day, the more likely it will be to bloom. The plants need a certain number of bright days to occur before they will bloom. They do not bloom often under the best of circumstances.
Most zebra plants bloom in the autumn, at the end of the bright summer, but they can be forced to bloom during any season if the lighting conditions are right. Artificial light can trick the plant into thinking it is getting summer sun and it will bloom when it accumulates enough light hours.
Zebra plants thrive at around 70 degrees F but will not survive below 45 degrees F. They will not bloom if not warm enough.
Watering a zebra plant can be frustrating. It cannot be overwatered, or it will die. However, it cannot dry out between waterings or it will die as well. Getting the amount of water it has just right can be difficult. Weekly large waterings will not work with this plant. It needs small amounts of water daily instead. When you water, avoid getting any water on the leaves and quickly blot off any that falls on them. They will drop off otherwise.
Zebra plants like high humidity. This can be achieved by placing the pot of the plant over a tray of pebbles and filling the tray with water. Do not set the pot in the tray of pebbles, but over it. This provides extra humidity without making the soil around the plant too damp.
Each spring, you should repot your zebra plant into a slightly larger pot using African violet soil. During the growing season, spring and summer, fertilize the plant weekly with a water soluble fertilizer such as a 10-10-10. To prevent legginess, regularly pinch the top of the plant off to force it to branch out more.
Zebra plants are propagated by stem cuttings. Cut some of the lower stems off (four to six inch lengths) and dip them in rooting medium. Place them in moist peat moss mixed with perlite. Cover the pot with plastic to keep it moist and place in indirect sunlight until the cuttings root.
Then repot the cuttings in African violet soil. Take cuttings each year as the plant can deteriorate suddenly and die.