Aphelandra squarrosa, commonly known as the Zebra Plant, is an evergreen perennial native to the Brazilian rainforests. The 'Zebra' name comes from its eye-catching striped foliage, while its Latin name describes the square-like way that the mature bracts form.
It was first officially classified by Christian Nees von Esenbeck, a German botanist, in 1847.
These plants can grow up to 3 feet (1 m) tall with a shrub-like spread. They take up to 5 years to reach their full size and need repotting around once a year in order to keep them healthy and help them grow.
Zebra Plants can sometimes be known to be temperamental - if given the wrong care they can start to grow leggy, and may even lose their leaves. However, with a bit of TLC, you'll be rewarded by beautiful foliage and bright yellow flowers. Its vibrancy makes these plants a wonderful addition to your houseplant collection.
These tropical plants are accustomed to the warm, humid conditions of the rainforest. These conditions can be a little tricky to replicate in your home, but it's important to try and do so in order to keep your Zebra Plant happy.
Most indoor environments are warm enough for the plant, but it's important that you protect it from drafts. Don't place it too close to anywhere that it may be exposed to cold air (such as A.C. units / vents or drafty windows and outdoor-leading doors) and also keep it away from heating sources. It may seem logical to keep a plant that likes warmth near to a heater, but this can actually cause the plant to quickly dry out, and Zebra Plants need moisture too!
Maintain high humidity by regularly misting and setting up a pebble tray for your plant to sit on. Make sure not to let it get too wet, though. Zebra Plants don't like too much water - overwatering can cause leaf drop. Try to keep the soil moist to the touch, but never waterlogged, as this can cause the plant to develop root rot. You may also want to water your plant using rainwater or distilled water, as Zebra Plants can be sensitive to the hard water found in taps.
These plants produce pretty but short-lived flowers during the summertime. However, the yellow bracts can remain for months even after the flower it housed has died off. Note that it's important to provide a dormancy period over the colder months in order to encourage flowering the next year.
During dormancy, the plant can be kept cooler than usual, and should also be given less water and less light. Too much light during the winter may lead to sun scorch and, in conjunction with reduced watering, dehydration. Unlike the necessary maintained moisture during the growing season, the soil can be allowed to dry out during the dormancy period.