Plant Journal: Zebra Plant
This is my Zebra plant also known botanically as Aphelandra squarrosa. I got this plant from a local garden center in Dublin last 17/06. I repotted it immediately after I got it and moved it in a 22cm terracotta pot.
I bought it because I find its foliage very interesting. It has white veins and glossy, dark green leaves that are somehow "stiff" or "crisp" that turns soft and droopy when dry or when the humidity falls.
It is currently starting to flower now in August. According to online sources, it flowers during fall and it may flower more than once in a year if growing conditions were met.
The flowers appear from the yellow bracts (bracts according to wikipedia, are specialised leaves associated with reproductive structures such as a flower).
Personally, i think I preferred a leafy and lusher plant than a flowering one. Therefore, I have decided to cut the flower after it blooms to stimulate more leaf growth.
The picture above was taken after I have repotted the plant. Look how lush it is.
During our first month (actually, until now), I was struggling to keep the leaves that healthy and I thought it was just due to humidity issues, but actually this plant is prone to charcoal rot. I would explain it further on the Problems section of this blog. For the meantime, here are some grow tips.
Soil. The growing medium I used for this plant is a mixture of one-part houseplant potting mix plus half a cup of perlite. I only added a little bit of perlite to aid in drainage but still be able to keep in more water than air because this plant prefers a more moist and humid condition rather than a dry one. I also think that this helps prevent charcoal rot by keeping the plant more on the wet side than dry.
Watering. I drench my plant once a week with boiled water (cooled in room temperature slightly lukewarm) and I spray water on the leaves daily. I do this because the wind in Ireland is dry and it damages the leaves. It develops brown spots and then it cracks. I lost a lot of my lower leaves due to that. I then started to spray daily and it improved. At least no new dry spots. Remember to always make sure the potting mixture is moist and do not let it dry out.
Humidity. According to Plant Rescue, the plant should be kept in moderate to high humidity. Daily misting or spraying would help, or putting it in a terrarium with a lot of moist moss, would also help keep a humidity levels high. Putting the pot on top of pebbles in water is also an option. With my plant, (and I do this to my monstera as well), I put moss on top of the soil as a mulch to help keep it humid. I just spray water on it everyday and make sure it is moist.
Light. Zebra plant loves bright and indirect light specially during growing period (summer- fall). It will also help it flower. During winter, I am planning to keep it in the toilet where it will get lower amount of light but more humidity.
I took a stem cutting and took out the lower leaves. I left it in a clean water and so far, after 4 weeks, it is calloused, but still no signs of roots.
Stem cuttings taken on 07/07.
This picture was taken on 11/07. I forgot to take out the lower leaves but I eventually did after this picture was taken.
I will update this section of any progress.
I, unfortunately had a lot of problems with this plant on its first month and I think, I would have more in the coming seasons. Listed below are the problems I've encountered so far and how I dealt with them.
Brown discoloration and spots. The picture below is one of the leaves affected.
that spot is dry and will crack if pinched. I had it on some of the leaves and I thought it could be due to low humidity levels. I don't have a machine that measures humidity and after getting tropical plants, I am planning to get one.
I have also read on this article from Serbia where the first case of charcoal rot on Zebra plant was studied. According to this article, the disease was caused by Macrophomina phaseolina that causes turgid loss on the stem (the stem is droopy). I have noticed this happened to my plant but I just watered it thoroughly and it bounced back to life which made me think that it was just dehydrated. This might be more likely due to dehydration rather than a charcoal rot.
According to Crop Watch, charcoal rot also happens in corns and are aggravated by hot and dry spells. The leaves turns yellow and then eventually brown and the leaves are still attached to the petioles.
First thing I did was to buy a humidifier (refer to picture below).
It was so small that I think it did not help at all. I think it's position did not help improve the condition as well, as it was positioned near the window sill which gets a lot of direct sun.
I then moved it into the shelf and wiped the leaves with water daily and mist it manually. I also removed the damaged leaves and mulched the soil with moist moss. I also water it thoroughly weekly to prevent dry spells which could promote root rot caused by charcoal rot bacteria.
My plant is a lot livelier now, and with lesser brown spots. It is growing more leaves and is currently blooming. Luckily, it wasn't charcoal rot that cause this (hopefully, I am right) and if it was, the only solution for it is to prevent dry spells.
2. Droopy leaves
I had this problem because I did not have a regular watering schedule. The leaves were soft and so are the petioles. The zebra plant leaves are usually stiff and crisp but what happened to mine was droopy.
I just gave it a good drench and it bounced back to life. I then made sure I have a regular watering schedule and kept the soil moist.
My plant is for thriving and looked better now but is still recovering. I will update this blog with new pictures once the flowers are in full bloom, roots from my propagated cutting and when I encountered a new problem.
I am also open to questions and if you have encountered problems that I haven't, I would love to hear it. Comment on the section below, send me an email or DM me on instagram @greenthumbblog.