The Aphelandra squarrosa, or zebra plant, is a popular indoor houseplant thanks to its large green leaves and astonishing white veiny patterns. Moreover, it’s prized for its long-lasting golden blooms that you can hardly see on other indoor plants.
This beautiful plant can grow to be between one to six feet tall, but in the wrong conditions, it might not look that healthy.
So, why is your zebra plant leggy? How can you fix a leggy plant?
Luckily, you’ve found this article, as we’ll answer all your questions regarding keeping your zebra plant in perfect health. So, let’s dive in.
Some plants are less picky and more forgiving than others. This means that they can tolerate the mistakes of rookie gardeners, as they won’t immediately die if you don’t provide them with optimal care.
The zebra plant is one of them, as it only needs to be kept in humid and warm conditions. It prefers filtered light, so it can be an excellent indoor plant.
But as a novice gardener, you might not be familiar with some of the terms that more experienced gardeners use to refer to plants’ conditions and statuses.
So, what is a leggy plant?
This is a common term that refers to a plant that is growing long stems and few leaves. In the case of a zebra plant, you’ll notice that the stems are growing above average, but your plant isn’t producing new foliage.
Moreover, the new leaves growing on your plant might appear smaller than usual.
Healthy zebra plants are usually between one and five feet wide in their natural habitat. Naturally, your indoor plant won’t be as wide.
But your zebra plant will have an unnatural thin look when it becomes leggy. You can definitely tell that there’s something wrong with your plant and that it looks unhealthy.
The leaves on the plant look unhealthy, and you won’t see new growth. When it’s time for blooming, your zebra plant might not grow its beautiful blooms.
Your zebra plant gets its common name from the beautiful patterns that mimic the markings on the zebra’s body.
This gorgeous plant can suffer from legginess when it’s stressed and its care needs aren’t adequately met.
Luckily, having a leggy zebra plant doesn’t mean your plant is doomed. Legginess is a severe issue that should be adequately addressed, but it doesn’t mean your plant can’t be saved.
So, if you see that your zebra plant has become leggy, this doesn’t mean that it will die right away.
Zebra plants become leggy when they don’t receive enough light.
The plant will try to adapt by growing long stems to reach more light. It will also experience stunted growth, so you might notice few leaves appearing on the long stems or no new leaves at all.
Plants need access to the sun to perform photosynthesis. Without enough light, the plant won’t be able to produce enough food to support itself.
As a result, it won’t produce new foliage, trying to preserve the leaves it already has. Moreover, it will become more vulnerable, so it will be prone to pest infestations and diseases.
In its natural habitat, the zebra plant is shaded by taller bushes and trees. So, it grows longer stems, trying to outgrow them to reach more light.
It will do the same in your house.
You might also notice the plant tilting or twisting toward the light source.
Legginess is usually caused by inadequate light exposure. Yet, in some cases, it can result from a lack of pruning.
The zebra plant goes through an annual growth cycle.
In general, it doesn’t need excessive pruning, but you can trim off the spent flowers and dying leaves to preserve the plant’s energy.
This will allow the plant to grow new stems instead of growing leaves on the already old and tall stems.
Your leggy zebra plant won’t die immediately.
Legginess means your plant is trying to cope with its inadequate growing conditions.
However, if you neglect the problem for too long, your plant will eventually collapse and die.
A leggy plant isn’t healthy because it doesn’t have enough leaves to perform photosynthesis.
With less food available for your plant, it will be more prone to infestations and diseases because it’s stressed.
Moreover, the tall stems can be too weak. After a while, they will bend and break.
Keeping the plant in the same spot where it doesn’t receive enough light will eventually kill it.
Preventing a zebra plant from becoming leggy is relatively easy. As a matter of fact, there are a few things to do to stop leggy growth and encourage your plant to grow more leaves.
- Move your zebra plant to a new location where it can receive more light.
- Make sure you make a gradual move because suddenly transitioning from low to bright light can cause a shock.
- Avoid putting your zebra plant somewhere where it’s constantly exposed to bright direct sunlight. Too much light can scorch the leaves of your plant.
- Prune the leggy stems and sick leaves. This will preserve the plant’s energy to produce new and healthy foliage.
- Trim the new growth on the tall stems. This will encourage the plant to grow wider and fuller instead of taller.
- Water your plant adequately to help it recover.
Pruning and trimming a leggy zebra plant will get rid of the tall stems that don’t provide your plant with energy. This will encourage your plant to grow more leaves to help it stay healthy.
Trimming your plant will also improve its appearance, so your zebra plant will eliminate any unhealthy foliage or sick-looking stems.
Here’s how to trim your zebra plant to eliminate the legginess.
- It’s best to trim your plant in the spring or summertime. During this period, the plant will be able to produce enough food to recover and produce healthy foliage.
- Examine your plant carefully to determine where you want to prune it. This is where the new growth will start appearing.
- Use a pair of clean, sterilized scissors to trim your plant.
- Pinch back the new growth at the top of tall stems because the leaves are usually small and unhealthy.
- Remove all the sick leaves and spent flowers. Pruning will encourage more blooming in the fall.
- Feed the zebra plant every week or two to encourage healthy growth and regular blooming.
A zebra plant can become leggy due to a lack of sunlight exposure.
A leggy plant grows taller stems to reach out for more light and experiences slow or no foliage growth. As a result, it becomes unhealthy and loses its attractive look.
When your zebra plant becomes leggy, it won’t immediately die. But if you ignore the problem, it will lose its ability to produce food and will eventually collapse.
So, you should move your plant to a sunny location where it can receive more light and trim the leggy stems. This will help your plant restore its healthy look.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.