Growing a zebra plant is a great way to add a unique aesthetic to your house or garden. While they’re a famous breed, they don’t come without risks.
Like any other plant, zebras require a specific environment to grow healthy. If any of the growing requirements aren’t met, they’ll be susceptible to different problems and diseases.
In this article, we’ll show the problems and diseases your plant will face if you don’t provide the ideal growing environment, as well as how to fix these problems.
Zebra plants are expressive. They’ll make it loud and clear when they’re not satisfied with the environment they’re growing in.
In most cases, they express their frustration through discoloration. So, if you notice your plant’s leaves turning brown/yellow, you’re doing something wrong.
It’s difficult to determine when it’s time to water a zebra plant, as it doesn’t have a watering schedule.
That’s why overwatering and underwatering are the most common causes of discoloration.
Under-watering your zebra means the water doesn’t reach the roots of your plant, leaving them dehydrated.
A dry root doesn’t transfer the necessary nutrients to the leaves, causing them to turn brown/yellow. Gradually, the leaves start drooping and, eventually, fall.
On the other hand, over-watering your plant causes root rot. As the dead roots stop absorbing water and nutrients, they stop transferring them to the leaves.
Over-watering is easily treatable by repotting the plant in fresh soil, while under-watering is treated by watering the soil until it’s completely soaked.
Zebra plants don’t like direct sunlight. It’s not that it kills them or anything. They can tolerate it, but only for a limited amount of time.
Exposing your plant to direct sunlight for too long will cause transpiration, which forces the water inside the leaves to evaporate into the air.
On top of that, it’ll burn the plant’s leaves, depriving you of its unique aesthetic value.
Whether you’re growing it indoors or outdoors, plant your zebra somewhere with indirect sunlight and a bit of shade.
Just because they don’t tolerate direct sunlight doesn’t mean you should grow your zebra plants in a low-temperature environment.
Low temperatures will damage the plant’s leaves, while high temperatures will absorb the moisture out of them.
Ideally, you want to grow them in a warm environment, at a temperature ranging between 60-80℉.
As a tropical plant, low humidity is a killer to zebra plants. This makes growing them indoors harder, as they’re susceptible to heaters and air vents.
Not only will low humidity cause the leaves to discolor, but it can also stop your plant’s growth altogether.
Make sure the humidity levels are between 60-70% and mist the leaves of your plant once a week.
Fertilizing is a crucial step in growing a healthy zebra plant. That said, you have to provide your plant with a balanced diet.
If you’re new to the planting game, you might be inclined to over-fertilize your plant, thinking it’ll help it grow better.
However, over-fertilizing your plant causes a fertilizer burn, which turns its leaves yellow from overnutrition.
Keep in mind that fertilizers are salts. When you over-fertilize your plant, the salt builds up on the soil, reducing its absorption abilities.
So, your plant doesn’t receive the necessary water and nutrients to grow properly. You don’t want to under-fertilize it either, as that’ll stunt the plant’s growth.
Give your plant a good flush to get rid of any traces of built-up salt, and let it rest for a month before fertilizing it again.
As you provide your plant with the necessary nutrients, it eventually outgrows the pot you plant it in.
While it’s a natural part of the growth process, we don’t recommend keeping your plant in a pot that doesn’t fit it.
As the roots gradually grow, they overtake the inside of the pot, giving the soil less space to hold water and nutrients.
Moreover, as the roots are confined within a small space, the plant doesn’t get much room to breathe. Eventually, the roots don’t receive enough oxygen or nutrients and die.
The most effective solution to save rootbound plants is repotting them.
Unfortunately, zebra plants attract a lot of pests: spider mites and mealybugs to be specific.
Pests like to target zebra plants because they store a lot of sap and moisture. As they suck on the plant’s leaves, it gradually dehydrates and turns yellow.
You can resist pests by using a pesticide or an insecticidal soap.
The soil is probably the most influential factor in growing a healthy plant.
If your soil doesn’t drain water well, it’ll hold it for too long, causing root rot.
On the other hand, draining water too quickly will leave your plant dehydrated. Your soil needs to drain and retain water in a balanced way.
Additionally, zebra plants thrive in acidic soils, with pH levels between 5.5-6.5. If the soil’s acidity fluctuates above or below this range, they’ll stop absorbing nutrients and die from malnutrition.
Use soil that strikes a good balance between draining excess water and retaining enough moisture to keep the plant hydrated, like the African Violet potting mix.
Because they hold a lot of moisture, zebra plants are attractive targets for fungal infections. Each infection has different symptoms, effects, and treatments.
Let’s see what kind of diseases your plant can get.
Botrytis Cinerea is a fungal disease that becomes more dangerous over time.
You can tell a zebra plant has botrytis cinerea when you notice the fungal infection on the leaves’ edges.
The colored spots start appearing off-white, but gradually turn brown. That’s when it becomes hard to distinguish botrytis cinerea from other fungal infections.
Gradually, the mold will weaken your plant and eventually kill it.
Pruning your plant is the best countermeasure against botrytis cinerea, as it gives more room for healthy airflow.
Powdery mildews is a fungal disease that appears as a layer of white powder on the leaves and stems of zebra plants.
What makes this fungal infection a bad matchup for zebra plants is that it thrives in similar environmental conditions.
You’ll notice that it spreads in warm weather and high humidity. It absorbs your plant’s energy, leaving it more susceptible to diseases.
Give your plant more room for airflow, and use quick-release fertilizers moderately.
Phytophthora rot is a disease that targets the stem and root of the plant. Once it’s done with the root, it’ll move up to the foliage.
Once it targets the leaves of your plant, they start drooping and discoloring.
Because it targets the root, Phytophthora rot hinders your plant’s ability to absorb water and nutrients. Combine that with the weakened leaves, and your plant won’t last long.
Water your plant regularly and avoid standing water in your soil.
As the name suggests, this disease targets zebra plants’ roots.
If you take a zebra plant with pythium root rot out of the pot, you won’t be surprised to see that the roots have turned brown or black. The color depends on how long they’ve been infested.
As the roots die, your plant loses its ability to absorb water and nutrients. Eventually, it’ll die from malnourishment.
You can treat pythium root rot by growing your plant in well-draining soil and following a proper watering regime.
So, now you know what types of problems and diseases your zebra plant will face while it’s growing.
It’s not hard to tell if there’s something wrong with your plant because the leaves turn yellow if it’s not receiving proper nutrients.
Whether it’s the soil, your watering routine, or a fungal disease, you can fix most of the plant’s problems by providing a proper growing environment.
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.