Native to the tropical forests of eastern Brazil, this tender evergreen shrub is a member of the acanthus family, Acanthaceae, that also includes polka dot plant, Thunbergia, and shrimp plant. The plants grows up to 6′ tall in the wild but more like 2′ in a container as a houseplant. Grown mainly for its foliage, the plant has ovate to elliptic, glossy, dark green leaves that are up to 9″ long and have prominent white veins. The small yellow flowers appear occasionally in late summer to early autumn and have showy yellow bracts that last up to 6 weeks. Zebra plant is very attractive but difficult to maintain because of its narrow range of tolerance to variations in light, soil moisture and humidity. The genus name, Aphelandra, comes from the Greek words apheles meaning simple, and aner meaning male, referring to the fact that the anthers are one-celled. The specific epithet, squarrosa, is the Latin word meaning scabby.

Type: Tender tropical evergreen shrub

Outstanding Feature: Foliage

Form: Erect

Growth Rate: Slow

Bloom: Spikes of yellow-bracted flowers in late summer to early autumn but rarely blooms

Size: 4-6′ H 4-5′ W (c 2′ tall as houseplant)

Light: Bright, indirect to full shade

Soil: Average, consistently moist, well-drained; high humidity

Hardiness: Zones 11-12

Care: Maintain high humidity and temperatures of at least 65 F; water frequently but in small amounts and reduce water slightly in winter; fertilize every 2 weeks n spring and summer

Pests and Diseases: Aphids, scale, white fly, crown rot, leaf spot; very susceptible to too much or too little water.

Propagation: Stem tip cuttings in spring; air layering

Outstanding Selections: ‘Snow White’ (larger portion of leaves is white)

Photo Credit: Fanghong Wikipedia

By Karen