If you want to give your home a more tropical feel, consider growing and caring for a zebra plant. The zebra plant (technically called aphelandra squarrosa) originates in Brazil. This tropical plant sprouts large, waxy leaves from purple-tinged stems. The leaves are oval-shaped, and are striped with creamy white. The lucky gardener may encourage the plant to bloom, producing bright yellow flowers on a yellow stalk. The zebra plant isn't for the faint of heart; the plant is extremely particular about the amount of water it needs. Too little, and the plant will wilt and drop leaves. Too much, and the plant's roots will deteriorate and rot. Once you determine the appropriate amount of water for your plant, and have it in a prime, light-filled location, it can live for several years, providing lovely, interesting foliage.
This tropical plant likes to stay warm. The plant will do best if the temperature doesn't drop below 65 degrees at any time, including nighttime. The plant also prefers humid conditions. Kitchens and laundry rooms might make good locations for these plants. You can also keep your plant on a tray of damp pebbles to increase the humidity of the area.
The zebra plant prefers bright, indirect light. Do not place your plant in a windowsill or it will burn. If the leaves curl or wrinkle, your plant is getting too much light.
As mentioned previously, the zebra plant is very particular regarding watering. Set your plant up for success in this area by using African violet or peat-based potting soil for your zebra plant. These soils drain well, and will ensure that your plant isn't sitting in drenched soil.
At least once per week, check the soil around your zebra plant. Put your finger in the soil for 1 inch and feel for dryness. The soil around your plant should not dry completely between waterings. The plant likes to stay damp, but not drenched. Apply more water when the soil is beginning to feel dry.
Watch your plant closely to determine whether or not you're providing an adequate supply of water. Watch for drooping or dropped leaves, and adjust the amount of water you're supplying accordingly. Over time, you'll learn the right amount to apply to keep your plant healthy.
During the spring and summer months, add standard houseplant fertilizer to your plant's weekly drink of water. The extra nutrition will help the plant to produce flowers.
After you water your plant, wipe down the leaves to remove any water that has splashed up. Standing water left on the leaves can lead to fungus.
In the spring, take cuttings of the tips of leaves of your plant and grow new plants to give as gifts. Place cut leaves in peat moss-based potting soil. Keep the soil damp, but not wet, and keep the leaves between 70 and 80 degrees. Cover the pots to help them retain moisture and place them in indirect light.
The blooms on your plant may only last a few days, but the stalk they grow on can last for weeks. Remove the stalk when it is wilting and fading.