Caring for and Growing Alocasia Zebrina Plants

Need a tropical stunner to bring a piece of the jungle inside your home? Meet the Alocasia zebrina, a Southeast Asian native first discovered in the Philippines.

This unique beauty comes from the Araceae family, perennial plants distinguished by broad leaves. But unlike its cousins, the zebrina is prized for its patterned stems rather than its foliage.

But we must warn you—it’s not the easiest Alocasia to care for. Aside from filtered light, it needs consistently moist soil, lots of humidity, and regular feeding.

You can divide the underground bulb or separate the baby plants every two years to grow more zebrina plants.

So, if you’re ready to test your green thumb, here’s the ultimate care guide for the Alocasia zebrina.

What Are Alocasia Zebrina Plants?

Alocasias are species of tropical plants from the Araceae family, but the Alocasia zebrina stands out in the crowd.

Its name hints at its show-stopping feature: those striking zebra-like stripes on its pale green stalks called petioles. These streaks are dark green, like the leaves.

Speaking of names, Alocasia zebrina goes by a few monikers like tiger taro, tiger plant, and zebrina elephant ears. While we generally call them elephant ears, their leaves are more like arrowheads than the classic ear shape.

The zebrina is a gorgeous indoor plant if you want a statement piece in your living room or wherever you decide to show it off. It can grow around 2–3 feet tall in a pot and spread out for 1–2 feet.

Quick Summary of Alocasia Zebrina Plants

  • Scientific Name: Alocasia zebrina
  • Common Name: Zebrina elephant ear, zebra plant, or tiger taro
  • Light: Bright, indirect light
  • Watering: Top 1–2 inches of the potting soil to dry out between waterings
  • Temperature: 65–85°F
  • Hardiness: USDA zones 10–11
  • Soil PH: 5.5–7
  • Soil Type: Consistently moist, well-draining soil
  • Repotting: Every 1–2 years
  • Pruning: Prune dead or diseased leaves
  • Size: 2–3 feet indoors, with a spread of 1–2 feet
  • Bloom Time: Late spring to early summer outdoors, rarely indoors
  • Propagation: Division or by planting offsets from the parent plant

How to Care for Alocasia Zebrina Plants

The Alocasia zebrina is a finicky houseplant compared to other alocasias. It thrives in moist, well-draining soil and a warm, humid environment. It needs a bright spot away from direct sunlight, as too much sun can scorch its leaves.

Here’s how to help your Alocasia zebrina adjust to a life as an indoor plant:

Provide Sunlight

Your zebrina plant loves soaking up bright, indirect sunlight for a few hours daily. If you’ve got a north- or east-facing window, plop your plant right in front of it for maximum light.

Meanwhile, keep your houseplant several feet away from south- and west-facing windows to avoid direct sun rays. Or, use a sheer curtain to diffuse the light. 

Rotate your plant regularly to ensure all its leaves receive equal sunshine. Direct sunlight can be harsh, burning the leaves to a crisp. Early signs of sun damage include curling, yellowing, and brown splotches.

Mix Soil

Alocasia zebrina loves rich soil but hates wet feet. So, choose a nutrient-dense potting soil that drains well. You want the soil to be loose and airy, so water flows through easily and doesn’t sit around.

Here’s a winning recipe: mix equal parts of houseplant potting mix, perlite or pumice, and coco peat. An ideal indoor potting mix is slightly acidic and has all the nutrients your zebrina plant needs.

Add Water

Aim for consistently moist soil, but not soggy. Rather than following a fixed watering schedule, it’s best to check the soil moisture regularly and water by how the soil feels. To do this, stick your finger into the soil up to the first knuckle.

If the top inch is dry, give your Alocasia zebrina a thorough watering. Then, allow the excess to run off to avoid waterlogging.

Control Temperature

This tropical beauty prefers temperatures above 65°F and humid conditions. If you can maintain this climate, it can thrive in your home without going dormant.

Outdoors, you can grow zebrina plants year-round in USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11.

Provide Fertilizer

During spring and summer, feed your zebrina plant with a balanced houseplant fertilizer every two weeks for that extra growth spurt. Follow package instructions for the correct application and the right dosage.

Hold off on fertilizer during winter when your indoor plant takes a break from growing, as per Iowa State University. This downtime allows your plant to rest and prep for the next burst of growth in the warmer months.

How to Grow for Alocasia Zebrina Plants

Here’s how to grow an Alocasia zebrina from a seedling:

  1. Mix equal parts peat moss, coco coir, and perlite. Add a small amount of compost to enrich the potting soil.
  2. Fill a small pot with the prepared mix, leaving some space at the top.
  3. Use a water spray to moisten the mix in the pot. Ensure it’s evenly damp but not soaking wet.
  4. Bury your seedling just slightly below the surface of the soil.
  5. Feed your new plant on the third watering.

How to Repot for Alocasia Zebrina Plants

You need to repot your Alocasia zebrina every 1–2 years or when they outgrow their current pot. The best time to repot this is during spring or early summer when it’s actively growing.

Follow these steps:

  1. Choose a slightly larger pot with drainage holes to prevent waterlogging.
  2. Prepare a well-draining potting soil, like a mix of peat moss, perlite, coco coir, and compost.
  3. Water the plant a day before repotting to make the soil easier to work with.
  4. Gently remove the plant from its current pot.
  5. Inspect the roots and trim any dead or rotting parts.
  6. Place a layer of fresh potting mix at the bottom of the new pot.
  7. Position the plant in the center of the new pot and fill in with more potting mix around the roots.
  8. Water the plant deeply after repotting.

How to Care for Alocasia Zebrina Plants in All Seasons

During spring, treat your zebra plant to some fertilizer every two weeks. If it’s root-bound, replant it in a slightly bigger pot to give its roots more room.

Increase watering in the summer and continue feeding your zebrina. Check the soil more frequently to ensure it doesn’t dry out for too long.

When winter comes, water your plant less and skip the fertilizer. If sunlight is scarce, supplement with a grow light to keep it happy and perky.

How to Propagate Alocasia Zebrina Plants

Here’s how to propagate plants from your mature Alocasia zebrina:

  1. Division (Easy)

Your zebrina plant will sprout new baby plants (offsets) from its corms. The University of Arkansas stresses that corms aren’t bulbs, although both are modified stems and underground storage units.

Once the offsets are 4 inches tall and have stable roots, you can separate them to grow more plants. Snip off the offset with the roots and foliage intact. Plant it in fresh potting soil and shower it with the usual care.

  1. Corm Propagation (Moderate)

When it’s time to repot your zebrina plant, keep an eye out for tiny brown corms attached to the roots.

Collect the mini-corms and let them soak in slightly damp sphagnum moss until they grow inch-long roots. Pot them in fresh houseplant mix and keep the soil consistently moist. Place the pots in a bright area and feed them every third watering.

What Family Do Alocasia Zebrina Plants Belong To?

Alocasia zebrina belongs to the Araceae types, a huge family of broad-leaved perennials with leaf-like flowers.

However, don’t expect to see these special flowers called spadix on your zebra plant because they rarely bloom indoors.

How Long Do Alocasia Zebrina Plants Live For?

You can enjoy the company of your Alocasia zebrina for over a decade. And with proper care and regular repotting, your zebra plant can practically live forever.

That said, pests and diseases can significantly affect your plant’s longevity.

What Are Common Pest and Plant Diseases for Alocasia Zebrina Plants?

Watch out for critters like thrips, fungus gnats, spider mites, and mealy bugs. Another thing to keep an eye on is root rot, which can happen with overwatering and poor drainage.

Here’s how to spot root rot according to the Wisconsin Horticulture:

  • Wilted leaves
  • Yellowing leaves
  • Brown, mushy, and foul-smelling roots

How to Tell If the Alocasia Zebrina Plant Is Not Growing

Here are some clues that your Alocasia zebrina has hit a growth pause:

  • No new leaves or stems for a while
  • Unusually small and ill-looking plant
  • Dull and pale leaves
  • Spindly stems

Are Alocasia Zebrina Plants Poisonous?

As pretty as they are, Alocasia zebrina is poisonous to pets and humans. Every part of the plant contains sharp, needle-like, insoluble calcium oxalate crystals.

These super tiny shards can poke the soft tissues of the mouth, throat, and gastrointestinal tract, causing swelling and intense pain.

Watch out for signs of toxicity, including pawing at the face, drooling, vomiting, and decreased appetite. Get your pet to the vet right away if any symptoms occur.

So, place your plant where curious little hands or paws can’t reach.

How to Help Alocasia Zebrina Plant to Grow

Your Alocasia zebrina will cue you in if it’s dying. One early sign to look for is drooping leaves. This problem can signal anything from improper watering to pests.

Start by checking the soil—it should be loose and well-draining. If it’s soggy, reduce watering; if it’s dry, give it a good drink.

Next, ensure your houseplant gets the right amount of sunlight and humidity. Then, inspect the leaves and stems for pests and diseases.

And remember to trim off any yellowing or damaged leaves to make room for fresh growth. With proper care, your zebrina will bounce back to its gorgeous self in no time!