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Zebra Plant (Aphelandra squarrosa)

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by Cricket on November 28, 2005 08:32 AM
Last autumn I rescued a pathetic Zebra plant (Aphelandra squarrosa) from the horrible fate of being left to die from neglect on a clearance table in the cold pouring rain. [Frown] The single fading yellow flower stalk valiantly perched atop a stalk that had only a few bedraggled leaves miserably clinging to it tugged at my heart strings and I just had to bring it home......

All right, enough sentimental nonsense, the TRUE reason I rescued the Zebra is that I can't resist a challenge, never mind a plant marked down by 80%! [Smile] More than half expecting the plant to soon feed the compost heap and disliking leaving behind evidence of my mistakes (I'm such a perfectionist [Roll Eyes] ), I didn't bother photographing it at the time. Now I'm kicking myself for that pessimistic judgment error.... [Razz]

At the time not knowing to give newly acquired plants at least a couple months to acclimate to their new environment, I immediately repotted it from its hideously ugly 4" plastic grow pot into a 5" one more my liking, placed it in a large south-facing window (I'd like to say "sunny" but remember, this is the Pacific Northwest in autumn - where people venture out into the mists and are never heard from again....but I digress) with additional light from large windows of eastern and western exposures. From my research into Zebras, I knew they prefer moist soil - again, like that's a problem 6 months of the year here - can you tell I'm already itching for the first rays of spring sunshine? Well, imagine my delight when shortly after the flower completed its life cycle another bud appeared! Of course, given the sorry state of the plant, I expected the new flower to be its swansong, a last hurrah before hitting the compost pile. But the bud was soon followed by new leaves, then more until it began to look like a real plant again.

Fast forward to early summer. Restored to health, the Zebra suddenly began dropping its striking shiny bottom leaves, first one, then more rapidly until it was losing at least 2 or more leaves every week which was a bit perplexing because other than the leaf drop the plant appeared healthy and new growth rapidly replaced the leaf loss. Still, with its smooth stalk bare at the bottom, the plant was starting to resemble a miniature tree instead of a bush.

July 25:

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By July, the Zebra had grown at least double its size from the fall and with warm summer temperatures I was watering the plant nearly every day. It finally occurred that perhaps once a day wasn't enough and I started monitoring the soil more frequently. The soil dried out so quickly that the plant needed watering 2, sometimes 3 times a day when temperatures were really hot. That's when I learned Zebras are NOT forgiving about watering lapses. So near the end of July, I repotted the plant from a 5" pot to a 6". The extra soil was enough so that it only required watering every 2-3 days and the leaf drop abruptly stopped as quickly as it had begun and new growth continues to make up for the sparse bottom.

November 6:
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The growth habit Zebras is such that initially it is difficult to distinguish between buds and new leaves which start off in a tight, squarish yellow cluster, turning green as they unfold, but at the beginning of November I dared to think that the latest new growth might be a bud.

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Three weeks later, the Zebra is in bloom and like any proud parent, I'm showing off my "baby" pictures. [Embarrassed] (More pics in post below)
by Cricket on November 28, 2005 08:36 AM
November 17:

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November 26:

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Cricket
by njoynit on November 29, 2005 12:57 AM
Thats awesome.I had one of those once and it did great.but they don't like chills below 40 much& I had forgot I set it out that day.

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I will age ungracefully until I become an old woman in a small garden..doing whatever the Hell I want!

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by Myrna on December 02, 2005 03:12 AM
I am just starting out with plants, and this one is beautiful. Is it hard to take care of? SHould a novice try this one? I am totally taken in by this plant

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Myrna R

life is like a box chocolates you never know what you are going to get (unless you pop the bottoms in first!)
by Myrna on December 02, 2005 11:07 PM
Thank you Cricket,
Seeing how I am just starting I will learn on the more tolerate plants and than work my way up. The Zebra plant will be my reward for maintaining my current plant collection at home and at work.

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Myrna R

life is like a box chocolates you never know what you are going to get (unless you pop the bottoms in first!)
by tkhooper on December 04, 2005 12:39 AM
I've never seen a zebra that big or in bloom. I want one but although I'm doing well with the easy care I'm still not sure I want to try it. But it sure is pretty.

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by comfrey on December 04, 2005 04:02 PM
Wow Cricket, That is a great story and a beautiful plant. I'm not even going to wish for one, A Zebra would not like me, I am very bad at watering, or I should say not watering. Great pictures!!!!

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by Myrna on December 09, 2005 09:11 AM
That is so beautiful. One day I will be brave and buy one. [grin] thank you for the thread on it's care, and thanks for sharing the pics [clappy]

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Myrna R

life is like a box chocolates you never know what you are going to get (unless you pop the bottoms in first!)
by lilliebell on May 09, 2006 02:39 PM
wow i have been looking for information on a zebra plant because i just received one as a gift and i didn't know how to care for it. now i know how to thanks so much for the help.
by lilliebell on May 09, 2006 02:45 PM
oh i forgot to ask something, am i s'posed to use distilled water to water my plant because i heard that tap water isn't good for any houseplants especially zebras as it makes their tips shrivel up and fall off. and please could you tell me how you got your plant to flower, mine is just sitting there.
by joclyn on May 10, 2006 02:47 PM
tap water should be just fine for most plants. just let it sit over night so that the chlorine in it dissapates.
by TomR on May 14, 2006 03:56 AM
I just got MY first Zebra as well as a birthday gift. I also got a Nerve plant. Never had either before!

Tom

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My memory's not as sharp as it used to be. Also, my memory's not as sharp as it used to be.
by cinta on May 14, 2006 05:25 PM
Well Tom you will be very pleased with your new Zebra plant. I use it in an arrangement on my front patio and everyone loves it.

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If you want the rainbow you have to put up with the rain!!
by Bill on January 11, 2013 07:02 AM

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