Alocasia zebrina: care, propagation & varieties


Having grown up in the countryside, nature and self-sufficiency have always been big part of my life. I live and breathe nature and had the chance to delve even deeper into this interest during my studies in agricultural systems science at university.

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Alocasia zebrina is a large-leafed ornamental plant with exotic striped stems. Here you will find tips on Alocasia zebrina varieties, care, and propagation.

Alocasia zebrina plant indoors
Alocasia zebrina is a decorative foliage plant for the home [Photo: Cathy Php/]

Alocasia zebrina’s exotic striped stems make it truly eye-catching. Here is how you can cultivate this plant, native to Southeast Asia, at home.

Alocasia zebrina: origin, characteristics, and flowering

Alocasia zebrina is one of the most decorative houseplants on the market. Its distinctive, patterned stem and large leaves have earned it the nicknames ‘zebra alocasia’ and ‘elephant ear zebrina’. Actually, Alocasia zebrina belongs to the Alocasia genus, part of the arum family (Araceae). Its leaves grow from the base without a trunk.

The Alocasia zebrina originates from the tropical and subtropical forests of Southeast Asia, particularly those of the Philippines. This evergreen, herbaceous plant can grow up to 1.5 meters tall and forms stalked, deciduous leaves. The leaves are distinctly heart-shaped and grow at the end of a striking stem, which is usually striped green and white. Alocasia zebrina leaves can grow from 10 to 35 centimetres long, providing luscious leaf decoration. Under optimal conditions, Alocasia zebrina develops unisex flowers typical of the Arum genus, consisting of a stem, a bract, and a bulb. Alocasia zebrina cannot fertilise itself. However, if the flowers are fertilised by a second alocasia, a berry will form. You can use the seeds in this berry to propagate your Alocasia zebrina.

The most beautiful varieties of Alocasia zebrina

There is a wide variety of Alocasia zebrina cultivars to choose from. Some are plain, others have eye-catching patterns. Here are some of the most popular Alocasia zebrina varieties:

  • Alocasia zebrina ‘Tiger’: striking, patterned stem; white and dark green stripes that resemble tiger fur; multicoloured, wavy leaves; grow to 1 metre; loose, spreading growth.
  • Alocasia zebrina ‘Variegata’: red-patterned leaf stem; irregular, green-white variegated leaves; grows to 1.5 metres.
  • Alocasia zebrina ‘Reticulata’: plain stem; prominent, heart-shaped leaves; striking light and dark green leaf pattern; grows to 90 centimetres.
Alocasia zebrina leaves and striped stem
Alocasia zebrina is most commonly characterised by a distinctive patterned stem [Photo: PlantiSauer/]

Top tips for cultivating Alocasia zebrina

Partial shade to sunny locations are best for Alocasia zebrina. Avoid direct sunlight, as prolonged exposure can lead to sunburn, particularly during midday. Five hours of sun a day is optimal. Humidity is best for strong leaf development but is not strictly necessary. Be sure to spray your alocasia regularly with lime-free water, like rainwater or mineral water.

In summer, this tropical houseplant grows best in ambient temperatures of 20 to 25°C. Anything below 5°C will cause the plant damage. In the winter months, however, maintain temperatures above 18°C. Bright stairwells and partially heated living rooms are ideal for winter dormancy.

Alocasia zebrina needs permeable soil to avoid waterlogging. Our Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost is a great choice. It provides the plant with essential nutrients and ideal growing conditions. Add a layer of pine bark on top of your main substrate or mix in some acidic rock flour made from basalt or granite for even better results. Your evergreen will grow best in slightly acidic soil.

Initially, a narrow pot, about 21 cm wide, will suffice. However, it is important to transplant your alocasia regularly, increasing the size of the pot each time to match the size of the plant. And while the plant grows, be sure to regularly water and fertilise it. Green plant liquid fertiliser is best. Since alocasia requires a continuous water supply, watering aids like Blumat drippers or clay watering cones are a lifesaver.

Alocasia zebrina: care for the houseplant

Alocasia zebrina is undemanding. The plant’s large leaves gather dust quickly, so be sure to wipe them over with a damp cloth now and again. Your plant may even enjoy a lukewarm shower. This will clean the leaves just like rain would in nature. Alocasia zebrina can drip water over the edges of the leaves in the morning. This is called guttation and is nothing to worry about. Just make sure the ground surrounding the plant is water resistant.

Alocasia zebrina plants in humid environment
Alocasias are used to high humidity and can be sprayed from time to time [Photo: Przemyslaw Zielinski/]

Watering Alocasia zebrina

Because Alocasia zebrina has such large leaves, they tend to sweat. Your plant will need plenty of water, though less in winter, so keep the soil permanently moist, but not too wet. The root ball may dry between watering, but do not let it dry out completely. Simply place your finger into the soil to test if it needs some more water. Alocasia zebrina prefers water that is low in lime: rainwater or mineral water is best, otherwise the soil will become too alkaline. Acidic soil allows the plant to absorb nutrients effectively.

Fertilising Alocasia zebrina

Fertilise your plant weekly with green plant fertiliser. Simply, apply the fertiliser as you water so that the nutrients spread quickly throughout the soil. Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food has additional microorganisms that promote active soil life and strong, healthy leaves.

Liquid Houseplant Food, 800ml
Liquid Houseplant Food, 800ml
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  • Perfect for a wide variety of houseplants & foliage plants
  • Liquid fertiliser for robust plants & healthy growth
  • Quick & easy application - child & pet friendly

Pruning the houseplant

The leaves of Alocasia zebrina usually die during winter dormancy before sprouting again the following year. Cut off any dead or diseased leaves, leaving a stub of about four centimetres. Otherwise, you can leave it be. There is no need to decoratively prune your alocasia. The plant constantly forms new leaves and sheds older ones.

Transplanting Alocasia zebrina

Transplant your Alocasia zebrina every 2 to 3 years, as it outgrows its pot. The best time to do this is before it starts growing in February. To repot your plant: remove it from the old pot, brush off any excess soil, add a layer of expanded clay to the bottom of a larger pot, and place your plant in. Finally, cover your plant with high quality soil (like Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost), and lightly press and water. Watering will encourage root development before the plant moves to its summer location.

Healthy alocasia zebrina leaves and stems
Given the right conditions, Alocasia zebrina forms healthy, green leaves with patterned stems [Photo: tmkruijt/]

Yellow leaves on Alocasia zebrina

The older, outer leaves of Alocasia zebrina turn yellow before they die. During this time, new leaves form. However, if the inner leaves of your plant turn yellow, there is a problem. This could be:

  • Too much water: The soil is too wet, which can lead to root rot and fungal growth. Water your plant less until the soil is drier; improve drainage.
  • Too little water: The soil is too dry and the plant is not getting enough water. Water it more frequently.
  • Nutrient deficiency: If leaves and leaf veins are yellow, the plant is malnourished. Fertilise it with a suitable green plant fertiliser.
  • Soil that is too old: If your plant has been in the same soil for a long time, the soil may be too alkaline (because of excess lime water or depleting trace nutrients). Transplant it into a fresh, nutrient-rich soil.
  • Too much direct light: Direct sunlight, focused through a window, can cause heat damage to the leaves, and they will turn yellow and black. Move your plant further away from the window.

If the stems of your plant are becoming too long, they are stretching for light. This is often accompanied by leaf discolouration. A brighter location will remedy this.

Alocasia offshoot propagation
Alocasias are relatively easy to propagate through vegetative propagation [Photo: Firn/]

Propagating Alocasia zebrina: offshoots, seeds, or cuttings?

Propagate Alocasia zebrina by dividing the mother plant into several cuttings. The best time to do this is in the spring as you transplant it. Simply remove the mother plant from its pot and split it into parts, clearing away any excess soil. Make sure each child has enough roots, before placing them in new containers. Fill the containers with soil, press firmly, water well, and move your cuttings to a bright, warm room. It is important to use the right soil when cultivating cuttings. Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost is a fantastic choice for young plants. It will promote root development, and after a few weeks, new leaves should form.

Is Alocasia zebrina poisonous?

Alocasia zebrina is not poisonous, but its sap is irritating to the skin and mouth. For pets, eating the leaves will cause stomach problems and potential symptoms of poisoning. In its native country, Alocasia zebrina roots are cooked to make them edible.

There are plenty of other ornamental plants to brighten up a room. Here are 10 houseplants with unusual leaves!

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