Home Plant guides How to care for an Alocasia Zebrina

"How to care for a Alocasia Zebrina"

How to care for an Alocasia Zebrina

The Alocasia Zebrina is a beautiful tropical plant. Its large leaves really stand out, but also its zebra-like stems are beautiful. It's not the easiest plant to take care of though and it will drop some leaves, but this is nothing to worry about. If you take good care of this plant, it'll only drop its old leaves to make space for large new leaves.

In this guide, we'll go over these topics:

  1. Humidity and watering
  2. Sunlight needs
  3. Soil
  4. Fertilizer
  5. Pot size
  6. Poisonous
  7. Plant size
  8. Character traits
  9. Other Alocasias with similar care

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Humidity and watering

Back to top This plant needs a humid environment because it's a tropical plant. If it gets too dry, it'll be vulnerable to diseases. Luckily, there is a very simple method of keeping this plant humid enough: mist it occasionally. It doesn't matter if you do this in the morning or evening, just make sure you do this at least once per week. I personally do this every single day and so far the plant seems to like this because it looks healthy and is growing new leaves.

When do I water it?

The fact that this plant likes a humid climate doesn't mean it likes to be watered a lot. In fact, it's better to underwater this plant. Its thick stems contain a lot of moisture, so it won't need to be watered a lot. This also means, when it's in dire need of some water, it will let you know. The stems and leaves will start to hang down when they don't get enough water. This is when you water it plentifully.

How do I water it?

A simple trick I use when watering this plant is to water it until water starts to drip out of the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot. If you don't have a pot with a drainage hole, simply use a plastic pot to hold the plant and put this plastic pot inside of the “permanent” pot. This last way is exactly how I do it. I received this plant as a gift and it came with a pot that didn't have a drainage hole. So I just kept the plant in its plastic container and put this container in the pot. So now every time I water the plant, I raise the plastic pot and water the plant until it starts to drip out of the bottom. Then I let it sit for about 5 minutes (or until it no longer drips) and put it back into the pot without a drainage hole. This way, the excess water won't stay in the pot.

If this is also not an option for you, simply water it more often, but only very small quantities. The goal is to keep the soil slightly damp, but not so much that any water accumulates in the bottom of the pot.

Lift the pot to check its weight

For a lot of plants, you can simply touch the soil and if it feels dry, you can water it. This is not the case for this plant. This Alocasia is very sensitive to water. The best way to determine if it needs a drink (besides the drooping stems), is to lift the pot and if it feels light, water it. This could take some practice. So when you see your plant drooping, don't water it immediately, but lift it up first. Now you will be able to tell what its “dry” weight is for the next time.

Alocasia Zebrina in the sun

Sunlight needs

Back to top This plant needs a lot of sunlight. I have it in a room with a south-facing window, so it gets a lot of sun during the day. Don't put it right next to the window though, this will burn its beautiful, big leaves. If your plant gets slightly yellow leaves, you know the sun was too much for the plant and you'll need to move it to a slightly more shady spot. If you don't have a room with a south-facing window, that's no problem! You can also place it next to the window in a west or east facing window. These rooms won't get as much sun, but by placing the plant right next to the window, it'll still be enough throughout the day.

Rotate the plant

This plant craves sunlight, even to such an extent that if you don't give it enough of this, it'll start to grow its stems longer and longer just to find the spot with the most sunlight. This means that this plant will grow towards the sun. If you don't pay enough attention to this, the plant will grow to one side, instead of up. A simple solution to prevent this “reaching” is to rotate this plant 90 degrees (a quarter) after every time you water it. If your plant is not reaching for the sun, you don't have to do anything, your plant is content with its place.


Back to top The soil choice is very important when keeping plants. You need to look at the specific needs for each plant. As mentioned earlier in this guide, this plant should be underwatered rather than overwatered, because overwatering could kill it. A way to make sure that the chances of overwatering are reduced is by using very well-draining soil. This will make sure all excess water is drained out of the pot and only the minimum required water stays behind. As this plant is very sensitive to overwatering, this is perfect. It will only be able to absorb a minimal amount of water and its roots won't be at risk of rotting as easily.


Back to top The Alocasia Zebrina grows really quickly in its growing period from spring until the early autumn. During this time, you should fertilize the plant every two weeks to give it the energy it needs to keep growing so quickly. Always make sure you flush the remnants of the fertilizer out every few months. You can do this by watering the plant thoroughly and letting the water drain through the bottom of the pot. This will keep the soil a habitable place for your plant.

Pot size

Back to top The Alocasia Zebrina loves to be root bound in a small pot. So don't repot this plant in a larger pot too quickly. It's very happy to be in a small pot. When you eventually do have to move this plant to a bigger pot, make sure to do this in small increments. You want the Alocasia to settle in a slightly bigger pot quickly to keep it happy. When you see the roots start to come out of the bottom of the pot, you know your Zebrina is a happy plant.


Back to top The Alocasia Zebrina is poisonous when ingested and the sap from its stem can cause irritation to your skin. So it's best to keep this plant out of reach from small children and pets. This way you can enjoy this plant to the fullest and it will look the most beautiful in the long run.

The size of an Alocasia Zebrina

Back to top Alocasia Zebrinas can range quite a bit in size, from small plants grown from bulbs to large mature plants that are as tall as 3 feet. Other plants in the Alocasia family can get much bigger, but the Alocasia Zebrina stays small enough to be the perfect houseplant.

Alocasia Zebrina Character traits

Back to top Every plant has its own character traits, like growing flowers. The Alocasia Zebrina also has a few character traits that look worse than they actually are. This section is to help you understand why your plant does what it does and why you shouldn't blame yourself for things your plant naturally does.

Dropping leaves

When an Alocasia Zebrina is growing, it will put out quite a few leaves in a short period of time. Until a certain point, this has no effect on the plant at all. Once your plant has about 5 leaves, it'll start to drop the weakest leaves in a spectacular way. The image below is what this looks like.

Dropped Alocasia Zebrina leaf

The plant cuts off the nutrients to the weakest leaves to preserve them for new growth. The plant can only sustain 4-5 leaves at once and when new leaves are being grown, the old and weak ones will die. There is nothing wrong with this, this is how the plant naturally behaves. There is no way to save the leaf and you should see it as a good sign that there are new leaves on the way.

Sweating leaves

When you take care of your Alocasia Zebrina, you might have seen water drops on the leaves before. These appear when your plant is a little overwatered and it's trying to "sweat" the excess water off by letting it escape from tiny pores in the leaves. This is no reason for concern, the plant is fine. However, it's good to keep in mind for watering next time.

Other Alocasias with similar care

Back to top

There are several other Alocasias that require similar care to the Alocasia Zebrina. So if you have one of the following Alocasia plants, you can use this guide to take care of your Alocasia as well.

Alocasia Stingray

Alocasia Stingray

The Alocasia Stringray looks a little bit like the Alocasia Zebrina. In fact the stems store moisture just like the Alocasia Zebrina.

Alocasia Cucullata

Alocasia Cucullata

The Alocasia Cucullata looks different than the other Alocasias, but it still has the big stems that store all that moisture. That's why it can go quite a while without being watered.

Thank you for reading this post! I hope it helps you to keep your plants healthy and beautiful! If you're looking for more guides on specific plants, you can always request a plant guide or donate a plant in order to get a guide for the plant you have trouble with.

Tags: alocasia

Posted on: May 4th, 2019 Last updated on: October 18th, 2020

Other common names for this plant

  • Alocasia Elephant Ear
  • Alocasia Reticulata Zebrina
  • Alocasia Zebrina Tiger
  • Alocasia Leopard
  • Zebra Alocasia

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