How to Grow & Care for Zebra Plants (Haworthiopsis attenuata)

The Zebra plant (Haworthiopsis attenuata, formerly Haworthia attenuata) is a tough, curiously striped succulent that grows in the shade of shrubby vegetation and rocky outcroppings in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. It is very easy to care for and is non-toxic to people and pets, making it an excellent houseplant for home or office.

It has dark green, sharply pointed leaves that grow upright in a rosette. Stripes of zebra-like, white reflective bumps (tubercles) line the upper and undersides of the leaves, allowing the plants to absorb more available light in their shaded habitat.

They grow 6″ to 12″ high and up to 26″ wide in clumps from offsets and can live for 50 years. I look forward to their small, white, tubular flowers with green veins blooming in the summer on thin, foot-long stalks.

Zebra plants are members of the Asphodel family (Asphodelaceae), along with aloes, daylilies, and red-hot pokers (Kniphofia). The genus Haworthiopsis means “like Haworthia” and was named in honor of the British botanist Adrian Haworth. The species attenuata refers to its tapering leaf tips.

They are often confused with Haworthiopsis fasciata, a very similar-looking plant that only has the stripes of tubercles on the undersides of its leaves.

There are just a few accepted varieties of Haworthiopsis attenuata:

  • H. attenuata var. attenuata – the leaves are evenly covered with white tubercles rather than in a striped pattern.
  • H. attenuata var. glabrata – the leaves are evenly covered in tiny tubercles the same color as the leaves rather than white.
  • H. attenuata var. radula – the leaves are more elongated than the species, with smaller, more numerous tubercles evenly covering the leaves.
  • H. attenuata var. radula ‘Variegata’ – the leaves are variegated with irregular patches of creamy yellow or pink.

Care for Your Zebra Plant

Image Credit: Author/Nancy Maffia

These easy-to-grow plants are perfect for beginning indoor gardeners. If you provide the right kind of light, soil, and water, they will reward you with slow and steady growth, plenty of baby offsets, and pretty blooms when the plants mature.

Light

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The Zebra plant grows in partial shade where it is native, so it will need similar light as a houseplant indoors. It will tolerate low light but does best in bright, indirect light, such as in an east- or north-facing window with morning light.

Direct afternoon sun from a west- or south-facing window can burn your plant or cause its leaves to turn red or yellow. So, if this is the only available exposure, set the plant back a few feet from the window or hang a thin curtain to reduce the light.

Temperature and Humidity

Haworthiopsis likes warm temperatures between 70 and 95 degrees in the summer and cool temperatures down to 50 degrees in the winter, similar to its native habitat in South Africa. It can be damaged in temperatures lower than 45 degrees, however.

The Zebra plant is not affected by low humidity, such as in an average household, and will not need a pebble tray with water, misting, or a humidifier. However, it should have enough air circulation around it to prevent fungal growth.

Soil

Image Credit: Author/Nancy Maffia

The best soil for Zebra plants is coarse, slightly acidic, sandy soil, such as cactus and succulent potting mix, which provides excellent drainage. Adding perlite or pumice to the mix can give it even better drainage.

PRO TIP: The pot you choose must have at least one drainage hole in the bottom to prevent the roots from becoming waterlogged.

Water

Haworthiopsis is a succulent that stores water in its leaves, so it doesn’t require frequent watering. However, it shouldn’t be allowed to remain dry for too long, as this can cause the leaves to wither and droop. Give it a drink when the soil is dry an inch down in the pot.

Let the water run through the pot and out the hole, and allow it to drain completely. It will need more frequent watering when it is growing in the spring and summer and less often in the winter when its growth has slowed down.

Fertilizer

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Zebra plants grow slowly and don’t require much fertilizer. To boost their health, fertilize them twice in the spring and summer with half-strength complete liquid fertilizer or once in the spring with a granular cactus fertilizer.

Pests

Thankfully, Haworthiopsis plants are generally free of pests except for mealybugs. These are fluffy, cottony insects that suck out the plant juices, causing shriveled, distorted leaves.

You can control these pests by picking them off with tweezers or touching them with a cotton swab dipped in a 70% solution of rubbing alcohol, which will kill them. Another effective method is spraying the plant with Neem oil or insecticidal soap per instructions.

Disease

The primary disease of succulents like Haworthiopsis is root rot, which results from overwatering or poor drainage combined with low light. Symptoms of root rot include reduced growth, shriveled leaves, and leaf drop. In a severe case, the lower leaves become water-soaked, and the plant detaches from its roots, causing it to die.

If the root rot is mild, you can cut off the infected, black roots and treat the remaining healthy roots with a fungicide like Neem oil or cinnamon powder. Alternatively, you can soak the healthy roots and soil with a solution of 3% hydrogen peroxide and water in a 1:1 ratio, which will also kill the fungus and bring oxygen to the roots.

NOTE: Don’t let the hydrogen peroxide solution contact the leaves. Soak only the roots and soil.

Propagation

Image Credit: Author/Nancy Maffia

Haworthiopsis plants are very easy to propagate. As they grow, they produce baby offsets that can be detached and potted up separately.

My Zebra plant has produced so many offsets that I have a line of them growing in an east-facing picture window!

  1. Take the plant out of its pot.
  2. Make a clean cut with a knife between the offset and the mother plant.
  3. Plant the offset in a separate pot in excellent-draining cactus soil.
  4. Water it and set it in a warm location with bright indirect light.
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Davin is a jack-of-all-trades but has professional training and experience in various home and garden subjects. He leans on other experts when needed and edits and fact-checks all articles.