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Blooming Plant
of the month


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Aphelandra squarrosa
(af-el-AN-druh skwah-RO-sa)

Zebra plant

Aphelandras are compact plants that grow up to 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide. They have white-veined, glossy green foliage and flower spikes at the stem ends.

The colors of Aphelandras’ flowers vary depending on the species. The most popular species, A. squarrosa, has yellow or golden flowers. There are also species with orange-scarlet, scarlet and pink flowers.

Aphelandras will begin flowering when the plants are only a few months old. They typically bloom from late summer through fall. With proper care, the plants will bloom continuously for several months.

Aphelandras are available year-round.

LIGHT Bright, indirect light is best for Aphelandras that are displayed indoors.
WATER Keep the compost moist at all times with soft, tepid water, but do not allow it to become waterlogged. Water in the early part of the day. Avoid standing water on the foliage. Reduce watering in winter.
TEMPERATURE Aphelandras are sensitive to low temperatures. The plants will do best if nighttime temperatures are maintained at 65 F to 75 F and daytime temperatures average
75 F.
HUMIDITY Aphelandras need moderate to high humidity. Mist the leaves frequently.
FERTILIZER Fertilized plants are more tolerant of insect attacks. Be sure plants are watered well before applying fertilizer.
SOIL These plants thrive in a potting mixture that has equal parts of loam, peat moss and sand.
GROOMING Do not pinch off the tips of the shoots. The idea is to produce one stem with one large spike of flowers. Cut these plants back when they have finished flowering to remove straggly branches and faded blossoms. Trimming also will stimulate new, healthy growth.
TOXICITY These plants can be toxic if eaten. Keep them out of the reach of children or pets. Handling them may cause skin irritation or allergic reactions.

ETHYLENE SENSITIVITY Aphelandras are sensitive to ethylene gas. Check with your supplier to make sure your plants have been treated with an ethylene inhibitor at the grower or transportation level.
BROWN LEAF TIPS Low air humidity is usually the cause.
LOSS OF LEAVES This may be caused by dryness at the roots, cold air, too much sun or drafts.
PESTS Check the plants frequently for aphids, spider mites and whiteflies. Control them with insecticidal soap.

WHAT’S IN A NAME The genus name “Aphelandra” comes from the Greek name for “simple anther,” the pollen-bearing part of the stamen.
FAMILY Aphelandras are members of the Acanthaceae (Acanthus) family. Relatives include firecracker flower (Crossandra), black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia) and shrimp plant (Justicia).
ORIGINS The plants are native to the tropical Americas, especially Brazil.

Some information provided by:
University of Florida,
Dave’s Garden,,
The Chain of Life Network®,
The New House Plant Expert, by Dr. D.G. Hessayon

Photos courtesy of The John Henry Company

You may reach “Blooming Plant of the Month” writer Steven W. Brown, AIFD, at or by phone at (415) 239-3140.

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