Zebra Haworthia (Haworthiopsis attenuata): Super succulent

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Written By Martin Cole

Plantsman, gardener, plant-obsessive

Zebra Haworthia

Haworthiopsis attenuata, formerly known as Haworthia attenuata and commonly referred to as Zebra Haworthia or simply just the Zebra plant, is a small succulent plant, native to the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. 

The plant features dark green, pointed leaves with cream-coloured spots and bands, giving it a zebra-like variegated look.

In its natural habitat, Zebra Haworthia grows in harsh sandy conditions. It can thrive both indoors and outdoors and can even tolerate mild frost. While it can withstand low-light conditions, it prefers full sun or bright direct light, which brings out the best colours in the leaves

Zebra Haworthia will only reach 6 to 10 inches (15 to 25cm) or so in height and diameter and is slow-growing at first. But once established it grows more quickly, especially by broadening itself through producing offsets.

In my experience Zebra Haworthia is a great plant. It looks good grouped with other succulents and works well in a minimalist or modern setting. In fact it can be displayed in any number of ways in the home, such as on a windowsill, on a desk, or as part of a container display.

It is also a great choice for beginners, as it is low maintenance and can survive a bit of neglect.

Zebra haworthia quick care guide

Zebra haworthia is considered an easy plant to care for, making it a good choice for beginners. It can tolerate a bit of neglect, but thrives best with proper care.

  • Light requirements: Bright, indirect sunlight.
  • Water requirements: Water when the soil is completely dry, approximately every two to three weeks. Water less frequently in winter.
  • Humidity requirements: Average indoor humidity.
  • Temperature requirements: Preferable range is 60-85°F (15-29°C), can tolerate lower temperatures and even mild frost.
  • Potting soil requirements: Well-draining cactus or succulent mix.
  • Fertiliser requirements: Minimal; You can use diluted cactus fertiliser during the growing season.
  • Propagation: Mainly by division of offsets or leaf cuttings.
  • Repotting: Every 2 to 3 years, or when the plant outgrows its pot. Repotting is a good time to remove offsets to propagte new plants
  • Pruning: Remove spent flower stalks in mid-summer; otherwise, no pruning required.
Zebra Haworthia
Zebra Haworthia

All about Zebra haworthia

The Zebra haworthia is often confused with and sold under the name of the rarer species – Haworthiopsis fasciata. However, the two plants can be distinguished by the texture of their leaves: H. attenuata has a bumpy surface all around its leaves, while H. fasciata’s upper leaf surfaces are smooth.

Zebra haworthia is an excellent house plant that can live for many years when well cared for – and even when proper care is a bit lacking!

Zebra haworthia key facts

  • Scientific name: Haworthiopsis attenuata
  • Synonyms: Formerly known as Haworthia attenuata
  • Meaning of scientific plant name: The genus name means ‘like Haworthia’, and the species name ‘attenuata’ means ‘tapering’.
  • Common names: Zebra haworthia, zebra plant
  • Plant family: Asphodelaceae
  • Origin: Eastern Cape Province, South Africa
  • Type of plant: Evergreen succulent
  • Size (when grown indoors): Up to 6-10 (15 to 25cm) inches in height and width.
  • Foliage: Dark green leaves with white tubercles, up to 3 inches (7.5 cm long
  • Flower: Small white flowers with green veins, flowering in summer
  • Fruit: Inconspicuous
  • Toxicity: Non-toxic to pets and people

Zebra Haworthia

US Buyers

Zebra Haworthia

UK Buyers

Uk

How to grow Zebra Haworthia: the detailed guide

There is not much to worry about when growing the Zebra Haworthia. As with most succulents, the main thing to remember is that the plant is adapted to dry conditions and fast draining soil. So don’t water too frequently and don’t let its roots sit in water for any extended period.

Read more about house plant care in general in our comprehensive guide to the 7 critical requirements of house plant care here.

Light

Zebra haworthia thrives in bright, indirect sunlight. It should be positioned away from direct afternoon sun to prevent leaf scorching. The plantt can tolerate low light, but only for short periods of time

Insufficient light can lead to etiolation, where the plant stretches out and becomes weak. Too much direct light can cause the leaves to turn white or yellow.

House plant bright light
Zebra Haworthia: ideal location for optimum light

Soil and feeding

A well-draining cactus or succulent mix is ideal for zebra haworthia. Ensure that there is plenty of grit/perlite to aid drainage. The soil should be slightly acidic to neutral.

Regular fertilisation is not really required, but a diluted cactus fertiliser can be applied during the active growing season for a growth boost.

Watering

Water the plant when the soil is completely dry. Overwatering is a common mistake and can lead to root rot. In winter, reduce watering frequency to once every other month.

Pruning

Pruning is minimal and usually involves removing spent flower stalks. No other pruning is necessary unless you want to remove damaged or dead leaves.

Propagation

The easiest methods of propagation are by separating pups or offshoots. You can also take leaf cuttings but these will take longer to develop into new plants.

Propagating the Zebra Haworthia through offsets or pups is a straightforward process. Here is a step-by-step guide:

  1. Identify the Offsets: Look for the small rosettes, or pups, that form at the base of the mother plant. These are the offsets that can be used for propagation.
  2. Separation: Wait until the offsets have developed their own roots, which usually happens in the spring at the beginning of the growth phase. If you’re repotting the mother plant, this is a convenient time to separate the pups1.
  3. Remove the Offsets: Gently push the pup downwards while supporting the mother plant until you hear a snap, indicating that the pup has been separated. Alternatively, use a sharp knife or shears to remove the offset as close to the mother plant as possible, ensuring you include as many roots as possible.
  4. Allow to Dry: If the offsets have no roots or you’ve had to cut them, let the offshoot dry out in the air for a few days before planting. This helps to prevent rot by allowing the cut to callous over.
  5. Planting: Plant the offsets in a separate pot filled with suitable well-draining soil, such as a commercial cactus/succulent potting mix.
  6. Watering: Initially, water sparingly to avoid rot. Once the plant is more established and rooted, you can water more deeply and follow the care instructions above.
  7. Positioning: Protect new plants from direct sunlight when initially planted on their own pot to prevent sun damage.

Common Problems and Solutions

Brown leaf tips can result from under-watering

Zebra Haworthia troubleshooting guide

Leaves and shoots

  • Browning tips may indicate underwatering or sunburn. Adjust watering and relocate the plant if necessary.

Roots

  • Overwatering can cause root rot. Ensure the soil is well-draining and allow it to dry out between waterings.

Pests

  • Mealybugs and scale insects can be treated with insecticidal soap or pesticides.

Diseases

  • Generally disease-free, but watch for signs of rot due to overwatering.

Winter care

During winter, Zebra Haworthia requires less water. Keep the plant in a cool, dry place with temperatures above freezing to encourage blooming in the following season.

Read more about how to overwinter your house plants here.

Buy

So, if you’ve got this far and are feeling like you can’t resist this beautiful plant, I’ve listed some buying options below – depending on whether you are US or UK based.

The buy links are affiliate links, which means I’d be paid a (very) small commission if you go on and buy after clicking these links. But that does not affect the price you pay.

Zebra Haworthia

US Buyers

Zebra Haworthia

UK Buyers

Uk

Other Haworthia

Other great Haworthias to grow include the following:

  1. Haworthia cooperi
    Haworthia cooperi is distinguished by its translucent, bubble-like leaves that create a striking visual effect. This species is appreciated for its unique appearance and is a slow-growing, densely clustered succulent that is well-suited for indoor cultivation.
  2. Haworthia fasciata
    Often confused with Haworthia attenuata, Haworthia fasciata, also known as the Zebra Plant, features upright green leaves with small, pearly white warts or spots. It is a popular indoor plant due to its decorative appearance and ease of care.
  3. Haworthia limifolia
    Known for its textured, ridged leaves, Haworthia limifolia is a robust succulent that forms a spiral pattern with its foliage. This species is a popular choice for succulent collections and indoor gardening due to its distinctive appearance and low maintenance requirements.
  4. Haworthia mirabilis
    Haworthia mirabilis is a small, rosette-forming succulent with green leaves that have white stripes and bumps. The leaves are arranged in a tight spiral, giving the plant a star-shaped appearance. It is a low-maintenance plant that is well-suited for indoor gardening and can be easily propagated from offsets.

Other great Succulents

See our guides to caring for these other:

  • Burro’s Tail (Sedum morganianum): Known for its trailing stems covered in plump, round leaves, Burro’s Tail is a popular choice for hanging baskets.
  • Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera): This succulent is cherished for its beautiful, tubular flowers that bloom around the holiday season.
  • Hens-and-Chicks (Sempervivum): This plant gets its name from the way the main rosette (the “hen”) produces smaller rosettes (the “chicks”) that can be easily propagated.
  • Jade Plant (Crassula ovata): Known for its thick, woody stems and glossy green leaves, the Jade Plant is often considered a symbol of good luck.
  • Aloe Vera: Besides being a popular houseplant, Aloe Vera is also known for its medicinal properties, particularly the soothing gel inside its leaves.
  • Panda Plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa): This plant is loved for its soft, fuzzy leaves that resemble the fur of a panda.
  • Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata): Despite its name, the Ponytail Palm is actually a succulent. It’s known for its bulbous trunk, which stores water, and its long, hair-like leaves.
  • Snake Plant (Sansevieria): This plant is highly appreciated for its upright, variegated leaves and its ability to purify the air.
  • Echeveria: Echeveria is a large genus of succulents with rosette-forming species. They are popular for their beautiful shapes and colours
  • Pilea peperomioides: Pilea peperomioides has become something of a phenomenon in the house plant world. Initially it was quite tricky to come by, so is well-suited to growing as a house plant. It’s a slow grower and stays relatively compact, making it an excellent choice for a windowsill or desktop garden. It’s also extremely low-maintenance, making it a good choice for beginners.
  • Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’: Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’ is a branching shrub with magnificent, almost black-purple, succulent, polished leaf rosettes with a lime-green centre, at the ends of its branches. It’s perfect for growing in containers on a sunny patio, or as summer bedding in a hot, dry border.
  • Cotyledon orbiculata: Cotyledon orbiculata is a South African native. It’s a slow grower and stays relatively compact, making it an excellent choice for a windowsill or desktop garden. It’s also extremely low-maintenance, making it a good choice for beginners.
  • Panda Plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa): Lauded as a low maintenance plant, Kalanchoe tomentosa is beloved for its velvet-like ears. It’s a slow grower and stays relatively compact, making it an excellent choice for a windowsill or desktop garden. It’s also extremely low-maintenance, making it a good choice for beginners.

Key references and resources

Alloway, Z and Bailey (F). (2018) RHS Practical House Plant Book: Choose The Best, Display Creatively, Nurture and Care, Royal Horticultural Society, UK.

Camilleri,L and Kaplan, S. (2020), Plantopedia: The Definitive Guide to Houseplants, Smith Street Books.

Hessayon, Dr D.G. (1991) The New House Plant Expert, PBI Publications, UK.

Brickell, C. (2016). Royal Horticultural Society AZ encyclopedia of garden plants. 4th Edition Dorling Kindersley.

Squire, D. (2017). Houseplant Handbook: Basic Growing Techniques and a Directory of 300 Everyday Houseplants, CompanionHouse Books.

Nelson, G (2021). Plant – House plants: Choosing, Styling, Caring. Mitchell Beazley. London

Brickell, C. (2011). American horticultural society encyclopedia of plants and flowers. Penguin.

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