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How to Grow Zebra Haworthia (Zebra Cactus)

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been associated with Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.


My favorite haworthia is the zebra haworthia. I love the raised spots on its leaves. It's very different from my other succulents.

What is Zebra Haworthia?

Zebra haworthia (Haworthiopsis attenuata) is a small succulent that is native to South Africa. The Haworthiopsis family contains many species, but attenuata is the one most often grown. They were "discovered” by Europeans in the 1600s and brought to Europe where they have been popular ever since. They are readily available almost everywhere that plants are sold. I purchased mine at a grocery store.

The plant grows in a rosette that is usually 1 – 3 inches in diameter. The leaves are characterized by raised white spots knowns as tubercles. They occur on both sides of the leaves. The leaves grow 3 – 5 inches high.

The flowers are tiny and white. Bloom time is November and December.

The plants grow in clumps which are the original plants plus offsets.

The plants grow in clumps which are the original plants plus offsets.

How to Grow Zebra Haworthia

Zebra haworthia are only hardy in zone 11 so they are usually grown indoors as houseplants. Indoors they like bright, but not direct light. Try growing them in an eastern exposure window where they will only get morning sun. A western exposure window will also work. Stay away from southern exposure. That is too much sunlight. In their native habitat, they often grow in the shade such as under a rock.

It’s easy to tell if your plant is in the right spot. If it develops white or yellow leaves, it is getting too much sun. If the leaves start to fade, it is not getting enough sun. Adjust its location accordingly. If you like to give your houseplants an outdoor vacation in the summer, keep this one in partial shade.

Wait to put your plant outside until night time temperatures are above 50⁰F. Bring it back indoors in the fall when night time temperatures fall to 50⁰F.

Drainage is very important. Many times these plants are sold in cute containers like teacups that lack a drainage hole. You will need to transplant your haworthia into a container that has a drainage hole and use the teacup for your tea. Without a drainage hole, the plant will literally drown and die.

Use a potting soil that is specifically formulated for cactus. If you don’t have any, you can use regular potting soil and add something like perlite or pumice to improve the drainage. Avoid sand. Sand clogs up the soil preventing it from draining.

Water these plants sparingly, only when the soil is dry. Too much water will kill them. Fertilize them with a fertilizer that is formulated for cacti once a month during the summer growing season. You can also use a houseplant fertilizer that is diluted to ¼ strength if that is all that you have on hand.

You can divide the offsets from the parent to create new plants.

You can divide the offsets from the parent to create new plants.

How to Divide Zebra Haworthia

Haworthias grow in clumps because they reproduce by offsets. An offset is a genetically identical plant that grows via an attachment to the “parent” plant. You can remove these offsets to start new plants.

Gently remove your plant from its pot. The offsets are the baby plants growing around the outside of the rosette of the original plant. If the offsets have been growing for a while already, they may already have separated from the parent plant. They will literally fall off of the original plant when you unpot the clump.

They should already have a fully developed root system and are ready to be planted in their own pot.

If the offsets are still attached to the original, or parent, plant you can either gently break them off or use a sharp knife to cut them away from the parent plant. In this case, the spot where they were attached to the parent will be a moist wound. Don’t plant these right away.

Leave the offset out, unplanted, for a few days to allow the wound to dry. This will prevent disease or pests from penetrating the wound after the offset is planted. Once the wound is dry, you can plant the offset in its own pot.

How to Grow Zebra Haworthia From a Leaf Cutting

Growing your haworthia from a leaf cutting is more difficult than propagating via offset. Carefully break off a leaf for the rosette making sure that you retain some of the stem to which it was attached. Leave it out for a few days so that the wound can dry just like you did for the offset.

Once the wound has dried, you can gently press the bottom ½ inch into potting soil that has been formulated for cactus. Water sparingly. Eventually new plants will start to grow from the leaf. Once they are 1 -2 inches in size, you can separate the new plants and plant them in their own containers.

© 2020 Caren White


Caren White (author) on September 22, 2020:

You won't regret it! Thanks for reading and commenting.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on September 22, 2020:

I think these are the coolest succulents! I haven't tried my hand at cacti or succulents in years. But when I do, this would be on my To Do list. Thanks for sharing!