The ZZ plant, by its scientific name Zamioculcas zamiifolia, is one of the best plants a new indoor gardener can get. It’s hardy and tough, making it perfect for any brown thumb, and you’ll often find it in office buildings. In fact, this was the first plant I had ever gotten for myself as an introduction into the green world of apartment buds. And although I had neglected it for almost a year, it still had outgrown its initial pot. But now I’m older, wiser and a much better plant parent, so whether you’re where I was a few years back or you’re a more experienced plant parent, keep on reading this complete ZZ plant care guide to find out how you can keep your new friend healthy and shiny.
1. General Information
The ZZ plant has been around for quite a long time, but it was introduced to the rest of the world by Dutch nurseries in South Africa. From there it made its way into many of the world’s apartments, doctors’ waiting rooms and offices.
Although ZZ plants are part of the Araceae family, like peace lilies, they rarely produce any flowers and are instead renowned for their dark, shiny leaves that can grow up to 3 ft (1 m) high! While the ZZ appearances are stunning, keep in mind that you can also find and buy cultivars that come with different appearances (like the ‘Dowon’ cultivar that features jet-black leaves). All in all, they make lovely desk plants and they can also transform into beautiful floor plants that will easily fill up an empty corner in your home office.
|Scientific name:||Zamioculcas zamiifolia|
|Common names:||ZZ Plant, Zanzibar Gem, Arum Fern, Aroid Palm, Welcome Plant|
|Native to:||Eastern and southern tropical Africa|
|Toxicity:||Toxic to humans and pets|
|Mature size:||3 feet (1 m) tall|
|Hardiness:||USDA hardiness zones 9 to 10|
|Popular Cultivars:||‘Dowon’, ‘Zamicro’, ‘Siesta’, ‘Luckywhi’, ‘Super Nova’, ‘Whipped Cream’, ‘Chameleon’|
2. ZZ Plant Care & Growing Requirements
While not technically a succulent, the ZZ plant does a great job acting like one, being one of the most drought-tolerant and low-maintenance plants out there. Its roots, leaves and rhizomes store water very well, which is one of the reasons ZZ plants thrive on neglect.
A ZZ plant won’t require a lot of water. As mentioned above, it’s one of the most drought-tolerant houseplants out there due to its succulent-like characteristics.
As a rule of thumb, wait for the soil to dry in between watering sessions. Once the soil is dry, water it thoroughly and let it drain from the pot’s drainage holes. Once no more water is draining from the pot, you can wait for the soil to dry again before the next watering.
Depending on where you live and your apartment’s climate, watering your ZZ plant every 2-3 weeks should be enough.
ZZ plants love light, but they don’t need it that much. A ZZ plant will do best in indirect sunlight (either moderate or bright), but it will do just fine in more shaded areas, where light is limited.
Keep her away from the hot sun and she’ll do great!
A mix of regular potting soil and succulent and cactus mix will work just fine. It’s good to remember that while the ZZ plant acts like a succulent in many aspects, it’s not quite a succulent, so make sure the ratio of regular potting soil to cactus mix is around 3:1.
Technically, ZZ plants like temperatures of 65°F to 75°F, but a good way to check is to ask yourself: am I comfortable with the temperature at home? If the answer is yes, your ZZ plant is most likely comfortable as well.
ZZ plants do best indoors in humidity levels between 40 to 50%. If the air is too dry, make sure to optimize the humidity levels, while avoiding going too high, as it can cause other issues like rot.
Zanzibar plants are not pretentious when it comes to nutrient requirements. Usually, high-quality soil provides all the nutrients your plant needs. However, if you notice your ZZ plant is struggling or the soil’s quality is lacking, you can feed it every other month during the growing season (spring to summer) with a balanced fertilizer that has a ratio of 10-10-10 or 20-20-20.
3. ZZ Plant Maintenance & Propagation
Zamioculcas are known for being slow growers, so repotting is usually required once every other year. Even so, if you notice its rhizomes trying to break out the pot, it’s time to give it a new one. You should aim for a pot that’s 1-2 inches (2 – 5 cm) larger than its current one and comes with drainage holes.
Repotting your ZZ plant should be done in spring, when its growing season begins.
A frequent issue with repotting your ZZ plant is the difficulty of getting it out of its current pot, especially if it’s a plastic one. If you’re in this situation, it’s best to carefully cut the pot vertically first.
It’s hard to cut our plants, especially when they are slow growers like Zamioculcas. While pruning is not usually necessary for ZZ plants, apart from removing dead, yellowing or dying leaves, cutting it back to your desired length once the stems are overgrown can balance the plant’s appearance.
You can propagate your ZZ plant by taking stem cuttings, leaf cuttings or by division. While division is the most successful method and can be easily done when you repot your plant, cuttings are a bit different, as they will grow new rhizomes that usually take up to a few months to develop.
- Stem cuttings → You can cut off a stalk at the base of the plant and place it in a glass of water or directly into soil in a spot with bright, indirect light. A moderate amount of sunlight is also beneficial for your cuttings development.
- Leaf cuttings → You’ll want to cut off your leaves as close to the stalk as possible. They can be put in water or directly into a potting mix in a spot with bright, indirect light. Again, a moderate amount of sunlight is going to help your props develop roots faster. This method is similar to succulent propagation, so make sure not to overwater your leaves, else you’ll see signs of rot.
Since the success rate is not always 100% when it comes to stem or leaves cuttings, it is better to take multiple ones and try different methods at the same time.
5. Common issues
The two most common issues with ZZ plants are brown or yellowing leaves, both happening for different reasons.
» Leaves Turning Yellow
When the ZZ plant’s leaves turn yellow it’s possible you’ve got a case of overwatering. Be sure to only water the plant once the top half of its soil is dry and to drain any excess water through the pot’s drainage holes. If you let it sit in water, you risk root rot, which may be the cause for your yellowing leaves.
Another common cause of yellowing leaves is direct exposure to the hot sun or a hot window for too long – the leaves are basically burning, so make sure to adjust the light levels it receives.
» Leaves Turning Brown
Another common issue with ZZ plants is browning leaves, usually at the tip. While yellow leaves are most often caused by overwatering, brown tips usually express the opposite: you’re not giving your ZZ plant enough water. Up the water intake just a bit, following our tips above, and your buddy will be ok in no time!
6. ZZ Plant Diseases & Pests
Zamioculcas are resistant when it comes to pests and diseases. However, as you’ve probably noticed before, mealybugs, fungus gnats, aphids, and scales rarely make an exception. If you notice your ZZ plant struggling, but you know you met its care requirements, it might be time to carefully inspect its leaves and soil for any trace of pests.
All in all, ZZ plants are a must have in any apartment – they’re nearly indestructible, exceedingly beautiful and totally instagrammable! And if you follow our complete ZZ plant care guide, you’ll have a friend forever. Or don’t! We hear they thrive on neglect.