One of the best plants for first-time gardeners is the ZZ Plant. ZZ plants (botanical name, Zamioculcas zamiifolia) are hard to kill and live on neglect for months before showing signs. But chances are, you want to learn about caring for one of the easiest houseplants out there.
The ZZ plant is one of those lovely houseplants that comes from Africa. As a tropical plant, it survives without fuss. It’s a slow grower that’s a gateway into gardening for those who’ve never tried growing plants before. I once thought I killed one, only to have it emerge anew from the container months later!
This is an indication of how resilient these plants are. ZZ plants are beloved and are known as the welcome plant! So let’s discuss the Zanzibar gem, what it needs, and how to cultivate one.
ZZ Plant Quick Care Guide
|Common Name||ZZ plant, Zanzibar gem, Zuzu plant, aroid palm, eternity plant, emerald palm, welcome plant|
|Scientific Name||Zamioculcas zamiifolia|
|Height & Spread||2 feet tall, 3 feet wide|
|Soil||Moisture retentive, well-draining mix|
|Water||Irrigate every 2 to 3 weeks|
|Pests & Diseases||Brown scale, aphids, fungus gnats, mealybugs, root rot|
All About ZZ Plants
Zamioculcas zamiifolia, commonly known as ZZ plant, Zanzibar gem, Zuzu plant, aroid palm, eternity plant, emerald palm, is in the aroid plant family. This family includes the Aglaonema, Spathiphyllum, Philodendron, and Anthurium plant families. All are native to East Africa, from South Africa to Kenya. Each is grown as an indoor plant in North America.
ZZ plants are tropical evergreen perennials that have thick, fleshy, and glossy green foliage. Their oval-shaped leaves grow opposite on upright, branching stems. In the growing season, they’ll grow 2 to 3 new stems at a time. They proliferate on grasslands, riverbanks, and dry forests via underground rhizomes that are similar to potatoes.
Most likely, your ZZ plant won’t flower in your garden, but on rare occasions, they do. The flower is one single cream-colored inflorescence that looks like corn, called a cob. The cob contains tons of tiny flowers and doesn’t get larger than 3 inches long. With ZZ plants, you won’t have to repot them more than every few years. Because they grow slowly, they’ll be happy in a small container. In the wild, they grow much bigger than the 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide they do indoors. Their rhizomes store water, so they don’t need much.
Like another plant from Eastern Africa, the snake plant, ZZ leaves secrete a sap that can cause skin irritation. Those with sensitive skin should wear gloves when handling the Zamioculcus zamiifolia plant. Also, like snake plant, it’s toxic if ingested. If there are children or curious pets around, consider growing another indoor plant.
Caring for the ZZ Plant
Let’s cover a few ZZ plant care tips to help you grow your ZZ plant. Chances are, you can buy one of these at a nursery, repot it to give it basic care… and then leave it!
Sun and Temperature
At what temperature does the ZZ plant grow? In the wild, ZZ plants enjoy differing amounts of light based on their habitat. As an indoor plant, your Zamioculcas zamiifolia plants grow best in bright indirect light to lower light. The ZZ plant also thrives outdoors where the ZZ plant requirements are the same. Avoid direct sunlight as this singes the supple waxy leaves. ZZ plants are hardy to zones 10 to 12, but grow outdoors in temperate seasons when the temperatures are no lower than 45 degrees Fahrenheit. ZZ plants have no trouble with high heat with adequate humidity present. If you live in a zone where winters have temperatures below 45 degrees, bring your zeezee plant in.
Water and Humidity
If you have your ZZ plant in a high-light environment, water more often. If it’s in a shady or filtered sun area, water less than that. Wait to water until the soil dries to around 2″ deep before watering again because it’s a drought-tolerant plant. ZZ plant watering should take place in the morning and can be done by any method, but happens sparingly. Allow the water to flow through the drainage holes of the pot and stop. Too much water is the most common cause of problems with zuzu plants. Though the ZZ plant is a drought-tolerant plant, these new zanzibar gem plants need consistently moist soil for the first year of new growth. While ZZ plants survive in growing conditions with less water, they won’t develop those lovely thick stems and waxy leaves they’re known for. ZZ plants enjoy mid-range to low humidity at about 40%, which is present in most homes. In the winter, grow ZZ plant next to a humidifier to help offset some of the dryness a heater can cause. Also, when winter arrives, don’t water the dormant zz more than once a month.
Soil for Zamioculcus zamiifolia can be a basic potting soil that you use for other houseplants. If you’d like, you can add a little bit of compost for a nutrient boost and a little bit of sand for extra drainage. Well-draining media is a must, as the thick rhizomes of the ZZ plant don’t appreciate being waterlogged for long. These plants need consistent nutrients, so don’t plant them in poor soil. They thrive in a pH of 6.0 to 7.0.
Fertilizing Your ZZ Plants
You don’t need to fertilize the zanzibar plant. If you do decide to add fertilizer for a nutrient boost here and there, do so only a few times a year in the active growing season, spring through fall. In winter, don’t fertilize at all because your zizi plants will be in dormancy and won’t have the energy to absorb extra nutrients. Use a balanced liquid fertilizer that has an NPK of 20-20-20 or 10-10-10.
Pruning ZZ Plants
These plants grow without regular pruning. There’s really only one reason to prune a Zanzibar gem plant: diseased plant parts or yellowing leaves. When pruning, use sanitized shears and cut right at the soil line, removing the entire stem.
Repotting ZZ Plants
While this slow-growing foliage plant doesn’t need much repotting, it gets slightly crowded after a few years of growth. ZZ plant repotting is rare, though. To repot a ZZ plant, first, locate a new pot that is a couple of inches wider than the original. Put on a pair of gloves to avoid skin irritation that can occur. Tip the entire zz plant, pot and all, upside down and let the whole root mass fall into your hand. Add a little potting medium to the new pot and place the plant within. Top it off with more potting mix and add a light sprinkling of water.
There are two ways to propagate a ZZ plant: stem cuttings and leaf cuttings. To propagate via stem cutting, find a healthy stalk and snip it at the base with clean pruning shears. Then place your ZZ plant cuttings in a glass in water for 3 to 4 weeks, replacing the water every few days. Keep the glass somewhere where the cuttings receive bright indirect light. When the roots develop to 1 inch, transplant them into potting soil, leaving about two inches between the root and the base of the pot. To propagate a ZZ plant by leaf-cutting, remove a few oval-shaped leaves from the plant with a tiny bit of stem attached. Then place them in potting mix at 1 centimeter deep. Spritz the medium with water, and let it dry out. Water again in a couple of weeks. Check the roots to see if they’re growing in about 3 months. Then transplant the cuttings with newly formed rhizomes into larger containers.
Now that we’ve discussed Zamioculcas zamiifolia care let’s talk about the issues you will rarely deal with. While there are several pests listed here, it’s more common that you’ll only confront one of these.
If you’re wondering why your ZZ plants aren’t growing at all, consider how much light you’ve given them. In low light conditions, your plants will survive, but they may not thrive. Instead, give them low light to indirect bright light to stimulate growth. Direct light is too much, so don’t put your ZZ plants in your garden right in the line of sun. Direct light can give your ZZ plant yellow leaves. Yellow leaves are also a sign of too much water. Remember that the rhizomes or roots of your ZZ will store water and nutrients. That’s why you should water your ZZ less than you would other houseplants. If the rhizomes become inundated with water and nutrients from fertilizer, conditions that promote stress and disease in these plants can set in. Some people wonder why their ZZ doesn’t grow flowers in their garden. Most often a garden ZZ isn’t in the right conditions for flowers and instead grows a lot of foliage in its active growth seasons of spring and summer.
Scale insects like brown scale and mealybugs can latch on to your ZZ in an outdoor or indoor garden and suckle juices from the leaf tips and stems. If you find brown raised bumps that are stationary or little cotton-ball-like insects, this is a sign of scale. To remove them, dip q-tips in alcohol and pop them off the plant into soapy water. Gently wipe the leaves of your ZZ with an alcohol-soaked cloth to remove remaining pests.
Aphids might suck the sap from your plant as they congregate in large numbers. Blast them off your plant with a strong stream of water from a hose. Then follow up with a fine mist of neem oil spray applied to all parts of the plant. Using neem in the garden as a preventative is effective as well.
Fungus gnats hang around overly damp soil that is rich with nutrients and get into your house in summer when they are most active. They look like small flies with larger antennae. To get rid of them, place apple cider vinegar traps around your plant. Then treat the roots by doing a soil soak of neem diluted in water to kill any larvae feeding there.
Diseases Your ZZ May Experience
Root rot is the only disease to look out for on your ZZ plant. This is a fungal disease that occurs in stressed plants that have poor air circulation and have been overwatered. The fungus enjoys the warm air of summer, which is when most outdoor plants show rot symptoms. If your ZZ plant leaf tips are yellowing and the stems are mushy, this is a sign the fungus has attacked the rhizomes of your plant. Most of the time, you can remove damaged parts and stop watering to cause the rot to cease. Other times, you need to change out the growing medium, adding a little more fine sand for drainage. If the problem doesn’t improve, throw the plant and the media away. Sanitize the container and let it sit in open air before using it for another plant.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How poisonous is ZZ plant?
A: When it comes to poisonous and toxic plants, ZZ definitely makes the list. But it won’t kill you or your pets. If ingested, it will cause vomiting and diarrhea.
Q: How do you care for a ZZ plant indoors?
A: Give it a good foundation, and it will thrive.
Q: Is ZZ plant cancerous?
A: While it is poisonous, it’s not cancerous. See above.
Q: Does ZZ plant need sunlight?
A: Indirect bright light is best. Avoid direct sunlight when possible.
Q: Is ZZ plant good for bedroom?
A: It is! It’s great in almost any room inside your house.
Q: Why is ZZ plant called welcome plant?
A: It’s associated with wealth and well-being in its native range.
Q: How long does a ZZ plant live?
A: ZZ plants have a lifespan of about 10 years.
Q: Should you mist a ZZ plant?
A: Only if the air is dry with less than 40% humidity.
Q. A branch broke off of my ZZ plant…can I use it to propagate a new plant?
A. YES, but it takes a long time for ZZ to set out new roots. The best way to propagate is to root the branch in water or damp soil.
Q. My Zamioculcas Zamiifolia has stems that keep drooping over, but I’m not over or under-watering. What’s wrong?
A. It may be time for a light dose of fertilizer. The other issue could be a lack of light. In extreme shade, ZZ plants like to droop a bit. Provide a better light source.