ZZ Plant

OFFICIAL NAME

Zamioculcas zamifolia

ALSO KNOWN AS

Zanzibar Gem, Zuzu Plant, Emerald Palm, Aroid Palm

ORIGINS & CLIMATE

Eastern & Southern Africa | Subtropical Savannah

ABOUT THE
PLANT

A ZZ plant stands out with their petite leaflets lining tall sturdy swollen stems. The thick leaves are so glossy and bright that the ZZ can be mistaken for a faux plant! Which isn't really a bad thing as this plant thrives on neglect.

HOW MANY GREEN THUMBS?

easy going, bright indirect, low light tolerant, drought tolerant, mid-size, upright, clusters, bushy or dense, floor, tabletop, aroid, savannah, fronds

👌️ EASY PEASY 👌

ZZ Plant

The basics

Water Needs

Water thoroughly when soil is about 50% to entirely dry. Avoid overwatering at all costs. Watering may be even less frequent during winter months or in less light.

Water

Preferred Light

Extremely forgiving and can adapt to most light conditions. But if they had their pick, it would be primarily bright, indirect light with a touch of direct light for a happy, thriving plant.

Light

Humidity Needs

While not at all bothered about high humidity, your ZZ Plant will appreciate the occasional misting, which helps remove dust from their leaves.

Humidity

Ambient Temperature

Adaptable to average indoor temperatures, but generally prefers the warmer side. May complain when exposed to cold drafts or dry heat from vents.

Temperature

Toxic or Not?

ZZ Plants are mildly toxic to pets and humans. Ingestion will cause mouth and stomach irritation and possible vomiting.

Toxicity

Size Potential

Indoors, this plant can grow up to around 5 ft tall with a 3-4 ft spread (when mature and with enough light)!

Size

Overall Look

Generally in an upright formation with clusters of densely packed and slightly bulbous stems, each lined with small leaflets. Works best on the floor or a plant stand.

Format

Leaf Look

Petite emerald green leaflets are almond shaped with a glossy, almost plastic-like sheen.

Leaf Shape

Pro Tip

Keep these glossy leaves looking their best. Dust blocks the plant from absorbing light—so be sure to keep their leaves clean and dust-free. You can do this by misting and wiping each leaf or a routine hose-down/shower.

Pro Tip

Did You Know?

ZZ Plants have tuberous rhizomes—not to be confused with actual tubers, these specialized underground stems are adapted to swell to tuberous proportions in order to store nutrients and water. Don't be alarmed if you spot these strange growths when repotting your ZZ!

Fun Fact

Water

|

Allow half of soil to dry out before watering again.

Water Needs

Water thoroughly when soil is about 50% to entirely dry. Avoid overwatering at all costs. Watering may be even less frequent during winter months or in less light.

Light

|

Low light tolerant. Bright, indirect light preferred.

Preferred Light

Extremely forgiving and can adapt to most light conditions. But if they had their pick, it would be primarily bright, indirect light with a touch of direct light for a happy, thriving plant.

Humidity

|

Not too concerned by humidity levels.

Humidity Needs

While not at all bothered about high humidity, your ZZ Plant will appreciate the occasional misting, which helps remove dust from their leaves.

Temperature

|

Can adapt, but doesn't like sudden change.

Ambient Temperature

Adaptable to average indoor temperatures, but generally prefers the warmer side. May complain when exposed to cold drafts or dry heat from vents.

Toxicity

|

Mildly toxic to humans and pets if ingested.

Toxic or Not?

ZZ Plants are mildly toxic to pets and humans. Ingestion will cause mouth and stomach irritation and possible vomiting.

Size

|

Pretty big, but manageable.

Size Potential

Indoors, this plant can grow up to around 5 ft tall with a 3-4 ft spread (when mature and with enough light)!

Format

|

Upright clusters of long stems.

Overall Look

Generally in an upright formation with clusters of densely packed and slightly bulbous stems, each lined with small leaflets. Works best on the floor or a plant stand.

Leaf Shape

|

Glossy emerald green with an almond shape.

Leaf Look

Petite emerald green leaflets are almond shaped with a glossy, almost plastic-like sheen.

Pro Tip

|

A good wipe down, please!

Pro Tip

Keep these glossy leaves looking their best. Dust blocks the plant from absorbing light—so be sure to keep their leaves clean and dust-free. You can do this by misting and wiping each leaf or a routine hose-down/shower.

Fun Fact

|

Don't worry if you see some tuberous growths...

Did You Know?

ZZ Plants have tuberous rhizomes—not to be confused with actual tubers, these specialized underground stems are adapted to swell to tuberous proportions in order to store nutrients and water. Don't be alarmed if you spot these strange growths when repotting your ZZ!

Beyond The Basics

Soil & Potting

Thrives in an airy, light, fast-draining potting mix—you can use a good quality potting mix labeled for succulents/cactus or supplement a standard indoor mix with an equal quantity of pumice or horticultural grit. Ensure the pot has the appropriate drainage and don't forget to pour out any excess water collected in the drainage tray or cachepot.

Repotting

These ambitious growers are fairly quick to fill out their pot and become rootbound. But this plant thrives slightly rootbound, so you can hold off on repotting until absolutely necessary. Try to repot every 3-4 years in the spring, especially when tending to a younger plant. Increase the pot size by about 2 inches each time. Once mature and becoming unwieldily to maneuver—you can reduce your repotting frequency and switch to a routine of refreshing just the top few inches of soil. More on repotting here.

Feeding

If you're not already planning to repot, you can fertilize during the spring and summer months. Once to every two months should be plenty. No fertilizer is necessary during the winter when plant growth naturally slows down. You can try a balanced liquid or water-soluble fertilizer—always diluted more than the recommended strength. A cactus and succulent specific feed would also work well. More on using fertilizer here.

Grooming

While no specific pruning is required for this plant, it's always good practice to regularly remove yellowed or dying leaves and any fallen plant debris. Ensure your scissors or pruners are sanitized to avoid spreading disease or pests.

Propagation

The easiest way to propagate a ZZ plant is through division. You can separate the dense clusters of stems into independent plants by simply making a clean cut through the rhizome (the much thicker, horizontal "root"). You can also try stem and leaf cuttings, but they take much longer. Cut a healthy stem in at least two-inch pieces. The stem piece can be placed in water and roots will grow. Or pluck off a leaf with its petiole and place directly into soil. Try to cover just enough that the leaf will stay standing, otherwise it may rot. In either case, once the roots are a few inches long you can pot up your new ZZ! More on propagation techniques here.

Variants

ZZ Plants are quite unique plants! You don't see too many others like 'em. But you may come upon a dwarf version called ZZ 'Zenzi', or the bewitching cultivar with deep dark, almost black leaves called 'Raven'.

TrOUBlESHOOTING

Why are the leaves on my ZZ Plant wilting and yellowing?

Symptom

Multiple leaves are wilting and turning yellow—particularly the older, lower leaves. You may also notice stunted growth and mushy stems.

Cause

The most likely culprit is overwatering and initial signs of root rot. When a plant's roots sit in waterlogged soil for too long, a fungal infection can quickly take over, causing the roots to rot (turning brown and mushy).

Solution

First, ensure that your plant has appropriate drainage (both in terms of well-draining soil and plenty of drainage holes in the plant's container).

If you think you've caught the overwatering early on, you can simply let the plant dry out more than you have been. Allow 50% of the soil to dry out before watering again. Continue monitoring and only water when needed. You may also try using chopsticks (or something similar) to poke holes in the soil to help the roots get more oxygen. And finally, you can try to "wick" the excess moisture out of the soil by placing the whole pot (with drainage holes) in a tray or container with dry soil. This new layer of dry soil should soak up some of the excess moisture from the waterlogged areas around your plant's roots.

However, if you suspect a serious case of root rot, you'll definitely need to take a peak at the roots by removing the plant entirely from their container. If there are any black and mushy roots, trim them back completely before repotting with fresh soil in a new or sterilized container.

More on leaf changes here.
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Why does my ZZ Plant have soft, droopy stems?

Symptom

One or multiple stalks feel a bit soft and may be starting to yellow or brown.

Cause

This is a sure sign of persistent overwatering. The root rot has spread and led to stem rot as well.

Solution

You will have to cut back any stems with signs of rot. To avoid further spread, you should also take a peak at the roots by removing the plant entirely from their container. If there are any black and mushy roots, trim them back completely before repotting with fresh soil in a new or sterilized container.

You may be able to propagate some of the cut stems if the rot has not yet spread to the top of the plant.

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Why does my ZZ Plant have mold on the surface of the soil?

Symptom

A white mold covering the surface of the soil or full-on mushrooms sprouting in the soil or even popping out through drainage holes.

Cause

It can be frightening to notice mold or mushrooms growing on the soil. However, these fungii are usually benign and won't harm your plant directly. The real danger is that you're creating an environment that promotes fungal growth and is quite likely overly wet. Ultimately, these could be warning signs that you are overwatering.

Solution

If you want to eliminate the mold and mushrooms, you can simply remove and replace the top inch or so of soil. You can also try a soil soak of neem oil, which acts as a fungicide. But try not to overdo it, since you're delivering neem oil in a water-based solution, too much will do more harm than good. The most important factor will be to evaluate your watering frequency and ensure you aren't overwatering. While the visible fungii aren't problematic for your plant, sustained overwatering will eventually lead to a fungal infection at the roots, the cause of dreaded root rot.

More on watering here.
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Why isn't my ZZ Plant growing?

Symptom

Slow or no new growth.

Cause

This is most likely due to insufficient light. While ZZ Plants are quite tolerant of low light conditions, they will not grow very much.

Solution

Improve the lighting conditions for your ZZ Plant to thrive. These plants prefer plenty of bright, indirect light. Make sure to adjust your watering to accommodate the increased light.

More on lighting here.
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