How to Care for ZZ Plants

Written by Gabrielle Smith

The Zamioculcas zamiifolia, also known as the ZZ Plant is a popular houseplant with dark green, glossy leaves that will bring a pop of color to any room. The ZZ Plants scientific name, Zamioculcas zamiifolia is derived from its resemblance of the cycads plant. The Cycads plant is a very ancient plant that predates dinosaurs! Although rare in an indoor environment, the ZZ plant bloom is tiny white spadix-type flowers at the base of the plant that closely resemble that of the Peace Lily. This resilient plant was originally found in East Africa, which covers the region from Kenya in the north all the way down to South Africa. Due to its natural habitat being such a dry climate, the ZZ Plant is extremely drought resistant and can thrive in low light conditions. Due to its tolerance of harsh conditions, the ZZ Plant has become an extremely popular houseplant for those whose home does not have much natural light! 

Botanical Name: Zamioculcas zamiifolia
Common Name(s):ZZ Plant, Zuzu Plant, Zanzibar Gem, Eternity Plant
Plant TypeTropical, flowering perennial 
Place of Origin:East Africa
Sun Exposure: Indirect sun or filtered sun
Watering Schedule:Every 15 days
Seasonality: Spring through summer
Bloom Time: Spring
Toxicity:Unsafe for cats and dogs

ZZ PLANT LIGHT REQUIREMENTS:

Is your ZZ Plant indoors? If the answer is yes, your ZZ Plant should be placed in a location where it receives indirect sunlight or filtered sun. Filtered sun is when your plant is placed in a location where it receives about 1 hour of direct sun through a sheer or thin curtain. The ideal indoor location for your ZZ Plant is about 5 feet away from a southern or western facing window. This location will provide indirect sunlight whilst protecting your plant from being scorched!

How To Use Artificial Light For Your ZZ Plant: 
Try Full Spectrum LED grow lights. . Although the ZZ Plant can tolerate low light conditions, it is ideal for your ZZ Plant to receive some light. If your home does not have a lot of natural light, this can be supplemented with a full spectrum LED grow light. Ensure your ZZ Plant is positioned about 12-24 inches below the LED grow light to protect the leaves from becoming burnt from too high temperatures. The closer your plant is to the grow light, the more intense the temperature your plant will be exposed to. Depending on the climate of your home, adjust your grow light accordingly.

ZZ PLANT WATER REQUIREMENTS:

It is extremely important to not overwater your ZZ Plant. ZZ plant roots contain rootstalks or ZZ Plant rhizome that retain water underground to allow the plant to survive minimal watering and drought like conditions. This means the plant does not need to be watered frequently. If you overwater your ZZ Plant it can cause stem and rhizome rot. Aim to water your ZZ plant every two weeks during its growth season.

ZZ PLANT TEMPERATURE REQUIREMENTS:


An ideal temperature for your ZZ Plant is between 75℉ and 85 ℉. Although the ZZ Plant prefers higher temperatures, it is very resilient and can handle temperatures below it’s preferred 75℉. This means that the average house temperature will be ideal for your ZZ Plant. How cold can a ZZ Plant tolerate? Nothing Below 40℉. They are not resistant to cold temperatures, as cold temperatures can cause damage or death to your ZZ Plant.

ZZ PLANT HUMIDITY REQUIREMENTS:

If you're wondering, "does the ZZ Plant like humidity," the answer is only a little bit. In addition to high temperatures the ZZ Plant also prefers average humidity. Average humidity is between levels of 30 and 50 percent. If your home is prone to lower humidity levels, make sure to mist your plant occasionally and position your plant around others to increase humidity levels. Both of these methods will ensure your ZZ Plant is maintaining average humidity levels and able to thrive in it’s indoor environment

How to lower humidity for your ZZ Plant:
01. Dehumidifiers: Using a fan or dehumidifier will increase air circulation in your home and lower humidity levels.

How to higher humidity for your ZZ Plant:
01.Spray plants with mist: A great way to increase humidity for your plant is by spraying with a mist of water. The best water to use is room temperature rain water because it contains minimal chemicals.

02. Add gravel or stones: Find a shallow ceramic bowl and fill with gravel or stones and stand the plant in the gravel. The gravel will encourage a damp environment that will increase humidity for your plant. Always ensure the gravel is kept moist to keep the humidity high. Be sure to not overwater your gravel because this can cause damage to your plant.

ZZ PLANT SOIL:

ZZ Plants prefer a peat-based soil. Peat soil is an acidic soil that retains a lot of moisture and slows decomposition. Due to such a high moisture retention this mix may require irrigation to help with draining. This soil type is best used when paired with organic matter. 

ZZ PLANT FERTILIZER:

Being such a resilient plant, the ZZ Plant  only requires fertilizer once a month! The best fertilizer to use is an all-purpose 20-20-20 fertilizer diluted to half strength. A 20-20-20 fertilizer gets its name from a balanced formula with all ingredients in equal amounts. The formula includes 20 percent phosphorus, 20 percent nitrogen, and 20 percent potassium. The nitrogen in the fertilizer will stimulate growth for your plant. The phosphorus and potassium helps solidify a strong root system. During the colder months of winter and autumn your ZZ Plant is dormant and therefore does not need to be fertilized. 

ZZ PLANT REPOTTING:

The best time of year to repot your ZZ Plant is during the spring time. In order to keep the plant in tact, the best method of repotting is flipping the pot upside down and gently easing the plant out of the pot. Repot your plant into a new, slightly larger pot, with fresh potting mix. 

ZZ PLANT PROPAGATION:

Have you fallen in love with your ZZ Plant and want more? You're in luck! The ZZ Plant is one of the easiest plants to propagate. Propagation is the process of multiplying plants and can be split into two different categories. There is sexual propagation that is through seeds and planting seedlings and then there is asexual propagation which is through taking cuttings of your plant to place in soil or water to grow as its own plant. 

Here are two ways in which you can propagate your ZZ Plant using the propagation method of cutting: 
01. ZZ Plant Stem Cutting: If you keep your original ZZ Plant healthy this will lead to healthy thick stems that will be perfect for propagation. Using sanitized scissors or a knife, make a straight cut at the base of the stem. Once the stem is cut, place it in a cup of water and change every 3 to 4 weeks. Make sure you remember to change the water because mold may grow and affect your plant propagation. Ensure your plant is placed in an area where it will receive bright, filtered sun. Sunlight is one of the key ingredients to ensure your ZZ Plant cutting will grow!
02. ZZ Plant Leaf Cutting: Although the leaf cutting method of propagation takes a little longer to develop roots and rhizomes then the stem cutting method, this too is a great way to create a new ZZ Plant! Using a sharp pair of scissors or a knife cut off the leaf of your ZZ Plant as close to the stock as possible. Place your leaf cutting stem in a pot with about 1 cm of soil. It is recommended to take multiple leaf cuttings to place in the pot of soil to ensure maximum possibility for growth. Once the leaf cuttings are placed in 1 cm of soil, thoroughly water the pot and continue to water once the soil is dry (about every 2 weeks).

ZZ PLANT DISEASES & PESTS:

Although very resilient, the ZZ Plant does have its limits! If neglected, your ZZ Plant can be susceptible to numerous diseases and pests.

01. ZZ Plant Root Rot - Root rot is the number one killer of ZZ Plants. Root rot is primarily caused by overwatering and not allowing your plant to properly drain. There are a few signs that your plant is experiencing root rot. One sign is your ZZ plant leaves turning yellow or beginning to wilt. Another sign is mushy roots and moldy soil. In order to check for mushy roots is to take your plant out of its pot and check the roots themselves! Healthy roots have a white appearance. If the roots appear a black or brown color and a slimy texture then they are definitely suffering from root rot!

If your ZZ Plant is suffering from root rot the best way to treat your plant is through repotting. Soak the ZZ Plant in water for a few hours to loosen up the soil around the plant to ensure it is easy for your plant to be removed from it’s pot. Once you have carefully removed your plant from the pot, examine the roots and cut the roots off about 1 inch above the damaged areas. You can also stop the fungus from spreading by applying fungicide. Choose a fungicide that focuses on fungal diseases will have the best chance of stopping the pathogens from spreading and your ZZ plant new growth will begin.

02. Fungus Gnats, Mealybugs, Gall Mites, Whiteflies, and Aphids - In addition to root rot, fungus gnats, mealybugs, gall mites, whiteflies, and aphids can cause growth and health issues for your ZZ Plant. These pests typically begin their infestation at the base of the plant’s leaves and feed on the fluids inside the leaves. The best way to protect your plant from these pests is by regularly removing all dead leaves from the pot and removing dust from leaves using a damp cloth

TOXICITY:

A major question to ask before bringing a new plant into your home is whether or not the ZZ Plant is poisonous or toxic to cats and/or dogs. Unfortunately, the ZZ Plant is toxic to both cats and dogs. All parts of the ZZ Plant are toxic to your pets and can cause them serious harm. If you do not want to depart with your ZZ Plant, be sure to place it in an area where it is not easily reached. 

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