Scientific Name: Zamioculcas Zamiifolia
Common Name: ZZ Plant, Zanzibar Gem
ZZ plants have been very popular over the years and have been around for a long time. If you’re considering getting a ZZ plant or have a ZZ plant currently, you’re probably wondering about ZZ plant care. ZZ plants are a beautiful houseplant that’s found in many households known for its resiliency and many new plant parents flock to ZZ plants for this reason. They are also great natural air purifiers. But there’s still quite a few things to know about this popular houseplant and how to care for ZZ plant properly.
ZZ Plant History
The ZZ plant has been around for a few centuries. It first originated in the 1800s in South Africa and Kenya. In 1996, the Dutch discovered it and found out they could propagate it. After that, this plant was delivered all around the world.
ZZ Plant Identification
The ZZ plant can be identified by having long, lengthy branches with evenly spaced out leaves. It can range in height from 4″ to up to 5′ tall. If you touch the plant at all, be sure to wash your hands before touching anything else to avoid skin irritation. If a smaller plant, you will find it as tabletop plants and if it’s a larger plant, it’s usually displayed as a floor plant. Because of the hardiness of the plant, a ton of people have the ZZ plant as an office plant.
ZZ Growth Facts
ZZ plants are known for their easy care, meaning minimal waterings and minimal lighting. But if you want your ZZ plant to thrive, pay specific attention to a few different things. The ZZ plant likes bright, indirect light but if you just want to “set it and forget it”, medium to low light will suffice.
How Big Does a ZZ Plant Get?
Before buying a ZZ plant, you may want to understand how big a ZZ plant gets so let’s get into more ZZ plant care. Like many other houseplants, the growth of the ZZ plant comes and goes with the seasons. In spring, it will start to grow at a fast rate and continue throughout summer. When the temperatures dip in the fall and winter, the plant essentially stops any new growth until the temperatures rise again in spring.
In the spring and summer during the growing season, ZZ plants can get an average of 3-8 new stems, possibly reaching 6-12″ in height per growing season. Of course, the growth of a ZZ plant depends on if it is given the right environment to thrive. While many ZZ plants may only give a few inches of new growth per growing season.
If you want to really grow a ZZ plant, you need to pay attention to a few things.
Light – Give this plant bright indirect light to encourage growth.
Fertilizer – You can fertilize this plant every six months. For best growth, fertilize in the beginning of spring and near the end of summer/early fall.
Temperature – The ZZ plant likes to stay between 65-75F so be sure it is receiving the right temperatures and don’t put it close to a drafty window or an AC/heating duct.
Pay close attention to those details for optimal ZZ plant growth.
ZZ Plant Care
Best Soil for ZZ Plant
In order for the ZZ plant to thrive, you need to know what is the best soil for optimal ZZ plant care. Underneath the soil, ZZ plants have rhizomes, that are potato-looking structures. These rhizomes actually hold water and they can use the water later when the plant is dry, usually when you forget to water the plant. This is what makes the plant so hardy. Since they are so resilient and not at all fussy, a standard houseplant soil will do for this plant. Something with compost, perlite, pine bark, and worm castings would be beneficial to help this plant thrive. Be sure it has some sort of horticultural sand for it to drain well as these plants do not like to be over-watered.
ZZ Plant Fertilizer
The ZZ plant can benefit from a normal houseplant fertilizer every six months, preferably early in spring and then again at the end of summer.
ZZ Plant Watering
Because of the rhizomes that the ZZ plant has and the role they play in helping to release water when needed, means that you can easily overwater your ZZ plant. Obviously, that is not a good thing and can certainly lead to the death of the plant from the rot of rhizomes that too much water brings. Be sure to only give the ZZ plant water when the top two inches of the soil are completely dry. When watering, make sure to water it thoroughly and until water comes out of the drainage hole. A good rule of thumb is to water ZZ plants every 2 – 3 weeks, but they can go up to a month without watering.
ZZ Plant Light Requirements
In order to get the correct ZZ plant care, you need to pay attention to the amount of sunlight it gets. ZZ plants like bright indirect light. Direct light will burn their leaves. They can also flourish in fluorescent lighting, or in low light, which is why it is a popular office plant.
ZZ Plant Temperature & Humidity
The ideal temperature range for the ZZ plant is 65 to 75F degrees with temperatures not dropping below 45F. ZZ also needs average humidity, so run a humidifier next to it during the winter months to keep it happy.
ZZ Plant Maintenance & Pruning
There are many different reasons to prune back your ZZ plant. Before pruning or doing any type of maintenance, be sure to wear gloves to protect yourself from the skin irritants in this plant.
As ZZ plants are very lengthy and leggy, one of the more common reasons to prune back this plant is to give it an overall evenness to the plant. As many stems can have crazy growth while others have mediocre growth, trimming them helps to keep it a cohesive plant.
Another reason to prune your ZZ plant is from dead, yellowing, or brown stems. You will want to remove these stems right away to be sure the rot does not spread to the rest of the plant.
Remember, if the cuttings you take are healthy stems, you can propagate them which we talk about more in-depth in the next section.
When pruning, cut the stems back at the soil level with clean scissors. If there’s only a few leaves that need to be removed, you can remove these with your fingers, be sure to wear gloves or wash your hands after handling this plant.
Propagating ZZ plant is a great way to start new ZZ babies.
With clean, sharp scissors, start at the base of the stem and cut a clean straight edge. Be sure to cut more than you would like in case some of the cuttings not rooting.
Place the cuttings in distilled room temperature water. Avoid lots of sunlight while they get roots, instead place near bright indirect light. Change the water with distilled room temperature water every few days.
Once the root grows about 1″ and the rhizome is present, (about 2 – 4 months after cutting), then it is ready to be placed into soil.
Plant in a small pot or a growers pot with proper drainage. Be sure to put about 2″ of potting soil in the pot before placing the rooted stems into the soil. This helps to let the roots grow longer and stronger. Place as many stem cuttings into the pot as you like. Once potted, be sure to water thoroughly.
ZZ Plant Toxicity
The ZZ plant is toxic to humans, dogs, and cats if ingested. The ZZ plant contains calcium oxalate crystals, which is what makes the plant toxic.
Toxicity to Humans
One of the downfalls of a ZZ plant is that it is toxic if ingested and can cause skin irritation for sensitive skin when handled. Be sure to not let children chew, touch, or play with the ZZ plant. When planting, washing the leaves, repotting, or fertilizing, be sure to wear gloves and wash hands after handling this plant to avoid skin irritation. If ingested, it will cause an upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Toxicity to Dogs & Cats
If the leaves of a ZZ plant are ingested by our furry friends or if the plant touches any part of their mucous membranes, irritation will occur. From drooling to pawing at the mouth, vomiting, diarrhea, and not being willing to eat, are a few symptoms dogs will feel. Symptoms will start 1 – 3 hours after coming into contact with the plant. Symptoms should subside after 24 hours. To help comfort them, you can give them ice cubes, if they like them. This will help to reduce inflammation and swelling.
ZZ Plant Problems
ZZ Plant Diseases
The ZZ plant isn’t known to carry many diseases besides root rot. Root rot can be a common ZZ plant disease, because of the rhizomes and how they hold water. If the rhizomes are full and the plant receives more water, this is when root rot can set in and kill the houseplant.
If you catch root rot early in your ZZ plant, you can get rid of it with a few steps. Here are the some of the early warning signs of root rot. Yellowing leaves in the lower half of your plant, curling leaves, browning leaves, drooping stems, blisters in the leaves, or even a rotting smell coming from the base of the plant are all signs of root rot.
To fix these signs of root rot, here are the things to do. Remove the plant from its current pot, knock off the soil, trim off the affected roots with clean scissors, and rinse off the rest of the soil on the plant. Pick out a new, clean, porous pot with a good houseplant soil that allows for optimal drainage. Water it well, and hopefully it will start to grow new growth.
If your root rot is more serious, you can try the steps above but the disease may be fatal.
ZZ Plant Pests
Since ZZ plants are toxic, they don’t attract many bugs but there are a few bugs that ZZ plants can attract mainly in the winter from the moist air in the soil, such as aphids, fungus gnats, and/or spider mites. Be sure to catch the infestation early on to get rid of it without killing the plant.