What Is the ZZ Plant?
The ZZ plant is a perennial tropical plant native to eastern Africa. Its moniker derives from its botanical name, Zamioculcas zamiifolia, and you may also know it as Zansibar gem or aroid palm. The ZZ plant is a common ornamental houseplant with waxy, oval-shaped dark green leaves. ZZ plants are extremely drought-tolerant due to their rhizomes, which are underground plant stems that not only grow roots and shoots but also store water and beneficial nutrients.
How to Care for a ZZ Plant
ZZ plants are low-maintenance and shouldn't require much of a time commitment. As long as you follow these simple ZZ plant care tips, keeping your houseplant thriving should be a breeze.
- Provide ZZ plants with bright indirect light. ZZ plants are great indoor plants because they tolerate low light conditions, but they grow faster in bright indirect light. They also thrive under fluorescent lights, making them a popular plant choice for office buildings. To prevent scorched leaves, avoid placing ZZ plants in direct sunlight.
- Use a loose potting mix in a container with drainage holes. A high-quality standard potting mix should be sufficient for a ZZ plant as long it has good drainage. For an even more effective growing medium, try mixing three parts standard potting mix with one part succulent soil mix. Make sure you place your potting mix in a container with drainage holes so the water can escape.
- Let the soil dry out between waterings. A ZZ plant's rhizomes store water, making it drought-tolerant. In most growing conditions, you'll only need to water ZZ plants once every couple weeks (potentially more if your plant is in bright light and in a hotter climate). Overwatering is more of a problem than underwatering, and it can lead to yellowing leaves and root rot.
- Use a liquid fertilizer for indoor plants. ZZ plants can thrive without fertilizer, but they're slow growers, so using fertilizer will accelerate growth. Use a diluted liquid houseplant fertilizer once a month after watering, but only during the growing season (typically April through August).
- Maintain average temperature and humidity levels. ZZ plants grow best between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit in an environment with average humidity. Keep your ZZ plant out of temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, and consider placing it near a humidifier if your air is on the dry side, particular in winter.
- Re-pot ZZ plants every spring. Re-potting is necessary once a ZZ plant outgrows its pot and becomes root-bound, meaning that its roots try to escape out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Re-pot once the growing season begins in the spring. You typically won't need to re-pot a ZZ plant after its first five years of life.
- Monitor for aphid infestations. ZZ plants are resistant to almost all pests, but in rare cases, they may be plagued by aphids. Aphid infestations are more likely to occur if your ZZ plant is outside during warmer months. Aphids cause ZZ plant leaves to form yellow spots covered in a sticky substance. To rid your plant of aphids, spray them away with a strong spray from a garden hose, and cut off any diseased leaves. Avoid using leaf shine product. It may be tempting to use a leaf shine product to give your ZZ plant extra-shiny leaves, but leaf shine will clog your ZZ plant's pores (called stomata) and prevent them from absorbing oxygen. Keep ZZ plants out of reach of children and pets. ZZ plants contain calcium oxalate, which is toxic when ingested and may cause painful intestinal issues. Those with sensitive skin may also experience skin irritation from touching ZZ plant leaves, so be careful when handling, and wash your hands after making any contact with your plant’s leaves.
How to Propagate ZZ Plants
Propagating your ZZ plants is a simple and inexpensive way to add new ZZ plants to your home garden. You can propagate ZZ plants through division or with leaf cuttings.
- To propagate by division, wait until you need to re-pot your ZZ plant. Once you’ve removed the plant from its pot, simply split the rhizome root system into two portions, and plant each in its own container.
- To propagate using leaf cuttings, cut off a leaf stem containing at least two leaves from a mature ZZ plant. Plant the cutting at a shallow depth in a new container with a moist potting mix. Place your propagated plant in a warm location that receives bright indirect light and water it occasionally when the soil dries out. This is a slower propagation method than division, and it can take anywhere from four months to a full year for new rhizomes to develop.
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