A leggy ZZ plant is never a good look. In fact, once you see it, you immediately can tell something’s not right or normal.
What’s worse is that while legginess can make your ZZ plant look unsightly, it has health consequences as well.
Leggy stems are elongated, thin and weaker than normal, healthy stems.
This not only makes your ZZ plant look spindly it makes it weak. The excess length is also usually accompanied by leaning.
So, after a while, your ZZ plant will fall over to one side because it has become unbalanced.
What causes a leggy ZZ Plant? ZZ plants become leggy when they do not get enough light. As such, they instinctively stretch towards the light source in desperation to get as much illumination as possible.
This stretching causes the plant to become leggy.
Other causes of legginess include overwatering, lack of water, fertilizer issues and stress.
What Is Plant Legginess? Why is it Bad?
A plant is leggy when its stems or petioles are abnormally long.
What happens is that these become thinner and longer such that the leaves and nodes are farther away from one another.
What means when you have a leggy plant, your plant may look longer. But its stems will be weaker, look thinner and flimsier than normal.
Similarly, the leaves will be more spaced apart from one another.
As such, a leggy ZZ plant will look weird and not normal. More importantly, it won’t be healthy.
That’s because its stems are not strong structurally.
Instead, your ZZ plant will be lopsided to one direction because the stems extend out towards that side more. This makes it less balanced, which isn’t only less visually appealing but also increases the risk of it tipping over to one side.
My ZZ Plant is Leggy (Causes & Solutions)
Now that you know what legginess is and why it is not a good trait for plants, it is time to go through the different reasons why ZZ plants become leggy.
Below I’ll list the different causes of a leggy ZZ plant and why it happens.
I’ll also explain how you can fix each of these issues.
What Causes a Leggy ZZ Plant?
ZZ plants usually grow to about 3 to 4 feet high and 3 feet wide indoors. It is generally a slow grower. But how fast it grows and how big it grows will depend on different factors.
These include how much light, water and fertilizer it receives.
Similarly, the ZZ plant’s leaves will also grow fairly close to one another which makes it beautiful to look at.
Its size and slow growth combined with its toughness and low maintenance make it a popular houseplant for homes as well as offices.
You also don’t need a lot of space to accommodate the plant.
If you notice a leggy ZZ plant or one that is beginning to become leggy, the most common reason is lack of light.
ZZ plants can thrive in low light conditions.
However, when it does not get the light it receives, it instinctively will reach out for the light source.
Like other plants, ZZ plants need light for photosynthesis.
The light its leaves collect from the sun allow it to produce its own food which supply the plant with energy. In turn, this energy is what the plant uses to push out new shoots and leaves.
It is also what your ZZ plant uses to make leaves get bigger and keep them lush and green.
Therefore, inadequate light will slow down the growth and overall development of your ZZ plant.
So, if your ZZ plant is not getting enough light, it will instinctively try to reach out towards where the light source is. This is what causes it to become leggy.
Its stems will get thinner, and the leaves will be distanced farther away from one another as the stems stretch out.
While the plant may look longer and taller because it has stretched out, you’ll notice the stems look flimsier and thinner as well. This makes your ZZ plant less healthy and structurally sound.
Additionally, from experience, I’ve noticed that leggy ZZ plants will have fewer leaves because they’re not getting as much light as they need for photosynthesis.
Thus, you’ll see thinner stems with fewer leaves with the leaves spaced farther apart from one another.
That’s not a good look for ZZ plants.
More importantly, it makes the plant unhealthy.
If you notice this happening, there are two easy ways to fix it.
One is to move your ZZ plant to a brighter location. Choose a spot with medium to bright indirect light for ideal growth.
But avoid direct sunlight as this provides too much intensity for the plant.
More than 2 to 3 hours of direct sun on a daily basis will also eventually scorch the plant’s leaves.
The second option is to use artificial lights.
If you cannot find an area in your home that provides your ZZ plant with plenty of indirect sunlight, then try artificial lights.
You can use this to supplement whatever sunlight coming into your home. Or you can use the artificial lights on their own.
Artificial lights is also a good option to keep the plant healthy during winter when there isn’t a lot of sunshine available.
Why is My ZZ Plant Leggy and Bending/Leaning to One Direction?
Then problem with leggy ZZ plants is that they become thin and spindly. This causes their stems to become weaker as well.
And extra length and lack of structural support due to the weaker stems will make the plant lean or bend towards one side.
This is what makes it look lopsided.
And if you allow the stems to keep stretching out towards that direction, the plant will eventually tip over.
So why does this happen?
Again, this goes back to your ZZ plant’s need for light.
When there is insufficient light, the plant will stretch towards where the light is coming from. It addition to thinner, elongated stems, these stems will also bend towards the direction of that light.
The combination of its thin, weak stems and trying to reach towards one side is what makes your plant lean or bend towards that direction.
So, unfortunately, legginess does cause ZZ plants to lead as well.
As a result, your plant will look unbalanced.
This is why it is important to rotate the plant regularly in addition giving it sufficient light.
Note that if your ZZ plant is getting light from different directions at the same time, you won’t need to bother with this.
But in many cases, light coming into homes enter through a window or similar opening.
This means the light comes from one direction only.
If this is the case, I find it good practice to rotate the plant a quarter of a turn (90 degrees) every time I water it.
This way, you have a regular schedule for rotating the plant that’s easy to remember.
In doing so, it allows each side of your ZZ plant to grow evenly as each side receives ample sunlight.
Other Reasons Why Your ZZ Plant is Leggy
While insufficient light will be the cause of a leggy ZZ plant majority of the time, there will be instances where there may be other reasons for legginess.
As such, if your ZZ plant gets sufficient lighting, go through the other potential causes below to narrow down the cause.
Overwatering is a common issue with ZZ plants.
That’s because it does not need a lot of water. In fact, the plant can go 2-4 weeks without water without any problems.
However, most beginner gardeners often end up watering the plant too frequently.
In doing so, they’re actually killing it with their kindness.
The problem with too much moisture is that the roots eventually end up in lots of water. When the soil gets saturated, it makes it difficult for the roots to get enough oxygen.
When this happens, the roots don’t function at 100%. And they end up unable to absorb enough water and nutrients for the plant’s needs.
What’s worse is that if the overwatered state persist, the root can eventually suffocate and die.
This will result in root rot.
Weak, damaged and dead roots cause instability and loss of structural strength. This cases the plant to lean and flop over to one side.
The fewer healthy roots remaining also means that your ZZ plant won’t be able supply the needed moisture and nutrients to plant.
This result in a leggy ZZ plant that’s likewise weak and drooping.
Underwatering is a less likely issue with ZZ plants.
Again, this is because of its ability to go without water for weeks at a time.
However, while unlikely, it is still possible.
And I’ve seen it happen at least a few times.
Often, underwatering a ZZ plant is due to a busy schedule or hectic lifestyle. The plant becomes neglected and only get watered when the owner remembers.
If a couple of months or more go by where the plant goes without watering, it will become dehydrated.
You’ll see its leaves curl initially and some browning occur.
After a while, leaves can likewise fall off.
Because plants need water to stay healthy, lack of moisture causes all sorts of problems.
For one it is the filler that keeps the plant upright. Water is also what transports nutrients from the roots to different parts of the plant including its leaves.
Therefore, underwatering and dehydrate will make the plant droop, get weak, lean and fall over.
As such, it is a good idea to regularly check the soil to see if it is dry.
This will let you know when to water the plant.
Trauma or Shock
Lack of fertilizer leads to nutrient deficiencies. In contrast, too much fertilizer can cause more serious problems.
In most cases, fertilizer is similar to watering.
Most beginner plant owners like to overfeed their houseplants.
Again, this comes from the misconception that plants need fertilizer on a very regular basis.
Instead, plants don’t always need fertilizer. Some are heavier feeders wile others are light feeders.
Additionally, there are times of the year where the plant will take a rest from all its growing. Thus, giving it plant food at this time increases the risk of overfertilizing.
The problem with overfeeding your ZZ plant is that supplying it with too much nitrogen forces it to grow faster than it normally does.
In its haste to grow, the stems get longer and the plant grows taller.
But the quality of the stems lag.
That’s because the rapid growth prevents the proper structural development from happening. This makes the stems thin, weak and elongate.
As a result, your ZZ plant becomes leggy and spindly.
How to Fix Leggy ZZ Plant
The best way to fix a leggy ZZ plant is to avoid letting it become leggy in the first place.
This is because once the stems become leggy, they won’t recover or go back to normal even if you apply the solutions below.
Instead, you’ll need to cut off the leggy stems and allow the plant to grow again.
With the proper fixes, the new stems won’t be leggy. But pruning won’t help if you do not fix the underlying problem.
Instead, the new stems will eventually become leggy again after a while.
Therefore, solving the root cause of your ZZ plant’s legginess is still the priority.
How to Fix Lighting Issues
The most common reason for a leggy ZZ plant is lack of light.
If your ZZ plant is not getting enough light, it will look for whatever light source it can find. Then try to reach out towards that light source.
As a result, the stems become leggy as the plant continuously tried to grow towards whatever light source it can find.
This is what causes the thin, elongated stems.
The good news is that it is easy to fix plant legginess due to lack of light.
Move your ZZ plant to a brighter location.
Ideally, keep it somewhere with medium to bright indirect light. This means to look for a location that is well-lit but where the plant does not get hit by the sun’s rays.
Keep in mind that ZZ plant’s cannot tolerate long durations of direct sunlight on a day to day basis.
So, try to choose a spot with indirect, filtered or dappled light.
In addition to position your ZZ plant so it receives plenty of light, it is also a good idea to rotate the plant regularly.
This way, each side receives ample amount of light.
In doing so, your ZZ plant will grow on all sides. This prevents any legginess and bending, giving you a balanced ZZ plant.
Prune Your Leggy ZZ Plant
Since leggy stems won’t recover and become normal again, it is best to prune them. Keep it mind that you do not want to prune all the stems and leaves at the same time.
Try to limit it at about 30% or a third.
That’s because plants need their leaves to collect light from the sun for photosynthesis.
Additionally, you want to prevent any shock or too much stress on the plant by cutting off too much at once.
Instead, prune the leggy stems.
This will encourage new growth. And after you’ve fixed the source of the legginess, the new stems will be healthy and strong.
Pruning the leggy stems also prevent the plant from looking floppy or make your ZZ plant fall over.
Additionally, trimming helps make a sparse plant become bushier as well.
Make sure to sterilize your scissors or pruning shears before you prune. This ensures that they do not pass any pathogens to the plant.
Feed Your ZZ Plant Properly
To encourage healthy and proper growth, feed your ZZ plant with the right fertilizer.
Fertilizer is plant food.
It supplies the plant with the macro and micronutrients that will allow it to grow.
Certain deficiencies can cause leggy stems.
Note that there are many different kinds of fertilizers available. And you have a few options you can use for your ZZ plant.
I like to use a balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer. A 15-15-15 or 20-20-20 NPK formulation works really well.
Make sure to follow the instructions.
ZZ plants do not need to be fed all year round. Instead, they do most of their growing during the warmer months of the year.
Therefore, make sure not to overfeed the plant especially during winter.
Too much fertilizer is worse than not feeding the plant. While it may not cause legginess, excess salts from overfeeding can eventually cause fertilizer burn which damages the roots and leaves of your ZZ plant.
How to Water ZZ Plants
In addition to proper lighting and sufficient nutrients, water is likewise important.
Plants are made up of 90% water.
Thus, if you want your ZZ plant to stay upright and not droop or wilt, it will need sufficient water.
That said, the common issue with ZZ plant watering is usually too much moisture.
Many beginners owners still believe that plants need to be watered daily. That may be the case for some plants especially if you live in tropical or subtropical climates.
But the ZZ plant only needs watering once every 7 to 14 days.
It can likewise survive without water for as long as 3 to 4 weeks.
Note that how often will depend on the time of the year. During the summer, it will likely need watering once a week or so. But in the winter when the temperature is low, it may only need to be watered once a month.
Thus, I prefer to check the soil to know when to water my ZZ plant.
I wait until the soil is completely or close to being completely dry. You can likewise water the plant when the top half of the soil or top 3/4 of the soil has dried out.
Never water the plant when the soil still feels moist or wet. This will lead to overwatering which is the biggest weakness of your ZZ plant.