Probably one of the oddest plant names you’ll find, ZZ actually stands for Zamioculcas zamiifolia. That’s why people just call it the ZZ plant.
Can you blame them? I wouldn’t.
Names aside, this is one of the most popular houseplants around because it is easy to care for and lovely to look at. As a homeowner and grower, those are two things you never get tired of hearing.
While they look different, the ZZ plant is actually a close relative to the peace lily and pothos. Both of which are very common in homes as well.
So, if you’ve ever wondered how to care for this intriguing plant, read on.
About the ZZ Plant
The ZZ plant is perfect for anyone who’s looking for an easy to care for, low maintenance houseplant. It’s the ideal choice if you have a black thumb, are awfully busy, or want a plant that doesn’t require a lot of commitment.
Better yet, it’s good looks is somewhat low-key such that it doesn’t try to grab all the attention like other bigger or showier plants.
That said, it does grow to between 2 to 3 feet tall. Outdoors, they’re capable of getting up to 3 to 5 feet high.
As far as looks go, the ZZ plant’s most distinguishable features are its oval-shaped, shiny, dark green leaves. But, it’s biggest selling points are its ability to thrive in home and office conditions.
This makes it well-suited for low light conditions and normal room temperature. Plus, it doesn’t mind not having high humidity despite having a tropical background.
ZZ Plant Care
ZZ Plant Light Requirements
ZZ plants can tolerate different lighting conditions, the most important of which is getting enough light.
This means that while it doesn’t have a problem with low light situations, you shouldn’t leave it in the dark or areas with almost no light. When this happens, it becomes leggy.
But, it’s worth noting that they don’t require any natural light to survive. Thus, making them perfect for growing indoors.
That said, they grow best under bright, indirect light.
However, the worse thing you can possibly do to them is to place them in direct sunlight. Too much sun, especially exposure when it’s intense like during the summer and mid-afternoon can scorch their leaves or cause them to dry out.
Fortunately, this can be remedied by moving them away to a location with less sunlight. In due time, it will recover its former glory and show its green leaves once again.
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ZZ Plant Temperature & Humidity
Besides doing well indoors under the bright, fluorescent lights, ZZ plants are also happy with average home temperatures. And, unlike many other houseplants, it doesn’t require humid conditions.
This makes it easier to grow indoors without having to make any special arrangements or changes to your home’s climate.
Just make sure that your home’s air doesn’t get too dry. This can be a problem during the cooler months. Or, if you tend to run the heater or air conditioning often.
If that’s the case, you can set it above a water tray or get a humidifier to keep your plants happy.
As long as the thermostat stays between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, it will thrive. However, you need to be wary of areas where there can be cold spots, wind, drafts, or other things that can give it a chill. Your ZZ plant has a hard time withstanding cold temperatures that are 45 degrees or lower.
Watering ZZ Plants
When it comes to watering, too much is a bigger problem than not getting enough of it. ZZ plants grow from rhizomes. As such, this allows them to store water under the soil.
So, it’s fairly forgiving should you forget to water it once in a while. In fact, it’s quite drought-tolerant such that it’s able to go for months without getting moisture.
But, it will grow better with proper watering.
In most cases, you’ll only need to water your ZZ plant once or twice a week depending on the environment in your home.
A better way to tell is by checking whether the soil has dried out. Once it does, it’s a sign that it’s time to water.
But, above all, don’t overwater it. Allowing your ZZ plant to sit on water will result in rhizome rot.
From the previous section, you can already probably tell that your ZZ plant likes well-draining soil. And, you’d be right.
That said, it doesn’t mind too much what kind of potting soil you use as long as it doesn’t hold water too well.
Because of this you can pretty much use any potting mix. And, if you find out that it doesn’t drain as needed, you can add some sand or perlite to help it get rid of excess moisture better.
As with sunlight, soil, and watering, your ZZ plant isn’t too picky or fussy about fertilizer as well. This makes it very easy to care for since you don’t need to do a lot of it. Or, accommodate to its specific needs.
Theoretically, the plant doesn’t need fertilizing at all.
But, like water, giving it the proper nutrients allows it to grow optimally.
The good news is, you only have to do so once or twice during its growing season, which is spring and summer. You can use a liquid houseplant fertilizer, something that’s 20-20-20 works well, diluted to half-strength.
ZZ Plant Pruning
Another reason why many homeowners love the ZZ plant is that it doesn’t need pruning. This makes it perfect if you have a brown thumb or prefer low maintenance houseplants.
The only time you’ll need to do so is to remove yellow leaves and overgrowth. Thus, it’s purely cosmetic. And, only necessary to keep the plant looking neat and tidy.
That said, it’s a good idea to wear gloves when you do so. See the toxicity section below for more details.
ZZ Plant Propagation
You can propagate your ZZ plant via leaf cuttings or division.
Between the two, division is the more efficient method despite being more “hands-on”. That’s because while it does require you to take out the plant from its current container, the separated plant will grow as is.
In contrast, taking a leaf cutting means that you’ll need to wait for it to almost grow from scratch. That means having to wait anywhere from 6 to 9 months for the rhizomes to start showing up.
In any case, here’s how to do both methods.
- Take the plant out of its pot.
- Separate the rhizomes.
- Since you’re going to need to remove it from it container, it’s a good idea to propagate your ZZ plant the next time you repot it. That way, you’re taking advantage of it being removed from its pot.
- Replant the separated section/s in individual containers.
For leaf cutting:
- Choose a stem that has a least 2 leaves on it
- Trim off that stem
- Plant the cutting into a potting mix that’s well-draining.
- Set the container aside to an area where it receives bright, indirect light.
- Wait 6 to 9 months for rhizomes to appear.
Repotting ZZ Plant
In keeping with its low maintenance nature, you don’t need to repot your ZZ plant until it outgrows its current home.
You can tell when this happens as its rhizomes will start emerging from underneath the soil onto the edges from the container.
If it’s in a plastic pot or something pliable, you’ll likewise see some warping happening in your pot’s shape.
Once you see this, it’s time to repot. And, the best time to do so is during the spring or summer. That’s because your ZZ plant is better able to withstand stress or any changes happening when it’s actively growing (as opposed to when it’s in “dormant rest”).
To repot your ZZ plant:
- Gently remove the plant from its current container.
- Dust off any excess soil and clean the roots.
- Add some potting soil to the bottom of the new pot. This is to make sure that your ZZ plant “stands up” to the same height it was in the old pot.
- Insert the plant into the pot.
- Add potting soil that’s well-draining.
- Water thoroughly. You’ll know when to stop once the water starts dripping from the bottom drain.
- Allow the excess liquid to drain off.
ZZ plants contain calcium oxalate crystals. This is one of the few downsides it has as a houseplant.
Nevertheless, because it’s related to your family’s health, it’s a big one.
Ingesting any part of the plant is dangerous because of its toxic nature. While it isn’t deadly, it will cause stomach issues and skin irritation.
This is why it’s essential to keep it out of reach of fun-loving young kids and pets. Similarly, it’s a good idea to use gloves when handling it, be it repotting, pruning, or propagation.