How to Care for ZZ Plants

The Zamioculcas Zamiifolia plant is most often called the ZZ Plant, given its complicated name. This East Africa native, sometimes referred to as a Zanzibar Gem, is easy to grow, even if it requires years to do so. It does not require a particularly special soil combination or exact lighting. That makes it an ideal choice for people who are new to gardening, especially people who get distracted easily. However, too much attention to the plant, in the form of excessive water, lighting, or pruning, can harm it or kill it. It does best with the most minimal amount of care.

Quick ZZ Plant Tips

The ZZ plant is quite easy to maintain, but takes a long time to grow. People can put it almost anywhere in the house and almost forget about it, and it may still survive. These tips can help it grow ideally:

  • Light and Placement: It can survive in a variety of lighting environments, but will not thrive in colder environments.
  • Watering and Humidity: ZZ plants need very little water and can thrive in semi-arid environments.
  • Soil Mixture: A well-draining soil mixture with a little compost is ideal for the ZZ plant, to maintain a high drainage rate.
  • Common Issues: The ZZ plant will mostly suffer from overwatering, although aphids can also be a problem.
  • Propagation: Cutting a new ZZ plant is relatively easy, but can take up to several months to be ready to plant in a new pot.
  • Toxicity: The ZZ Plant is toxic to cats, dogs, and children.

Pruning or transplanting takes care. The leaves can cause irritation to the skin, and should be kept out of the reach of pets or small children.

Light and Placement for ZZ Plant

As far as lighting, the ZZ plant is one of the most forgiving plants people can buy. The plant is native to an area with significant changes in the lighting environment throughout the year. This means that a ZZ plant can thrive in direct sunlight, but it will also grow well without much access to bright sunlight. As a general rule, people should avoid planting it in an area with excessive afternooon sunlight. This can burn the leaves from overexposure. Otherwise, it is not necessary to place it in an area that gets an exact amount of a particular kind of light. People may want to keep the plant from drafty vents.

The biggest reason that the ZZ plant is so easy to grow and maintain is that it does not grow very quickly. Each stem grows directly from the root. As such, it tends to stay about two feet tall at a maximum height. However, this kind of growth can take a few years to achieve. The amount of lighting and water that the ZZ plant receives tend to balance each other out more than they promote or discourage growth.

ZZ Plant Watering and Humidity Preferences

Native to East Africa, the ZZ plant is accustomed to periods of heavy rains, as well as periods with no watering at all. Such an environment makes it highly likely to thrive, as long as people do not consistently overwater it. As a type of plant, it resembles something more like a succulent than a grass. This means that the plant is great at holding onto water for the dry, hot months common to southeastern Africa. People who are likely to forget to water the plant, or who may be out of town for weeks at a time, are unlikely to encounter problems with the plant as a result. Watering no more than once a month, is ideal.

Although the ZZ plant is used to an occasionally arid environment, it is not a desert plant. As such, people should aim for a moderate humidity around 40 to 50 percent. Fortunately, this is the average indoor humidity in most parts of the country, mostly related to the type of heating and cooling system people have. If the soil or the leaves get too dry and require watering too frequently, people can install a cool mist humidifier nearby.

ZZ Plant Ideal Soil Mixture

The ZZ plant needs drainage above almost anything else. Soil that holds moisture will cause the plant to turn brown, lose its leaves, or die. Instead, people may get the best results from using a well-draining soil mixture. It is vital to ensure that the pot itself has proper drainage. Since the soil is generally going to be fairly dry, people should select a pot that is large enough to support the plant at its full height.

The ZZ plant probably will not need repotting on a regular basis. Since it takes months to propagate and years to grow to its full height, people may only need to replant it once every 24 months. Replanting is relatively simple, and typically should be done in spring or summer. All people need to do is identify a slightly larger pot with drainage holes. Adding potting mix that will drain quickly keeps the plant from taking too much water. As they move the plant, people can trim away roots but should avoid cutting into the rhizome.

Troubleshooting ZZ Plant Issues

Like many indoor plants, the ZZ plant is most likely to deal with issues from overwatering or insufficient light. It is not impossible to underwater it, but it is far less common. People know that they are overwatering the plant if the stems start to turn brown or feel very soft to the touch. People should avoid watering the plant until the top three inches of soil are dry. Although this plant thrives in most lighting scenarios, it may suffer from a complete lack of lighting. If it is not growing or the stems are getting longer without producing leaves, moving the pot to a place with more light is the best solution.

ZZ plants will generally repel pests, but may occasionally have problems with them. Aphids are the most common. People can spot this issue by noticing inconsistencies in the leaf coloring. Aphids themselves are very difficult to see, as they hide between the leaves. Prevention is the best treatment. People can periodically spray the leaves with a mild solution containing water, neem oil and a drop of dishsoap, and wiping away. This makes the leaves inedible for the aphids.

ZZ Plant Propagation

Propagating a ZZ plant is simple to start, but can take as long as nine months to complete. Since ZZ plants usually grow as a series of stems with lots of small leaves, it is important to try to keep the individual stems and leaves intact. People should start with a set of sterilized pruning shears. They can cut the stem near the base, and let it callous over. There are two common methods of ZZ plant propagation. One involves placing the stem in water while giving the leaves access to bright sunlight. The other method entails putting the stem into a small amount of potting mix and pumice.

In order to be able to place the cutting into a regular pot, people have to wait until the cutting has grown a root and a new rhizome. Not unlike a bulb, a rhizome is a part of the stem that will produce new stems and roots over time. In ideal conditions, you may notice that the root and rhizome can grow in as little as four to eight weeks — especially if using a good root stimulator. Most people have to wait longer, as long as nine months.

People who have had a miserable time trying to grow or maintain indoor plants that require a lot of attention or a careful setup may do well with a ZZ plant. This hardy plant is built to survive a variety of conditions, except freezing temperatures. In moderate lighting and with very occasional watering, it will thrive and continue to grow slowly. Inexperienced gardeners may do very well with it, although it should be kept from very young children as it is toxic when ingested.

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