Zamioculcas Zamiifolia or the ZZ Plant (say Zee Zee Plant) is an uncomplicated and easy to care for popular houseplant for your home or office.
As well as being a cinch to keep alive (further into this article we'll give you a step by step care guide for keeping your plant healthy), the other advantage of this newish introduction to the world of houseplants is that it's currently really fashionable, suiting both a contemporary or traditional home.
It's a versatile and great looking plant with a lot going on to help it stand out from the rest.
Some of the ZZ Plant benefits are that it's stylish, attractive and easy to take care of, with a straightforward propagation method. It can take a reasonable amount of neglect without adverse effects and appears impervious to most pests that can afflict other plants.
From its starchy potato-like rhizomes at the base of each stem to the textured look of the oval shaped glossy leaves which are arranged along its contrasting colored stem in a herringbone fashion. It's also ridiculously simple to propagate more plants! So what's not to love about it?
Did you know? The ZZ Plant originates from Africa but it has only started to be grown in mass by Dutch nurseries (which is where the majority of the western world's houseplants come from) in the late 1990's and has gradually become more and more popular.
Well, the main disadvantage is that there's only a couple of varieties and cultivars. The most common is the all green variety shown in almost every picture in this article. Sometimes it goes by the name Eternity Plant or Emerald Palm.
In the last few years, a newer variety has arrived on the open market called Zamioculcas Zamiifolia 'Raven' or the Raven ZZ Plant. This one has very dark maroon leaves which in a certain light look almost black. It's still an easy care plant, but as it's a new introduction it might be challenging to find and consequently may attract a high premium by way of its selling price.
Another disadvantage is that it has an annoying tenancy not to do anything. At all. It doesn't grow; it doesn't die. It just sits there.
For some people, this won't matter in the slightest, but a lot of keen gardeners and indoor plant owners like feedback from their plants. When things are right they grow and flourish. When conditions aren't so good the plant lets you know about it through its sickly appearance and in that respect it can be difficult to understand.
Additionally, all parts of the plant are toxic and so it might not be the best houseplant for homes with curious pets or children. That said, it's a versatile and great looking houseplant with a lot going on to help it stand out from the rest.
If you're finding it hard to find a ZZ Plant you can buy them from Amazon.
Your ZZ will accommodate a broad spectrum of light conditions including low-light, however deep shade must be avoided if you want it to grow.
Equally too much light can be damaging as it doesn't like harsh direct sunlight found in South facing windows. Early morning or late afternoon sun is acceptable, therefore try to aim for a North, East or West facing window.
You should take care here, the number one cause of plant death is too much watering. So please read on to make sure you're doing it right.
The plant is fairly drought tolerant and can survive months without water. Therefore heavy constant watering without allowing the soil to dry out in between will turn the leaves yellow before rotting the tubers away. Drainage holes in the growing container is therefore recommended to help let excess water drain away.
On the other hand, for productive and fast growth the soil needs to be moist for the majority of the time between late Spring to early Autumn / Fall.
As a basic guide. In good light and warm temperatures, aim for a heavy watering once a week and once every two or three weeks in poor light conditions and over Winter. Adapt accordingly based on how the soil feels, if it's still damp when you come back a week later don't water again.
If your plant isn't growing, i.e. if it's in one of its "moods" (see introduction above and problem section below) or it's Winter, don't bother with fertilizer. Even when it's growing, a weak feed once a month is more than adequate. We use an all purpose liquid fertilizer because it gives you good control on how much you're providing.
This plant needs an average temperature between 13°C (55°F) - 26°C (79°F). Warmer temperatures in the upper range will give an increase in growth output.
Only repot if it's needed and do it in Spring or Summer. A general all purpose potting mix is perfect. Avoid anything with heavy enrichment and you can also use a soil mix designed for succulents.
ZZ Plant propagation is commonly done in one of two ways. The first is division which means you divide the plant once it's an enormous size and too big for its pot. It's just a case of removing the entire plant from the existing container and gently separating some of the tuberous rhizomes.
Design Tip - The more you divide the parent plant, the smaller the new ones are going to be. So think carefully about this, as excessive division will affect the final appearance.
You could half the plant, split into thirds or divide even further if you have a very congested root system.
There are a few other less common ways to propagate ZZ Plants such as rooting stem cuttings in water. This is handy if you have an accident and an entire stem falls out of the plant and you would rather try and get it back in with the rest of the plant in the future instead of stripping it's leaves and trying to create multiple plants (see below).
Simply put the entire stem with all the leaves as they are, into a container or tall vase. After a few months, you should see roots forming at the base. Wait until the roots are reasonably substantial before either putting back into the pot with the original plant, or pot it up on it's own. When we did this we waited 6 months for enough roots to have formed before transferring from the water vase to soil.
If you don't want to lose the overall size and bulk or your plant isn't that large yet, it's also really easy to propagate more through leaf cuttings, which is the second commonly used method of propagation.
If you choose to propagate by leaf cuttings, then it will be a while before you'll see results. You could be waiting up to a year before anything substantial happens above ground. If you have the patience and love a challenge, give it a try.
If you choose to propagate by leaf cuttings then it will be a while before you'll see results. You could be waiting up to a year
All you need to do is gently pull off a leaf from the stem, allow the raw edge to dry slightly (few hours to a day) and then pot it up in a free draining compost mix with the raw edge going in first. Only a few centimeters of the leaf needs to actually be in the soil, just enough to hold it in place.
Most of the leaf needs to be above the ground which prevents rotting, and allows for photosynthesis to take place which in turn creates the new growth. Keep warm and water very occasionally.
After you've done this one of three things will eventually happen:
If you want a visual guide for the leaf propagation method, we found a great video covering this on YouTube. You can watch it below.
Slow to moderate. Warmer temperatures tend to result in more growth overall. The new stems emerge out of the soil and quickly get taller before opening up, just like a cocoon.
Inside are all the new glossy leaves that will gradually emerge and fan out.
The stems can grow to 60cm / 24. Its spread however is limited only by the size of the container it's in. Very wide containers will result in a bushy plant (after many years).
The ZZ does grow flowers from time to time, but they're basic and not very exciting (see gallery for pictures).
All parts are toxic to the majority of household pets including cats and dogs as well as people, so keep the plant away from curious animals or kids.
The leaves are naturally glossy, so if they become dusty the leaves will lose their shine. Popping it into a tepid shower will help wash all the leaves quickly. Don't use leaf shine products as this can be harmful and once washed, the natural gloss will come back.
Bright Indirect Light Avoid intense sunlight and very dark areas.
Moderate Watering Around once a week in Summer and once every two or three weeks in Winter.
Temperature Average room temperatures are needed.
Feeding No need to fertilise your ZZ more than once a month and only when it's growing.
Little or no growth isn't really a problem but it's actually this plant's most annoying (but normal) trait. Some people have told us their plant hasn't grown at all since they brought it... 6 months ago!
The solution here is to focus on three important variables, light, temperature and watering, forget everything else. Ensure the plant is put in a well lit location, not too dark, or too sunny.
Growth only tends to occur if the temperature is above 18°C / 64 °F. Finally the compost should be moist most of the time, rather than constantly bone dry or completely saturated.
Even when you get this balance spot on you might not see any change for weeks, so the final piece of the puzzle comes down to patience.
My Plant is too small
If you take a look at our photo just below you can see three leaves sticking out of the soil. This is because when the plant was propagated, rather than just using one leaf a few were put quite close together to create several new plants all at once.
This process speeds things up massively and helps make a wider and more pleasing plant to look at (although technically of course it's several all in one pot). If you want to know how to propagate - read this. Initially the plant(s) may still be quite small, but in time they will get bushier and bigger.
Why are the leaves on my ZZ Plant turning yellow?
Unlike a lot of houseplants it's unusual for this one to drop its lower leaves as it ages. It does happen on occasion though, particularly as things get colder and Winter arrives all of which will result in yellow leaves appearing.
On the other hand if the leaves are turning yellow very quickly and there is a lot of them changing colour it's normally a symptom of overwatering. The plant is sensitive to this, so be careful, when in doubt it's better for the soil to be too dry rather than too wet.
Sudden leaf drop on ZZ Plant
This is usually a survival mechanism to drastic underwatering for prolonged periods. The plant is naturally adapted to lack of water, but if it's been going on for a while, it will take more radical action by shedding leaves to reduce the rate of water loss through them.
If you're sure a drought hasn't or isn't taking place, then it's probably caused by overwatering and the tubers are rotting away. If rot has set in then the affected parts of the plant are about to collapse into a mushy mess. Think about making replacements by propagating any healthy leaves that are still attached to the dying stem(s).
Uneven growth / Leggy and heavy stems
A Zamioculcas plant will grow and lean towards light sources, so rotate the pot every once in a while to encourage an evenly spread plant.
If light conditions are poor, the stems can become spindly, leggy or stretched and much longer than normal. It's harder to see lean growth in the ZZ plant because the stems are so thick and long anyway, so instead look for the leaves becoming very spaced out and the stems top heavy instead. If you see this, consider moving to a brighter location.
There are Aphids on my plant
Aphids are annoying for any houseplant and the chances of getting them are increased greatly if you put them outside in the Summer. Unfortunately, if given the chance, Aphids love the chance to suck sap from the ZZ plant.
They can be a pain to get rid of and over time can spread viruses and diseases. The photo above shows an infestation along with the consequences - diseased leaves.
If your ZZ plant leaves ever show random yellow patterns including spots, or mosaic patterns (again see photo). Thoroughly check the plant for Aphids, they're well camouflaged so you may have to look closely.
If the plant is outside when you notice the problem then its possible natural predators such as Ladybirds will help you out and finish them off so you could leave things as they are. However this is unlikely if the plant is already indoors, or want to bring your plant insider for Winter.
You can either rub the Aphids off with your finger or mix up a spray with one part washing up liquid or liquid soap to about 19 parts water.
It only needs to be a weak solution for it to work, then spray. After a short time wash all the soapy water off the plant leaves. Remove disease infested leaves to stop it from spreading to the rest of your plant.
Back in the early 2000s, houseplants were mainly brought in physical shops and even then, the choice on offer was limited. You had all the usual suspects available but nothing really rare or special like you'll find today.
As the last two decades have progressed, houseplant interest and passion have gradually increased. Then we arrived at 2020, where lockdowns worldwide cultivated enthusiasm and popularity for plants that I've not seen in the almost 10 years we've been running this website.
Hardly surprising of course when you consider we were essentially confined to our homes for the best part of a year and desperate for a bit of greenery and having plenty of time to explore new hobbies were the perfect ingredients for a houseplant boom.
Lockdowns around the world cultivated enthusiasm and popularity for plants that I've not seen in the almost 10 years we've been running this website.
But how does this fit in with the ZZ you ask? Well, I believe all this recent enthusiasm would not have been as strong as it was without the larger number of rare and unique plants that had become available since the early 2000s. The introduction of the ZZ Plant was one of the first to break the dull limited availability cycle that existed before.
For the first time in years here was a really interesting houseplant with a very exotic appearance and catchy sounding name. People liked them and they wanted more like it and sellers were all to happy to satisfy the demand. Now we have plants like String of Hearts and Haworthias available almost everywhere.
I remember my first brush with a ZZ. It caught my eye sitting in a cluster in a shop, the roots bulging and distorting the pot. I was fascinated but the high asking price was a no-no for me.
Several years later, I was gifted the plant in the photo above and it's been in my collection ever since. Hardly makes a fuss. I get several new green stems each year, that are bigger and longer than the existing ones. A few yellowing stems now and again, but otherwise simple and as easy as it gets.
The photo was probably taken around 8 years ago now, and it's undoubtedly significantly bigger now! Of course, I had no idea it would become a trendsetter and inspire millions of people to give houseplant cultivation ago. Now I look at it almost 10 years later and just think "wow what a plant".