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Zamioculcas Zamiifolia (ZZ Plant)

About the ZZ Plant

ZZ Plant in a pot growing on a window ledgeZamioculcas Zamiifolia or the ZZ plant (say Zee-Zee) is a straight forward and easy to care for houseplant. Further into this article we'll give you a step by step care guide for keeping your plant healthy.

As well as being a cinch to keep alive, 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 only started to be grown in mass by Dutch nurseries (which is where the majority of the western worlds houseplants come from) in the late 1990's and has gradually become more and more popular.

It's a versatile and great looking plant with a lot going on to help it stand out from the rest.

The ZZ Plant is stylish, attractive and easy to take care of, with a straight forward propagation method. It can take a reasonable amount of neglect without adverse effects and appears impervious to the majority of pests which can afflict other plants.

From its starchy potato like rhizomes at the base of each stem to 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?

Well the disadvantages are that there's only one cultivar of ZZ, which is the all green variety. Sometimes going by the name Eternity Plant it can also be difficult to find and consequently may attract a high premium by way of its selling price.

It also has an annoying tenancy to not do anything. At all. It doesn't grow, it doesn't die. It just sits there. For some people this wont matter in the slightest, but a lot of keen gardeners and indoor plant owners like feedback from their plants. Very glossy Zamioculcas leaves on a strong stemWhen 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 the ZZ Plant can be difficult to understand.

However, the Our House Plants.com team love it. 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.

ZZ Plant for Sale on Amazon.com
ZZ Plant for sale on Amazon.co.uk

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ZZ Plant Photos

ZZ Plant Care Guide

Light

The ZZ plant will accommodate a broad spectrum of light conditions, however 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. Deep shade must also be avoided if you want it to grow.

Watering

You must take care here, the number one cause of plant death is too much watering. So read on to make sure you're doing it right.

The plant is adapted to surviving droughts, therefore heavy constant watering without allowing the soil to dry out in between, will turn the leaves yellow before rotting the tubers 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.

Humidity

Not important.

Feeding

If your plant isn't growing, i.e. if it's in one of its "moods" (see introduction above and problem section below) or in Winter don't bother feeding. Even when it's growing, a weak feed once a month is more than adequate.

Temperature

This plant needs an average temperature between, 13 °C - 26 °C / 55°F - 79 °F. Warmer temperatures in the upper range will give an increase in growth output.

Repotting

Only repot if it's needed and do it in Spring or Summer.

Propagation

You can divide the plant once it's a very large size and splitting the pot. If you don't want to lose the size or your ZZ isn't that large yet, it's also really easy to propagate more ZZ plants through leaf cuttings,

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 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:

  • A new stem will emerge by the side of the leaf you planted (always leave the leaf where it is, as it is fueling this new growth). Congratulations you have a new plant on the way!
  • The leaf will suddenly die. If you gently pull it out of the soil you may notice small tubers at the raw edge. This is basically the plant's energy store, put everything back into the soil and the tubers will hopefully push up new growth.
  • The leaf dies and when you pull it out there is nothing to see. The attempt has failed this time. It's easy to feel disappointed when this happens especially if you have been caring for this sole leaf for a long time, but that's how it goes sometimes. Don't take it personally and give it another try.

There are a few other ways to propagate ZZ Plants such as rooting stem cuttings in water and division. If you want a visual guide for these propagation methods, we found a great video covering this on YouTube.


Speed of Growth

New ZZ Plant stem complete with leavesSlow 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 which will gradually emerge and fan out.

Height / Spread

The stems can grow to 60cm / 24. It's 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).

Flowers

The ZZ does grow flowers from time to time, but they're basic and not very exciting (see gallery for pictures).

Is the ZZ Plant Poisonous?

All parts of the ZZ Plant 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.

Anything else?

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.



How to Care for ZZ Plant Summary

  1. Bright Light Avoid intense sunlight and very dark areas.

  2. Moderate Watering Once a week in Summer and once every two or three weeks in Winter.

  3. Temperature Average room temperatures needed.

  4. Feeding No need to fertilise your ZZ more than once a month and only when it's growing.


ZZ Plant Problems

No growth

This isn't a problem but it's actually the ZZ 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 or even months, so the final piece of the puzzle comes down to patience.

Plant is too small

Close up of three propagated Zamioculcas Zamiifolia leavesIf you take a look at our picture on the right 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 plants all in one pot). See Propagation method. 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 plants it's unusual for the ZZ plant to drop its lower leaves as it ages. It does happen though, particularly as things get colder and Winter arrives.

However yellow leaves, especially on mass, is normally a symptom of overwatering. The plant is sensitive to this, so go 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 replacement plants by propagating any healthy leaves that are still attached to the dying stem(s).

Uneven growth / Very long and heavy stems

Zamioculcas will grow 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 or stretched and longer than normal. It's harder to see spindly growth in the ZZ plant because the stems are so thick and long anyway, so instead look for them becoming very spaced out and top heavy instead. If you see this, consider moving to a brighter location.

Aphids

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. ZZ Plant under attach by sap sucking AphidsThe picture on the right 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 fingers, 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 spreading to the rest of your plant.


Also on Ourhouseplants.com

(Gallery) Photo credit of the ZZ Plant on a wooden floor to Andreas Hammerschmidt


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