The ZZ plant, or Zamioculcas Zamiifolia, is a popular houseplant found in numerous homes. Its acclaim is thanks to its ease of maintenance and artsy look – boasting glossy, beautiful leaves.
If you own or plan to get one, then this ZZ plant care guide will come in handy in helping you maintain its beauty.
The plant, also known as the “Zanzibar Gem”, is native to East Africa yet can survive in many different conditions.
It’s great for frequent travelers or beginner plant owners who want to learn the ropes of keeping flora alive. Plus, the plant does more than just beautify your house, it also purifies the air.
Read this guide further to get the low down on ways to maintain this care-friendly gem. It’s got everything from watering the ZZ plant, the best fertilizer, and how to solve any issues you may encounter.
How to Care for a ZZ Plant
The Zanzibar Gem has been dubbed as one of the most “unkillable” houseplants and thrives off neglect.
It’s a great introduction to houseplant ownership because new owners and even plant enthusiasts with the largest brown thumbs would struggle to kill it.
However, if you want the plant to fully grow into its 3-4 feet tall, glossy frame, you’ll still need to give it tender loving care.
This includes keeping it in optimal lighting, temperature, and in the best areas in your house.
The following ZZ plant care tips will ensure it attracts your visitor’s eyes for its beauty rather than its droopiness.
How Much Light Does Your ZZ Plant Need?
The ZZ plant is a super versatile plant that tolerates several light conditions. Yet, there is optimal lighting it needs to maintain its lively appearance.
The best light for ZZ plants is bright to low indirect lighting for approximately 12 hours a day. “Indirect light” refers to sunlight found in a room after it reflects off of something like the floor or walls.
Both of the extreme ends of the light spectrum do more harm than good to your ZZ plant. Bright, direct sunlight harms the ZZ plant by scorching its leaves.
On the other hand, too little light hinders ZZ plant growth by slowing or even stopping the growing process. If you’d prefer a more controllable way to provide the plant lighting, this Sansi grow light is a great option.
Do Your ZZ Plants Need Sunlight?
While direct exposure to the sun can harm the ZZ plant as well as its leaves, it still needs sunlight. It is a plant, after all, meaning it can’t undergo photosynthesis without the sun.
Just remember to keep its exposure to sunlight at a moderate level so it doesn’t get harmed.
Signs Your ZZ Plant Needs More Light
If you place the Zanzibar Gem in locations where it can’t meet the ZZ plant light requirements, you’ll be met by a number of visible indicators.
However, there are times where the signs aren’t apparent unless you’re paying careful attention. This makes it important to frequently check up on the plant despite its neglectful nature.
These tell-tale signs include the stems leaning one way instead of growing evenly, they lean mostly towards light sources. Another sign is the plant developing a “leggy” look where stems stretch out into many small pieces.
Additionally, the plant’s stems droop more than normal and feel softer to the touch and the leaves are smaller, fewer, and further apart.
These all develop as a result of the ZZ plant spreading itself thin trying to find a suitable light source.
A lesser noticeable symptom that the houseplant isn’t getting enough lighting is slowed or stunted growth. Don’t worry though, you can monitor this by measuring growth from time to time using a tape measure or ruler.
ZZ Plant Temperature Requirements
Like most houseplants, the ZZ plant prefers a temperature between 18°C and 30°C. Generally, this plant doesn’t handle cold temperatures well as it often stunts its growth.
That’s why it should never be placed near an AC unit, heated vents, frequently opened doors, or in an area where temperatures drop below 10°C. Chances are if you feel comfortable with the temperature, so does the ZZ plant.
Ensure you reposition it when you feel it’s getting too cold or too hot for your plant baby.
ZZ Plant Humidity Requirements
Being the versatile superstars that they are, ZZ plants can survive in various humidities. The average humidity found in most homes is totally fine to support the ZZ plant.
It also handles dry air fairly well, although it’s best to avoid placing it in dry areas.
If you feel that your home is too dry, you can purchase a humidifier so your plant can breathe some great air.
ZZ Plant Soil Requirement
To ensure proper growth, you’ll need to give the plant nutritious soil at the planting and repotting periods. Most potting mixes will be fine because ZZ plants are versatile, although the soil must be a well-draining variant.
Whichever mix you get, ensure it has a good amount of perlite or sand – a good option would be a succulent soil mix.
ZZ Plant Pruning
ZZ plants don’t require excessive pruning during their lifespan. The main reason to prune the plant is for propagation or to remove yellow leaves and overgrown stems. It’s just like pruning any other plant and doesn’t require any special skills.
When pruned, new growth happens eventually. Remember to use clean pruners and wear gloves. Any gardening pruners get the job done, including The Gardener’s Friend pruners.
ZZ Plant Fertilizer
ZZ plants aren’t too reliant on fertilizers for growth, but they can come in handy in accelerating their growth.
You must fertilize ZZ plants using liquid houseplant fertilizers that are diluted to half strength. Ensure that you don’t pour directly on the foliage as that can hurt the leaves.
Fertilization is best done during the plant’s growing periods, which are normally the warmer summer and spring months.
Depending on how fast you want the plant to grow, fertilizing between once a month to once a quarter is perfect for the Zanzibar Gem.
ZZ Plant Repotting
In contrast to other houseplants like the fiddle leaf fig, ZZ plants don’t have to be repotted constantly. They don’t grow super quickly nor do they grow to be plant monsters that get too big for their pot.
Ideally, you should only repot ZZ plants once they’ve outgrown their container. You’ll notice this when the roots press up against the pot’s edges or start changing the shape of the plant holder.
As with most houseplants, ZZ plants are best repotted during the warmer seasons of spring or summer.
This is when they are stronger and can handle any disturbances during their growth. Make sure that the new container has drainage holes and is bigger than the plant’s previous container.
How Often To Water ZZ Plants?
The ZZ plant watering requirements are exceptionally low. Even owners with massive brown thumbs can keep the plant alive. It only needs to be watered once every one to three weeks or once the soil has completely dried up.
This is possible thanks to the water-storing rhizomes hidden under the soil. Be prepared to water your ZZ plant more frequently in bright lighting and less frequently in low light.
Dry Vs. Overwatered ZZ Plant
It’s always better for ZZ plants to be dry instead of overwatered. They can survive without water for months but they can start to drastically look bad when given too much water.
Indications of overwatering include brown stalks and the ZZ plant yellowing at its leaves. So, when in doubt of whether it needs a drink or not, rather let it go through a drought!
How To Care For The ZZ Plant In Winter?
Colder temperatures in winter mean this season is viewed as the ZZ plant’s rest period. It sees a slowed growth due to the reduced sunlight.
This is also when it’s at its weakest and when you should avoid fiddling with the plant.
This means watering less frequently, not fertilizing the plant, and working a bit harder to ensure you’re providing the plant the optimal lighting and temperature conditions. Plus, you have to keep the air perfectly humid.
ZZ Plant Propagation
Propagating ZZ plants can be easy and moderately difficult depending on the method you choose to use. The two common ways to propagate the ZZ plant are division and leaf cutting.
The plant’s propagation is usually slow, with leaf cutting taking nearly a year to show results.
Division refers to dividing the plant once it has grown too large for its container. You remove the plant from the pot and separate the rhizomes gently.
Afterward, the plant could be divided in half or more and placed in new containers, depending on how congested the roots are.
Leaf cutting is an easy method that requires you to cut a leaf off the plant using clean pruners. Allow the cut edge to dry for a couple of hours, then place the leaf stem-first about half an inch into a pot with well-draining soil.
Then water the soil after planting and twice a month after that, ensure that the leaf is above ground and the pot stays in a warm area.
How To Take Care Of ZZ Plant Diseases
The resilient ZZ plant is rarely prone to disease so this won’t be an issue you’ll face during your ownership.
Unless of course, you fail to take care of the plant. Although rare, ZZ plants can develop bacterial and fungal diseases much like most living organisms.
If you encounter any problems, pruning off the diseased leaves or stems is the solution that normally restores your plant back to its glorious state.
What To Do When Your ZZ Plant Shows Root Rot
Root rot is a common issue that new owners of ZZ plants may come across. The problem arises as a result of watering ZZ plants past what’s optimal.
You can identify root rot when the leaves turn yellow, stalks lean downwards or there’s an unpleasant smell from the plant.
Don’t worry though, if caught early there’s an easy remedy to fix this issue. You must cut off the soaked root by around one-third and let the root ball dry at room temperature.
Then replace the old soil with new soil which needs to be kept slightly wet for the first couple of days.
Afterward, you’ll be back to the regularly scheduled programming of caring for your plant.
ZZ Plant Insect Invasions
ZZ plants are generally pest-free during their lifespan. Most pests aren’t too fond of the plant and you won’t find them quite often. Still, it’s possible to find scale and bugs such as the spider mite or aphids living comfortably on the plant.
Removing is even easier than keeping the Zanzibar Gem alive, you just remove them with a damp cloth. Afterward, spray the plant with neem oil to stop any insect invasion.
What To Do When Your Zz Plant Is Dropping Leaves
When the ZZ plant starts dropping leaves, it’s often an indication that the plant has gone past the drinking limit. In this case, all you have to do is stop watering the plant and perhaps prune the leaves depending on their condition.
Why Your ZZ plant Leaves Are Turning Yellow
The ZZ plant leaves turn yellow for a few reasons and they all have to do with knowing how to care for ZZ plants. The main reasons are lighting and overwatering the houseplant, a less common issue is an aphid infestation.
Remedies include removing the ZZ plant from direct sunlight, pruning some of the yellow leaves, and stop giving it water for a while. In case of aphid infestation, check under the plant and remove them using a damp washcloth.
You can get more in-depth information in this article on why the ZZ plant’s yellow leaves develop.
Why Your ZZ Plant May Have Brown Spots
By now, you can certainly guess why this may happen. Yes, it’s all down to overwatering the plant or exposing it to too much light. Other causes may be using chemical-filled tap water to hydrate the plant or low humidity.
The browning is most noticeable on the ZZ plant’s stem, leaves, or leaf tips. A quick fix is repositioning the plant so it gets less direct contact with the sun and increased humidity or you stop watering it.
Using rainwater or a water filter and pruning the brown leaves completely are other good moves. However, don’t prune the leaves in one go, to avoid shocking the plant.
For more severe cases, you might have to prune the roots as root rot may have come into the fray. Just make sure you don’t cut too much of the plant’s roots so you don’t mess with its development.
ZZ Plant Best Products
The plant is a hardy, resilient houseplant that rarely needs outside help. Still, there are several products to help you keep the glossy leaves ever-so-green and beautiful, as well as to help grow the plant.
Best Fertilizer For ZZ Plant
The ZZ plant accepts the help of liquid fertilizers that are diluted to half-strength in accelerating its growth.
The best fertilizer(s) for the ZZ plant are 20-20-20 liquid fertilizers which should be used infrequently. This EZ-gro fertilizer is a pretty neat option.
Best Pots For ZZ Plant
The ZZ plant needs decent draining to survive and as such, the best pots for these babies are those with drainage holes and a decent size. Nothing else really matters because they’ll survive in any shape or material.
You can find pots online, such as this indoor plants pot, or at your nearest gardening shop.
Best ZZ Plant Basket
Plant pots often look a little boring, with simple designs. If you want to upgrade your plant container so it has a more chic look, plant baskets are a good option.
They are well designed and ensure that you don’t showcase your glorious plant in a dull container.
This Mkono cotton rope basket is one of the fashionable baskets you can put your plant pot in. Just note that when buying a plant basket, get one that fits your plant and pot size. Also, remove the basket when watering to ensure it doesn’t age quicker than it should be.
Best Soil For ZZ Plant
As said previously, the ZZ plant isn’t too picky when it comes to soil. All it needs is well-draining soil which can be found nearly everywhere.
A great option would be Black Gold’s organic potting soil or any soil that can be mixed with perlite.
Best Potting Mix For ZZ Plant
A potting mix is a soilless medium that’s safer for plants because it doesn’t contain any pathogens like fungus or other diseases. ZZ plants require a well-draining potting mix to ensure they grow to their full potential.
General potting mixes work well here, such as Hoffman’s cactus mix. You can find more online or at your nearest gardening store.
ZZ Plant Frequently Asked Questions
Do you still have some questions about the Zanzibar Gem whose answers you didn’t find above? Here are some of the most frequently raised queries regarding the ZZ plant’s toxicity, placement, and health concerns.
Is The ZZ Plant Safe For Cats?
If you have pets and houseplants, it’s important to note the relationship between the two. Specifically, whether your plant is safe for your pets and kids who may do more than just marvel at the plant’s beauty.
Unfortunately, the ZZ plant is toxic to cats as well as dogs and humans when consumed. As such, it’s best to keep the plant away from pets and kids or place it out of their reach.
In cases where the cat has visibly nibbled at the plant, they will exhibit symptoms such as vomiting, drooling, and diarrhea. Don’t fret though, the plant is mildly toxic so recovery is pretty fast – unless they’ve ingested large amounts.
In normal cases, fluids like milk are great remedies as well as removing any residual pieces in their mouths.
Your furry friend will then be back to her purrfect self in a few hours. If they aren’t, consider a visit to the vet and bring along a part of the plant.
Are ZZ Plants Poisonous?
As said above, the houseplant is poisonous and can lead to illness, or worse, depending on how much was ingested. The ZZ plant’s toxicity stems from the calcium oxalate crystals found in the houseplant.
The crystals have needle-like points that cause irritation to the skin when touched or ingested, and it’s found on all parts of the plant.
While it isn’t deadly in normal cases, it’s best to keep the plant away from your animal friends so you don’t have to deal with an ill pet.
Can The ZZ Plant Cause Cancer?
A couple of years ago, there were widespread rumors that the ZZ plant causes cancer due to its discovered toxic properties. People argued that you had to wear gloves when handling the plant.
However, those claims have been proven to be false so pump the breaks on pulling out your hazmat suit.
Is The ZZ Plant Good For The Bedroom?
From being the showstopper in your living room to brightening up the bathroom or giving some glamour to your bedroom – the ZZ plant can be placed anywhere.
So yes, it’s great for the bedroom given that it’s placed in a way that provides plenty of bright indirect light.
Should You Mist A ZZ Plant?
ZZ plants can survive in several different conditions, including dry air. Unlike some houseplants, they don’t usually need misting as the average home’s humidity is decent enough.
But, in cases where the air is really dry and you don’t have a humidifier, misting the plant is great. This boosts its humidity levels, keeping it looking as good as when you first got it.
Do ZZ Plants Bloom?
The Zanzibar Gem does bloom, it produces beautiful flowers at its base. This is common among the ZZ plants that grow in their native habitats or outdoors.
It’s extremely rare for the plant to flower when it’s a houseplant. Therefore, you would be really lucky to see the ZZ plant bloom under your roof.
Get Ready to Care For ZZ Plants
Having read the above, you should know how to take care of ZZ plants from the very first day you get them.
Sure, it’s not hard since they thrive off of neglect but this makes them perfect for you – a beginner plant owner learning how to care for indoor flora.
You should know where to position it for great indirect lighting, a good temperature, and decent humidity. Know when to water ZZ plants and when to let them dehydrate.
By following these simple instructions, you’ll avoid issues such as drooping stems or yellowing leaves. This will ensure it stays in pristine condition and continues looking like the glossy superstar it is.
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